Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years' Resolutions

I don't like making these, it's a fun tradition, right? Key word: fun. This means I won't stress over these too much. These are more like... guidelines!

I get the sense that 2011 will be a good year, whether or not I adhere to these. I have always liked odd-numbered years more than even.


Before we get to 2011, let's talk 2010. Here's what I wanted to accomplish:

"2010 will be yet another busy year, and an important one at that. My main goals... are pretty obvious: progress in school and career... Other things I want to do are to keep racing, read more non-management books, become more aware of the world, watch less "junk TV," cook more, and take better care of my health. These are all things I had been doing in 2009 and just want to intensify in the upcoming year."

How did I do? Well, I took the loosey-goosey route last year, so I can't cross off items (which is why I did it differently for 2011). But...

- school: Wrapped up some classes and passed my prelim orals.

- career: Started a new gig in the company I hope to remain.

- racing: Had a successful year in spite of injuries and conservatism.

- reading/awareness: I haven't been doing as well with this as I should, but I will note that I do read more newspaper media, news stories, and I've even become more aware of sports.

- TV: While I have definitely been watching more, it's been (mostly) for my cooking or athletic edification.

- cooking: Definitively accomplished (see my Cooking tag). I am fairly confident in my ability to cook with or without recipes in different genres. While I have a lot to learn, I've been surprised by my own skills!

- health: I got sick once this year, after running LA Marathon and was in a funk with my running for another month after that. But I know I fought off a couple of other things and credit that to paying closer attention to my intake and listening to myself when I'm feeling run-down. I've also been eating more organic food.


Now onto 2011...
  1. PR. I make this resolution every year and have not yet disappointed. However, this gets harder each year, obviously (see right-hand navigation for my current PRs).
  2. Finish dissertation. This could happen "on time" (by May) or "by the end of the year" (December). Not sure right now, but it better happen in 2011!
  3. Start budgeting. I spend money by gut/eyeballing, and while this hasn't put me in a bad situation, I would like to start getting a sense of how much I can really spend on "extras." To keep me accountable, I will be taking a full tally of my finances prior to Jan. 1 so I can start monitoring immediately.
  4. On the same note as #3, pay down debt. I actually did a little this past year, making it seem less scary. Since I haven't budgeted, I don't know how much I want to put toward this specifically, but hopefully more than this past year (especially if I end up graduating).
  5. Employment. I make this resolution every year. While I make decent wages, I would like to gain some stability... finally.
  6. Related to 3-5, I would like to start thinking about my retirement. I have some pension set aside, though I don't monitor it closely enough. I might decide to pull it out and re-invest it myself, or just start something separate. Maybe even just as part of my savings. But I'm going to turn 26 in 2011 (if you know me and my existential mindset, I had not been planning life beyond 30), and I thought I'd be much better off in this realm than I am!

I'll keep it at those, since too many goals would be unattainable. Truly, I just want to get my life together in 2011 -- regain some of the control of my life that I've lost in these previous years and come out of it a better person.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Random Photo Entry 23: Winter Activities

Here's another installment of my Random Photo Entries (this is a long edition -- click photos to make them larger)!

I haven't felt much like blogging over the holiday (I have means of posting still), but I am falling behind on my photo-posting, so here's the scoop:

Above: Elf hat = volunteering to hand gifts out with Santa for about 300 disadvantaged/special needs kids. There was a wide array of reactions such as skepticism, crying, cuteness, and gift-giving.

Above: Walking out with Santa.

Above: A few days later, Mammoth-bound in the rain... I found this fruity oatmeal at McD's... wow!

Above: Bakery in Bishop, CA. Along with their delicious homemade bread, their veggie sandwich (shown here) was truly the best veggie sandwich I've ever had. It was simple -- lettuce, tomato, alfalfa sprouts, red onion, avocado, swiss -- but grand.

Above: The store-front.

Above: It was sooo snowy that chains were required, and even then, it was slippery. Thank goodness for handy "Ukrainian"s!

Above: Next stop -- Vegas. See my first-ever Vegas buffet plate. I waited in line soooo long that my hunger led me to create this monstrosity -- I ate about half of this "world on my plate" and was so full afterward.

Above: Vegas decor.

Above: I finally found one of these places and had a pumpkin coffee. Coffee (fully caffeinated) is definitely needed in Vegas. It was cheap and WAY delicious!

Above: I admit that I got a little heavy-handed at the outlets... Those post-holiday sales are deadly.

Above: Buffet plate, night #2. A lot less this time.

Above: That almond bar (top right below the chocolate petit four) was memorable. I will try to find a recipe for it!

