X-Files is back!

“Pretty much anything in the X-Files universe is fine by me. And besides just crossing all of my fingers and toes to help this effort, I wrote a tweet with the #XFiles2015 hashtag tonight. New X-Files must happen!”
1/25/15 webpage post

One year ago today I posted the following on Twitter – “#XFiles2015 must happen!!!” It was such an exciting prospect that one of my all-time favorite television shows might be back on the air and I wanted to do everything I could to help make it happen. (Granted, I didn’t quite go to the extreme of contribute to a Kickstarter like I did for Mystery Science Theater 3000, but at the time tweeting was all I really could do.) And somehow, with an enormous wave of popular support that started from a single podcast, Fox decided to make all of our nerdiest dreams come true. Mulder and Scully were coming back to the small screen! Rejoice! It’s just for six episodes, more like a mini-series, but I’ll take what I can get. Finally, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the premiere of this monumental event aired last night. Due to my own craziness, I DVRed it while I was out running and didn’t get to watch it before I went to bed. Much to my despair, I had read some unfavorable reviews of the first episode, and some of my co-workers weren’t all that fond of it either. But I watched it when I got home from work tonight and I thought it was awesome! I’m not sure what all the complaining was about. I’m a big fan already and I can’t wait to see more!

Beach Cities Challenge 2015

“So I missed out on getting a Long Beach race medal this year, but I’m not really all that upset about it. I’m already planning to do the Beach Cities Challenge next year, which means three half marathons in 2015 – Huntington Beach in February, Orange County in May, and Long Beach in October. It might take a bit longer, but I’ll get that medal eventually!
10/17/14 webpage post

So I got my Beach Cities Challenge medal in October, but I must admit that I didn’t really earn it. In February I was injured for the Surf City half marathon so it was a miserable experience. I did complete the race, but I was slow and in a lot of pain. I walked the last 5 miles due to my knee problems, which was really frustrating. Luckily after a couple of months of recuperation I was able to get back to running regularly again. However, when the OC half marathon rolled around in May I just wasn’t ready for it (and I didn’t want to overdo it before the Tinkerbell half marathon a week later – priorities!), so one of my co-workers ran it with my bib. He finished it a full hour faster than I would have! I felt a little guilty taking credit for a race that I didn’t run, but the registration would have gone to waste otherwise. I swear that I’ll cross the finish line legitimately one of these years (2016 is still up in the air), but for the sake of the Beach Cities Challenge I checked the box for 2015.

The Long Beach half marathon is the only one of the three races that I really ran this year. I was finally healthy and back in some semblance of shape, but that weekend in October was so hot that it wasn’t pleasant. The half marathon was scheduled to start at 7:30 AM, but the weather forecast was so bleak that the participants were given the option of starting at 6 AM with the full marathoners. That was really helpful because we were able to get quite a few miles behind us before the sun really started beating down. Actually, I felt pretty good until about the halfway point. But about three miles in the middle of the course are on a beach path with absolutely no shade, so that’s where the heat really started taking its toll. Before then I was maintaining a decent pace, but I slowed down significantly after mile 7. Believe it or not, I finished the race with a respectable time (for me), so I can only imagine how much better it would have been in cooler weather. If I can fit next year’s race into my marathon training plan (yikes!) I might try it again to see if I can improve on my performance. After the half marathon was complete I collected my Beach Cities Challenge medal. It’s hanging in my cubical at work, along with all my other 2015 race medals, partially for bragging rights, and partially as a reminder that I want 2016 to be different. I probably won’t complete the Beach Cities Challenge in 2016 (skipping the OC half marathon seems likely), but some other year I’ll earn it without cutting any corners.

Love Actually

It’s no secret that I love Christmas movies. While putting up my Christmas tree (and all of the rest of my holiday decorations – more on that another time) after Thanksgiving I watched “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Meet Me in St. Louis” (a movie for all seasons, but works for Christmas), and “White Christmas.” All excellent choices. Along with all of the old classics, there’s a slightly more contemporary movie that everyone seems to love this time of year – “Love Actually.” It shows up on my list of recommended movies every time I open up Netflix to binge watch old episodes of “Once Upon A Time,” “X-Files,” or “Call the Midwife.” (Eclectic, right? I’m nothing if not multi-faceted!) “Love Actually” used to be one of my favorites too, but due to certain parallels with my own life I just can’t watch it any more. Back in 2010 my ex-husband had an affair. Back then I alluded to difficult times in my webpage posts, but I never said anything concrete about it to avoid completely publicizing my personal struggles. Even now I won’t go into details because it wouldn’t be constructive, but it was an event that changed me forever. More than five years have passed since then, but I still can’t handle the cheating storyline in “Love Actually.” Watching Emma Thompson cry silently to the tune of “Both Sides Now” makes my heart ache like it did back in 2010 when I was hurting more than I ever though possible. Even as the memories are getting dimmer with time, I still don’t like reliving those miserable days. So for the sake of my own sanity I stick to happier holiday fare like “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Muppet’s Christmas Carol,” and “A Christmas Story.” Revisiting the past usually isn’t beneficial, but sometimes it helps to look back and see how far I’ve come since that dark time. These days life is good, and this year Christmas is going to be amazing!

