Beginning of December

The last month of the year always seems to slip by so quickly, and it’s a real shame because I love December. Because this is my favorite time of the year I have vowed to do at least one celebratory thing every day this month. The daily activities don’t have to be big, but I want to make sure I enjoy every remaining day in 2016. I started on Thursday, December 1st (after I got home from my boot camp class) with my first viewing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” of the season while I got started on my Christmas cards. I want to get all of my cards in the mail as soon as possible because my schedule is just going to get more packed as the holidays approach. Then on Friday, December 2nd I watched the Seal Beach Christmas Parade with some friends, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. That brings us to today, December 3rd, which was a big day because I met my friend and her daughter at Disneyland to watch the Christmas Fantasy Parade. I got there right when the park opened so I was able to hop on Star Tours, Hyperspace Mountain, Path of the Jedi, and Haunted Mansion Holiday before the others arrived. Actually, I had a Fast Pass for Hyperspace Mountain but I lost it at some point so I had to stand in the regular line instead. With as often as I go to Disneyland I’m getting spoiled! Luckily all of the lines were short this morning. After I met up with my friends we rode Alice in Wonderland and It’s A Small World Holiday before scoping out seating for the 1 PM parade on Main Street. We were there early enough to get a spot on the curb in a prime location. Front row seating for a Disneyland parade is the best! While we waited we had chili cheese dogs and churros for lunch. The Christmas Fantasy parade was wonderful, and my friend’s daughter absolutely loved it. That was the most fun part of the experience. This is how the holidays are supposed to be. I’m looking forward to the rest of December!

NaBloPoMo mostly successful

Against all odds I finished National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) only missing one day out of thirty. Not bad! I compensated for my misstep by posting the second half of my Thanksgiving wrap-up on December 1st. That’s a fair trade-off, right? I’m going to try my best to keep up the same frequency of posts in December since this is my favorite time of the year (and I’m determined to enjoy it), but don’t know how successful I’ll be. The month has barely started and my calendar is already completely full! Like today when I had about four obligations after I got out of work. I actually left early to pick up my orthotics from the podiatrist so that I could run my scheduled 5 miles this afternoon. Since the Seal Beach Christmas Parade was taking place in the evening I didn’t even attempt to run my usual route around town. Even at 4 PM Main Street was just too busy and crowded. Instead I drove down to Bolsa Chica State Beach and completed my 5 miles there. It was really windy today, but running by the ocean is always lovely. Since I was planning to meet some friends at the Christmas parade I had to get home and quickly shower after my run. Luckily I live one block from the parade route so I could walk out my door just a few minutes before 7 PM. It was a chilly night for the Seal Beach Christmas parade and I got cold sitting there for an hour and a half, but I enjoyed hanging out with my friends. Now I am back in my warm house, but I need to go to bed soon. I’m meeting a friend and her daughter at Disneyland for the Christmas parade tomorrow. Happy holidays everyone!

Thanksgiving approaches!

Thanksgiving is on Thursday and I’m behind on my preparations! I was so proud of myself for getting my Halloween decorations up early in October, but the Thanksgiving decor is still languishing in boxes on November 18th. Oops. Not that I have much, but I bought something new for this year that I’m excited about. I don’t have much free time this weekend (running and Florida football tomorrow, and then Disneyland with a friend on Sunday), but I’ll have to make sure to carve out an hour somewhere to make my house appropriately festive for Thanksgiving. I’ll share a picture when I’m done. I’m leaving for Florida on Tuesday so there aren’t too many days left for me to enjoy the Turkey Day items here in California. It’s going to be time to put up my Christmas tree as soon as I get home next weekend. I actually bought a new tree this year because while my old one was really nice, it just took up too much floor space. My downstairs area is oddly situated so there isn’t really a natural space for the old tree where it wasn’t taking up too much premium real estate. So in order to save space and still have enough branches for all my ornaments I bought a taller pencil-style tree. I can’t wait to see what it looks like. I realize that I should have purchased some additional garland when I was at Target yesterday. That’s one more thing I should do before I leave for Florida. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Before I worry any more about Christmas I need to get ready for Thanksgiving. This weekend I need to decide what recipes I want to make for Thanksgiving dinner so that I can assemble a grocery list. I’m planning to go to the store immediately after arriving in Tallahassee on Tuesday night. Hopefully I’ll avoid the Wednesday rush that way (although I expect I’ll still need to shop on Wednesday because I inevitably forget something on the first trip). But right now I need to get ready for bed, though, because I am running 16 miles in the morning with my running buddies. Yikes!

