May 19th

“I finally dismantled my Christmas tree on Wednesday. I was stuck at home for a fifth day with this wretched cold/flu and getting quite restless so I started undecking my halls. I still haven’t put anything away properly yet (i.e., in the cabinet with all of my other seasonal decorations), but my house no longer screams, ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year!’ ”
1/21/17 webpage post

“I still haven’t put away my Christmas decorations. The tree currently is lying on the floor in pieces, and all of the ornaments and other decorative items are covering my entire kitchen table. One of my goals for tomorrow afternoon is to finally close the books on Christmas 2016. Otherwise I should just put the tree back up and pronounce my house ready for Christmas 2017 a little early.”
1/28/17 webpage post

One month ago something amazing happened. On May 19th, just about a month shy of the official first day of summer, I finally put away all of my Christmas 2016 decorations. The good news is that my tree wasn’t up and trimmed that entire time, but none of my holiday baubles had moved far from where they had been on display in December. My Christmas tree was first put up on December 18th which means that it was out of storage for a solid 5 months. Like I said, the tree wasn’t out and decorated that long, but it might as well have been. I disassembled it in January, but the pieces were sitting in a box on the floor of my living room until the miracle day of May 19th. And all of the ornaments and other decorations, like my multiple nativities, took up every square inch of real estate on my kitchen table for those 5 months. Holy cow, how did it come to this? With the Los Angeles weather threatening shorts and flip-flop conditions very soon, I was dangerously close to the tipping point between putting my Christmas tree away and just putting it back up in anticipation of Christmas 2017. So on the afternoon of May 19th I found myself standing in front of that mountain of yuletide cheer and vowing to finally put it back in the closet. At least for a few months. After all was said and done I was very happy to have closed the door on the 2016 holidays. It’ll be that much more exciting when, in six months, it’s socially acceptable to start decorating for Christmas again. But for now, ’tis the season to survive another summer without air conditioning!

Saturday random thoughts

***I’m still sick, but I think I’m finally getting better. I got through a full day of work yesterday without feeling like death. I was still exhausted afterwards, though, and it didn’t help that I had to stay until 8 PM running a test. And I probably need to work for at least a few hours tomorrow to get some seriously overdue documents ready for release, but being able to go to work regularly is one step towards being completely healthy again.

***My good friend Natalie and I were planning to celebrate my birthday at Disneyland this afternoon/evening, but after admitting that we are both sick, we decided that it was necessary to reschedule. We had to give up our dinner at Steakhouse 55, but now we have a meal reservation for February 11th that will give us a reserved spot to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade that has recently returned to Disneyland. I have never actually seen the Electrical Parade, either in Anaheim the last time it was here or when it was in Orlando up through last year, so I can’t wait!

***Except for the Star Wars 5K and one other solitary 4-mile run over a week ago I haven’t done any exercise since my marathon on January 8th. Even so, I am going to attempt to run 10 miles at the Great Chocolate Race in Long Beach tomorrow morning. I am incredibly nervous. First of all, I have no idea if my foot is going to be up to the challenge. Luckily I haven’t had any foot pain since I got back from Orlando which is a very good sign, but I only have two successful short runs to convince me that I won’t fracture any bones tomorrow. I didn’t even go back to the chiropractor this week because I was sick. So that’s one unknown. And then my secondary concern is that I am completely out of shape after deviating my training regime for so long. There’s a good chance I have no endurance at all anymore. Tomorrow is going to be interesting, to say the least. One way or another I’ll let you know how it goes!

***This morning my running buddies and I had to pick up our race packets for tomorrow. While figuring out where we needed to go to get the bibs, we discovered that the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck was going to be parked at a mall nearby so of course we decided to check it out. We arrived only 30 minutes after it was scheduled to open, but the line was already around the block! We waited for about an hour in the surprisingly warm late-January sun, only advancing a fairly short distance, before we gave up and left to get our race bibs without acquiring any Hello Kitty merchandise. So we saved money, but wasted a lot of precious weekend time.

***I still haven’t put away my Christmas decorations. The tree currently is lying on the floor in pieces, and all of the ornaments and other decorative items are covering my entire kitchen table. One of my goals for tomorrow afternoon is to finally close the books on Christmas 2016. Otherwise I should just put the tree back up and pronounce my house ready for Christmas 2017 a little early.

