The Year of the Christmas Craft: The Soap Chronicles (of the Honey Almond Oatmeal variety)

One benefit to being unemployed and broke is that you are forced to get creative for the holidays. That, or go into debt. I’ve inevitably ended up doing both. My family and friends have been alerted to the fact that I am going handmade or bust this year, so here goes nothin!

My first Christmas Craft is Honey Almond Oatmeal Goat’s Milk soap (sorry it’s a mouthful…of SOAP. HA.). ahem. There are many reasons this is a wonderful gift. First off, it’s fairly cheap to pull off (especially if you have a 40% off Michael’s coupon). Secondly, it’s EASY. Third, you can’t get the kitchen TOO messy because, well…it’s soap.

I adapted Angie’s oatmeal soap recipe after I found out I had everything she used already sitting in my cart. To this recipe I added honey and some almond extract. There have been no scientific studies on how these two additional ingredients will mesh – I will let you know post-Christmas if any of my recipients develop any rashes.

For 3 bars of soap, here is what I used:
12 chunks of Goat’s Milk Soap
approx 1/3 cup of slightly ground oats
72 drops or so of Sweet Almond soap extract (so that each chunk got 6 drops)
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

photo 1

(don’t forget the extract, if you dare to be adventurous as me!)

Grind up some oats ever so gently. You don’t want them to be powder, but big flakes won’t work well, either. I used my coffee grinder.

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Melt that soap! I put the blocks into a bowl and microwaved for 50 seconds to start, then 10 seconds at a time until everything was just melted down. When the soap was a nice warm liquid, I added my oats, soap extract, honey & almond extract. I found it helpful to not take too long during the mixing/pouring stages, as the soap hardens back up fairly quickly. However, as I found out the first time I tried this, another great thing about making soap is that you can just throw the bowl back in the microwave and re-heat! (So don’t waste any hardened bits!)
Before pouring, I chose to sprinkle some whole oats around the border of the molds for decorative purposes.

photo 3photo 5

Pour the soap into your molds, and feel free to sprinkle some more oatmeal on top (er, bottom).

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After a good little while (I waited an hour just to be safe), pry those bad boys out, wrap em up all nice and pretty, and give them to someone you love! (Or someone you don’t love, if it turns out my 2 magic ingredients cause harm)

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Thank you for a wonderful recipe, Angie!

And just for fun, because I love them.
And because it’s really nice to spend a day crafting and look over and see this.

photo (4)


Our Day at Big Bear

Yesterday Tilley and I went to Big Bear to check out a dog sitter for the holidays. While we were there I figured we should take advantage of the blue skies and go for a little walk. We took the Woodland nature trail where we learned quite a bit about trees and…trees. It was a beautiful walk. I only wish M had been with us to narrate the self-guided tour pamphlet. He does such a good job with those things…

photo 3Tilley and a 1,500 year old juniper. My, what long legs you have!

photo 1This was one of the cooler things we saw: A Jeffrey Pine that’s being used as a granary by acorn woodpeckers! They make hundreds of holes in this one tree and store acorns for the winter. Amazing!!

photo 2Cool, right??

photo 4The slopes are open! Hardly!

We had a big day. It was only natural that Tilley pass out in bed with me. And, what’s this?? The cat is voluntarily getting cozy, too? And getting closer and closer to the dog? And purring?? What is going on??
Wait, it was a full moon last night, wasn’t it? Mmmm…sneaky moon! Making my animals get along like never before… I’ll take it!


Packet Pick Up Problem

I’ve decided to throw in one more race before the holidays. It’s a holiday-themed 5k and while it is far away and was way too expensive, I just couldn’t help myself. I’m kind of addicted. At least it’s a healthy addiction? (Though my wallet would say otherwise)

Ok so I have a question for you. This race is 2 1/2 hours away from home (I’m insane). I have a wonderful dog who will have to stay at home, and so I will drive in the morning of. Whenever I possibly can, I pick up my race packet the day before – I hate the stress of running around pre-race. In this situation, however, due to the distance, I planned on picking up my packet morning-of. To my surprise, I saw that there was a $20 fee to pick up your packet on the morning of the race. In years past they’ve gotten themselves into a pickle with too many runners picking up in the morning, and so this is their way of deterring people from waiting til the last minute. For those in the LA area, they will also be holding packet pick ups there over the weekend (this option is free). But I’m still 1 1/2 hours from LA! I mean, I TOTALLY get it – no one likes a late race, and I understand how crazy race logistics get. But $20?? What about those of us who don’t have many options? Unfortunately I don’t know anyone else running the race, or I would have them grab my bib. But now I’m forced to choose between paying $20 to pick up the morning-of or drive 3-hours round trip the day before. Ugh. I can’t afford the registration as it is! 

Anyway – this 5k is the little sister to the day’s main event – the half-marathon. I don’t think I’m ready for another one of those quite yet. This race is mostly to help me figure out if the 5k I ran at Universal earlier this month was a fluke or if I am in fact becoming a stronger runner. Plus it’s a good excuse to go down the mountain and see some friends. Ah! I just realized in this moment that the race is less than 2 weeks away. Where IS the time going?? I’d better get some jump squats in pronto!

