Monday, December 31, 2012

Here We Go

Once again, I find myself in the last day of the year, which seem to come so much faster these days.

I'm getting older.  For the first time in life, I am really starting to feel (and see) this "getting older" rather than just fretting about my chronological age, mostly because the holidays always feel a little less magical every year.

Yet, somehow, I still retain many of my immature habits that I hope will start disappearing more with my age.  And I think if there is anything I want to commit to acknowledging and working on in 2013, it would be those.  I'll leave it at that.

As was the case this year, I am not overly concerned with how many miles I run in the coming year.  Besides maintaining my weight and fitness level (and surviving LA Marathon 2013), I don't think I have any real running goals besides the hope that it will be fun again and remain a part of my general fitness activities.  It is really strange to see such a lack of "Upcoming" races on my sidebar, especially after a busy 2012 in the racing realm.  I just don't have the same trigger reflex that I used to have when it comes to signing up for races.  I've done most of the appealing local ones, seemingly, and at this point, I'm hoping the saved registration fees will go toward me getting me away from my stomp-y upstairs neighbors.  Tentatively, "The Ukrainian" and I are aiming for two or three marathons over the course of next year (LA, possibly an Ojai repeat, and something in the Fall), but I'll first see how I handle the first one with my iffy attitude and training habits.

Finally, my professional status needs some work... and not by choice.  Again, leaving it at that.

It's really easy for me to chuck out a list of goals and hope that I meet them, but I really just want to focus on just "being" in the coming year.  Without adhering too much to my 2012 list, I think I've done a pretty good job at making my time count this year, regardless:

- I've had a lot of fun times with friends this year, more than previous years, perhaps because I opened my mind more to things.  Because of past circumstances (grad school, mostly), I was worried that I'd stop getting invited to stuff, but now I'm always grateful to those who remember me.

- My job became legit.

- I've read a lot more this year, and this was even true before I got a Kindle.  In the past three months alone, I think I read at least five books, which considering my history and how busy things have been, I consider that pretty good.  Some of those books have changed the way I perceive and handle things, though as with anything, additional time/work is required.

- With "The Ukrainian," we managed to pull off a wedding that exceeded our expectations and are adjusting well to married life.

- Although I never reached my weight loss goals, I reached a point that I found myself quite satisfied with physically (though recent holiday habits mean that I will need some work to get back to that point early in the year).

- I'm pretty sure I've cooked less in 2012 than previously, but when I did, I found myself to be more adept at it, and the results were tastier than before.

- Even with decreased training, I pulled off two half-marathon series and two marathon times of which I'm pretty proud, as well as my first race in "costume."

- I covered a lot of miles this year -- miles traveled, that is.  In the past six months, I've stayed in Boston, Chicago, San Diego (multiple times), Las Vegas, Mammoth Lakes, Oahu, New York, and San Francisco.  Many of these were work-related, so I got to experience traveling alone, which was definitely different.  I don't foresee any real travel next year, though.

- I finished Insanity twice!

Some pretty significant unpleasant stuff came up this year, particularly toward the end of it, but rather than dwell, I'd rather think about the stuff above.

Here's to another year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dairy Tales

One night, I decided to order fries for dinner.  While not the best choice, I wasn't exactly hungry and just wanted something to pick at while "The Ukrainian" ate his meaty dish.

The fries were supposed to come with ketchup and garlic aioli, which is essentially mayo.  Mayonnaise is a friend of mine because although it does contain egg, it doesn't contain any dairy/lactose, which results in this situation:


About half an hour into my fry-eating and dipping, I suddenly got familiar stabbing pains in my stomach.  I actually had not had this happen in quite a while, in spite of consuming things like:

- cheddar, gouda, swiss, and other such cheeses
- pizza slices
- pancakes and other baked goods I'm assuming were prepared with dairy
- cakes (though I usually don't eat all the cream in my lactose fears), even tiramisu and cheesecake
- butter on my bread, buttery things, etc.