Getting back to normal

I finally dismantled my Christmas tree on Wednesday. I was stuck at home for a fifth day with this wretched cold/flu and getting quite restless so I started undecking my halls. I was particularly sad to sad goodbye for a year to the adorable yuletide Mickey and Minnie I purchased at Disneyland last month. I’ve been meaning to get myself a set forever and I finally pulled the trigger this past holiday season. I still haven’t put anything away properly yet (i.e., in the cabinet with all of my other seasonal decorations), but my house no longer screams, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” It’s always a little depressing when the lights and tinsel and garlands disappear in January, but it’s also nice for things to get back to normal. Post-holiday malaise is never fun and I have to constantly remind myself of the lovely things that I have to look forward to in the first few months of the year. Now that my Disney World trip is over it feels like the drudge of everyday life is setting in, but I have to remember that I have so many other exciting events on my calendar in 2017. Granted, being sick, injured, and idle for more than a week hasn’t helped raise my spirits, but I think that will turn around soon. If only my body would get back to normal then life would be less dull and monotonous! I only got out of the house today to pick up my bib for the Pasadena Half Marathon tomorrow morning – a race I’m not even going to run! But I had to pick up the bib in person so that I could pass it off to a friend. At least it won’t go to waste this way. While making the long drive up to Pasadena with my running buddy this afternoon to go to the expo I realized that I am still pretty sick. I wheeze when I laugh and I can’t talk very much without coughing. It’s really frustrating. I was determined to run at least a few miles today, but I am resigned to rest at least until Monday in hopes that this blasted illness vacates my body. As far as I’m concerned it can’t happen soon enough. I’m still unsure about my foot too. After a visit to the sports chiropractor yesterday afternoon I remembered why I don’t like going there. It’s insanely painful! The chiropractor worked on not only my foot, but also some muscles in my right leg in an attempt to loosen things up a bit and improve my gait. I won’t know if going through that ordeal made any difference until I feel well enough to run again, but I sure hope the discomfort produced results. I’m not looking forward to it, but I’m going back to Wednesday for a follow-up. Fingers crossed that I am breathing and running normally again by then, and that I’ve also found the energy to actually pack up the Christmas decorations that are currently covering my entire kitchen table. It’s time to get everything back to normal around here!

A Christmas present and a tribute to a legend

For Christmas this year my parents gave me a new GPS watch for my running habit/obsession and I love it. It’s a Garmin Forerunner 235 with a color display and an optical heart rate sensor, which is an upgrade from my old GPS watch. I set it up and wore it for the first time on my 5-mile run around Seal Beach last night. The wristband is more flexible than my old watch so it fits well, and it’s incredibly comfortable, unlike a first-generation wrist-based heart rate monitor that I tried some years back. Technology improves at a fantastic rate these days! It was fascinating to see a plot of my heart rate from my run last night. I’ll have to check out trends over the next few months to compare my heart rate during runs where I feel great and compare it to runs where I feel terrible. As an engineer who loves to analyze data this is going to be fun.

I went running again tonight (6 miles) so I got to wear my new GPS watch a second time. Also, I wore my Princess Leia shirt, which I’ve worn for multiple half marathons (including the Star Wars Dark Side half marathon in April), in honor of Carrie Fisher who passed away this morning. I’m a child of the 80’s so I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy on a regular basis, and Princess Leia was one of my role models. She was a strong, independent woman who brought down empires. She was not only a princess, but a general who fought alongside the men and often eclipsed them. For a young girl who didn’t want to wait around for a man to come along and define her, Princess Leia was a beacon of hope. RIP Carrie Fisher. May the Force be with you.

White Christmas

It’s Christmas Day and I’ll run if I want to! My marathon training plan had me running 12 miles this weekend, but my running buddy sneakily signed us up for the Operation Jack virtual half marathon so I stretched this morning’s outing into 13.1 miles instead. It was nearly the same distance and the race was for a good cause. Plus, it gave me the perfect chance to wear my Christmas running shirt again and listen to my Christmas playlist before the holiday season is over. I must admit that I slept a bit later than I planned this morning, though. I intended to get up and start running right at sunrise, but I ended up walking out my door about an hour later instead. Good thing it wasn’t a hot day! In fact, it was really chilly in Los Angeles this morning, perfect weather for Christmas Day, so I had to wear my gloves and arm warmers for a few miles before I sufficiently warmed up. The storm that came through LA a couple of days ago covered the local mountains with snow for the first time this winter so it was actually a white Christmas in some parts of Southern California! I had a great view of the mountains during the first half of my run this morning and it was really beautiful. My last double-digit run before my marathon in two weeks (yikes!) went very well so I was happy about that. I was relatively fast and I didn’t get too exhausted. But when I got home I realized that I should have run yesterday when McDonald’s was open. Since they’re closed on Christmas Day I wasn’t able to have my traditional post-run breakfast of an Egg McMuffin and a Diet Coke. A travesty! My Nutrisystem breakfast sandwich just wasn’t the same. Luckily this is the only day of the year that I’ll have this problem. Running this virtual half marathon was a great way to start my Christmas Day. I didn’t accomplish much else afterwards, but I’m getting ready to go see “Star Wars: Rogue One” with friends in a couple of hours. I can’t wait! Merry Christmas, everyone!