Above: More Vegas glamor beyond what's typical.

Above: And a large drink is definitely part of the experience... bubbling in dry ice. Don't worry... I shared.

I have a surely busy year ahead, so I'm glad to be spending some time relaxing and whittling away at my youthful energy that I'm not using so well on the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge. :(

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Maison Akira

Still catching up on dining I did in October. =/

In honor of Mrs. McWang's (undisclosed number) birthday, "The Ukrainian," Mr. McWang, and I went to Maison Akira in Pasadena, CA for dinner.

Here are all the fancy-pants dishes we had. This restaurant was Frenchy and not really "Akira"/Japanese at all, in my opinion. Thanks to Mr. McWang for his flashlight (gotta start carrying around one of those for dark restaurants like this one!), which made the pictures look so much better. Wish we'd thought of that sooner!

Above: Our free appetizer: potato-mozzarella balls.

Above: Having just run nearly 22 miles that morning, my hungry self ordered two half-sized salads. On the left is a truffle oil one that was just plain greens in some pretty fragrant oil. And the right is a candied-walnut salad in an Asian dressing.

Above: I can barely remember who ordered this, but doesn't it look fancy?

Above: Mrs. McWang's lobster bisque. It smelled very much like the sea...

Above: Mr. McWang's onion soup.

Above: Fresh flowers by our table! Unfortunately, for some reason we were seated in a walkway(?) due to the high volume that night. And there was a broken light fixture dangling about our heads!

Above: Mrs. McWang's dish. I think it's chicken and some sort of ravioli.

Above: Note the fake lighting used on my dish -- mushroom ravioli with roasted veggies wrapped in phyllo dough. The ravioli was delicious -- earthy and rich. The roasted veggies were pretty good, also, except for the bell peppers (which I am normally not a fan of, anyway). The whole thing was on top of some beet juice. I like beets, but not plain beet juice. Gag.

Above: "The Ukrainian"'s Angus steak. He really liked the tenderness of the meat. I think he got it medium-rare.

Above: Mr. McWang's dish.

Above: The birthday girl's ice-cream dessert. Love that sugar cage on top!

Above: She also got a souffle. It was my first, and although deliciously creamy inside, kind of a bit alcoholic to enjoy fully.

Above: "The Ukrainian"'s caramel apple tart. Divine. Caramel is one of my favorite sweets, one that I strangely don't partake in more often.

Overall, I liked the fancy dining experience (slow, quiet), but I don't see it fit to throw down that amount of money for food that, although interesting, is not drool-worthy in my book. Of course, my palate is very simple.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Endurance Bag

Update: written 7/15/10

This item has gone from a "wish item" to a "gear review" in a mere two years!

For "The Ukrainian's" birthday in July, I decided to order him an Endurance Bag. He had mentioned that he was thinking about a new gym bag. I saw him looking at some as we were shopping together.

As luck would have it, the Endurance Bag warehouse was closing for the summer, so I got free shipping. However, this compelled me to get a bag of my own. So given the size and weight of this package, it was a savings!

The "ultra" version of their bag is $49.95. Not cheap for a bag, but it's not like I've ever bought a gym bag before. My first was from my company and the second from my sisters (see picture below). Plus, the ones we were looking at in the store were already in the $30-range...

Above: Three years ago... (pic credit goes to Tea Time)

Above: The shipping shot.

Above: All (over)packed!

So here's a picture of my packed Endurance Bag. Mine is black, while "The Ukrainian" got his in midnight blue. The first shock is the size of the bag. Certainly, it shipped small but pops out BIG. It barely squeezed into my locker at the gym.

But notably, it has a TON of compartments. Now, I can keep my shower stuff, shoes, towels, iPod, and everything else separate from each other. I can pack multiple days' worth of gym clothes without worry. And there's still compartments I haven't packed anything into yet because I don't have that much stuff!

This would make a good race travel bag, as they noted on their own website. If there is one downside to this bag, it's the weight. Boy, is it heavy, or maybe I am just weak. "The Ukrainian" thinks his isn't as heavy as his older bag. What?!

At any rate, these bags were efficient enough to take both of us on a four-day vacation, so really, the weight is nothing! I waited for months for "The Ukrainian" to give his review of this product, but I'll say that it is similar to mine!


Original Post: 2/8/08

Though I really have more bags than I need and refuse to switch any before they are deathly tattered, this bag has been coming up every now and then as I surf the net.

