Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Random Photo Entry 30: Southern Comforts

Lately, I've been hungry, and no looming wedding or anything has kept me from, um, indulging.  Through thick and thin, richer or poorer, etc.

It started off innocently enough with these panko-crusted, baked zucchini fries.  I made these to get rid of some leftover zucchini I had after making zucchini bread.  I basically just cut these, dip them in egg wash and seasoned panko, and baked for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees.  I should have salted the zucchini itself, though!


Next up, cornbread quiche.  I made a half-batch of vegan cornbread from Happy Herbivore and topped it with four eggs beaten with unsweetened almond milk, some vegan chorizo, and spinach that needed to be used up.

The cast-iron pan is my newest kitchen friend.  It was an early wedding gift.  I can't believe they ship those things so early, by the way.


My first trip to the local farmer's market finally took place!  I usually miss this because I'm usually up running or doing Insanity on Saturday mornings, so by the time I get back, it's too hot/late to go.  This time, I sucked it up and made my way there.

Look at these amazing herbs, hopefully to be used in some healthier cooking sometime.  Let's just say this trip was not cheap.


Finally, I think I've been too much of a home-body lately, so when "The Ukrainian" wanted Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles (yeah, sooo much disregard for being in shape for the wedding), it became a in-front-of-UCLA-football with a drink I made out of sparkling mineral water and the leftover chili+juice from a fruit-man.

So I wound up having waffles for dinner... their cornbread is a bit dry.




Friday, September 21, 2012

ChapStick Gift Pack (giveaway)

UPDATED 10/5/2012

This giveaway is now closed.  The winner is... lucky #7, Jen!  I e-mailed you... but if you miss it, please e-mail me at my G-mail address.

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Do you ever find your lips chapped and burned after long runs or races?  After a long bout in the sun from my half-marathon last month, I certainly found my lips paying the price for a few weeks afterward.

I am usually pretty good about protecting my lips.  I tend to develop random reactions to most lip products (balms, lipglosses, etc.), so I sometimes "go without" just because I can clear burned lips from the sun faster than I can burned lips from chemicals.

But if you're not among the sensitive crowd, here are some new ChapStick products for you to try.  This gift pack also contains a cute cosmetics bag and a large ChapStick beach towel.



ChapStick® Sport Ready
Designed with the Active consumer in mind, ChapStick® Sport Ready offers advanced, on-the-go hydration fit for any adventure. The perfect accessory for people on-the-move, ChapStick® Sport Ready has a clip top that keeps your ChapStick® right at your fingertipsSure to be the perfect partner for any game under the sun … or on the slopes, ChapStick® Sport Ready has you covered with broad spectrum SPF 30 and water-resistant protection for up to 80 minutes!

ChapStick® Sport Ready is part of the exclusive Active line, which also includes ChapStick® LipShield 365 and ChapStick® Ultra® 30.


ChapStick® Raspberry Crème
Satisfy a thirsty pout with new mouthwatering ChapStick® Raspberry Crème – made with 10 moisturizing ingredients and a luscious fruity flavor, lips will be left feeling soft and silky. ChapStick® Raspberry Crème delivers fruity hydration to your lips with ingredients like Aloe and Vitamin E and contains SPF 15 to protect from the sun’s UVB rays.

To enter (giveaway ends Friday, October 5th at noon, PST, US residents only):

1) Leave a comment on this post.

2) Retweet (@nobel4lit) or blog about this giveaway and leave a comment letting me know you've done so.

3) Follow this blog and leave a comment.

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FTC Disclaimer: “The ChapStick® product, information and gift have been provided by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.”  I was not compensated to provide any particular opinion of this product.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dumbening

In some ways, I'm slightly embarrassed that anyone who might even casually know me "in real life" could stumble upon my blog.  In fact, it has already happened, several times, in spite of my reluctance to share the URL outright.

My writing on here isn't perfect, the same way the e-mails I compose at work sometimes lack a word here and there -- or worse, I misuse a word or write choppy sentences.  However, it's a conscious choice for me to write and proofread as I am able, and everything that goes amiss is attributed to the casual nature of this blog.  (The work e-mails, on the other hand, can be attributed to "Blackberry thumb" or extreme volume??)

