Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Fear of Yeast

As much as I bake, when I come upon a recipe that mentions "yeast" -- and not nutritional yeast, I tend to click the "X" button and move on to something... easier.

Besides the time-kill of waiting for dough to rise, I have a lot of childhood memories of attempting to use yeast, resulting in baked items that were as hard as rock, flat, and smelling extremely yeasty.  The smell still haunts me every time I open up a package.

I saw a recipe for vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls on this site and decided to give it a go.  I made sure to get new yeast that hasn't been sitting in the cupboard for ages and went for it.  I covered it, put it in the oven with just the light on, and was surprised to see a rise!

Earth Balance + cinnamon

I followed the instructions and cut 10 pieces, but that was a mistake.  You can see the cramming of 10 instead of 9 that went on in here, probably resulting in less expansion (second-rise) and more dense rolls as a result.  Bummer.  Yet I was still surprised that it rose that second time.

After the bake (sorry a little blurry... musta been too excited)...

This was after the icing (and sampling, ha ha).  Overall, despite a little denseness, they were really tasty and not overly sweet.  They didn't scream "vegan," according to some of my taste-testers, and the kitchen definitely got that nice cinnamon-y smell as it was baking.

These came in at around 274 calories versus the zillion from Cinnabon.  Given that my fear of yeast is gone now, I will definitely make these again, perhaps with some flavor modifications.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

America's Finest City Half-Marathon

EVENT: America's Finest City Half-Marathon
DATE: Sunday, August 19, 2012
RACE BEGAN: 07:00 am
FINISH TIME: 02:13:48

I rarely take long in writing these reviews, but man, have these past few days been hectic.  I tried writing this post in a hotel room while eating late-night room service and in an airport using terrible wi-fi, but in the end, I had to be settled at home before this could ever get done.

The last time I did this race, I was just barely starting to think of what I'd write for my Master's thesis, my sister and I were doing our first Triple Crown, "The Ukrainian" and I were in our very early stages, and frankly, I don't remember much else about it besides the fact that I fell and scraped myself in the early part of the race and that the drive to the expo was horrid.

Once again, the traffic coming into the expo was ridiculous, but luckily, we had friends who drove and let us do a drop-and-roll.  The expo tent was humid and hot and not really worth staying in, so the whole affair was fairly quick.  Overate San Diego goodies and got ready for a 3:45 AM wake-up call.

The shuttles from Balboa Park began leaving at 4:30 AM to take us to the Cabrillo National Monument area.  At that hour, it was in the mid-70's.  We had been there the previous day for tide-pooling, but it was nice to see the sun rise (yeah, it was that dark) and use a very clean porta-potty.  The race began promptly, just as the sun was starting to make my skin feel warm.  

I feel like a different "me" ran this race.  This "me" wore sunglasses, no hat(!), a BICBand (it survived!), a sports bra, and shorts.  Oh, and a heart-rate monitor instead of a Garmin because I knew I wasn't aiming for any records in the heat and my untrained state.  I normally never run that "exposed," but I'm glad I did.  The past few races, wearing a hat started to become intolerable because of all the heat getting trapped up there.  It was SO hot... I think it got into the mid-80s, and I ended up getting extremely odd-shaped tan lines everywhere, just in time for my wedding countdown. *sarcastic smiley face would go here*  I'd post a photo of the ensemble, but I noticed that MarathonFoto added a new line to their watermark, saying "for use on ONLY."  Hmmm.

As I was running, I did start remembering bits of the course from 2008 -- the Honeywell building, the view of the water, etc.  I was running a 9-min/mi pace for the first six miles based on the clocks I saw on the course, and considering the early hills and the fact that I have only been running once a week or so for the past 10 weeks since the Ojai Marathon, I considered that pretty good.  As the miles wore on and my skin started to burn, I slowed down.  My heart-rate monitor was indicating that I was working harder than I had intended.  My goal range was from 165-185 beats per minute (around 175 being most desirable), but as things wore on, I kept seeing 190+, and around my max for the last mile or so, even though I wasn't running fast at all.  