P.S. There’s a nice cross-section of my nerdy Christmas tree on display in the above photo. BB-8, Elsa, Cinderella, Cookie Monster, and Mickey Mouse. Too bad you can’t see my Thorin Oakenshield ornament too!

‘Twas the night before Christmas

It’s been a busy Christmas Eve and I’ve barely left the house! I considered going back to Disneyland for a few hours, but I decided to run a couple of errands first thing this morning instead. I was invited to a party tonight and I wanted to make another batch of cranberry BBQ meatballs to take with me, but I needed a few ingredients first. So I rushed over to Target and Ralph’s before 8 AM to get the necessary components before the crowds of folks buying last minute gifts descended. It wasn’t the most relaxing shopping trip, but it could have been much worse, considering it’s Christmas Eve. When I got home I mostly tackled a bunch of dull chores that I won’t bore with here, and then I got started on my biggest job for the day which was wrapping Christmas presents for friends. Luckily they aren’t needed until Monday, but I got them done while I had a chance. It took me much longer than it should have to wrap six boxes, but they look pretty good. I also watched a couple of classic Christmas movies at the same time – “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Christmas in Connecticut.”

It’s getting late now and I need to go to bed soon. I went to the party at my friend’s house this evening and ate a lot of delicious food. More than I should have since I am going for a long run in the morning! Since I didn’t attempt any other form of exercise today I intended to take a walk around Seal Beach tonight to look at the Christmas lights (something I can’t sufficiently admire while running), but I was just too tired when I got home from the party. I’ll make up for it when I run tomorrow morning. It’s Christmas and I’ll run if I want to! Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Today was the first full day of my holiday break (I don’t have to go back to work until January 3rd) and I didn’t waste any time getting in the Christmas spirit. I got up and went to Disneyland first thing this morning and it was lovely. Granted, the sky was cloudy and gray after raining overnight so the crowds in the park were very light. What a wonderful gift! I wasn’t expecting that two days before Christmas, but I really enjoyed it. I went on all of the rides on my holiday to do list (Jingle Cruise, Haunted Mansion Holiday, and Small World Holiday) in a very short amount of time. After that I wandered around and did some shopping, found a pin I’d been looking for, bought one last Christmas present for a friend, and had a holiday turkey sandwich (turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce) at Earl of Sandwich for lunch. When I got home from Disneyland I got started on the task of making Christmas cookies. In an effort to eat healthier I haven’t done a lot of baking this year, but I figured the holiday season deserves a little splurge. Plus, I promised to bring some peanut butter and chocolate treats to a friend’s house on Monday. Usually I like to try new recipes when I get a chance to bake, but this time I fell back on a couple of tried-and-true favorites since I didn’t want to risk serving mediocre cookies to my friends! First I whipped up a huge batch of peanut butter blossoms, as seen in the above photo. I first wrote about these back in 2011. These cookies are a holiday tradition in my family and they never fail to disappoint. They’re incredibly easy to make and absolutely delicious. By the time the peanut butter blossoms were done it was time for my to go to boot camp at 4 PM. The class was particularly grueling today, probably payback for indulging in the turkey sandwich and a few cookies today, but I’m glad I went. Christmas is no excuse for my fitness regime to suffer! When I got home from the gym I used another famous family recipe to make a large batch of peanut butter bars. They’re in the fridge right now, but I’ll slice them up (and take the obligatory photo) tomorrow. I wrote a very unsatisfactory post about these incredibly addictive treats about five years ago, but I will revisit them later this week because the recipe absolutely deserves to be shared again. After today most of my Christmas baking is done. I still have one more batch of cookies I’m planning to make for Monday, but those will probably have to wait until Sunday.