Disappointment

I ran the Doctor Strange 10K at Disneyland this morning, but I don’t have time to write a recap post today. Way too much stuff going on this weekend! I’ll work on that tomorrow afternoon when I’m lying on my couch recovering from the Avengers Superheroes Half Marathon. Didn’t I say there’s way too much stuff going on this weekend?

I’m going to make a bold statement – Softsoap’s holiday edition cinnamon & clove is the best hand soap scent ever. Usually for the holidays you get products with essence of berry or pine or something like that, but the cinnamon & clove hand soap has a lovely spicy fragrance that is perfect for Christmas. (And also for the rest of the year when you’re not so patiently waiting for Christmas to roll around again.) I loved it so much when I first bought it a couple of years ago that I went back and stocked up on some extra bottles so I could use it all year. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to replenish my reserves last year because I couldn’t find any holiday Softsoap hand soap varieties. Not cool! And then just recently my stockpile of cinnamon & clove cleanser finally ran out. I was so disappointed. Now I’ve had to resort to washing my hands with some peppermint candy cane hand soap that found in the back of my cabinet. It’s not bad, but I sorely miss my old favorite. Luckily this is the epitome of a first world problem. My quest for the 2016 holiday season is to find a new festive hand soap variety. This is important stuff!

Christmas 2015

Christmas in Tallahassee this year included a lot of food, a lot of fun, and a bit of running in the record-breaking Florida heat. The first full day I spent in Tallahassee (December 23rd) we bought all of the groceries we needed for the holidays, had a delicious lunch at Smashburger, made some homemade lasagna for dinner (and many, many leftovers!), and took a walk in the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights. I even got all of my Christmas presents wrapped rather than leave them until the last minute, like I usually do. Not that wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve isn’t festive, but it’s pretty much the pinnacle of procrastination. On Christmas Eve my mom whipped up some homemade egg sandwiches for breakfast (my favorite), I bought stocking stuffers at Target, and went on a long walk at Maclay Gardens with both of my parents. It was unseasonably warm that week so it wasn’t the best weather for outdoor exercise, but I love to see the gardens anytime I can. We walked 4.5 miles today, which helped us work up an appetite for leftover lasagna for dinner. My mom and I also took a short walk in the neighborhood that night to see the Christmas lights on a different street. It’s a Christmas Eve tradition! Christmas Day was also full of traditions. A breakfast of my dad’s pancakes, my mom’s scrambled eggs, plus some bacon and fruit. It’s always one of the best meals I eat all year. The three of us opened Christmas presents while watching the Disney Christmas parade. Due to the hot and humid weather I didn’t think I’d get any running done while I was in Florida, but my dad and I braved the heat for a jog anyway. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be, but I was sure glad I’d packed running shorts in my suitcase! Christmas dinner was another tradition – smoked turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, herbed corn bake (I need to post this recipe sometime), and green beans. Delicious. Dessert was my mom’s incomparable pecan pie (another recipe I need to post) and an experimental pumpkin and sweet potato pie from a magazine recipe that I doctored up a bit. The pecan pie was marvelous, as usual, but the other pie was only a marginal success. Some recipes are winners and others aren’t! Our last activity for Christmas Day was going to see “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.” I had been looking forward to that movie for months and I wasn’t disappointed. It was so good! The perfect end to the day. On December 26th we braved the mall in search of some post-Christmas deals. We had minimal luck, but it was still a good trip, with the added benefit of Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets for lunch. My dad and I went for another run that afternoon to burn off some holiday calories. And it’s a good thing too because we had leftovers from the previous day for dinner. That night we watched the extended edition of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (which I thought was far superior to the theatrical version) while I baked an eggnog cake for the next day. My last full day in Tallahassee was a mixed bag. First of all, I learned that broiling a pan of brownies doesn’t work as well as baking them. I should pay more attention when using ovens that aren’t my own! My dad and I had to go to the grocery store after that disaster to buy ingredients for another batch. We discovered that finding toffee chips after Christmas is not an easy task. No luck at either Publix or Target so we resorted to buying some mini Heath bars and chopping them in the food processor. Fortunately I got the second pan of brownies, including the improvised toffee chips, just right. I had some old friends from high school coming over for a little party that night so I made a big pot of chili for everyone. Seeing my friends was so much fun. We always talk, laugh, and eat a lot when we get together. We took care of that entire batch of chili! I was so glad we could all get together while I was in town. December 28th was the day I flew back to Los Angeles, but my dad and I still made time to go to a jog that morning. Without him my workout clothes wouldn’t have gotten any use on that trip! My parents and I had lunch at Burgerfi on the way to the airport. (This was the second gourmet hamburger place we went to since I don’t have the opportunity to visit them in California. Not the healthiest meal option, but very tasty!) My flight back to LA was uneventful and I got back to my house without any trouble. It was a great Christmas trip and I loved every minute of it.