The new "me" did not stop for walk breaks, though, except at the water stations where I made sure to down at least one big cup of water.  I know that the "old" me would have given up during those last two miles up gradual uphill climb.  I saw a guy vomiting on the side of the road at that point, yet I managed to press on because I just wanted to get out of the heat.  The aid stations were not close, and I was sweating more than I felt like I ever have in my LIFE.  I didn't run under a single hose or pour any water on me, yet by the time I finished, I looked like I had jumped into a pool.

The new "me" finished two minutes slower than last time, and my goal had been to at least beat that.  In fact, I think this is one of my personal worsts.  But the new "me" also didn't really care.

The "Triple Crown" medal above is for my completion of this race, the Carlsbad Half, and the La Jolla Half.  One more series medal to go this year (in October... see my side-bar).

Monday, August 13, 2012

The 90-Day Mark

I just consulted, and as I had sensed, there are less than 90 days until the wedding.

We have just barely started distributing invitations.  I only have about a third of them done, but I am fairly confident that the rest of them will go out this week.  Apparently, even when you attempt to go simple on these, it does take time to actually assemble and address the darn things.  I guess I was procrastinating because of summer slothiness and traveling for work, but I think we're right on time on it anyway.

The honeymoon arrangements are also finally completed.  By then, I think I will have just enough vacation time to take the three days off of work to go without sacrificing pay because I had to reserve an additional three days for my "bachelorette" festivities.  We're hoping to go out of the country at some point soon, but I can't see myself accumulating what I need for at least another year... and that will depend on the circumstances of the earlier part of next year.

My weekends are definitely starting to become "we have to work on the wedding" time, which is something I was anticipating and dreading.  Sleep, workouts, and going to places beyond a five-mile radius for fun are things that are decreasing.  The extent of our excursions lately have been to get our wedding bands (I love mine and want to wear it already, by the way!), make venue arrangements, meet with key people, and pick up bamboo:

If you can't wait to see the final product, well, neither can I.  Hah.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Follow-Up Product Reviews, part II - The Flops

This post is the counterpart to my post on items that I've reviewed during this blog's tenure that I still use.  While I'm not going to cover every item that has just not caught my attention one way or another, I will focus on disappointments in this post.

Yes, this probably means I've wasted a lot of money (or time, in the case of review freebies), but how do you know what you want if you don't know what you don't want?  Sounds like dating...

The list begins with a lot of food/supplement items that make me wary, and the other half are items that are fine but never/rarely get used.  As a cliché disclaimer, what hasn't worked for me might work for someone else.  We're all different, after all. This is not to say that the products are inherently no good.

The "Flops"

1) Vega Sport Protein

Not to be mistaken with the Vega Sport Optimizer, which I think is great.  This stuff smelled and tasted like... rotting food.  I had such high expectations of this stuff, and to this day, I still have some faded green spots on the seatbelt of my car because of the gagging reaction I had when I drank (or tried to drink) this after a race.  On that same thread, the bars are probably in this same category.

2) Whole Foods Soy Protein Powder (Natural Vanilla)

Unpalatable... plus, I have cut down my soy consumption, so I will never buy another soy protein powder again.

3) ThinkThin Bars and Perfect Foods Bar

Besides their corny name, I can't stand the whey taste in the ThinkThin bars, and I'm pretty sure most whey bars would fall into the same category.  I just thought these would be different somehow...

Similar issues with the Perfect Foods Bar, except they are much more expensive.  Every time I see these in the store, I move away.

4) C9 Shorts with Zippered Pockets

I did wear these for a while, but then I realized my folly as I started to run more, and chafing ensued.  After one marathon, the stuff that I squirreled away in these pockets chafed my thigh so badly that it took more than a month to go away.  Plus, the bouncing in the pockets was not fun.  Still, for recreational purposes, I guess this would work.  Not hating on Target's workout clothing... just didn't work for me.

