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!

Sleep in heavenly peace

“It all started back in early 2006 when Dan and I had just gotten engaged. In the beginning stages of planning our nuptials I discovered a Craigslist forum devoted to weddings. It was full of brides-to-be who were all getting married around the same time I was. A few of us from that group created a smaller forum where we discussed our dresses, rings, flowers, cakes, etc. We helped each other plan our big days. And then after the weddings were over we posted photos to show the group how everything turned out. In short, we bonded over this rite of passage. A few years later this group of ladies reconvened in a private Facebook group where we could share the joys and struggles of our lives after saying ‘I do.’ For one reason or another not all of the brides made it down the aisle with their intended grooms, and others hadn’t stayed in their original marriages (like me). As a group we celebrated the births of children, supported each other through painful divorces, and everything in between. We asked for and gave advice on fashion choices, career paths, medical problems, family conflicts, weight loss, and anything else you could possibly think of. Although most of us had never met in person since we live all over the country (and some abroad) we had still formed a really close relationship through our virtual interactions.”
9/12/15 webpage post

All of a sudden I have something to write about, but I am having a hard time figuring out what to say. More than two years ago I shared the above story of how I met about 100 very special women. We’ve seen each other through everything you could possibly imagine, both good and bad, and I interact with them on Facebook to some extent every day. We share absolutely everything. Last week I asked for advice on a credit card company issue. Before that I posted looking for recommendations for seamless underwear to wear running. Even with just those two recent examples it should be obvious that they have helped me with all sorts of crazy things over the years, and I appreciate them more than I can say. So when I logged on this morning and learned that we lost a cherished member of our sisterhood I was devastated. She was a beautiful, vibrant, and unfailingly kind and giving woman who lost her battle with cancer. To say that her death is unfair is a monstrous understatement. I am so shaken that I don’t even know what to think. Processing a death is always difficult, but in this case I am even more conflicted because I never got a chance to really meet this sweet woman. I have been extremely fortunate to have met about a dozen of my beloved online friends in person over the years, but a majority of them I only know through social media. It doesn’t change how much I love them all, but tragedies like this make me wish I could physically hug each and every one of these amazing ladies. I know that technology has its drawbacks, but today my little group came together online to share our grief and celebrate the angel that we lost. So tonight as we mourn the loss of our darling Tiki hold your loved ones tight and count your blessings, both big and small. We love you, Tiki, and we miss you terribly.

Sixteen years ago

Over the weekend I was looking back at some of my posts from previous years and found a couple of gems from January 2001. The first presidential election after I was old enough to vote was in 2000 and what a doozy it was! Especially since I was still living in Florida. (For the record, Alachua County didn’t have any ballot irregularities. We colored in circles on a scantron with a Sharpie rather than punching holes in our ballots. No chance of hanging chads for us.) Some of the things I wrote about that election are eerily similar to the 2016 outcome. And as it turns out, neither case benefited my preferred candidate. History repeats itself, and much sooner than I ever expected!

“Speaking of the media, tonight we have a new president, George W. Bush. Don’t blame me, I voted for Gore!”
1/20/01 webpage post

“As I was waiting at a traffic light near I-75 I saw a billboard that caught my attention. It read ‘You Get the Government You Elect!’ My first thought was, ‘Not this year!’ At least we didn’t get the president that the majority of the population voted for.”
1/26/01 webpage post

An earned medal – Beach Cities Challenge 2016

“So I got my Beach Cities Challenge medal in October, but I must admit that I didn’t really earn it.”
12/20/15 webpage post