Winter Dreams 1/4/16

The holidays may technically be over, but since Disneyland keeps the celebration going for a while after the New Year I didn’t let the season end without one last hurrah. The World of Color – Winter Dreams water show was going to end for the year on January 6th and I wanted to make sure to see it before then. So on Monday night I went to California Adventure after work. I had a dinner reservation at Carthay Circle in order to get a spot in a preferred viewing location for World of Color. Parking was a bit of a pain (the structure often becomes a free-for-all at night), and there were a bunch of other people trying to enjoy the last few days of the holidays, but it was actually a beautiful night at the parks. It wasn’t too cold due to some cloud cover (a rainstorm was on its way overnight) and the lingering Christmas lights were lovely. I had a really delicious dinner at Carthay Circle – winter squash minestrone, steak with sweet potatoes, and a peppermint dessert. It was amazing. (Not exactly the best meal to kick start my healthy New Year’s resolutions, but worth every bite.) World of Color was scheduled to start at 9 PM, but I got in line early so I would have a good spot to watch the show. The Kindle app on my phone is a lifesaver in these situations. An hour sitting on the cold concrete really flies when you’re reading a good book! The Carthay Circle viewing location isn’t right on the waterfront, but at least I got a spot on the closest railing so there wasn’t anyone standing directly in front of me. I went to see the regular World of Color show back in August and had a front row seat in the “splash zone” due to my dinner reservation at Wine Country Trattoria. That meal was much less enjoyable than Carthay Circle, but the viewing location was amazing. The version of World of Color I saw in August was just OK, but the Winter Dreams version this year was much better. No surprise there were a lot of songs from “Frozen,” but I’m a huge fan of the movie so that was fine by me. I can never get enough of “Let It Go.” I stayed up much later than I should have for a weeknight, but it was worth it to see World of Color – Winter Dreams.

2016 Resolution #1

New Year’s Resolution #1: Track my running differently

Since I started running two and a half years ago I’ve used the MapMyRun app on my iPhone to track my mileage, routes, and other statistics. In general it’s served me very well, but I’ve discovered that it has some limitations. While it’s convenient to only need to take one piece of technology with me when I hit the pavement, it was obvious that the MapMyRun app was giving me credit for more distance than I was actually covering. I’m not exactly sure why it’s so generous, but some of my half marathons appeared to be on the order of 14 miles rather than the expected 13.1. That’s just not realistic. There’s no way I could run the courses that inefficiently so I surmised that the app was lying to me. (Or trying to boost my ego, which isn’t altogether a bad thing.) So after discussing this situation with some friends I decided that I need to get a GPS watch to give me a better indication of my distance and speed. This was especially important when I was training for an attempt at a 10K personal record during the Thanksgiving turkey trot. I needed to average a certain pace to achieve my desired time and I wasn’t going to get accurate information from the app. Luckily my friend who ran with me that day had a GPS watch and she used it to make sure I crossed the finish line ahead of my goal time. So I asked Santa (i.e., my mom and dad) for a Garmin Forerunner 220 GPS watch for Christmas, and it’s my favorite gift that I received this year. It’s incredible. I used it for the first time on Christmas Day when I went out for a jog with my dad. (The weather was hot and humid – pretty much the exact opposite of what you want for running. More on that in a Christmas recap post later this week.) I’ve gone running four times since I got back from Florida last Monday and I love it. I haven’t exploited all of it’s features yet, but it’s already been extremely helpful. I look forward to wearing it for my upcoming half marathons (two in the next two weeks – yikes!). And the Garmin Connect app that pairs with the watch is pretty great too. At this point I’m still using the MapMyRun app on my phone when I run (with the audio turned off) because my last two and a half years of workouts are on there, but I don’t know how important it is to have all that in one place anymore. I have a feeling it won’t be long before I abandon MapMyRun and just use the Garmin Connect instead. I’m moving on to bigger and better things and that feels good.

