Hello new friend

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about saying good bye to my old suitcase that I bought in 1997. Well, a few days later I replaced it with a brand new carry on size suitcase, just in time for my business trip to DC this week. I wasn’t really in the mood to shop around all over the place for a suitcase so I went to Macy’s because they were having a sale. My first thought was to get a Victorinox since I love my larger suitcase from that line, but the cost blew me away! Even at half price they were way too expensive. The same thing turned out to be true of the other brands I was initially considering. It’s not that I couldn’t afford it, but I had no intention of breaking the bank for one little piece of luggage. This frugal stance led me to browsing through the Samsonites instead of the higher end brands. My old carry on was a Samsonite and it served me well for 18 years, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with another one. Unfortunately I wasn’t that crazy about the aesthetics of the latest models. Why are there so many weird pockets on the outside? Who needs those? But anyway, after mulling over my options for about half an hour I settled on a 21″ Samsonite with spinner wheels. Take a look at it in the above photo, hanging out in my “fashion forward” hotel room. (The polka dot chair matches exactly nothing else in the room.) It was a little funkier than I really wanted, but there weren’t exactly an abundance of choices in my price range. Besides the price, the main selling point was the color. It’s dark red and I love it. My biggest requirement for a suitcase is that it can’t be black. Seems like everyone has a black suitcase and I want mine to stand out from the crowd at baggage claim. Especially at the zoo that is LAX. It’s a little easier when I’m flying somewhere like Tallahassee that has a grand total of two baggage claim carousels! But I digress. I didn’t really have high expectations for my new little suitcase, but it has already overperformed on this trip. It easily held a week’s worth of clothes (work clothes and workout clothes), three pairs of shoes, all the necessary toiletries, and a large container of cookies that I brought for my DC co-workers. Not bad! And even though I was opposed to the spinner wheels at first, they made it easy to maneuver on most surfaces (although the Budget rental car parking lot is a challenge for any suitcase wheels). What a pleasant surprise! This could be the beginning of a beautiful travel-based friendship.

Goodbye old friend

“This is my little Samsonite suitcase that I bought back in 1997 to take to Europe. It’s not readily identifiable as a Samsonite anymore because the badge got ripped off on one trip or another in the last couple of years so you’ll just have to trust me on the brand. … I took this picture on my way home from a business trip last August because I thought it might be my last trip with that suitcase and I wanted something to remember it by. Not that I have any reason to replace it at the moment, but I don’t think it will be too long before I do.”
01/21/14 webpage post

Well, one year after I posted this ode to my trusty little suitcase, I finally had to say goodbye. I bought it to go to Europe back in 1997 and it has served me well over the last eighteen years. After the Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend in May I discovered that one of the wheels had completely fallen off which made it difficult to maneuver. And noisy! However, I still tucked it back in my closet when I got home and forgot about its shortcomings. Then at the last minute I decided to take a carry-on size suitcase rather than my larger one to Hawaii last month. I had completely forgotten about the missing wheel. Oops. When I arrived at LAX for my flight it was far too late to pick a different piece of luggage for my trip, though. Luckily it held up just fine and I got back to Los Angeles without any additional pieces falling off. I decided that trip to Maui was my old suitcase’s swan song, though. And what better way to go out? I’ve taken that little guy all over the world! But now it’s time to find a new travel companion for future adventures (and not-so-exciting business trips). I hope I can find something that will last just as long!

Happy shoe accident

As I mentioned in a previous post, on my second day in Hawaii I drove the Road to Hana with some girlfriends. The above photo was taken during a rare rain-free moment that day. It seriously rained every time we pulled over to see any of the sights! Thanks to the rain and the inevitable mud that followed, my sneakers were filthy by the end of the day. I should have cleaned them off before I left Maui, but we were far too busy the whole time to do such mundane things! (Of course I did get up early every morning to clean up from the night before, unload and reload the dishwashers, and get everything ready for breakfast. There was no time for stuff like shoe cleaning!) So when I packed my suitcase to fly home that Sunday I threw my dirty sneakers into my suitcase (into a plastic bag) and didn’t give them a second thought. However, when I woke up in Los Angeles the next day I realized that I hadn’t packed my gym bag for spinning class that evening. And guess which shoes I usually wear for spinning? Yep, the muddy sneakers. In order to minimize the stress of my first day back from vacation I decided to skip my usual gym class and just go running that night. Crisis averted…for a week at least. Fast forward to this morning when I remembered that I still hadn’t done anything the soiled state of my sneakers. Since I didn’t want to skip another spin class (especially not for such a ridiculous reason) I put engineering brain to work to find another solution. After giving it some thought, I dragged out an old pair of my Nike Zoom Structure shoes that I no longer wear for running and threw them into my gym bag. I figured they wouldn’t be ideal for spinning, but they would work in a pinch. How did they do, you ask? Much to my surprise, they were perfect! It was a happy accident indeed that I decided to wear them to my class today. If I’d just cleaned off my other sneakers sometime this week I never would have discovered the superiority of the Nikes. Laziness wins for a change!