On October 9th I got my second Beach Cities Challenge medal, but this time I earned it. In May 2015 I had a co-worker run the OC half marathon for me because I wasn’t healthy enough to run it myself when the race rolled around. So when I picked up my Beach Cities Challenge medal that October I felt like a fraud. To make up for it I vowed to do better in 2016 – and I did! This year I successfully completed the Surf City half marathon, the Orange County half marathon, and the Long Beach half marathon, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I’ve already written webpage posts about the Surf City half marathon 2016 and the OC half marathon 2016 so I won’t rehash those here. The Long Beach half marathon 2016 was by far the best anyway. By October I had a few things going for me – 1) I’d been training consistently for about 5 months, including over a month of marathon training, 2) I’d lost weight, and 3) I’d already earned a new half marathon PR at the Disneyland half marathon in September. Due to the unusually high temperatures that weekend (similar to the year before) I had no time goal for the Long Beach half, but my running buddy was more ambitious. So we did our best, running as fast as we dared before hitting the most challenging portion of the course. From about mile 6.5 to about mile 9.5 the race follows a walkway on the beach with no shade for protection from the sun, which was high in the sky when we got there. It was not fun, but we survived without slowing down too much. And after that we had to tackle the uphill stretch that led to the finish line. We slowed down a bit there due to the weather and probably some dehydration. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to finish a race! I didn’t check my watch until after we were done, but at that point I discovered that I had earned a new PR – 2:34:18! We didn’t quite meet my running buddy’s goal, but we did pretty well in the heat. I was more than satisfied. And along with my half marathon medal I collected 2016 Beach Cities Challenge medal with pride. I had earned it this year! And I already have plans to complete the challenge again next year. Maybe running one of the full marathons even? We’ll see!

P.S. My current half marathon PR is actually 2:27:44 at the Avengers half marathon in November. Marathon training has done wonders for my personal records!

Last race weekend of the year

“I don’t think the promise of an extra medal will tempt me to return next year, though. That half marathon course was killer and I’d honestly rather not repeat it.”
12/20/16 webpage post

It’s funny how often I’ve vowed never to run a particular race again, only to find myself back there at some point. I this case it took me two years, and encouragement from my running buddies, for me to sign up for a repeat of the Golden Snowflake Challenge. The first time I ran the Holiday Half Marathon two years ago I hated how hilly it was. I wasn’t all that used to running long distances (I think it was only my third half marathon?) and my overall fitness wasn’t the best, so the uphill portions of the course were not enjoyable. Luckily things were different this time around.

Last Saturday morning was the first part of the Golden Snowflake Challenge – the Holiday 5K. The first half or so of the 5K course is steadily uphill, but then it finishes with a lovely gradual downhill that makes you feel like you’re flying. I was prepared for that this year and I was excited to see how well I could handle it. The first two miles were just OK, averaging about 10:30 min/mile which wasn’t terrible, but then the amazing downhill portion kicked in. My last mile was under 10 minutes, which earned me a 5K PR of 31:45 minutes! That’s 2 minutes faster that I ran the Long Beach 5K back in October so I was really pleased. The fall is definitely PR season thanks to the rigors of marathon training and running with friends who push me to increase my pace. It’s a lot of fun!

The Holiday Half Marathon on Sunday morning wasn’t quite as fun. Not only did we have to tackle those same hills that I hated in 2014, but it was drizzling heavily on us for most of the race. The temperature was in the 50s which was great, but thanks to the rain we were pretty soaked. The good news is that since I’m in much better shape these days the hills didn’t feel nearly as difficult as they did two years ago. Still challenging, but I was able to maintain my running intervals without taking extra walk breaks on the inclines. In spite of our legs feeling incredibly sore from boot camp on Friday and the 5K on Saturday, my running buddy and I finished the half marathon in 2:35:06. It wasn’t a PR for me (I hung back a bit to run with her), but it’s still really good compared to some of our other race times from earlier this year. That’s 20 minutes faster than the OC Half Marathon. We’ve both improved so much since May! It was a great way to end the 2016 race season. Here’s to an even better 2017!

