A Seal Beach Christmas (NaBloPoMo day 20)

I don’t have a lot of time to write today because I just barely got out of work in time to grab a snack, change clothes, and hustle to boot camp. Then on my way home I made one last Thanksgiving grocery shopping trip to get cranberries, apples, and pears. The store was basically empty tonight so assuming I didn’t forget anything I shouldn’t have to deal with the Turkey Day food rush. Too bad I still need to get another pie dish at Target tomorrow. That might not be as pleasant. I just finished scarfing down a bowl of chili for dinner, but now I need to wash a bunch of dishes and get ready for bed as quickly as possible. The next two days before Thanksgiving are going to be really busy and I need to get to work early both days. I’m trying to get as much prep done before Thursday as possible so I can relish the holiday. Isn’t that my goal every year? This time of year always goes by too quickly and I want it to be as enjoyable as possible!

Weekend before Thanksgiving (NaBloPoMo day 19)

Considering it’s the weekend before Thanksgiving I should have been a lot more productive. I did check a few things off of my to do list, but not nearly as many as I planned. First of all, I slept in yesterday morning and skipped my weekly run with my Galloway group. According to my training plan I needed to run 7 miles this weekend which was more than the group had scheduled, and I also just wanted to get some more sleep for a change! I did get up in time to go to Target just as it opened to pick up a few items before the store got crowded. (Too bad I didn’t realize that I need another pie dish ahead of time. I’ll have to go back this week.) I also hit the Ralph’s next door to cross a few more Thanksgiving ingredients off my grocery list before the holiday rush later this week. The only other thing I still need to buy is cranberries and other fresh fruits that I don’t want to purchase too soon. I’ll make one more shopping trip tomorrow or Tuesday. When I got home I got started on some boring but necessary chores – laundry and cooking. While performing these tasks I watched Friday’s episode of “Once Upon A Time” (still one of my favorite shows) and the first few episodes of “The Gifted” that I’ve been hoarding on my DVR since it premiered. Much to my annoyance, “The Gifted” seems to be pretty decent. Don’t get me wrong, I love most anything associated with the X-Men, but I certainly don’t need any more shows to watch this season. Eventually my laziness caught up with me and I had to force myself to run those 7 miles I skipped in the morning. Fortunately the Seal Beach Christmas tree lighting was taking place last night so I was able to experience it on my run. I actually went past the event at the pier three times before I was done with my exercise. I love running in my little beach town when the Christmas tree and other festive lights are up. My Saturday night ended with me making an unexpected and major purchase. I was chatting with my friend Natalie and she reminded me that “Hamilton” will be at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood starting soon. Back when the tickets originally went on sale I wasn’t nearly prepared enough to acquire one that way, but I figured I could browse the secondary market and get a single seat for myself for one of the shows. So I went on StubHub and spent way more money than I should have for the opportunity to attend the matinĂ©e show on December 30th. But I got a seat on the first row of the mezzanine so I’ll have an unobstructed view. I’m so excited!

My Sunday was decidedly less interesting, and slightly less productive too. I had to go back to the grocery store because I realized that I didn’t have any broccoli for my lunches this week. And when I got home I had to roast said broccoli (as well as some carrots for good measure) and put my Pyrex dishes of food together for the week. Luckily I’ll only need three lunches, at most, since we have Thursday and Friday off. I might leave work early on Wednesday as well in order to make my pumpkin pies. I’d like to avoid baking on Thanksgiving Day if I can help it. Now it’s getting late on Sunday night and I still have to eat dinner, fold some laundry, and wash some dishes before I can go to bed. Holy cow, where did the weekend go? I was hoping to put up my Christmas tree before Thanksgiving (because why not?), but I guess it’ll stay Halloween in my house for a little bit longer. Now excuse me while I finish up my weekend chores by the glow of jack-o-lanterns!

Three Little Piggies Chili (2017 chili cook-off recipe)

I’ve posted a lot of chili recipes over the years and I like every one, but some have greater mass appeal than others. Judging by my successes and failures at the annual chili cook-off at work, the common factor in my most popular chilis is bacon! My co-workers fall all over themselves for a taste of anything with bacon in it. So as easy as it is to whip up a batch of chili that I’ll enjoy, this year I challenged myself to make something that folks would absolutely love. Of course was going to include bacon, but why stop there? I started with the general concept of my bacon chili, but I replaced the ground beef with ground pork. However, there still seemed to be something missing. Two kinds of pork just wasn’t enough! So in order to turn this recipe up to eleven, and also make the texture something different from my usual chili, I decided to add some delicious homemade carnitas. The spices in the carnitas are complimentary to my chili seasoning so it seemed like the perfect fit. So I ultimately ended up creating this triple pork chili, aptly named Three Little Piggies chili by my friend Anjanette, to take to work for the cook-off and the rest is history! Second place in the judge’s favorites was a much better showing that I ever expected. Not bad for a mild chili. I’ll have to come up with something even crazier next year!

