Throwing money at a problem

One of my favorite ways to resolve a problem is to throw money at it. Remember last year when my only available option to fix my malfunctioning iPhone 6 before leaving on vacation was buying an iPhone 7? All I really needed was a new battery, but the Apple Store couldn’t do that in an acceptable amount of time. It was ridiculous. So purchasing a brand new phone was indeed a viable solution to my problem, but certainly not the most economical. To be clear, I feel very fortunate that throwing money at a problem is a choice that is available to me. I don’t think of myself as an extravagant person (in spite of all these retail therapy posts I’ve been writing lately) so purchasing a very expensive smart phone was a big deal, even if I wasn’t worried about having enough money in the bank to pay for it. I realize that not everyone has this luxury.

A few weeks ago one of my running buddies confessed that she was feeling overwhelmed and depressed, and that she really needed to start exercising again to regain her work/life balance. After performing practically zero physical activity in 2018 I realized that she was speaking my language, so I told her we would go back to the gym together. A combination of companionship and guilt would motivate us to get moving again! This is the woman who initially got me started at boot camp classes almost two years ago, which was extremely beneficial, but things have gotten complicated since then. Last summer we got Groupons for a 4-week trial at another gym so that we could try out their classes. To make a long story short, I didn’t continue after the four weeks (I went back to my old gym instead), but my friend did. Fast forward to now and I decided to join her gym so that we can work out together even though it wasn’t my favorite. Hence, throwing money at the problem! Yes, this means that I currently have two gym memberships. But it’s been working really well so you can’t argue with results. The price of fitness (with a side of stress-relief and friendship) is high in 2018, but I’m hoping that the pay off will be worth it.

Not retail therapy for a change!

“Yesterday was my favorite day of the year – holiday potluck day! It was a great day. I arrived to work early to get the hot chocolate started. I can’t believe anything that simple could be so popular, but I had several people ask me for the recipe again this year. The biggest lesson I learned is that I need to get an extra large Crockpot so that I can make a double batch next year!”
12/17/16 webpage post

I was half kidding when I wrote about buying an extra large Crockpot specifically for hot chocolate back in 2016. But a year later when I was once again preparing for the holiday potluck I did some research on Amazon and discovered that a humongous 8-quart Crockpot would only set me back about $30. It was practically a no-brainer to go ahead and order one. It seemed a bit silly to have a slow cooker for the single purpose of making hot chocolate once a year, especially with my limited kitchen cabinet space, but it ended up being a great decision. I was able to make a double batch of my much-loved holiday beverage (including a full gallon of milk as well as a quart of cream) with no extra effort, and it was still absolutely inhaled by my co-workers in record time. Due to planning difficulties this year the potluck had a much smaller guest list (I was grandfathered in after about a decade of participation), but it seems that an 8-qt Crockpot full of hot chocolate was still not enough. I couldn’t believe how quickly it was drained. I swear everyone just grabbed a straw and sucked it dry. Crazy! It wasn’t easy to find a spot to store this new addition to my kitchen arsenal, but even if I only pull it out once a year it will still be worth the investment. Only nine more months before I start planning holiday food for 2018!

I’ve got no strings

For Christmas I asked for a pair of wireless earbuds for running. I’d been wanting a pair for years to make my running experience more enjoyable, but the technology hadn’t quite evolved enough to meet my expectations. The battery life was too short (only a few hours) and the connectivity issues that I read about were plentiful. In 2017 I made the switch from traditional in-ear running headphones to bone conduction ones instead, specifically Aftershokz Sportz Titanium. They sit in front of your ears and conduct the sound through your cheekbones so that ambient noise isn’t blocked at all. I was skeptical, but after my first wearing I was in love. They allowed me to better hear my running buddies conversations, traffic noise, or whatever, and they didn’t make my ears ache after wearing them for a long time. Marathons are tough on your ears if your earbuds aren’t comfortable! This was a hefty upgrade for me. So when I saw that Aftershockz had a new and improved wireless model, Trekz Air, I put them on my Christmas list. So far they have exceeded all of my expectations. Not only are they wireless, which removes one major annoyance from my running experience, but they are also light and incredibly comfortable. In addition, they have easily accessible volume and music control which my wired pair is lacking. I absolutely love them and I’ve worn them for all of my races in 2018. (The photo above is from the Pasadena 5K last month.) I think this is the beginning of a beautiful fitness relationship. Definitely one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.

Thirty-nine

January 9th
My actual thirty-ninth birthday was a mess. I was supposed to be spending it at Walt Disney World, but obviously that didn’t happen. The best laid plans, and all. First of all, a rain storm woke me up at 6 AM so I decided to go back to sleep rather than getting up and getting drenched going to work that early. It was going to be my first day back at work after the holidays, but I was still tired after battling the flu and its aftermath for over a week. Under the circumstances, the pouring rain was more than I thought I was capable of dealing with. Work was stressful considering that I had to catch up on all of the emails that had been piling up in my inbox since December 21st. Also, there were more than the usual number of meetings which made the day even more frantic. I was pretty worn out when the workday was over, but I decided to go to a boot camp class at 7 PM since I wasn’t keen on spending the rest of my birthday simply sprawled out on my couch. It was my first time at the gym for at least a month so it was very challenging. I was sore for a week afterwards, and it turns out I wasn’t healthy enough to be exercising yet anyway. I felt pretty sick the next day. But at the time I was glad to get out of the house for an hour. On the way home from boot camp I stopped by Panera and picked up a bowl of tomato soup for dinner. Not exactly the birthday dinner I planned, which was a steak dinner at Le Cellier in EPCOT, but at least the soup tasted good.