Yes, the "aioli" did seem a little runny... and did taste a little like buttermilk ranch or sour cream.  I should have asked but was being careless.  I didn't even eat a whole lot of that dip, maybe a tablespoon in total.  Sure, I didn't take my Lactaid, but it doesn't really stop this kind of reaction, anyway.

I spent the rest of the night laying and feeling like someone was blowing up balloons in my gut.  Each time I do this to myself, I feel somewhat resentful that I am one of the few Asian-Americans I know who can't chug a boba milk tea, when supposedly 90% of Asians have lactose intolerance.  And outside of my race (including my milk-drinking husband), it's pretty much unheard of.

I remember having a lot of stomachaches as a kid, sometimes wasting half the night in the restroom cramping and accepting that this is just happens once in a while.  Sometimes, I'm in denial -- "If I can eat cheese sometimes, I can't be lactose intolerant."  "If it takes so long to digest food, how could I feel pain so quickly after eating dairy?"  "Maybe it's all in my head." (e.g., the smell of milk disgusts me)

Of course, things could always be worse -- at least a night of pain and my stomach vocalizing itself is my main side-effect and not something life-threatening or permanent.  However, I do hope that none of my potential children inherit this cursed condition that I haven't even figured out completely. (Though I did read that pregnancy may temporarily stop this condition... it's not a very effective solution, of course.)




In the past, I had decided that because of these problems, I should just cut dairy out completely.  After all, it IS the most ethical thing.  However, since I keep coming back to it, I know that I am not ready for my full moral aspirations just yet.  So I try to keep my dairy consumption low in lactose, per a lactose reference chart I referenced in a previous post.  Overall, I think using that chart as a guide has helped me avoid episodes like this by and large.... though as I said before, I got careless this time.

I think some part of me keeps hoping that the exposure to small amounts of lactose has increased my tolerance over time.  Apparently not!  I have other reactions to things such as certain fruits and acne medications (which was horrible because I definitely needed those as a teen!), but none other comes to mind and stomach more frequently than dairy.

On that note... enjoy the rest of the holiday season, and savor your dairy if you can eat it without adverse reactions!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bringing Light

This past Friday, I had just finished my 36-mile trek to have lunch with my boss, and when I looked at my phone, I saw a slew of disgust on my social media feeds regarding the shooting in Newtown, CT.

I was almost late to meet her because I was kept digging for more.  Digging for the name and photo of the culprit, perhaps because I wanted to start making attributions in relation to his behavior.  I wanted to know what kind of person would have the nerve to point guns at small children and pull the trigger.

According to evolutionary psychology, we aren't supposed to be killing ANY children -- they could very well belong to us or someone genetically related to us.  We are supposed to help them, and their cute faces kind of compel us to do so.  Obviously, there was something very wrong for that evolutionary instinct to have failed in this young man.  

This public shooting thing is getting old.  Besides mentally processing them as they occur, I am reminded yearly of the anniversary of the Columbine shootings because it happened on one of my birthdays.  In high school, on that same date, there was a car fire at my high school.  My best friend and I went up close to take pictures of it for the school newspaper.  Only later did we find out that the car had been rigged with a large amount of gas and was intended to be a car bomb.  A car bomb gone wrong, luckily.

It's easy to attribute these occurrences to "society turning south" or whatnot.  We usually try to figure out which mental illness these shooters have, in order to make some sense of it all, in order to stigmatize people and in order to feel at ease that this isn't just something that "normal" people do.  As someone who studied psychology, I am definitely torn on the issues regarding how to manage those with mental illnesses.  Too often, we just look away, hoping to ignore their existence, perhaps because we really don't know what to do or because we are afraid of their unpredictability.  And when shootings like this happen, we can only further stigmatize -- or worse, propose some form of genocide/eugenics.  In my mind, we have a big problem very difficult to solve and too much ambiguity in society to come together and work on it.  (Same thing with the "gun control" debate, though I tend to be an anti-hunting vegetable lover who has lost classmates from guns and definitely has an opinion on the issue.)