“I have to consider how to best make myself happy and also give myself the best chance of a positive outcome in the future. So bear with me because one way or another my life is going to completely change in 2010. It’s hard to imagine now, but the thought of laughing and smiling sincerely is what’s keeping me going. I have to believe that something better is waiting for me out there. What it is I have no idea, but just knowing about it existence is comforting. I know I’ll get there eventually and that’s a good thought.”
05/01/10 webpage post

Cincinnati style chili (2015 chili cook-off recipe)

“Between the chili cook-off and doing some actual work, I was exhausted when I left in the afternoon! But it was worth it to see all of my co-workers so happy. Sometimes it feels like we don’t get enough recognition for all of the amazing things we do, so something as simple as a chili cook-off really lifts our spirits.”
11/01/14 webpage post

On Friday we had our annual chili cook-off at work. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. Good food, happy co-workers, and Halloween decorations. What could be better? It’s always so much fun. I think I said it best last year when I mentioned that we don’t feel like we get a lot of credit for all of our accomplishments. We really need morale events like the yearly chili cook-off to keep from burning out. It doesn’t cost our program anything and everyone loves it. The participants are always so grateful that we have it, and it’s a fantastic way to celebrate Halloween at work. This year I did something a little bit different with my cook-off entry and made it inspired by of Cincinnati chili. Usually Cincinnati chili is served over spaghetti, but I skipped that part because it didn’t really make sense for a buffet-style meal (or for folks cutting carbs). Instead I simply threw in some of the typical Cincinnati chili spices – cinnamon, allspice, and cocoa powder. It was delicious! I had to make a couple of batches to get the amounts of all the spices just right, but I think this recipe is a winner. I didn’t win the chili cook-off (that honor always goes to one of the spicier chilis), but I still loved the unique flavor. It’s just different enough from my traditional chili for me to call this a new recipe!

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 lb lean ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz) reduced sodium black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
1 can (15 oz) reduced sodium red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
In a small bowl, combine the spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper) and cocoa powder and set aside. This will save you time and trouble later. In a large pot (I use my aptly-named 5 qt chili pot that I love) cook the ground beef, onion, and bell pepper until the meat is no longer pink. Add the bowl of spice mix from earlier and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce and stir to combine. If you are adding beans you can throw them in now too. (I left the beans out of my chili cook-off batch so you can skip them if you want.) Bring the chili too a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Put the lid on the pot, but leave it propped open a bit so steam can escape. Cook for at least an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Based on Half Baked Harvest’s Healthier One Pot Cincinnati Chicken Chili.

July 4th 2015

“After the races (yes there were several) were over Sarah and I stayed for the parade. Boeing had a float in the procession and we just wanted to see it before we left. The parade started at 10 AM. The sun came out. Two and half hours later the Boeing float lumbered towards us. By that time our rear ends were screaming at us, the sun had burned our exposed skin (even after we applied sunscreen that one woman was kind enough to give us), and at least half of the parade viewers had left. The float was pretty impressive but it was unfortunate for both us and them considering that it was the 315th entry.”
7/4/00 webpage post