Rewards and incentives

I’ve had a weird and somewhat disappointing Saturday, but I’ll write about that tomorrow. It’s late and I’d like to spend more time on that subject that than I have tonight. However, I would like to share a little something before I go to bed. Last week I wrote about my internal struggle regarding the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend in November. I spent a couple of days debating it, and in the end I made a deal with myself. I would register for the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge (10K + half marathon), but then I had to get serious about training again. Afterwards I realized it was like giving a child a treat before they earned it. Oops. I didn’t say it was a good deal! (Not that running 19.3 miles is exactly a treat, but I sure do enjoy the medals at the end!) Fortunately I did get my rear back in gear as far as exercise goes this week. I ran last Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and went to a spinning class on Monday evening as well. It felt really good to be active again. Difficult, since I’m still out of shape after my injury, but good. And the best news is that I was lucky enough to sign up for the Avengers Infinity Gauntlet Challenge on Tuesday during Disneyland annual pass holder early registration. Once again the process was a bit of a disaster, but I was fortunate enough to get a spot two weeks before open registration. According to my deal with myself, this means I have to stick to my training schedule during the summer and fall. (It also means I need to make a training schedule for the summer and fall, but I’ll worry about that after my races in May.) This dedication should help me with my New Year’s resolution #3 to wear a bikini in Hawaii in June too. I’m going to Maui in less than three months. Yikes! I got myself another treat, of sorts, to help me with all of this. New running shoes! I bought the new incarnation of my Nike Zoom Structures to see if they work as well as for me the old ones. So far the results are promising, but I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve put more miles on them. Hopefully they will be properly broken in by my next race. I’ve got a lot of work to do!

Car troubles on my day off

After working Saturday through Wednesday I was looking forward to having Thursday off. I was going to sleep in, run errands, and get a lot done around my apartment. It was going to be great. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way. When my car started making some weird scratching noises on Monday I decided I really should take it in for service on my day off. Not the most glamorous use of my free time, but necessary. Actually, much more necessary than I imagined. Turns out the transmission is shot in my not quite 10 year old SUV. When the service rep sat down next to me in the lounge and said the word “transmission,” I knew it was going to be bad. And very expensive. But I left the dealer only paying for an oil change. There was no way I was going to commit to dumping five thousand dollars into an aging car that’s not worth much more than that in its current condition. To make sure the dealer wasn’t taking me for a ride I took my car to Aamco for a second opinion that afternoon. They agreed that the transmission was the problem, but they wanted to rebuild it rather than a complete replacement. The estimate for something like that was around three thousand dollars, minimum. That wasn’t enough of a savings for me to consider the repairs, though. I left Aamco paying nothing, despite the guy at the front desk trying to convince me otherwise. I know what the car is worth, and I’m just not willing to spend that much money on it. Better to save it for my next vehicle. So as much as I hate to admit it, I suppose I’ll be looking to buy a car in the near future. I was really hoping that my car would make it to it’s tenth birthday (September 15th), but it looks like that’s not going to happen. It’s so frustrating. The transmission in a Honda shouldn’t be falling apart this soon! I can’t complain too much since I haven’t had any major problems with my CR-V in nine and a half years, but I still wanted to keep it for a little longer. I guess I’m just not mentally prepared to buy a new car yet, but mechanical problems have forced my hand. So sometime next week I’ll start searching for a new set of wheels that I’ll hopefully be driving the next decade. Big changes are coming!