What compelled me to write this post in particular, though, is that the thought of pointing guns at/killing small children struck me in an exceptional way.  It made me nauseated, actually.  Although children constantly crying/whining on planes definitely doesn't make me a happy camper, I have a bright, energetic toddler-aged niece and definitely a soft spot for the young children at our local synagogue... dancing, singing, and generally more understanding of "the right thing to do" than most adults.

They were dancing around in a circle during a Hanukkah dinner I attended this weekend, and along with the overwhelming feelings of "cuteness" I experienced, I immediately thought about the shooting again.  Hanukkah is a highly children-oriented holiday, and as one might be able to guess one of its themes is to "bring light" to where there is otherwise darkness (typically by doing good deeds/giving rather than just receiving).



And from what I've seen, children do often bring that light.  Last week, someone extinguished 20 sources of light, and I'm sure he would have done more had it not been for some very quick-thinking heroes.  Well, I guess he tried... as of course these children's essences have only grown since then. 

Although........ the thought of twenty sets of parents unable to bring their little sons/daughters home is utterly unimaginable and brings me a shadow of sadness for sure.  Unfortunately, every time a bomb goes off in the Middle East, a child is beaten by their parents, or starved to death by their governments, that shadow grows even more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Top Searches of 2012

I just stumbled upon this Geekologie article about the top Google searches of 2012.

Given that I regularly check my blog's stats to see what searches are driving traffic here, I was definitely intrigued by this.

While 2012 isn't over yet, it's kind of interesting to see what were the "hot topics" of the year.

Here are the overall ones for the US:



My initial comments...
- Who is Michael Clarke Duncan?  I think I saw him on the Ellen DeGeneres show??
- Jeremy Lin, you've done us proud
- What an eventful year!
- I'm glad Katy Perry isn't on here, though she did rank in the "Top Celebrity Searches," ugh


And just for kicks, here are the searches in Vietnam, where my parents are from:


In other news, "The Ukrainian" and I got a couple of texts yesterday wishing us a "happy mini anniversary."  Yep, that's right, we've made it through a month and are getting close to beating Kim Kardashian.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hawaiian Honeymoon

I'm fairly certain this will be my last wedding-related post, at least for now. ;)

A couple of days after the big day, "The Ukrainian" and I went to Oahu, HI.  I've been wanting to go to Hawaii since I was a kid, so to cross two items off my "list" (marrying and going there) felt great.  I've gone on some business trips this year, so I've covered a lot of miles relative to the norm and found the airport-ing fairly routine by now.

Most of our five-ish days there were fairly relaxed in pace, which is exactly what I wanted after all the excitement.  We had spent the previous days before we flew out there relaxing, visiting family, not cooking in favor of eating out, getting massages -- basically spending time away from our stupid upstairs neighbors who are seemingly awake very early and late, constantly walking like their feet are made of lead and don't seem to work during the day. =/

Anyhow, I'll start the barrage of photos now:

Ramen, my first post-landing meal (the meat was eaten for me).  Quality was about average, says this ramen-snob.

The famous Waikiki beach.  The first day was the only real sunny one we got.  The lei was part of a Groupon deal, more detail below.

Had to eat some gluttonous macadamia nut pancakes... SO good.  Pancakes in general are seemingly better in Hawaii. 

Some other resort near the Aulani... much prettier side of the island.
Part 2 of Groupon, all-day island tour! (Part 3 was round-trip airport shuttle... totally worth it!)

Stopped at the Dole Plantation and had Dole whip (dairy-free frozen pineapple dessert).  Yes, they have this in So Cal, but I haven't gone.  Forgot I tend to get an itchy throat when I consume too much pineapple... this amount (shared with "The Ukrainian") was enough to make me a bit tight in the throat.  Whoops.


These contained SPAM seasoning,... so good!

More tropical snacks...

Lunch stop was at a ranch... ribs and taro rolls... mmm.  I had a weird veggie patty with rice. =/

View as we were eating lunch.