Fifteen years ago I participated in the Huntington Beach July 4th 5K for the first time. I was years away from becoming a runner, but my roommate talked me into it. I walked it while she ran, and then we stayed for the parade where we got sunburned. Oops! Luckily by 2015 I was slightly more prepared for the event. There are actually two 5Ks in Huntington Beach every July 4th – one for HB residents and one that’s open to anyone an hour later. I was registered for the open 5K that started at 8 AM. However, in order to increase my weekend mileage I decided to run both races. I realize this is frowned upon in the running community, but I didn’t feel too guilty because the July 4th 5Ks don’t give out finisher medals so the only thing I really got for free was an extra bottle of water. Funny enough, the whole thing was actually free because Boeing was a sponsor so I didn’t have to pay an entry fee at all. Bonus! It was warmer than I would have liked that morning, but at least it was cloudy. Summer hadn’t quite set in yet, but it was close. (And as of mid-October the end date is still to be determined. Ugh.) I enjoyed both of the 5Ks even though I wasn’t exactly speedy in either one. It felt good to get 6.2 miles of running done before 9 AM! On my way home I grabbed a late breakfast at McDonald’s to celebrate as part of my usual post-race ritual. I was invited to a Fourth of July party at a friend’s house that evening and I had promised to bring food. Luckily I had taken advantage of having July 3rd off from work and did all of the cooking and baking then. I was tired after the 5Ks so I actually took a nap! Gotta love holidays. The party was a lot of fun that evening. I took a Crockpot full of chili and two kinds of pound cake with me to share. I spent a lot of time chasing kids around and also being chased around by them as well. At one point I was a Wicked Queen and got locked in a dungeon as punishment. It was a blast. Before the night was over we set off a bunch of fireworks in the driveway, much to the delight of the kids. It was classic ending to a lovely Fourth of July celebration.

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #37 revisited

When we were in Alaska in August my family and I stayed at Tonglen Lake Lodge. It’s a beautiful spot that’s fairly close to the entrance to Denali National Park. Since there is no place to get food inside the park we got a lot of our lunches to go from the lodge’s café. This is when I discovered their absolutely amazing chocolate chip cookies. They were rich and flavorful with crispy edges and chewy middles. I couldn’t believe how delicious they were. Of course I was a bit jealous because I’ve been working on my chocolate chip cookie recipe for several years now and I haven’t made anything quite that good yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some great cookies, but after tasting those chocolate chip cookies in Alaska I realized there was still progress to be made. One morning I asked the baker what her secret was. I didn’t know how much she would want to divulge, but I figured I had to ask. Luckily she was very forthcoming. I didn’t get an exact recipe, but she gave me a lot of tips. In my defense, I’ve already tried a lot of things that she told me. Lots of butter, of course (although I’ve made really tasty cookies with olive oil or coconut oil instead), a mix of white and brown sugar, and a combination of chocolate chips. On top of that I garnered two additional important tips – 1) omit the vanilla extract, and 2) add molasses. The funny thing is, I actually made molasses chocolate chip cookies back in 2013 (recipe #37), but the result wasn’t anything special.

“The original recipe called for white sugar in the cookie dough, but I figured the molasses flavor would be much more pronounced if I used brown sugar instead. Just call me a chocolate chip cookie rebel! But I was right. The molasses flavor was definitely pronounced with this substitution. That’s probably why the original recipe used white sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I liked these cookies, but the molasses was just a tiny bit too strong for me.”
11/29/13 webpage post

A few weeks ago while watching a Florida football game I decided to revisit molasses chocolate chip cookies to see if I could replicate the cookies I loved so much in Alaska. I started with the same base recipe – Framed Cooks’ Molasses Chocolate Chunk Cookies – but made a few changes. First of all, I used white sugar instead of brown. This made the cookies a little lighter and dialed down the molasses flavor a bit. Second, I left out the vanilla extract. As much as I love vanilla, it might not work in this recipe. And last, I used just 2 Tbsp of molasses in a small batch of cookies (an 8×8″ pan). The goal was to have the molasses enhance the cookies without overwhelming them. And I think it worked. These cookies definitely tasted a lot like the ones I had Alaska (and my co-workers gobbled them us, as usual), but there was something missing. I think it’s the texture. I am planning to try this recipe again, maybe which watching football this weekend, but make drop cookies instead of bars. The crispy edges of the cookies might be the key to their deliciousness. It means more work for me, but hopefully the payoff will be worth it!

Finally running Long Beach

“We’d had a lot of things going on at work since the beginning of October and I was scheduled to work last Saturday, but fortunately I was supposed to have a day off on Sunday. Perfect, right? Unfortunately things started to unravel on Friday night when I got called in to work at 8 PM for a couple of hours (even though it was supposed to be my day off). However, I still managed to get to the expo on Saturday before work to pick up my race bib and t-shirt, and I even laid out all of my clothes for the 5K so I’d be ready to go quickly the next morning. Then my Saturday shift at work turned out to be much more difficult than I expected, and I didn’t get home until after 10 PM. That might have been reason enough to skip the 5K the next morning, but more compelling was the fact that I had to be at work at 8 AM (despite originally having Sunday off) when the race didn’t start until 8:30 AM.”
10/17/14 webpage post