It’s raining right now, a sign of a real winter finally returning to Los Angeles, and I’m perfectly content to be inside, warm and dry, on this December 23rd night. I’m watching an old “Doctor Who” Christmas Special right now (“A Christmas Carol” from 2010), but earlier I put on my DVD of “The Bishop’s Wife” while making the peanut butter bars. I intend to watch a bunch of classic Christmas movies over the next couple of days. There will also be some more “Doctor Who” Christmas episodes, including the new one on Sunday night. It was a lovely first day of my holiday break, and this weekend promises to be busy and delightful as well.

Christmas tree 2016

It’s six days until Christmas and my tree is finally up (done after my 20 mile run yesterday) and fully trimmed (as of tonight). Took me long enough! I got a new pencil-style Christmas tree this year from Treetopia due to the lack of appropriate space for one of a more generous girth in my living room. The new tree is 6′ tall, but only 18″ wide at the base and it’s just perfect. I love it. And one of the best things is that the old angel ornament from Kmart that I’ve been using as a tree topper for the last 14 years still works! Next year I’ll have to prioritize finding a new tree topper (and a tree skirt), but for now my little angel is still doing a great job. I did buy six new ornaments this year (including a Kylo Ren!) which is probably going overboard. That number is not quite balanced by the three ornaments that I got rid of either. One animated Peanuts ornament was leaking battery acid so it definitely had to go. Yikes! And as I was putting on the last few ornaments tonight I came up with this little Christmas countdown based on the demographics of my collection. I can’t believe Christmas is only six days away, but at least I’m finally ready!

6 Hello Kitties
5 Harry Potters
4 Iron Mans (Iron Men?)
3 Elsas
2 Mickey Mouses (Mice?)
1 Weeping Angel

Potluck Day 2016

Yesterday was my favorite day of the year – holiday potluck day! It was a great day. Since it was Casual Friday I got a chance to finally wear the holiday running shirt I ordered last month. I arrived to work early to get the hot chocolate started. It needed two hours in the Crockpot before it would be ready for the breakfast crowd. When I tested it at 6 AM it was the perfect temperature, and so delicious! I can’t believe anything that simple could be so popular, but I had several people ask me for the recipe again this year. I am happy to share it, of course. 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! (Also, I need to get a picture of a finished batch and post the recipe again. A good recipe is worth another share.)

Speaking of breakfast, I’m not sure if you’ll believe it, but I only had two scones yesterday – one caramel apple one and one maple bacon. They were amazing, but I didn’t want to go overboard before 9 AM. However, those two scones were accompanied by half of a waffle, a glass of milk, and a little hot chocolate. Maybe I did go overboard after all, but my scone consumption was still significantly reduced this year. When lunchtime rolled around I was still pretty full from breakfast, but I still loaded my plate with Chinese chicken salad, BBQ lil smokies, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole from the buffet. My contribution to the feast was turkey meatballs with cranberry barbeque sauce which turned out really well – and disappeared fast! I started cooking them in my other Crockpot at 6 AM so they were just right when everyone was ready for lunch. This was just the second time using the recipe, but this time I used a whole cup of barbeque sauce rather than the usual 1/2 cup, and I think the sauce was great. I’ll have to make those more often. I did indulge in a rare can of Coke, as you can see in the above photo, because of the cute polar bears on the can.

After all of the food I consumed at breakfast and lunch I absolutely zero room for dessert. Nothing looked at that exciting to me anyway, but I did take a couple of extra scones back to my desk with me. I thought they’d be great when I got hungry later. But by the end of the day I was still so full that the idea of eating them didn’t appeal to me at all so I shared them to my cubical neighbors. ‘Tis the season for giving! As usual, my favorite day of the year didn’t disappoint. Good food and a lot of laughs with my co-workers. I can’t wait for nest year!

After a busy weekend

I thought I’d have plenty of time to write a couple of webpage posts this weekend while I was in Pomona for the Holiday Half Marathon and 5K races (the combination of which is the Golden Snowflake Challenge), but that didn’t turn out to be the case. When will I learn that December is far too busy to have any free time? I actually had a lot of plans for the weekend, but I only accomplished a few of the items on my to do list. Besides the two races, I did finally complete all of my 2016 Christmas cards, though, which was a huge effort. The grand total this year was 53 cards. Yikes! Unfortunately I didn’t get my Christmas tree put up like I wanted to. I’m disappointed about that. My time management needs to be a bit better this week, especially since I’ll be tackling the highest mileage of my marathon training plan. It’s very daunting, but I think I can do it. It remains to be seen if I can get anything else done this week, though. I guess we’ll find out!