I have been out of school now for close to a year and a half.  "The Ukrainian" is about half-way through with his second master's degree, and many of my friends are starting to turn down my invitations to "hang out" after work because they are studying for graduate exams.  Wow, total role-reversal.  Meanwhile, the most profound thoughts in my mind these days seem to revolve around what to make for dinner, how many miles I should hobble through, or how to arrange our wedding seating chart.

I've been trying to read, which is sometimes successful but sometimes is beaten out by the allure of the television, which I spent many years practically avoiding.  I can tell you about the latest happenings on Glee but can sometimes barely remember the contents of my dissertation.

I think Lisa Simpson called it "dumbening" (not a word).

People keep trying to justify my feelings of mental dullness by saying things like, "Well, you already got a doctorate... do you want a second one or something?" and "You deserve a rest now!"  While I do agree that I need "rest," I'm not really sure what that entails.  Going to work daily doesn't seem to be much of a "rest," regardless of the fact that I don't have to fire up THAT many neurons in my regular activities.  I still come home tired and somewhat uninspired to do anything but put stuff away, eat, and sleep.

I'm not really sure where to go from here.  I have thought about going for a certification, but I am hoping to hold off on that until my company will pay for part of it and I obtain more relevant work experience to add more value to the whole thing.  I have been dropping not-so-subtle hints to "The Ukrainian" that I want the new Kindle so that I can stop using my laziness to go to the library (something I did a lot of earlier in the year but have stopped due to circulation frustration and general icky-ness of the books) as an excuse not to read. Reading stuff online is one thing, but I think I just need some good old-fashioned literature to inspire me again.

Secondly, there's María, my guitar.  I've abandoned her not too long after I moved and haven't been motivated to work on techniques.  After the wedding, I definitely plan on practicing more.  Playing music is emotionally cathartic and probably mentally stimulating, as well.

Finally, I want to work on my writing.  I used to dream of winning the Nobel Prize in Literature (hence "Nobel4Lit") when I was a teen, and even when I moved over to scientific writing, there had always been an air of intellectualism in anything I wrote.  Nowadays, I'm not so sure.  I may start writing in this blog more often -- and I don't mean in the frequency of my posts but moreso the details in which I will go about things.  A few times, I have considered starting another blog to write about intellectual topics -- things I've read, concepts in my field, etc. -- but I'm not sure if I have the time to support two blogs.

Of course, some of you might wonder why I feel the need to keep going on to "the next thing," but I believe most runners** can relate to this need.  People don't love others for their intellect, but knowledge is liberating.  Learning helps deter hasty judgement of others, fear, and it opens people to new ways of thought and ways of experiencing things.

**Hopefully, I can still consider myself somewhat connected to this categorization.  I hope to run more once the weather cools down!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Jillian Michaels - Yoga Meltdown

I've done this video now quite a few times, so I thought I'd finally give my review of it.

Overall, I like it.  It's faster-paced than other yoga I've tried and isn't too long, even if you decide to do both workouts in a row.  Heck, after doing P90X yoga a few times that lasts 92 minutes a pop, anything is short.  Yoga Meltdown gets you stretched and gives you a feeling of a workout without impact.

The video comes in two levels:

Level 1 (approx 35 min): In this workout, you'll do a lot of sun salutations (a lot of standing, getting into a plank, and then arching your back for upward dog, then opposite for downward dog, etc.).  Also, you will get into some basic warrior poses and "rept it out" by pulsing in the pose, increasing your heart rate.

Level 2 (approx 25 min): This workout incorporates some of the moves from Level 1 but adds on some actually pretty challenging poses like crow and even wheel (basically a back-bend, which I haven't been able to do since middle school).  There more core work in this one to the point where you feel like you're in an ab-sculpting class, but in a good way.

Jillian's demeanor in this video is a little awkward.  The first time she said, "Melt your heart to the sky," I kind of had a "WTF" moment.  But then later she breaks out of that, thankfully, though you will see her bark orders at the other backup girls and make fun of them.

The claim that you can lose up to 5 lb a week (as it says on the box), seems kind of far-fetched to me.  First of all, you'll probably burn about 100 calories per workout (I used my heart-rate monitor), but as far as I'm concerned, if you do BOTH levels (about an hour) seven times in a week, you can burn off 200 x 7 = 1400 calories, which is not even half a pound worth of burn.  However, if doing yoga makes you more "zen" and keeps you on healthy habits, I guess you could possibly lose more.  But five pounds?!  Not sure.