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 lb maple-flavored bacon
1 lb ground pork
1 medium bell pepper, diced (I like to use a red one for color uniformity)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
3/4 lb carnitas

DIRECTIONS:
In a small bowl, combine the spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and cocoa powder) and set aside. This will save you time and trouble later. Cut the bacon into 1/2 in pieces. In a large pot (I have an aptly named chili pot that I love), cook the bacon over medium heat. Use a splatter guard if you have one because that bacon grease is hot! Once the bacon pieces are crispy (watch carefully because they can burn quickly!), remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside for later. Add the ground pork, diced onion, and diced pepper to the pan with the leftover bacon grease and cook over medium heat until the pork is cooked through. Add the bowl of spice mix from earlier and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and reserved bacon and stir to combine. Finally, add the carnitas and stir to combine. I am not exactly sure how much I added, but I’m guessing about 3/4 lb. Add more or less to your taste. Bring the chili too a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Put the lid on the pot, but leave it propped open a bit so steam can escape. Cook for 90 minutes, stirring about every 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Based on My Amazing Bacon Chili and My Cincinnati-Style Chili.

Spider-Man 5K (NaBloPoMo day 17)

Last Friday was the beginning of the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. Not only did it take place only a few days after I got back from the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend in Orlando, but it was the last Disneyland race weekend for an unspecified period of time. (Smart money is on the West Coast runDisney races returning no earlier than 2020, but it could be later due to all the resort construction.) I was really glad that I’d signed up for all three distances (5K, 10K, and half marathon) so I could bid a proper farewell to the Disneyland races. However, when my alarm went off at 3 AM that Friday morning I seriously questioned that decision. Having to wake up hours before dawn has a way of dampening your enthusiasm, even for things you love! I quickly got dressed (no sunscreen required for such an early race) and drove to Disneyland. Continuing my superhero apparel theme from the weekend before, I picked my Black Widow shirt and a red skirt for the Spider-Man 5K. The shirt appropriately said “spider” on it and everything! And since it was 10 deg cooler in Anaheim that it had been in Orlando the week before I was able to wear my favorite running capris rather than needing shorts. Fall in Southern California is the best. The 5K snaked through both Disneyland and California Adventure parks and it was a lot of fun. There were multiple Spider-Man sightings in both parks. If I’d been smart I would have stopped for some pictures with characters on the course, but I didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. When I finished the race I got my medal, grabbed a banana, and headed back to my car in the parking structure. It was a weekday and I needed to go to work – after a shower, of course. The Avengers Half Marathon Weekend was off to a good start and I still had the 10K and half marathon to look forward to.

One week ’til Thanksgiving (NaBloPoMo day 16)

Thanksgiving is one week away and I can’t wait! I’m spending the holiday with my dear friend Natalie and her family (including my beloved goddaughter) so I don’t have to do the lion’s share of the cooking, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to arrive empty-handed. What kind of a friend would I be if I did that? So far I’m planning to make my favorite pumpkin dip with fruit as an appetizer, some scrumptious homemade cranberry sauce to go with the rest of the main meal, and Food Network’s Ginger Coconut Pumpkin Pie which is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted. Even though these are three relatively small items, I’m still a little worried about getting them all done and ready for Thanksgiving dinner, especially since I need to transport everything to Natalie’s house. Fortunately I think I can make all three on Wednesday so that I won’t be too stressed on Thursday. However, the only time I’ve made the pumpkin pie was in Tallahassee and I had my mom to help me! I’m concerned about getting it right on my own, especially I’m no expert at making my own crust, but I’ll do my best. And I’m going to attempt to make a gluten-free version just for Natalie. I stocked up on gluten-free gingersnaps at Whole Foods for the crust yesterday. Fingers crossed that they work just as well as the wheat-filled ones. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (NaBloPoMo day 15)