5) Amazing Grass

I thought these would be tasty for some reason, but they were just... grassy.  I'm sure I could have benefited more if I blended them into a smoothie, but I don't really make those too often.

6) Pacific Foods Hemp Milk

I mentioned in the other post that I mainly drink almond milk now, though hemp would be my second choice if not for the cost.  It tends to be creamier and more nutritious.  Anyway, this is one version I tried I would never touch again.

7) Voskos Greek Yogurt and Goat Yogurt

I've stopped eating Greek yogurt, and most other yogurts besides the occasional soy, completely.  Just realized that no matter what claims about enzymes, bacteria, or whatnot, my stomach still gets upset when I eat them.  But Voskos has given me the worst reaction and is calorie-heavy for a yogurt, so it is appearing here.

When it comes to goat yogurt, or most goat cheeses except dry crumbled feta, I have now realized I will never grow up to like the taste of game.

8) Vegan Grated Topping

Ah, this stuff.  I bought it in the height of my vegan-curious days, as if I missed grated parm that much that I would need this strange-tasting substitute.  Nowadays, I will either microplane some cheese that I know I'm not going to get sick over, use nutritional yeast or garlic powder, or even some leftover frozen cashew "cheeze" to get my fix.  In general, I have deviated from trying to replace certain things like this and don't really miss them anymore.

9) Better n' Peanut Butter

This stuff is just gummy and gross.  I'd rather eat real peanut butter, thanks.  Whenever I see people eating it or mentioning it, my eyebrow raises.

10) Dr. Scholl's High Heel Inserts

These do the opposite of what they are supposed to do, which is make your feet feel better in cute shoes.  It could just be my flat feet, though.

11) Zenzah Compression Socks

I wanted to like these.  I used a web coupon to get them for $25 (50% off), but when I wore them to run, I found they did NOT provide the tightness that I needed for compression.  Additionally, the socks have caused me to get blisters.  Nowadays, I wear this pre-race or for recovery after a run, but I really don't think it "does" anything.  They are certainly cute and warm, though!

12) Treadmill for the workplace

I blogged about this and have yet to really use it.  While I like the idea of being active at work, I can't even imagine multi-tasking like this.  I would rather just get my work done more efficiently and get a faster workout in later.

13) Amphipod RunLite Hydration Belt

I liked this and used it for a while, but I could never get over the bouncing and difficulty of putting the little bottles back on the belt after drinking.  I have since learned that handhelds are better.

14) Invisible Shoes / Huraches

These simple sandals are supposed to transition people to barefoot running.  I guess I never took to the idea of "barefoot" running, so likewise, these never really took off with me.

15) ChiRunning

I made a long attempt to master this technique and still think about it often, but I don't think the subtle changes in gait have been very beneficial.

16) Yoga

I have tried so many times to get into this, but I just can't.  Short of attending a live class (which is costly), I can only hope that P90X's version is entertaining enough.

17) The Stick and Foam Rollers

I will use a foam roller if I have a kink in my neck or back, but otherwise, I have not been the best about using these.  In general, what works best for me after run longs and races is gentle stretching, light walking, and rest.

18) Phiten Sports Necklace

I wore my necklace religiously for a while, about a year.  Even when I lost one, I spent another $30+ on a replacement!  I really thought these prevented injuries or boosted my performance, but honestly, I think that was all a placebo effect.  That's really too bad, because it looks so cool on the pro athletes.

19) K-T Tape

When I first discovered them, I fell in love with this tape that could be customized in many different ways for different injuries.  However, I have not been injured for more than a year, and when I was, it would be a weird place where taping was difficult an ineffective (IT band, hamstring).  "The Ukrainian" used these in his calves to prevent cramping, but they kept coming loose, so he has since switched over to compression sleeves.

20) Vapur Bottles

I have pretty much completely weaned myself off of bottled water.  Now, I drink out of a canteen-style sipping bottle from "The Ukrainian"'s company.  It's heavy and sometimes leaks, but it keeps my water cool and is so easy to drink from.  However, an intermediate step for me was the Vapur bottle, which is light-weight and BPA-free.  I stopped using this mainly because it was odd-shaped and the sport-top wasn't exactly what I wanted.  However, that didn't stop me from giving away a bunch of them, and I don't think any of the recipients are using them, either.  One person had theirs leak.  Another almost stopped me from taking a sip because they thought I was about to guzzle detergent.