So many macadamia nut samples!

View from atop a VERY windy mountain.

Hanauma Bay... we came back here to snorkel, and boy did I whine in terror.  I wasn't afraid of swimming around the fish or anything, but the breathing itself took some getting used to.

Came here upon recommendation.  This is fast food, but tastier and had veggie chili. =)

Malasadas... filled Portuguese donuts!! 

View from the room one morning.

Made sure to have some tropical drinks (pina colada + blue Hawaiian). 

Nice breakfast, husband! (benedict, pancakes, loco moco)

Homemade udon, rice balls, and tempura.  Be still, my heart.

HAD to try the shaved ice on my last night there.  So light and flavorful!

Although it was pretty short, I think we were ready to return to reality by the time we came home.  We're the kind of people who like to take shorter, more frequent vacations, and hopefully this was just the first of the many more. =)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wedding -- All the Details

I'm not a very crafty person.  Okay, everyone says that about themselves to fish for compliments, but this is how I really feel, so get over it.

I should say, I used to be a crafty person, until I lost confidence in my crafting abilities.  I'm not really sure how I internalized this belief about myself, as I flex my creative muscles almost yearly for Halloween (here and here are some examples).  As you can see, self-efficacy isn't among my frequently-used self-management tools.

Although I walked into this wedding-planning process with the best of intentions, I ended up relinquishing control of a lot of things I otherwise would have "DIY-ed."  I remember working on many other things myself, feeling a tinge of sadness but then thinking it was ridiculous that I'd be sad about assembling such a small number of things for the size of our wedding.

Here are some of the details of our ceremony/reception (all-in-one), in case anyone needs ideas.  And as always, feel free to contact me anytime.

1) "The Dress" / Veil / Shoes / Accessories

I shopped with one person, my closest female friend.  She volunteered for this, so I figured it'd be best to take her, otherwise, I didn't feel comfortable asking people who may not have wished to go.  The original intent was to rent because I didn't want to store the dress afterward, but fate had a different outcome.

This dress came off the clearance rack at Alfred Angelo (after shopping at a couple of other places, trying on around 10 dresses).  I had not been checking that rack, since those are usually filled with dresses that don't fit or are too revealing.  My friend insisted I try on a dress from there that was, like, two sizes smaller than I know myself to be... and it somehow fit.  This dress was under $300, and for that, I owe her a limb.  Cheaper than any (decent) rental I could have found.


I wanted to buy a veil from here, but it cost more than half the cost of the dress, which seemed wrong to me.  I decided to rent from my engagement photographer/make-up artist, along with jewelry because I didn't already have "nice enough" stuff.  This actually was quite the cost-saver.  Also, I altered my dress at a dry cleaners -- I trusted her because she did my sister's bridal gown and our bridesmaids dresses for her wedding three years ago.  The seamstress needed to shorten the dress (which was not straight-forward due to intricate edging on the bottom), attach a back-panel, close off an area in the back, and create a bustle.  She also pressed it, for a total of $80.

My faux eyelashes kept poking at the veil during the ceremony...

As for the shoes (which really didn't appear in photos anyway!), they came from Off Broadway shoes, an outlet of sorts that "The Ukrainian" likes to stop by all the time because it's near his parents' house.  They were about $35 and fit the bill because this wasn't something I really cared about and just wanted to be comfortable (and be able to re-use them for non-bridal purposes!).

I'm not going to say a lot about the tux, as we just went to Men's Wearhouse and were in-and-out in like 20 minutes.  "The Ukrainian" already had a nice pair of special-occasion Italian shoes that he got for around $80 a number of years ago.  Oh, men.

2) Flowers

I really wanted to DIY this, but this involved importing unknown pieces of young bamboo from Taiwan with no samples to go on, so I bailed.  Plus, I didn't want to worry about keeping all of them alive in the months-long heat-wave we had here and then bringing them to the destination on the "day of" when we already didn't exactly have that much help.