If anyone has any questions about this, or any of the other videos (including other Jillian ones) I've reviewed on here, let me know!  I've worn a hole in most of my discs!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

One Day in America

My dad, an immigrant, recently told "The Ukrainian's" parents, also immigrants, that being in America is great, because we can do basically do whatever we want.

I wake up each day knowing this, but to me, it's so expected that I don't give it a second thought and yes, take it for granted.  I am infinitely thankful that my parents decided to continue their lives here, a foreign place where they felt/feel a bit out of their element.  On that same vein, I'm glad that others who have brought over the ideas that make this country what it is to have made that same decision.

Grew up poor?  No problem... you can work your way up, to an extent.  Don't like our president?  Sure, go ahead and diss him.  Want to marry someone outside of your race (and maybe soon, inside your gender)?  Deal with the disappointment of your parents, but the paperwork is still yours for the filling.

I have had SO much opportunity here.  I get paid without having to physically toil or work on most weekends.  I pretty much have everything I could want and am not frequently put down because of my gender or ethnic background.

Eleven years ago, I was listening to the local hip-hop station, notorious for its off-the-wall jokes, while my older sister was driving me to school.  The host, "Big Boy," announced that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane.  Thinking that it was a distasteful joke, I walked into the hallway in front of my first period class and saw it was already open and filled with students, not from my class, eyes glued to the television.

It was no joke.  And seriously, it took me nearly a month to be able to concentrate again.  My grades weren't the best during this time because I literally tried to watch the coverage each time I was doing my homework, felt the sadness, and in the back of my mind, I was worrying about whether there was more to come or what.

Later on, we were forced to write a paper in our English class about why war is "evil."  I think there was some quote that was used to open the prompt, but it was strange that we were asked to write of this whether we agreed or disagreed with that notion.

I never sat in an airplane before this time, so the first time I did, I finally got to see what all the hoopla about taking off your shoes and security screening was all about.  Pulling in and out my quart baggie and laptop over and over again and even having my luggage searched once because I was carrying too many running medals feels warranted and expected.  On a recent flight, I was randomly selected for "further screening," and I obliged with no tinge of annoyance at all.  Each time I fly, I am reminded of that day and am thankful to have the freedom to fly and the peace-of-mind that comes from others looking out for our safety.

I will end with a note about this election season -- please educate yourselves and make a choice -- while no choice is perfect, your ability to vote is one of those things that your predecessors wished they would have had.  Also, in general, politics is not worth fighting over with your friends or significant others.  Have your beliefs, but you might not want to have them alone.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review of the Tummy Tuck Belt

No, I'm not kidding... I am actually reviewing the Tummy Tuck Belt, the one "seen on TV."

I remember the first time I saw this infomercial, I left it on and watched it -- mostly because I was doing some work and wanted some mindless background noise, and also because it seemed so ridiculous.

The first time these were shipped to me, someone stole my package.  My sister said that whoever did it would be surprised to see chia seeds or something, but I'm sure this was even stranger to find than that.  When I saw the tracking information, UPS said it was left at the "front door."  I subsequently reported the incident to my landlord and have been wary of people in my secure apartment complex who suddenly appears skinnier.  Seriously, though, if the culprit is reading, I say to you... you're a scum bag, and it is my personal mission to find out which one of you noisy neighbors did it.  Who does that?!



Anyway, you probably came here to read about whether this works, so here we go:

The Tummy Tuck belt claims to work whether you choose to maintain your current lifestyle or exercise, though more/better results will come with exercising. *cue skepticism, but let's continue*  The booklet talks about getting small spurts of activity throughout the day, and outlines a healthy diet for those who are inclined (i.e. it's optional).  Since I work out regularly and eat pretty healthfully (as I am able!), I am not sure if my results were confounded, but I am pretty attuned to how my abs respond to exercise and diet.


The system:

For 30 days, I was supposed to wear the belt twice a day for 10 minutes after applying a thermogenic cream (it contains caffeine, and less pleasant things like parabens that are also present in many other products that are frequently used).  The first two minutes, I was supposed to do ab exercises and then kept it on for the remaining 8.  You can keep it on longer, and I sometimes did.  No washing off that cream for at least two hours, either.  Suffice to say that this was not easy, given my morning workout and shower routine and post-work laziness in the evenings, but I made it work for as long as I could.  Also, it tended to "roll up" when I sat in certain positions or tried to do complex ab exercises in it.

