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!

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!

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.