These arrangements came from here.  I felt insecure about not seeing an exact sample of what it'd look like, but since I wasn't "set" on something exact, I just trusted them.

The Flower Mart, Temple City


3) The "Chuppah"

I always envisioned that we would have a Jewish-style wedding, and part of the reason for that is because I wanted to build a "chuppah," a canopy that symbolizes a couples first "home" together.  Given my Asian-American heritage, and my long-time love of the color green, and bamboo's strength + versatile uses, we decided to make bamboo the unofficial theme of the wedding.  Unfortunately, big bamboo stalks are NOT green, but ehhh, close enough.  I liked their rustic look.



We found a bamboo wholesale in Orange County and went down there one morning to pick up six poles about 2" in diameter and about 8 feet tall (less than $20).  We had a major snafu in constructing this... as it was supposed to be free-standing...  All's well that ends well, though!  We also had the option of borrowing one from a synagogue, but it was a fun project and meaningful because we had to work together on it.


4) The "Ketubah" + the Rest of the Ceremony Items

Along the Jewish-style wedding thread, we had a "ketubah," which is basically a marriage contract.


Although traditional texts vary in terms of how they, um, frame women, we went with some generic egalitarian text and had our names transliterated into Hebrew.  We purchased ours at Gallery Judaica, and it came with a free breaking glass (which we got in green but it never left the pouch!).  The artist had to customize ours and send it over shortly before the wedding date.



We also picked up a "kippah," also known as a "yarmulke," and a tallit (prayer cloth used during the ceremony).  The store was pretty neat and located near my alma mater, which I didn't even know... but then again, I did not foresee myself marrying a Jewish person back then, so hmm.

Finally, we were asked to procure candlesticks, to be used in the future for major holidays and such.  We ended up getting ours at Goodwill.  You can also spot one of our "kiddush" cups on the left side (from Amazon because I couldn't find a reasonably-priced one anywhere!)



5) The Favors

Going along with the bamboo theme, we decided (or I decided, LOL) to hand out fortune cookies as favors.  I am kind of an anti-clutter person, so I didn't want to contribute to people's junk piles.  Edible favors = no junk.  We ordered these from fancyfortunecookies.com in green apple + white chocolate flavor with our names and wedding date inside, plus a message thanking our guests for sharing in our special day.  I also got some green organza bags from eBay (for super cheap), though I overestimated the size and really struggled fitting the cookies inside (see below, they are around the centerpiece).



The other favor... well, prop, that we gave guests was a red envelope (from Chinatown) filled with chocolate coins from World Market.  They didn't get to hold onto these too long, though, as these were for participating in the entertainment...


6) The Entertainment + Photography

We had a lion dance troupe, recommended by a friend, come in for some expensive 15 minutes, lol.  They are really the best in the area, jumping up and over each other, etc., and their purpose was to bring us good luck.  Guests got to interact by "feeding" red envelopes to the lions.  Since we did a Jewish ceremony, it was fitting to have this is our main entertainment.


Since we overspent on engagement photography, I took a friend up on an offer he made long before I was engaged to take photos at the wedding as his gift to me.  While it took bringing another friend and some assurance that they didn't need to be "perfect," I think this was a win-win (they get to build their portfolio, and we didn't have to look for another photographer).  One thing I made SURE to do was send a table with the rough program and desired shots for each part.  We also met up at the venue a few months before to give them an idea of space, lighting, etc.

We have a ton of photos now, so now I must task myself with creating an album........ =/


7) Invitations / Name Tags / Table Numbers

Invitations are things that I never understood too well... do people even keep those?  Given the small guest list, we decided to just buy a kit from Amazon and print them ourselves.  Well, turns out that it was a little more complicated than hoped, so I did enlist $10 to have Kinko's do it for me, but in the end, the whole she-bang was less than a dollar per invitation.  I had clear address labels already from the past, so those got used.  We also decided to forego "Save the Dates" in lieu of just calling and/or telling people the date in person.