I did feel a little more warmth than usual after applying the cream, even hours afterward.  I guess that is the "thermogenic effect."  The first week, I lost .5" inches, which was a lot considering I had scaled back my workouts a little and wasn't eating perfectly.  I was optimistic about the progress, until the second week, when I gained an inch.  While my eating wasn't as good the second week, backward results = sign product doesn't work.  I think my dedication wavered at that point, missing a session here and there due to sleepiness at night or being late to work in the morning.  By the end of the 30 days, I stayed the +1" from the start.

"The Ukrainian" did this with me.  He stuck with it better than I did.  While he lost 2" in his waist, it could have been due to Insanity and healthy eating, rather than the belt itself.  He had been more optimistic than me but then noted that he didn't really think it worked.  After we were done with the month and went back to our normal routines, we were still toning up because we cleaned up our eating.  Hmmm.

However, wearing the belt claims to have an instant slimming effect (like Spanx!).  Here's my test of that:


In conclusion, if something seems to ridiculous that it couldn't be true, it probably isn't.  But for those with a lot of middle to "tuck," it might just have a better effect if one follows the diet and moderate exercise.  Perhaps doing the two minutes of "tucks" and the small thermogenic effects of the cream are useful, mainly for people who don't pay a lot of attention to their abs and want to try something different.
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FTC Disclaimer: I was sent samples of this product to review but was not otherwise compensated for providing any particular type of opinion.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Really Old Photo and Other Random Things

1) Looking back at old scrapbook photos, I'm starting to really feel the passage of time.  I used to have a really good memory of things that happened, to the point that I really thought I could never lose one of those "but you said..." arguments.

But sometimes, I can barely remember when I've done things, who said what, or what obligations I have.  This is probably more a result of mental "clutter" rather than age, but it is somewhat unsettling.  On another note, I kind of can't believe that I ever used to be that small.  Back then, cow and some sort of soy milk and Asian food primarily ran through my veins, but now, it's an unidentifiable mix of frosting, bread from the 99-cent store, peanut butter, and a smorgasbord of ethnic foods.


2) I think I'm hitting some sort of low.  You know you have when you're munching on vegan chik'n nuggets in your cubicle during lunch time.  I blame this heat wave, as I normally use this time for walking.

3) "The Ukrainian" finished the Insanity program.  He lost several inches off of himself, though like me, didn't lose any weight. 

As for me, I did three weeks a P90X/Insanity hybrid schedule but was not eating right.  Thinking back, starting another program so soon probably wasn't the best idea, but I was so excited to try it.  The P90X workouts made me have to rush all the time to work due to the time commitment.  I might try again next year... I did like how quickly my arm guns got hard doing this program.

I've actually re-started Insanity with "The Ukrainian" because, well, frankly, it's time-efficient and will get me through until the weather cools down for more running again.  It was actually his idea.  For now, I have been running when I can, and I am definitely not as fast as I used to be.  And that wasn't fast in the first place.  Dios mío... But I'm definitely not back at 'square one,' so I should be thankful for that.

4) Continuing with my point above, I'm burnt out.  Although it seems like I've been traveling and such, it's been for work, and besides that, I haven't taken off any significant time since early April (two days).  The weeks go by too fast, and too much of it is seemingly spent droning in front of the computer at work.  I really just want to take a week off to "stay-cation," but I think a bigger part of me would rather make money.

5) I'm going to review an infomercial product on here pretty soon... something more off-the-wall than Insanity/P90X.

6) I need to whip up two costumes soon -- one for the Rock N Roll Half-Marathon in Los Angeles at the end of October and the other for Halloween.  Since I was lazy last year and didn't make my Halloween costume (we assembled "The Ukrainian's," though), I'm going to TRY to be crafty this time.  Details on the running costume will come later, pending feasibility and projected success. ;)

Hint, a part of the running costume:

This cap was sent to me from the folks at Jackrabbit Caps, based in San Diego, CA.  I love that this cap is breathable, completely collapsible, and comes in a large size if needed (and I DO need it).  Oh, and as you can see, they are customizable for any running group or strange blogger with a twisted sense of bathroom humor.  You'll be seeing this cap again next month!!