On November 1st I flew to Orlando for my Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend adventure, but back in August a surprising opportunity presented itself. I was looking at the Disney World website and realized that the very last Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party of the season was being held at the Magic Kingdom the day I arrived. I was willing to move heaven and earth to be able to attend, but would it be enough? The party was starting at 7 PM which was the same time my flight was scheduled to land. However, the celebration lasted until midnight so even if I got there a couple of hours late I would still have plenty of time to enjoy the festivities. There was hope! So I optimistically purchased a Halloween party ticket and prepared myself as much as possible for my busy November 1st schedule. First of all, I tagged my suitcase so that Mickey’s Magical Express bus service would pick it up from baggage claim rather than waiting for it myself. That saved me a little time. Second, I checked in to my hotel online so I could skip the front desk. And third, I slept quite a bit on the plane so I could more easily stay up late and savor every minute of the Halloween party.

I ended up walking through the Magic Kingdom gates a little after 9 PM. As much as I love Disney World, the main reason I wanted to go to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party was to see the seasonal fireworks, parade, and Hocus Pocus live show. Before picking a spot to watch the HalloWishes Fireworks I did a little trick or treating. There were several spots around the park where cast members dole out handfuls of candy so it didn’t take long for my little bag to be completely full. It took me the rest of my trip to finish all of it! I grabbed a salad for dinner to counteract the sugar rush, and then I made my way back to Cinderella’s Castle for the fireworks t 10:15 PM. Disney World sure knows how to put on a show. As a Disneyland native I wasn’t expecting the fireworks to come from so many different locations! It was really amazing. Next everyone crowded around the castle for the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular at 10:45 PM. This show was worth the (relatively high) price of admission. The actresses were great, there were a lot of laughs, and the music gave me goosebumps, especially “I Put A Spell On You.” It was incredible There were a lot of reasons that going to the Halloween party was impractical for me, but when I saw the Hocus Pocus show I knew I had made the right decision. Take a look at a short video I took of the finale to see what I mean. The last Boo-to-You Halloween Parade of the night took place at 11:15 PM so I hung around the castle for that after Hocus Pocus was over. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to the Halloween season. Before leaving Magic Kingdom I walked around the park some more (and I’ll confess to gathering some more candy) to drink it all in. I finally got on the bus back to my hotel around 12:30 AM very happy with my decision to go to the Halloween party and make my November 1st as insane as possible. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Is NaBloPoMo dead? (NaBloPoMo day 14)

Through no fault of my own this entry was not published on Tuesday, November 14th as planned. WordPress crashed as I was writing this very short and uninspiring post late last night and I was unwilling to stay up and to wait until it was working again. (Have I mentioned how much I hate WordPress? I’ve had so many problems with it. But that’s a story for another day.) So I wrapped up the last few sentences of this brief post on Wednesday and backdated it to November 14th. I guess this is technically a NaBloPoMo fail, but that’s OK. Let’s just hope that WordPress cooperates for the rest of the month!

When I got home from the gym tonight I had no idea what I was going to write about in today’s post. I have a few drafts in work, but I didn’t have the time or energy required to sufficiently prepare them for publication tonight. So instead I went online and looked for the latest NaBloPoMo writing prompts to see if there was one I could use to compose a quick paragraph to satisfy my post-a-day requirement this month. It wasn’t the most impressive plan, but it was better than missing a day. I even considered being supremely lazy and simply sharing a picture, but that’s more of a Wordless Wednesday thing. Unfortunately a Google search didn’t immediately turn up the NaBloPoMo homepage, which used to be hosted on Blogher. So I did a little more digging, and it looks like NaBloPoMo is defunct! I couldn’t find an obvious explanation so I just assume it quietly went away without any fanfare. This was a somewhat sad revelation considering how many Novembers I’ve been attempting to update my webpage every day to satisfy the NaBloPoMo requirement. I think I started back in 2010 and it was a challenge that I was always glad I at least attempted, whether or not I succeeded. And that now the official event is dead I need to figure out what I want to do in the future. Something to think about as I wrap up this month’s posts!