Secondhand Disney pins

I had to work today (yes, on a Saturday), but the whole time I was there I was daydreaming about being at Disneyland instead. I should have gone yesterday when I had a day off, but it was really hot in Anaheim and I’m not ready to break out the shorts quite yet this year. Winter cannot be over already! But anyway, back to my story. In addition to all of the pins I buy at Disney parks and events, I have quite a few that I’ve gotten off of eBay as well. What usually happens is I see a pin that I like at Disneyland, but I don’t buy it before it sells out or gets retired. Other times I see a single pin in a larger set that I want to get without buying the whole thing. In both of these situations eBay is very helpful. Usually I can find what I’m looking for at a decent price. On the other hand, sometimes the pin I want is either very popular or very rare and I have to decide whether acquiring it is worth the inflated price. Specifically, the new series of pins commemorating the Disneyland 60th anniversary this year. One new pin is being released each month, but usually on days that I can’t make it to the park to buy one. And they sell out quickly. I was tempted to get one off eBay, but people are selling them for way too much there. I still haven’t given up hope of making it to the park on one of the upcoming release days, but that depends on whether I’ll be able to take the right day off work. Once I learned about the 60th anniversary pins I thought back to the Disneyland 50th anniversary back in 2005. I didn’t have an annual pass back then, but I did go to the parks with Dan and his family that summer. (It was the Fourth of July and the crowds were insane!) At the time I hadn’t started a Disney pin collection yet, but I wish I’d picked up a 50th anniversary pin or two. The good news is that people who did buy them then are now selling them on eBay! I got one for a great price and I love it. After that I thought about the Disney World 25th anniversary. That was back in 1996, and as it turns out, I was there that summer too. It was during the Mu Alpha Theta national convention in Orlando and we spent one day that week at Disney World. Buying pins wasn’t even on my radar at the time, but a couple of weeks ago I searched eBay for Disney World 25th anniversary pins out of curiosity. There isn’t much of a variety available (I don’t think pin trading was that popular back in 1996), but I did find one for a very low price. It’s adorable and it looks great with the rest of my pin collection. I like having souvenirs of those Disney trips on my corkboard, even if I had to buy them years later. Great memories!

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!

Holiday shopping for myself

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! More specifically, it’s time to get great deals on presents for the people you love! And I’ve done pretty well buying Christmas gifts for my family so far this holiday season, but I must confess that the bulk of my purchases have been for myself. The combination of Black Friday and Cyber Monday led to quite a few personal acquisitions, mostly clothing. We didn’t have any internet access in our hotel room in San Francisco (because they were charging a fortune for it) so I didn’t do any online shopping on Black Friday. And despite spending some time at a mall in San Francisco the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the only new thing I took home with me was a box of chocolates from Cocoa Bella. Tasty, but not exactly notable. However, when I got back to Los Angeles on Sunday I hit the internet and started shopping. The Cyber Monday deals I found were great! I got jeans at both Old Navy and American Eagle for 40% off which allowed me to get rid of some old pairs that were either worn out or just plain uncomfortable (i.e., too tight since I can’t manage to lose any weight). I got another pair of running capris from Lucy for 40% off too. Workout clothes can be insanely expensive and I’ve been investing in some quality items lately. Luckily the sales over the weekend allowed me to stock up on pants and tops at a decent price. Speaking of which, I got two running shirts from Raw Threads (in the photo above) for less than half price! I bought them specifically for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend in May – the shirt with the wings on the back for the 10K, and the shirt with “19.3” on the back for the half marathon. The “19.3” indicates that I’ll be running 19.3 miles that weekend (10K + half marathon) in the Pixie Dust Challenge. Yikes! Who knows if I’ll actually be able to do it, but at least I’ll be well dressed!

Another November weekend

It was not a very exciting weekend, but I did get a lot done.

***I did a lot of shopping/returning. Online shopping has been my preferred method of updating my wardrobe lately, but it’s not always the most reliable method. More often than not the items I order don’t fit quite right. Not a big deal, but then I have to handle returning what I don’t want to keep. One of the good things about Los Angeles is that there’s a brick and mortar establishment of just about every store within a reasonable driving distance. This means that I can usually return items in person rather than through the mail This weekend I took clothes back to J.Crew (an itchy sweater), Old Navy (an ill-fitting pair of workout pants), and Lucy (another pair of workout pants I didn’t like). Unfortunately those three stores are located at three different malls spread out all over Orange County. Maybe I should have just mailed everything back instead! On the flip side of the shopping experience, I bought a jacket (love the new North Face store at South Coast Plaza), some chocolates (for Thanksgiving), jeans (cheap ones at Old Navy), and a Christmas ornament (Hallmark, of course).