Last year I was registered for the Long Beach 5K on October 12th, but for the reasons detailed in the above quote I didn’t get to run it. It was unavoidable, but I was definitely disappointed. This year I decided I was going to make up for it. So in December when registration for the 2015 Long Beach races opened I immediately signed up for the half marathon on October 11th. I’d walked the half marathon back in 2011, but this will be my first time running it. And then in March it was announced that the 5K was being held on October 10th so I had a chance to participate in it as well. When did I ever pass up a race? So this coming weekend I’ve got a 5K on Saturday morning and a half marathon on Sunday morning. Crazy? Not really. After successfully completing three Disney challenges (10K + half marathon on successive days) this should be totally doable, but unfortunately I’ve got a few cards stacked against me this time. First of all, the weather is going to be terrible. After getting a tiny taste of fall recently (it rained and the high was only in the low 70s on Sunday), it’s forecasted to be back in the 90s this weekend. We’ve already had a scorcher of a summer in Los Angeles, made more uncomfortable by the fact that I don’t have air conditioning at home, and by all rights we should be reaping the benefits of fall by now! It’s so frustrating. Running a half marathon is tough enough for me without the added difficulty of oppressive heat. Yesterday we got a bit of good news on that front, though. The half marathon was supposed to start at 7:30 AM on Sunday, but participants were informed that we could start the race at 6 AM with the full marathoners if we wanted to. That’s going to help a lot. You know you’re a runner when starting a race earlier in the morning makes you ridiculously happy. I might have bigger problems, though, because I have a cold. I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat which was really frustrating. Then this morning I felt terrible so I stayed home from work to rest. I stayed in bed all morning, and then dragged myself downstairs to the couch and slept there all afternoon. When I woke up at 4 PM I felt much better. Not perfect, but definitely on the mend. I considered going for a short run this evening since I missed my planned training run yesterday, but then I realized that it wasn’t wise to push myself too much while I’m recovering. I’ll reassess my status tomorrow night. Hopefully by the time the weekend rolls around I’ll be feeling mostly healthy again. Not that I’m going to be performing at my peak anyway due to the heat, but I’d like to avoid a poor showing during the races!

90’s guilty pleasure

“My heart is in my hands
My head is in the clouds
My feet have left the ground
My life is turning around and round
And every voice inside my head is telling me to run like mad
Oh bows and arrows, stars and sunsets
hey hey hey yeah, hey hey hey yeah
Every heartbeat, every kiss just
Makes me wonder what all this is
Suits of armor, hearts and arrows
Hey hey hey ye-eah!”

“Run Like Mad,” Jann Arden

“Ugh, why am I watching ‘Dawson’s Creek’ for the first time in ages? My intellectual level momentarily took a turn for the worst when I stopped channel surfing at the WB network. I think I am just trying to avoid the inevitable astrodynamics project that I should be working on.”
04/05/00 webpage post

I was in college when “Dawson’s Creek” premiered, but I didn’t start watching it then. Mostly because I didn’t have reliable access to a television until my junior year, but I also seem to remember wanting to avoid such a clichéd teenage drama. I was already basically living one myself! But when we got cable in our rooms in my sorority house and my roommate started watching it on her TV I was kind of stuck. And the wildly popular WB show was just as cheesy as I’d always feared. But that didn’t stop it from becoming my guilty pleasure! The relationship storyline was just too compelling! Who would Joey pick? Dawson or Pacey? Everyone had an opinion! It was just the kind of escapist television that I needed after a long day of classes, club meetings, seemingly endless homework, and sorority ridiculousness. One of my roommates even had a poster of Joshua Jackson on the ceiling above her bed!

But what I wanted to write about today is the “Dawson’s Creek” theme song. Earlier this week I was getting ready for work in the morning and I saw that “Dawson’s Creek” was on ABC Family. So of course I had to watch it for old times’ sake. And at the beginning of the episode I noticed something was different – the theme song! Everyone who ever watched even a single episode of the WB juggernaut back in the day knows that it was Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” that heralded the beginning of an hour of teen angst. The show and the song were practically synonymous. But these days it’s been replaced by Jann Arden’s “Run Like Mad” in syndication (an on Netflix when the show was available for streaming). Apparently this was originally intended to be the opening credits song, but it was replaced at the last minute with something newer and more popular. It’s a shame because I actually love “Run Like Mad,” but it was never a full length song so I can’t buy it and put it on my running playlist. I guess I’ll just have to catch the 45 seconds of it that do exist on ABC Family reruns!