This is the Endurance Bag, meant to carry all a marathoner's junk. For me, this would include wallet, shower sandals, work badge, shoes, pain patches/spray, sport bandage, regular bandages, jumprope, contact lens solution, glasses, concealer, eye shadow, lip lacquer, eyeliner, Aquaphor, extra hair ties, iPod, Nike+ sensor, showering stuff, mace, USB drive, running clothes, socks, change of underwear, shower wipes, textbooks, etc. etc.

Yes, I feel sorry for any bag that becomes mine.

I am not sure if this bag would stand up to my rough-housing. I tend to smash my huge, non-rectangular bag in the small locker at the gym at work, which has damaged it over time. I would also need a bag that was decently fashionable. My current one is black so not too glaringly bright when I take it to work. Anyway, I just wanted to spread the word about this bag. I'm sure it will make a lot of runners/other athletes very happy.



Thursday, December 23, 2010

So Ball-er

Remember the term "baller"?? It cropped up when I was in middle school, and basically anything that was cool was "baller." I suppose it's because basketball players invented this term to bolster their coolness factor. So baller!

I think I'm going to take another break from sugar soon, but before I do, check out these "ball"-shaped desserts made recently:
Above: Perfected macaroons, Take II. This is NOT vegan, though the other treats in this post are. Added to half the "dough" was cocoa powder, which gave them a subtle chocolate flavor. This batch was a bit drier than the last because the coconut shreads were old and drying. :(

Above: Next, I tried to make Fig Truffles a-la Food Network. The original recipe is for fig-ginger truffles, but "The Ukrainian" somehow used up all the crystallized ginger. Dried cranberries were a substitute....

Above: The outcome. Not bad for my first try at truffles... healthy ones at that. Also, considering I didn't use a food processor, this was a valiant effort.

Above: Next, those Mama Pea dough balls. I saw so many reviews about them on blogs that I had to see what it was all about. Check out the little mix-in I picked up... dark chocolate+mint chips (mostly for "The Ukrainian")!!

Above: More ingredients used in this recipe.

Above: And this almond milk was my non-dairy milk of choice. I'll review it later.

Above: Before baking...

Above: After. Not much difference, huh? These tasted fine but a little on the salty side, and I'm not sure why, because I measured it pretty carefully. I could have been more "doughy," but I think it's because I didn't have a mixer and mixed it manually. By far, the cinnamon-sugar ones were better. Maybe next time (once I am done giving up sugar), I will make the peanut-butter version.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

High School Musing-cal

Attention, everyone! Here's a picture of my nerdy high-school self with my Track & Field coach. He was my second coach, after my first coach decided to focus on his football coaching. My first coach will ALWAYS be my coach, even if he's been gone for two years now, and once I find an acceptible pic of him with me, I will post it up here!

Like the swirl effect I used to anonymize my high school's name printed on my jersey??

Here's a brief summary of my high school Track & Field career:

- joined because I ultimately wanted to try out for the basketball team

- made friends (including my high school bestie, E) and decided I was too short for basketball, anyway

- ran 2 seasons; my team won the league twice during that time

- have competed in: high jump, 100/400m relays, 100/200/400m individual, 100m hurdles

- my bad hurdling debut resulted in the temporary nickname, Tumblina

- however, I've tried ALL events except pole vaulting

- best event was the 200m but was 7th in my league for the 400m

- have a Varsity letter to show for it (though the jacket was unaffordable at the time, so I just have the patch still!)

- got yelled at A LOT by my parents who had to pick me up at weird times and worried about my performance in class

- was the reason I quit drinking soda

- credited the boot-camp-esque middle school PE teacher, Mr. Yamada, for inspiring me to get the guts to go for it

- is a major reason I am still running today

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dumpling House

On a cold Saturday evening, "The Ukrainain" and I finally went to Dumpling House after long-existing intentions of doing so.

If I could rank my favorite foods of all-time, dumplings would be somewhere within the top five.

Above: Upon walking in, free tea and this celery/tofu mixture are given while the dumplings are cooking. Since the dumplings are homemade, this process can draw out a little depending of the traffic in the (small) place.

Above: "The Ukrainian" ordered three kinds of dumplings. Most had pork in them. This was one variant.

Above: The second variant.

Above: The third variant. Due to the thick skin on these fried ones, they can get filling!!!

Above: My only veggie option was these tofu/mushroom ones. I wish I had done a better job showing you the fillings, but these were indeed delicious with a skin of correct firmness.

The prices are not that bad... Each dish comes in around $6, but you get ample dumplings for the amount. (The veggie one above had 10... I couldn't finish this alone.) Compare this to boba joints where they sell you about 6-8 for the same price and no homemade quality, and you'll be sure this is the better deal.