***I replenished my food reserves. In the middle of last week I ran out of homemade meals in my fridge and freezer and started eating less healthy options. It was bad news. So this weekend I put together a bunch of meals consisting of meat and vegetables so that I wouldn’t be tempted by fast food, junk food, or leftover Halloween candy. I already had some ground beef, broccoli, and carrots left over, so I just needed a few things to augment those items. Yesterday I made some Crockpot teriyaki chicken, and then today I made two batches of green beans (one roasted, one sautéed). Now I have enough prepared meals to get me through the week, at least. After that I’ll be spending the weekend at Disneyland because the Avengers Half Marathon is early on Sunday morning. After the experience of the Disneyland Half Marathon in August, I decided to stay at one of the nearby hotels so that I won’t have to get up and drive to Anaheim at 3 AM on race day. It will be nice to be able to sleep a little longer and then just walk to the start line that morning. The only difficulty will be making sure I get the necessary nutrition. I’ll need to find restaurants where I can get some protein, vegetables, and probably some potatoes the night before the half marathon. I’ll work on that.

***I watched a lot of TV. This is probably true of just about every weekend for me, but I figured it was worth mentioning this time. The best thing I got to see was Florida beating Vanderbilt yesterday. It hasn’t exactly been a banner year for the Gators so far. But last weekend unranked Florida upset #11 Georgia, which shocked just about everyone, especially after three losses already this season (including homecoming). Personally I didn’t expect the streak to continue, but I was a very happy Gator fan when it did! We’ll see what happens next weekend against South Carolina, but yesterday’s win was a lot of fun to watch. After the game was over I re-watched last weekend’s episode of Doctor Who while doing laundry and washing dishes. It was the first half of the season finale. These seasons are never long enough for me! Rather than staying up to watch the second half of the season finale last night, I saved it on my DVR until this afternoon when I was done with my errands. The show had quite a sad ending, actually. I’m not sure I liked it. But Doctor Who is still my favorite show these days and I’m sorry the season is over. At least I have the Christmas episode to look forward to next month.

So that was my weekend. Thrilling, huh?

Story of a jacket

I went to New Zealand for the first time in June 2007. It was summer in the northern hemisphere, but winter south of the equator so a warm coat was an essential part of my wardrobe on that trip. It was also the rainy season in that part of the world. It rained every single day I was in New Zealand, which got to be pretty annoying by the end, although it made sure all of the tourist sites were nearly deserted. I wore my heavy wool peacoat everywhere I went (it’s in almost every photo) which helped with the cold, but didn’t do much to protect me from the rain. It absorbed a substantial amount of precipitation whenever I was outside and didn’t exactly smell like roses afterwards. As much as I loved my peacoat, after that trip I knew I needed to buy some kind of rain jacket for any future trips to potentially rainy locales.

Fast forward more than eight years…

This weekend started off with rain. It was crazy! I don’t think we’ve had any real precipitation in Los Angeles since February so the storm that rolled through on Friday night/Saturday morning was extremely beneficial. (And it stayed away until after the kids finished trick-or-treating so that was a bonus.) I hope we have a lot more storms this winter to bring us a deluge of much-needed rain. On my way to Disneyland yesterday morning and I stopped by McDonald’s for breakfast. (I know, it’s not grain-free, but Egg McMuffins are so tasty!) I thought the storm had cleared out for the day, but I knew it was still around when I got rained on walking back to my car. I had an umbrella in my bag, but that wouldn’t be ideal at Disneyland so I drove home and grabbed my Arc’teryx GORE-TEX rain jacket instead. I bought it at an REI sale back in 2009 in anticipation of an upcoming vacation. To be honest, I haven’t worn it very much since then, but it did come in handy once or twice in Hawaii. I guess a raincoat is something you want to have in your closet, but hope you don’t need. Although, I expect if I lived somewhere like Seattle it would have seen a lot more inclement weather. Even though I drove through some pretty substantial rain on the way to Anaheim, by the time I got there I was debating leaving the Arc’teryx jacket in the car. But when the sky opened up as soon as I got outside the parking structure I was glad decided to wear the rain jacket! Having that GORE-TEX layer was very helpful during my first hour at the parks. No soggy sweatshirt on a cold and rainy morning! It was lovely. So while it’s a piece of clothing I don’t wear much, I was very appreciative of my raincoat yesterday!