Cutting back

“I was fooling myself if I thought I could easily abandon anything superhero-related.”
10/16/16 webpage post

Right now I’m sitting on my couch watching an episode of “Arrow” that’s been languishing on my DVR for almost a month. And I started the evening with an equally ancient episode of “The Flash.” It’s safe to say that despite what I wrote last month I haven’t been keeping up with all the superhero shows I record each week. None of the others either, come to think of it. I haven’t even watched “Once Upon A Time” in three weeks and it’s my favorite! Between work and my strict exercise regimen I just don’t have time to devote to television these days. As much as I’d like to veg out sometimes. This probably explains why my DVR was almost full when I got back from Arkansas on Monday. I needed to take drastic action! The first show on the chopping block was “Supergirl.” Even though it is part of the suite of superhero programming on the CW I haven’t even caught up on season 1 on Netflix yet. And barring something that sidelines me for a while, like a week-long illness, I have no chance of being ready to watch the current season’s episodes anytime soon. So “Supergirl” is toast. Next up was “Elementary.” I’m a huge fan of everything related to Sherlock Holmes, but this is one of the shows at the bottom of my priority list. I figured that with all of the other programs out there to entertain myself I wouldn’t even miss my weekly dose of the British detective. I’d much rather wait for the return of “Sherlock” on PBS in January anyway! So that’s two shows stricken from the record. After that I realized I had freed up a decent amount of space on my DVR so further cuts weren’t necessary. Yet. We’ll see how far behind on my TV watching I get over the holidays. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to watch an episode of “Legends of Tomorrow” before I go to bed!

Election Day 2016

“At this moment the nation is still waiting to hear the final results of the extremely close and highly controversial election for our next president. I was quite excited to have the opportunity to vote today, even though it required me walking for an hour to do so. In order to make the trip and cast my vote I had to skip my experimental methods lab section. The need for each and every vote is critical this year, however, since the pre-election numbers were showing such small margins between Bush and Gore. For that reason I knew that I needed to get to the polls today and I was lucky that missing my lab was no big deal this week. We’ll have to wait and see how the Electoral College turns out.”
11/7/00 webpage post

Information on my 2016 mail-in ballot from the Los Angeles County Clerk’s website
Issued on: 10/10/2016
Returned on: 10/15/2016
Status: Your vote-by-mail ballot has been counted

Sixteen years ago was my first presidential election. I was at the University of Florida and I had to skip a class to cast my ballot, but I knew it was important. (Yes, that was the year of the big ballot controversy in Florida. But in Alachua County we used a marker to fill in circles on a scantron, so we didn’t contribute to that debacle.) As much as I was concerned about the result of the 2000 presidential election (which didn’t go the way I wanted it to) I believe this year is even more critical. After electing and then re-electing the first African-American President of the United States we are on the brink of stopping the progress of the last eight years dead in its tracks. It’s incredibly scary. So I earnestly voted for Hillary Clinton and returned my absentee ballot the day after it arrived in my mailbox. After that I tried not to worry about the election, but it wasn’t easy. And tonight I am actively avoiding the news and social media. I will learn the results tomorrow morning when I wake up. Don’t let me down, America.

2016 Resolution #4 revisited

“I’ve already put all of the September through December training runs on my wall calendar at work so I have some idea of what I’m facing. Even though I don’t even have to start for more than four months, I’m still scared. Am I completely crazy for signing up for a marathon? Time will tell, I guess. If I’m lucky I’ll be a marathoner on my 38th birthday!”
4/22/16 webpage post

Remember how I resolved to train for a marathon in 2016? Well, as of this weekend I have completed nine weeks of the Hal Higdon Novice 1 Program! That means I’m officially halfway through my training. How crazy is that? That also means that there are less than nine weeks until my marathon in January. Yikes! I’m hanging in there so far, though. Surprisingly, I haven’t missed any of those runs that I diligently wrote on my calendar back in April. I may have flexed the schedule a bit to accommodate a couple of races (like the Avengers 5K this Friday morning) and other activities (like gym classes and movie nights), but my total mileage since Labor Day is actually higher than the training plan calls for. Not bad! That’s why I was so happy about being able to complete my 10 mile run yesterday while I was in Arkansas. I was a little worried about getting off track while I was out of town, but thanks to my understanding family I’m exactly where I need to be halfway through my marathon training. Not that I haven’t had a few struggles so far, but I’ll write more about that in another post. This weekend is going to be a little crazy with the Avengers race weekend at Disneyland, especially since I couldn’t stop myself for registering for all three races (5K, 10K, and half marathon). It’s a good thing I caught up on sleep while I was in Arkansas!