Hamilton tickets? (NaBloPoMo day 13)

The day before I left for Orlando I got an email from my credit card company stating that there had been some unusual activity on my account. The email encouraged me to give them a call. Now let’s remember that this was Halloween so I was not only incredibly busy with the chili cook-off at work, but also trying to get some actual work done before my vacation, so I didn’t have a lot of time to make phone calls. Plus, I initially thought the email was a scam so there was no way I was going to call the number provided without doing some research. When I had a free minute I logged on to my credit card account to see if I could recognize anything strange. It took about 5 seconds for me to realize that the “scam” in this situation was not the email, but the recent $9600 charge on my card! Apparently, someone had gotten a hold of my number and tried to charge $9600 to Ticketmaster. Holy cow! I am grateful to the credit card company for identifying that this was out of character for my account and flagging it immediately. The downside was that my card had to be cancelled the day before I went to Orlando. Not the most convenient scenario, but I got along just fine with only my debit card while I was gone. I just wasn’t earning Hilton Honors points on all of my Disney World purchases. The horror! When I shared this story in one of my Facebook groups a good friend made a hilarious joke (see the photo above) that still makes me laugh two weeks later. I sympathize with any thief who was so desperate to get a ticket for “Hamilton” that he or she needed a stolen credit card number. I just wish it wasn’t mine!

2017 Resolution #2 revisited (NaBloPoMo day 12)

“I always joke that my entire paycheck goes directly to the Walt Disney Corporation. And with my Disneyland/Disney World annual pass, race registrations, and a couple of trips to Orlando per year it’s not that far from the truth.”
1/26/17 webpage post

Back in January, after the shock of getting my credit card bill from the holidays and a trip to Orlando, I resolved to be more frugal in 2017. About ten months have passed since then and I have to start this resolution revisit by confessing that I haven’t exactly succeeded in being more frugal this year with regards to Disney-related purchases. I’ve renewed my Premier Annual Pass which gives me unrestricted access to all Anaheim and Orlando Disney parks, gone to Disney World twice and run several races there, and participated in four multi-day race weekends at Disneyland. And all of that is on top of my usual visits to the Happiest Place on Earth that have nothing to do with running. These are expenses that, while technically frivolous, bring me a lot of joy. I get an immense sense of accomplishment out of conquering the Disney races (including the Avengers half marathon just this morning), plus I get to see the overwhelming excitement on my sweet goddaughter’s face when we watch Paint the Night or Fantasmic. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for any amount of money, but that doesn’t mean they were cheap! There’s some good news for 2018, though. Well, maybe not so much good news as really terrible news with an indirect upside.

On October 18th runDisney officially made an announcement that most of us in the running community had been expecting for a long time. All West Coast races were cancelled for 2018 and placed on an indefinite hiatus. This was not a huge surprise considering that back in March runDisney suddenly postponed registration for the Disneyland-based Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Weekend shortly before it was supposed to open. (I was one of the lucky few who had already signed up for the 5K using a link sent out to previous participants so I was even more bewildered.) And then they gave us not one word of explanation for the next six months. After this extended radio silence we all knew that the race wasn’t going to happen, but we were still incredibly annoyed at being kept in the dark for so long. When the announcement was finally made last month, current and future construction at the Disneyland Resort was blamed for the race interruption. There’s no guarantee that is the true reason for the hiatus, but we have no idea when or if the race weekends will actually return. So the bad news is that my favorite races have disappeared for at least a year (the Avengers races this weekend were their swan song), but the good news is that I’m going to save a lot of money. Not just on registration costs, but also hotel reservations, food, and merchandise. My bank account is certainly going to thank me, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. The bottom line is that I’ve failed miserably at this particular 2017 resolution, but things are looking up for 2018! Stay tuned for more next year.

NaBloPoMo day 11

It’s not even 7 PM and I am ready to go to sleep. It’s an incredibly thrilling Saturday night around here! Actually, this weekend is pretty exciting due to the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend, but the races cause my bedtimes to be much earlier than normal. So for that reason I’m not spending a lot of time on a webpage post today. Honestly, I tried to write something more substantial. but my brain just wasn’t cooperating. I have gotten up insanely early the last two mornings for the Spider-Man 5K and the Thor 10K so I’m already operating with a sleep deficit, and tomorrow morning is the Super Heroes half marathon. I’ll be setting my alarm for 3 AM again tonight which just sounds ridiculously early. Suddenly going to bed at 7 PM seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. The half marathon tomorrow is going to be the last race at Disneyland for a long time (more on that later) so I want to enjoy it as much as possible. Fortunately the weather is much nicer here than it was in Orlando last weekend! The simplest way to make a runner happy is to give them good race weather. Tomorrow is going to be bittersweet. I’m really going to miss running at Disneyland, especially the Avengers races. Here’s hoping the half marathon goes smoothly!