21) Shoe Deodorizers

I have found that the best thing for controlling the smell of your shoes is to air them out.  Nowadays, I will rarely stuff used shoes in a bag or box without letting them air out first.  Sure beats funky sprays and balls that get lost!

22) Sport Wash

I am so glad that Tide Detergent makes a sport version of their detergent, eliminating the need for me to purchase an expensive little bottle of wash that frankly doesn't smell all that great.

23) Fanny Pack

Enough said.

24) Nike+ iPod Sport Kit

I realize that there are newer versions of this, but now that I have a Garmin, I don't need to deal with shoe pouches, faulty chips, and iPods.


I truly think that a lot of items I have purchased were out of boredom.  In the past, I had a lot more free time to explore.  Nowadays, although there might be more disposable income, things have gotten really simple, while my schedule to try things has become more hectic.  In reality, people don't really "need" a lot of things, even though they are nice to have.  When a lot of these "things" accumulate, they can really make a big mess, both in a physical and mental space.

I've learned to do more research before buying something, which is sort of why this post, and the previous one, were put into existence.

Monday, August 6, 2012

PSA: Glass Tupperware is Life-Changing!

I recently Tweeted about my love for glass tupperware (or food storage-ware, to be more correct).  I've been using these regularly for at least a year now, and I will never go back to plastic!!  I might be sounding over-enthusiastic or preachy, but these are things that I use all the time due to storing leftovers and packing lunch for myself and "The Ukrainian."

For those of you who have not made the conversion, I'd like to give you a few reasons to do it:

- Safety: I'm sure you've heard about BPA in plastic, so there's one reason to switch.  Of course, if you're afraid of breaking glass, just know that I have yet to break one, and I'm not the most careful person

- Hygiene: Glass isn't porous like plastic, so tomato sauce will not embed in it and cause you to scrub; plus, smells (e.g., tuna, garlic, etc.) don't get trapped in there, ever!  The amount of time I've saved from scrubbing tupperware is already enough for me to sing praises about these.  Everything just slides off!

- Cost: I bought a set, similar to the one below, at Bed Bath and Beyond for $19.99, plus got 20% off with a coupon.  I have not bought any more tupperware since then, and the cut-down on washing time/detergent might help off-set the cost....  So although it seems like a lot upfront, it is totally worth the few extra bucks, in my opinion.

- Heating/Cooling: I personally find that they heat food much more evenly than plastic (be sure to remove the lids).  Plus, there is no transfer of weird odors or tastes into your food.  I don't own a microwave, but I do use one at work, and they have yet to break on me in there (I try to be conservative about microwave times, though!).  Also, if it's a cold food item, I find that the glass retains the cool temperature pretty well.

The only con I can really think of is a little extra weight... but honestly, you won't even notice it after a while.  Also, kids might need to get used to these, and they aren't "cute."

Now onto your regularly-scheduled blogging!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Test of Time (Follow-Up Product Reviews!)

I have reviewed many things on this blog, and I have enjoyed trying all of them.  Many of the items are self-purchases, while some are sent to me... but it has always been about informing people who randomly search "review for X" on Google, since I do that very often myself.

This blog is more than six years old, so I thought it would be fun to recap some of the items that have lasted "the test of time."  Pretend it's like "Oprah's Favorite Things," without the extravagant audience freebies.

I was planning on including items that have fallen by the wayside, but this entry is already too long.  I think I will save it for a future post.

Passed the Test

1) CLIF Builder's Bars

After years and many bars tried, I still eat regular CLIF Bars and Larabars on occasion.  Nowadays, I only have the Builder's version in my pantry.  These serve as protein-filled meal supplements (20g), airplane food, and post-race-I-don't-feel-like-eating-a-meal-quite-yet-food.  I actually like most of the flavors, including the newer ones, except lemon.  Plus, it helps that they are widely available, even at many gas stations.