Fall television

“I’ve been under a lot of pressure at work lately and watching TV when I get home each evening helps me unwind. Unfortunately it also keeps me from getting an optimal number of chores done around the house, but it’s a small price to pay for stress relief.”
11/17/15 webpage post

It’s no secret that I love television. (Over just the past year I’ve written posts about X-Files, MST:3K, Doctor Who, and Once Upon A Time. It’s enough to make me think I need to pick up another hobby.) But after the spring finales of my favorite shows earlier this year I didn’t have much to watch. That turned out to be a good thing. I was running several times a week and going to the gym just as often so there wasn’t a lot of time left over for zoning out in front of the TV. In the evenings I often turned on episodes of the Simpsons on FXX, but even then I was busy doing other things around the house at the same time. There was very little parking myself on the couch and focusing all of my attention on some show or another. And it was a great summer because of that. I just didn’t know what was going to happen when the fall premieres rolled around. At first I was determined to reduce the number of shows that I record and watch every week. Without a new season of Doctor Who until next spring (except the Christmas special which I am anxiously awaiting), I have very few must-watch programs. In fact, Once Upon A Time is just about the only one. Weeknights always seem so short so it’s nice to not feel like I don’t have any more demands on my time and energy. So my first thought as the fall season started was to stop recording all of the CW DC Comics shows – all four of them! It’s not like I’m all that invested in any of the story lines, and freeing up four hours per week was a nice bonus. Too bad I never followed through. So far I’ve been saving the new episodes of Flash, Arrow, Supergirl (I’m still catching up on season 1 on Netflix), and Legends of Tomorrow for weekend viewing. They are the perfect entertainment while I’m recuperating from a long run, like the Long Beach half marathon last weekend or Surf City 10 this morning. I was fooling myself if I thought I could easily abandon anything superhero-related. I’d like to respectfully request that none of the networks launch any new shows in that genre any time soon. I know it’s wishful thinking given the popularity these days, but I don’t need to watch any more TV than I already do!

Slowly improving

“There have definitely been a lot of obstacles so far! What’s next? Hopefully nothing serious! I’ve registered for way too many races already this year and I don’t want to miss any of them!”
3/27/15 webpage post

One year later and I’m in almost exactly the same situation. Not only am I recovering from another injury, but I’ve also signed up for far too many races again. I’ll never learn, huh? Luckily things are starting to look up. Last night I ran four miles with no pain! It’s a miracle! I was so nervous when I started running, but when I finished the first full mile without hurting I celebrated a little. I was on the Seal Beach Pier at the time so I probably looked pretty silly to everyone who was taking a leisurely walk at the time, but I was too happy to care. My leg was really stiff while I was running, but I made it four miles without feeling that sharp pain that stopped me in my tracks during the Princess 10K in Orlando. Not that I broke any speed records. Besides protecting my leg from potential aggravation, let’s remember that I hadn’t run in almost a month so I was seriously out of shape. But the huffing and puffing and the slow pace didn’t bother me one bit since I wasn’t in any pain. I am experiencing a good deal of soreness today, in the area of my leg injury and other spots too, but that’s to be expected after my hiatus. Despite the improvement, I still went to the orthopedist today to make sure I don’t have a more serious problem than a pulled muscle or whatever. The physician’s assistant agreed that I just have some inflamed tendons in my hip, so that was good news. But when she called the doctor in for a second opinion he warned me that it might be a stress fracture in my pelvic region. It’s unlikely, but he wants me to get back into running slowly just to make sure. This means no San Diego Half Marathon this weekend. Oh well. I’m not all that disappointed because I can simply do the 5K instead. It’s a long way to go for a 5K, but there’s No way am I going to push myself too hard and risk being too injured to participate in some races later this spring. The doctor said that if my leg doesn’t continue to improve or if it starts hurting again I’ll have go back for an x-ray. I’m confident that I’ll be fine, but the only way to find out is to run some more. I’m on it!