January 21st
To make up for the disaster that was January 9th, I celebrated my honorary thirty-ninth birthday last Sunday. Unfortunately I had to get up at 4:30 AM to get ready for the Pasadena 5K. It was a cold morning by Southern Californian standards and I carpooled to the Rose Bowl with one of my running buddies who doesn’t have a functional heater in her car. Not the best decision when it’s 39 degrees outside and you didn’t think to dress warmly enough. I should have driven instead. But even without heat we still stayed in the relative warmth of the car until 10 minutes before the race started. The 5K itself was pretty good, and the finish line was on the Rose Bowl field, which I enjoyed. My plan for the afternoon was to meet my good friend Natalie and her family at Disneyland, but I was tired after I got home from the race. Luckily a short nap re-energized me and I made it to Anaheim just in time to join them for lunch at Carthay Circle. A meal of tri-tip and cheesy mashed potatoes definitely made up for eating boring tomato soup for dinner on my actual birthday. It was absolutely delicious. After that we made our way to Guardians of the Galaxy where my 5 year-old goddaughter surprised everyone by agreeing to ride it. What a perfect birthday present. She’s a real trooper. We also went on It’s A Small World Holiday (the last day before they removed the Christmas decor) and Peter Pan’s Flight before we decided it was time to go to our respective homes. I was hoping to check out the new scenes on Star Tours, but the line was long and I knew I needed to rest rather than push myself to stay at Disneyland longer. Luckily it will still be there on my next visit, which I hope is too far in the future. It was a lovely belated birthday celebration, even it if wasn’t the one I originally planned.

Christmas 2017 comes to an end

Remember how last year my Christmas decorations didn’t get put away until nearly five months after December 25th? The tree was no longer trimmed that whole time, and all of my holidays trinkets had been consolidated on my kitchen table, but they didn’t get put into their usual storage space until May 19th. (I think I took the wreath off my front door around Valentine’s Day.) It was a very belated end of the season. In the spring I figured if I crossed the six-month mark post-Christmas that I might as well just leave the tree up until the holidays rolled around again. Luckily I didn’t quite reach that threshold. On May 19th I finally put my nativity, figurines, lights, ornaments, and tree back in the closet where they could wait until they were seasonally appropriate again.

Christmas 2017 was a little less festive. I did manage to put my Christmas tree up shortly after Thanksgiving, but December was such a mess that I didn’t really get any farther. As my trip to Florida quickly approached I came to the realization that my tree just wasn’t going to get decorated this year. I still got to enjoy the lights (thanks to a pre-lit tree) in my living room every day, but with a busy schedule and some health problems I didn’t have the time or energy to trim it. The photo above shows the single solitary ornament that make it onto my 2017 Christmas tree. It was a perfect gift from one of my running buddies so I hung it up immediately. It had the benefit of not having to get unpacked first. Except for pulling out my wreath, I only cracked open my holiday storage closet to retrieve the Christmas cards bought on sale last year for future use. I ended up sending out a grand total of 62 cards this year, but that’s another story. After getting the flu on New Year’s Eve I spent a lot of time at home recovering, and during that time I managed to gather enough strength to take down my tree and put it back into storage by January 12th. I certainly didn’t break any speed records, but at least it got done while the weather is still cold (at least by LA standards). I missed out on a lot of traditions this holiday season and I’m very sorry to leave my favorite time of year behind. But all I can do right now is move forward. I know that eventually I will be healthy again, and that the 2018 holidays will probably be here before I know it. It just won’t be quite soon enough for me.

Let the Christmas season begin (NaBloPoMo day 30)

Tomorrow is December 1st. I can’t believe the final month of the year is already here. Why does time seem to accelerate starting in October? It’s infuriating. But my love of the holiday season is all the more reason to try to slow down and enjoy every moment of it while it lasts. Tomorrow night is the Seal Beach Christmas parade and I’m planning to watch with some friends. Luckily I only have to walk one block from my house to the parade route on Main Street so it’s one of my most convenient holiday traditions. While there are folks in the community who think that the parade is being held too early this year (they always find something silly to complain about), I think it’s the perfect way to kick off December. My weekend is going to be filled with Christmas activities and other such entertainment so it might as well start with a parade! Last weekend I put up my Christmas tree, after Thanksgiving of course, but it doesn’t have any ornaments on it yet. I’ll try to squeeze some tree trimming into my unusually busy schedule over the next few days. Tonight I was able to get a dozen Christmas cards ready to mail. Like last year I have a list of recipients a mile long so I’d like to get them done quickly otherwise I’ll be scrambling to get them sent before I leave for Florida on the 22nd. As I was getting the first cards ready to go today I realized that I only have Star Trek stamps in the house. Couple that with the fact that some of my Christmas cards are Star Wars themed and I’m worried that I’ll get arrested by the nerd police for mixing franchises! I’ll have to swing by the post office and get some holiday stamps tomorrow so that I can mail a couple more batches of cards over the weekend.