All holidays, all the time

The weekend after Thanksgiving I put up my Christmas tree. On its own this is nothing out of the ordinary, but this year I did something a little different. Since I had neglected to decorate my house for either Halloween in October or Thanksgiving in November, I decided to make December a celebration of three holidays instead of just one. So while I trimmed my little Christmas tree and decorated my living room with all the traditional Yuletide ornamentation, I also decked the halls with pumpkins, ghosts, pilgrims, and turkeys. Every surface was covered with festive décor. I loved it! Yoda dressed as Santa Claus is flanked by Lucy and Snoopy bobbing for apples at a Halloween party on one side, and Donald Duck holding a cornucopia and wearing a pilgrim hat on the other side. It’s a mash up of the very best kind. All of my favorite things mingled together for the whole of December. What better way to celebrate the holidays? Unfortunately now it’s time to put everything away again. Usually I take down my Christmas tree on New Year’s Day, but I’ve been procrastinating this year. I’ll take care of it before I have to go back to work on Monday. A few more days of enjoying the decorations is all I want.

Christmas television

The first paragraph of this post was written while waiting to board my flight to Tallahassee on December 22nd, but my in-flight seating arrangements were so uncomfortable I never finished it during the many hours I spent on the plane. (Instead I read a book and watched Star Wars movies on my iPad.) And of course I was far too busy to crack open my laptop at all while I was in Florida for Christmas. Too many entertaining things to do instead! But now that I’m back home it’s time to start blogging again. 2016 will be here in a few days!

I have about a dozen different Christmas TV shows and movies on my DVR right now. I’d like to blame that backlog on the hectic nature of the holiday season, but the truth is that I’ve spent the majority of my screen time this month binge watching other things instead! A lot of shows have big winter finales in December and I wanted to catch up on all of my favorite series in time to see the mid-season finales before leaving town for Christmas. I have priorities, after all. (I didn’t say they were good priorities!) “Arrow” and “Once Upon A Time” were great, “Agents of SHIELD” was pretty good, and “Doctor Who” is always my main priority. So despite missing the initial airings of perennial Christmas specials I still watched a lot of TV while saving the seasonal content for future consumption. I plan to watch it when I get back from Florida next week. After all, the holidays aren’t over until I have to go back to work, and this year that isn’t until January 4th! As I walked out of my house on my way to the airport this morning I took one final look at my pretty little Christmas tree. It won’t be long before I’ll be putting it away for another year, and I’m going to need some uplifting programming to accompany that least favorite of all holiday activities.

Now that Christmas is over and I’m back in California with six glorious days before I have to go drag myself to work again, it’s time to start making a dent in the many hours of holiday television that are taking up space on my DVR. So far today I’ve watched quite a few Christmas episodes of “The Simpsons, “Family Guy,” and “Teen Titans Go!” It’s a lovely way to spend a cold Los Angeles day (at least compared to Florida right now) while I’m trying to unpack my suitcase and readjust to Pacific Time. I can’t say I’ve accomplished much else today, but at least I’ve free up DVR space for all of the spring premieres that are coming in January. Hooray! On second thought, maybe I should make a New Year’s Resolution to watch less TV instead. We’ll see!