2) Adidas Clima365 Hat

This hat has lasted through my washing machine and covers my head from the sun without getting as hot as a darker-colored hat would.  I dropped it in a puddle of mud during a marathon, and you can't tell.  "The Ukrainian" still wears his, too.

3) C9 Sports Bra

I still wear Target sports bras... pretty much all of mine are from there.  Sadly, I think I still wear many of the same ones I did at the time I wrote my initial review... hmmm.

4) Nike Fit-Dri Capris (and shorts!)

Purchased at the last-minute out of necessity, it's still my go-to in cooler weather conditions (e.g., LA Marathon).  I don't think I have EVER chafed when wearing these.  I think I have only thrown this in the washing machine once or twice ever (and no dryer!)-- all the other washes were by hand... just to be safe and frugal.

Another Nike go-to, which I never reviewed by wear to races often (from this year alone, click here, here, and here for some pictorial proof), is a pair of shorts that my sister got me for my birthday last year.

Finally the last of the Nike parade, my brother-in-law got me a Nike Shoe Wallet a number of years ago.  I had little use for it at the time, but nowadays, I use it all the time when I'm running around my place.

5) Almond Breeze and Silk PureAlmond

After realizing that these almond milks are NOT meant to be a protein source or a one-for-one substitute for cow's milk, I grew to like them a lot and have some with my oatmeal almost every time.  Sometimes, I go for generic versions of these from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.  To me, almond milk is just the most economical option, especially after recently finding them in a 6-pack case at Costco!

6) Sleep Number p6 Bed Set

I can't forget about this, since I still sleep in it.  I have minimal body aches from sleeping these days, except for my neck, but that's a pillow issue that I'm still working out.  Oh, and it's hard to get out of bed on the weekdays, but perhaps that is just me getting older rather than the bed being comfortable.

7) Honey Stinger

Though I'm not a big fan of the gels, and only because I don't like the taste or straight-up honey, the organic lime-ade caffeinated chews have become a race-day MUST for me.  They don't have a lingering taste, they give me a gentle burst of energy, are portable, and haven't bothered my stomach at all.  Plus, the waffles (see the newer chocolate flavor below) are good, though I admittedly don't snack on them as often as "The Ukrainian" does.

Basically, eating these chews have replaced gels during races, though if I do take them, it's usually CLIF or GU.  And while I do sometimes drink whatever sport drink is on the course, the one that I have found most effective is Vega Sport Optimizer, though I don't use it often due to cost.  I recently started experimenting with Nuun, too, but since I don't run as much anymore, it's taking me longer to review it -- so stay tuned.

8) Sunwarrior Protein Powder

This is one of the few blog-hyped things that is still worth purchasing, to me.  I recently had to replace my 2lb bag... I think I'm on my third or fourth bag.  Now that I'm more consistent with taking protein after workouts, I will probably go through this one faster.  To me, it's worth the extra cost over other proteins because it is palatable (even mixed with just water) and vegan, without extra scary stuff at GNC.  Also, I must note that I still use my Blender Bottle to mix it.

9) Jillian Michaels DVDs

Although I started doing Beachbody DVDs, I still think Jillian's workouts are more than enough for staying in shape and are really cheap to buy online.  I don't really think you can go wrong with any of them, though I mostly still do No More Trouble Zones and Ripped in 30.  On the topic of DVDs, I think it's too soon for me to say anything about Insanity, but I do imagine it'd appear in the next installment of these follow-ups.

10) Saucony shoes

After trying different running shoe brands, I have finally settled on Saucony.  The ProGrid Stabil and Hurricanes are the ones I alternate between at the moment.

11) The Happy Herbivore cookbook

Although I don't bust this out all the time, I do cook the "cheater pad thai," biscuits, and other random dishes often enough to list this on here.  I have the sequel to this book, but I find that the original is best.