At some point, I will try making my own dumplings. ;) My other favorite foods (lasagna and pizza) have already been victims of my "renditions."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sony W Series MP3 Player

I have always been an iPod person. See my entries about my iPod#1, iPod#2 and iPod#3. I also had a 256MB one by Creative before any of these before my sisters got me the first one (which still was totally the most expensive and awesome gift I've ever received).

Yeesh, have I gone through a lot of mp3 players! However, iPod#2 went to "The Ukrainian" when I got iPod#3. (Can you believe he'd never had an MP3 player?) And iPod#1 is with my little sister. So really, only one remains in my possession.

So you can imagine how redundant I felt buying yet another MP3 player.

Meet the Sony W Series Walkman. Yes, "walkman." I used to carry those walkm(en) around high school and thought they were already old-fashioned. But this is totally cutting-edge.

Above: Ha ha... don't mind the cat butt in this pic!! :)

You may have seen these promoted at running expos lately. This looks like a double-bluetooth device that goes on your head to wirelessly play music. But in actuality, the entire MP3 player itself exists in this unit.

Sorry about the blurry pic of myself, but this is an idea of what it looks like when worn. (This was one of those cold morning runs I did recently!)

THIS PLAYER ROCKS! The sound quality is great. And it's water-resistant against my copious sweat. ;) I also like not having to clip something on my waistband or arm to listen to music or worrying about yanking out the cord when I'm running or doing other cardio/weights. I used to have to replace my iPod headphones a couple of times per year because they kept going south (even the expensive ones).

It also has nice tech features such as a 3-min charge for 90 min playback (full charge in 1.5 hours for 11 hours of playback), and this "Zappin" feature that goes through snippets of your songs so you can play the full version of the one you want. The device will "talk" to you so you know which features you have activated.

I also like that it is relatively easy to operate while running with buttons you can distinguish by touch. I know I need to get used to this thing still, but I expect it will all become second-nature to me soon. Besides, it looks great and feels comfortable, though I have to test it out when I am sweating like a maniac which has yet to happen in this weather.

The main caveat is that there's only a 2GB capacity, which is 1/4 of my iPod's but I find quite sufficient for its purposes. Also, it charges via USB cable, which is a drag to me that I need to turn on my computer to charge it (same with the iPod). Also, to shut it off, you need to connect the ear pieces, which are magnets. While this is easy, keeping it this way is not. And if it comes apart, your battery life will suffer. The kit comes with a plastic case to prevent this, so you must use it unless you leave the device sittin' pretty on a table somewhere all the time.

Finally, for safety purposes, you need to keep the volume pretty low because this thing sits pretty well in your ears and blocks out some outdoor noises. I keep it very low and can still hear everything around me, so I suggest you do the same.

All in all, GREAT player. I got it online at Wal-Mart for $50 with shipping included, though it's $10 more at other retailers. For this price, I'm sure it will pay for itself soon because I won't be yanking/damaging headphone cords and having to replace them anymore. I think I'm going to reserve my iPod for my car, when I want to listen to my MP3 player with my hair down, or back-up gym MP3 player in general.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

OrthoLite Fusion Insoles

Back in June, I had purchased a pair of custom-fit insoles from a running store. I will not give any names, since I had a great experience with them, but the insoles simply did not work out.

Still, as an overpronator and person who still hasn't seemed to be able to find the perfect running shoes :< , I am willing to give insoles another try. Kevin from OrthoLite contacted me about trying their insoles. The first things that caught my attention about these are that they are made from recyclable materials and are anti-microbial.

Their advertised features:

- Designed to fit all athletic and outdoor shoes or boots
- Made with open-cell foam, allowing air to circulate around the foot, keeping it cooler and drier inside the shoe
- Wicks moisture away from your foot leaving your foot cooler and drier
- Unique spring-back technology ensures that your insole won’t flatten out and it will retain over 95% of its thickness over time
- Our patented anti-microbial formulation (approved by the EPA and FDA) fights fungus, bacteria and shoe odor
- Lightweight and fully washable

My Review

When I first put these into my shoes, I didn't think of much difference between those and the insoles that were already in my shoes. When I put my foot in, I actually felt like I was sticking my foot into a new shoe!

So while an insole cannot perform miracles, they CAN refresh your shoes for a while, and you can totally wash these as well. It might be a good choice if you just aren't quite ready to drop cash for a totally new pair.

($1 from each purchase goes to directly to the Level Field Fund, a grant-giving program that strives to bridge the gap in funding to uniquely talented athletes. Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps recently announced his Swim Fund with Level Field Fund.)