Jackrabbit Caps is a fresh face in the running cap market.  Our sole focus is making high quality caps with unique designs and materials while providing top-notch customer service:       
  • To ensure the utmost quality, Jackrabbit Caps are handmade in the USA using comfortable moisture wicking or wool fabrics.
  • We can personalize any Jackrabbit Caps with embroidery or create an entirely custom cap through our sublimation process.
  • We also offer two sizes to ensure a great fit, as well as running caps specifically for men and women.
7) Speaking of October, I fear it.  Most of the weekends are filled (e.g., my cute x10000 niece turning 1), and one I will be out of town on behalf of a cross-country trip with my friends.

8) Today is the 10000th day I've been alive!  I calculated it randomly a while back and marked it on my calendar.  I thought I'd be doing something big, or at least running 10k, to celebrate, but work calls and my recent fatigue spell and heat sensitivities have kept me from donating blood like I had planned.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Here is what I looked like after seven hours at a photo studio and on-site shooting.  I showed this photo to my mom, and for a second, she thought it was someone else:

Kind of scary-looking, actually.

In comparison, here's regular ol' me (photo is a few years old, but basically I look the same... thank you, sunscreen):


When "The Ukrainian" and I decided we wanted to take formal engagement shots, I jokingly told him that we need to spend as much money as possible to work on this impossible case <-- i.e., me.

It was kind of a no-brainer for us to invest more in an engagement photographer than a wedding one.  The plan for the ceremony/reception is to take simple photos with those who attend and forget about specific arrangements, poses, or whatnot.  So doing a pre-photo shoot was intended to be relaxed but still formal.  Plus, these Taiwanese-style formal shoots are pretty common in this neck of the woods (even if I'm not at all Taiwanese).

I've probably mentioned this before, but I've grown up believing that I did not luck out in the gene pool, if you know what I mean.  Growing up among girls -- even the ones in school, I never found myself to be strong, smart, skinny, or pretty enough to be worthy of things, and it's not like Asian parenting includes building up children's self-esteem.  As I got older, I kind of started to roll my eyes every time someone made an off-handed comment about me, someone else, or even a celebrity, such as, "Oh, she got bigger" or "Something is wrong with her nose."  I mean, really?!  Don't we have bigger fish to fry?!!  Yet I would somehow take it personally and spent much of my existence fervently chasing goals -- believing I had to master that guitar, finish marathon upon marathon, graduate college in three years with top honors, get a high-roller job, and yes, even get a Ph.D -- just in order to feel on par with everyone else, believing that ugly girls gotta hustle, ya know?!  <-- stupidest thing ever  My friends have been calling me out this for more than a decade, but I'm finally owning up to it.  And yes, it's freaking ridiculous.  A work in progress.

In particular, my insecurities have risen since I got engaged (alluded to here).  Sometimes, it's all just a freaking comparison, and although upsetting, I eventually told myself that if I'm old enough to freaking get married, then I'm old enough to get over "the way things are."

Anyway......... whether I look like me or not, I sure did have fun:

{not my dress} I purposefully chose a picture that isn't all that identifying.  More may come later...

Our photographer and make-up artist were obviously very skilled -- money well spent (actually not nearly as much dinero as I had feared).  And most of all, in spite of societal pressures, I still think that looks are a stupid thing to use to judge people, and the fight to be more than just a shell continues.

The day of our shoot was one of the best I've ever had.  As I was riding in back of a golf cart to get to our shooting location, kids on a field trip were gasping and asking things like, "Whyyyy are they getting married?" "Whyyyy is there a princess?"  Adults were smiling at us.  I was totally the center of attention, and not in a negative way.  People in life often point out a lot of the things we do wrong -- that I have bad taste, don't [insert profanity here] conform, or fit in... or whatever.  But I could do no wrong that day.  Be still, my ego.

As much as I don't want to admit it, I've always wanted my "princess moment."  Finally.  You can sue me (well, not really... although in this country all damages above, what, $20? can be sued over, but let's end this random un-factoid) for wanting one... because I normally feel like a lump of coal.  Knowing that this day was about us and not having to worry about judgment, I could not stop thinking about the experience, even if I had to stand in sometimes uncomfortable and awkward positions.

I cannot thank the entire studio staff enough for their attentiveness and skill. <3  Now I feel like the pressure is off.  Thanks to all who have left nice comments and insights in my previous wedding posts.  It has been a nerve-wrecking, thoughtful, exciting, busy, yet sometimes lonely time.