The name tags were also an Amazon purchase, and this time, the printing was fairly straightforward.  The Table Numbers came pre-printed from Michael's craft store for about $6... I had other ideas for this, but this was the most straightforward and aesthetically fitting option.


8) Make-up / Nails

I went back to my engagement photographer's make-up artist to do my get-up for the wedding day.  This turned out to be a money-saver because rental of jewelry, veil, and accessories were included.  I didn't want to have to buy all these things (see note in #1 about clutter).

As for nails, well, I know most brides get a mani/pedi, but since I've never gotten one, I was terrified to start.  Nail salons have always given me the "heebies," and the fear of cuticle-cutting and infection and people touching my feet = nooooo.  Plus, my mom has always told me how nice my nails are and that I shouldn't let people cut/push my cuticles.

So, with my first bottle of $8 OPI (Newlywed shade, or something like that), I painted my own nails two days before the wedding.  Who the eff looks that closely, anyway?!

9) The Cake

"The Ukrainian"'s mother wanted to have a larger role in the planning than she did, but we really wanted to do our own thing, so we compromised with the cake.  I'm glad we did, as Russian cakes taste better than I have experienced in the past.  This is a cranberry-flavored "jaconda" cake from a bakery in West Hollywood... totally not-too-sweet, and pretty!


10) Send-off

I'll make this short:  $1/15 sticks at Michaels ... not the best quality or photograph that well during the day, but this was such a minor/short thing that that didn't matter


------

So there it is... in a super-long nutshell.  Since we were uncertain about all the hooplah in the first place, I am ELATED to be done with this process and money-drain.  Although I wasn't feeling very confident that "enough" was put into this, we were praised for our hands-on efforts and thoughtfulness when it came to representing both of our cultures in the event.  Again overall, I was very satisfied with how it came out, and I will remember it forever.

Still, I think I'll just stick to Halloween-costumes for the time being.... =)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Running... and Not Running

A number of things have been keeping me from blogging as regularly as I would like.  I also have a few products that I have not reviewed yet...  This is not like me, at all.

For some reason, even though the wedding is over, I find myself with less "down" time than I expected.  I have been working on some post-wedding projects such as name-changing, our album, and thank-you stuff... but honestly I had to (finally) finish watching the Game of Thrones box set that I borrowed from my friend too long ago.

Still a couple of episodes left.

Besides that, I think work has been somewhat of a hindrance, though I won't go into anymore detail at this moment.

In spite of rain that has finally arrived in Southern California, I've also been running more, sort of.  Due to my newfound unwillingness to wake up early in the morning, I've primarily been running during lunch time, both outdoors and on the treadmill (sometimes).  Last week, my mileage total was 19, which sounds measly but much better than before.  "The Ukrainian" signed up for the Surf City Marathon coming up in February, though I had already signed up to volunteer again and wasn't sure I wanted to run a marathon a month before LA Marathon.  This is also not like me, and it even solicited a "you're not running marathons anymore because you're married?" comment.  Ouch.

Truthfully, my racing schedule for 2013 (see the sidebar on the right) looks a lot more bare than I would like.  I guess after an action-packed 2012, my wallet is probably pretty happy about that, though.  I keep picking up Competitor magazine every time I hit up a Jamba Juice to look for upcoming races, but nothing really piques my interest because I've either done the event before or the timing/uniqueness of the event doesn't feel right.  So for now, I have a couple of shorter races that are basically "for fun" and LA Marathon -- and my tentative goal for that race is to perform similarly as this year.

I'm still running sans Garmin, though I will probably start wearing it for "long" runs that I've started attempting again.  I've really grown to like heart-rate monitoring, mostly because I don't feel pressured but still feel like I am "logging" something (minutes, calories burned, intensity, etc.).  Running has been a lot more do-able overall due to this lack of pressure and structured training schedule, though I am aware that I do need to hit specific "long run mileage" before March.  

Most of the time, though, I feel like I'm starting (nearly) from scratch.