12) Garmin 405

Though I rarely wear GPS on my runs these days (prefer to use a heart-rate monitor to gauge exertion, quickly becoming a new favorite), anytime I'm on an unknown route long enough for me to care, this comes along.  And of course, I've worn it to the vast majority of races I've run.  In the end, a worth investment, and I don't regret getting this model.  Even with sweaty-hand-bezel issues, I still find it much nicer than the boxier models.

13) Amphipod Handheld Watter Bottle

Anytime I'm running a lot these days, I bring this bottle with me.  I ran a marathon with it, and I don't think it slowed me down overall, since I really needed that hydration!  The little zippered pocket is perfect for storing extra fuel.

14) iFitness Belt

This is the belt that holds all my stuff during races.  It stays mostly put and holds quite a lot, so I really have no complaints about it!  Plus, it has held up in rainy weather and protected my stuff from too much moisture.

15) Water Bobble

This always comes with me whenever I stay in a hotel or have to fly.  I love that I can fill it with water from fountains and still drink clean (to me) water!  It leaks a little sometimes, but I find that's more from airplane cabin pressure than anything else.

16) Endurance Bag

"The Ukrainian" still uses his all the time.  From gym-going to trips, he brings this bag along because it really does hold everything.  Since I don't go to the gym much anymore, I don't use it, but for non-flight trips, this is my go-to bag.

17) Sony W-Series mp3 Player

On MOST of my runs these days, I use my iPod, but anytime I run a race, I opt for this one because without wires, I often forget I have it on!  Having little space used to be a bugger, but this actually keeps to my very favorite songs and thus, I stay pumped throughout my race (as much as I can, anyway)!  It has lasted through some very rainy runs and still works.  I don't use this outside of running, though.

18) Injinji Socks

At first, I didn't really see how they were any better than running socks.  However, they are great because I can change into flip-flops post-race without removing my socks.  Also, I have found they are the best socks for doing Insanity, since my toes have freedom to move more naturally than in conventional ones.

19) RoadID

I still wear mine every time I run alone (except races because the bib does the same job).  While a lack of washing it has rendered some of the stitching a darker color, it still looks the same as when I got it, and the velcro still works perfectly.

20) CEP Compression Sleeves

I will probably mention the other pair of compression socks I have in my "flops" update, but these have totally saved me from some marathon/half-marathon cramping.  They are the tightest without cutting off circulation.  While I'm not certain that I NEED these, I wear these in almost every race, if not just to protect my calves from debris.

I'm still glad I got the sleeves, since I can pair them with any sock I choose.  I've washed this in the machine a couple of times and hang-dry, but I mostly hand-wash them for longevity, since they are some of the most expensive ones out there.  For good reason!

21) Pampered Toes

Although they don't help with bunions, I still use these almost every time I paint my (bruised + recovering) toenails, so I thought they deserved a mention.

22) Aquaphor

I still use this in a pinch to prevent chafing when I *know* it's a possibility.  "The Ukrainian" uses the Mission Anti-Friction Cream because we have a lot of it, and it also works pretty well.

23) Skippy

I've been eating a lot of peanut butter lately, and although I know there is better out there, I opt for Skippy Natural.  At least I took an extra step toward health!  I like that it doesn't contain anything "bad" besides a little sugar, doesn't require any special treatment, and comes in a pretty big jar.

24) BICBands

Strangely, when I first blogged about these, I had a tinge of dissatisfaction with the fact that it wasn't quite as secure as I had hoped.  However, this is pretty much the only headband I will wear when doing an intense workout nowadays where flying hair bits would bother me.  Yes, it's still not perfect, but I love the color, and it generally does the job for now.


I'm sure there are plenty of other things I've blogged about that I still use frequently (water, lol... can't believe I blogged about that), but those are the first that come to mind.  I think this was a good time to do this, since lately I haven't really been buying a lot of new gizmos and gear and just trying to wear out what I have or rely on the tried-and-true.

Hope you enjoyed this post... it definitely made me feel like I'd blog about anything!