And thus ends NaBloPoMo 2017. I think I was fairly successful this year except for that one night where WordPress didn’t cooperate. If I can manage it I’ll try to keep posting every day for the rest of the year. This is always a tall order as the demands on my time increase during the holiday season, but I feel like writing about all of my celebrations makes them even more enjoyable. Happy December, everyone!

NaBloPoMo day 27

I have four days left of my NaBloPoMo challenge and I’m running out of steam. It doesn’t help that today was the first day back at work after Thanksgiving and it was a long one. And it was a Monday so that meant a lot of meetings and very little productivity. I had to stay late to actually accomplish anything before I left. The only reason I have more than 5 minutes to sit down and write anything today is because my gym is still closed for the holiday, otherwise I’d have spent one of my few free hours there rather than at home. As it is I skipped exercise altogether. At the moment I’m curled up under a blanket on my couch trying to stay awake and put enough coherent sentences together to feel like they are worthy of being published as my daily post. But so far there is very little substance and I don’t know where to turn for inspiration. My brain just isn’t working any more and I can’t wait to take a shower and go to sleep. I’ve actually been looking forward to watching an episode of the second season of “Stranger Things” all day, but I am certain I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to watch more than a few minutes. So I’m going to end this pathetic little paragraph and get ready for bed as quickly as I can. Hopefully I’ll have the time and energy to write something better tomorrow!

Can I buy stock in Pyrex? (NaBloPoMo day 24)

It’s Black Friday, but I didn’t do much to contribute to the growth of the economy today. After realizing that I’ve already spent a lot of money this month I decided to avoid taxing my credit card on the biggest shopping day of the year. Now that the day is almost over I can say that I was fairly successful. Besides the breakfast I bought at McDonald’s this morning, the only other item I purchased was a plastic lid for one of my Corningware casserole dishes. Exciting, huh? With all the cooking I’ve been doing this fall I’ve discovered that I don’t own enough containers to refrigerate and freeze all of the leftovers for future consumption. It didn’t help that until recently I didn’t have any plastic lids for my Corningware casserole dishes at all, and the glass lids weren’t satisfactory for freezing food. It’s actually been quite an ordeal trying to find a plastic lid for my larger Corningware dish and I had to return two I ordered from Amazon on separate occasions because they weren’t the right size, in spite of their online descriptions. Very frustrating. So today I broke down and ordered a lid directly from the Corningware website. Let’s hope the third time’s the charm!

Regarding Pyrex, which I referenced in the title of this post, I have another story to tell. Late on Tuesday night I reluctantly headed to Target to do some last-minute shopping for Thanksgiving necessities. I hated going anywhere near a store that close to Turkey Day, but it was sadly unavoidable. I had prepared two batches of my homemade cranberry sauce that afternoon in preparation for the Thursday feast, but afterwards I realized that all of my Pyrex smelled like chili! Apparently my leftovers have infused the containers with a distinctive smell that was decidedly incompatible with the cranberry sauce. So as I was picking up a few things at Target I added four new Pyrex dishes in my basket – two for cranberry sauce and two for pumpkin dip (as shown above). A couple of them were even Christmas-themed! Very festive. This is in addition to the two Halloween-themed containers I bought in October while I was cooking up a storm for Whole30. All told I have acquired six new Pyrex containers in the last two months and I had limited kitchen cabinet space to begin with. As one of my co-workers pointed out, I should have bought stock in Pyrex beforehand! I guess I’ll have to keep cooking massive amounts of food throughout the holiday season to justify my purchases!

Thanksgiving prep begins (NaBloBoMo day 21)

Once again it’s late and I have very little time to write anything. I have a feeling that’s going to be the theme for the rest of the week. The holidays are always crazy – I’m not sure why I expected anything different this year! I left work at 6 PM today with a very long list of things I needed to do, but I fell asleep on my couch instead. I was so stressed out about getting everything done before Thanksgiving that all I wanted was to shut down and rest. So I decided not to go for my nightly run and forgot about all of my obligations for a little while. Eventually I got up off the couch, went to Target to buy that extra pie dish that I needed, and made two batches of cranberry sauce in preparation for Thursday (one with diced apple and pear and one without). I regret skipping my run, but my legs could certainly use a rest day after an intense lower body day at boot camp last night. I’ll make up for it this weekend. Right now I need to start thinking about going to bed so I can tackle one last day of work before Thanksgiving, but first I need to wash a dink full of dishes so they aren’t waiting for me when I get home tomorrow night. ‘Tis the season to be sleep deprived!

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!