Back At It

Ok guys, after a week filled with friends and family from near and far, I am back!

I have done my fair share of eating every type of potato under the sun, and now it’s time to run those bad boys off! I will admit, I have loved every second of gluttony, and I don’t feel tooooo bad about it. By this point I have finished almost all of the leftovers, and I’m down to the large vat of turkey soup I made over the weekend. Accompanied with a Thanksgiving biscuit, of course.

My RunKeeper program sends me alerts when I’ve accomplished a new goal or reached a new milestone – I’m surprised I didn’t receive one this week declaring my “Shortest distance run in a week! Zero miles!” My family was out visiting from the east coast and, wanting to spend every second with them, I didn’t run. I knew I’d get back into it, but I didn’t know how much taking a week off up at altitude would affect my lung capacity. First run back out over the weekend and I was huffing and puffing from the get go. I eventually settled into a rhythm, but it brought back bad memories of the first few weeks after moving up here. Note to self: No more bouts of 6 days off! I tried to up the intensity today by doing 60-second intervals. Then I did 4 sprints up the Hill of Death and called it a night. Looking forward to warming up in the shower.

I did have an incredibly enjoyable run last weekend. I needed to kill some time in Riverside while M was at a video shoot. I found a nearby park and, having thought ahead and brought my running gear with me, decided to go for a jog. Before I knew it, I had run 8 miles. My lungs were so thrilled to be breathing in air below 1000 feet, I just couldn’t help myself. I felt strong and fast – I need to make it down the mountain to do longer runs in the future!

In other news, I finally had a real job interview last week. Being a fairly superstitious woman, I will not say anything other than the fact that it felt so good to finally get in front of someone. It is so much tougher out there than I thought, and I count myself lucky to have made it to the next step. Stay tuned!

Ok, it’s nearing supper time and I’ve got some soup to slurp. Plans to start crafting Christmas cards and watch UltraMarathon Man to get inspired for a long run tomorrow 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Santa Barbara Half-Marathon Recap!

What an exhausting weekend! And a lovely one at that, full of friends, pasta and PRs. I love Santa Barbara.

The expo on Friday was fun – I finally tried a clif shot gel. I’ve never had a gel before. The vanilla was really tasty, but I’m not sure how I’d feel about ingesting one in the middle of a run. I’ll have to practice! Erica and I met up post-expo with her co-worker Scott. I devoured a huge plate of spaghetti, my garlic bread AND Scott’s, and topped it all off with a cone of Chocolate Therapy from Ben & Jerry’s. I went to bed very full.

The hotel Matt & I shared with Erica was pleasant enough. The dog, however, decided that it would be best to jump on the bed and walk around at 3:40 in the morning, a full hour and 20 minutes before I had to wake up. That part sucked. When 5am did finally roll around, I jumped out of bed, made a bowl of oatmeal, chugged some coffee, and suited up. Annie had stayed in Oxnard the night before and I had picked up her bib at the expo, so she stopped by the hotel to gather her goodies. With Matt at the wheel (he really is a wonderful race supporter), we were off just a few minutes later to gather Scott and head over to the starting line by 6:15/6:30 for a 7:15 start. And here is where I started to FREAK OUT.

I like getting to a race start early. I usually need to pee more than a few times, and I need a few minutes to get into the zone before the gun goes off. Figuring 45 min to an hour would be more than enough time, we asked Scott to be ready and waiting at his hotel at 6am. We got there at 6:10 to no Scott. We called him only to find out that he was across the street at Denny’s, waiting for his food. Ok, we’ll come over there and grab you. (Also – who orders something from Denny’s right before a race?? My stomach was turning) We sat outside in the idling car as I watched him stand in the front of the restaurant, waiting for his food. My watched ticked to 6:15. 6:20. 6:25. Matt lent me his hand to squeeze as the terror crept into my eyes. At 6:30, knowing that not only were we still 5-10 min away from the start, and that if it was anything like last year’s drop off, we were going to have a half-mile walk to the start, I ran into Denny’s, where Erica was already trying to get some sort of food delivery timeline from the poor hostess. “Matt is just going to bring me and he’ll come back for you!” I blurted out, caught between wanting to keep to my pre-race routine and not wanting to make an embarrassing scene in front of this nice man I had just met the nice before.

Scott left his food and followed us back to the car. It was at that point that I started feeling guilty for acting like a maniac. But, come on. Denny’s?? Ahem. For some reason, when we finally made it to the long line of cars near the drop off, we were waved into a different line. This line of cars was completely stopped. Scott jumped out and asked what was going on, only to be told that the start was RIGHT there and so we all jumped out. By some grace of God, a nearby firefighter surveying the traffic saw us scrambling across the road and told us how to sneak through the hole in the gate behind the station. Before we knew it, we were standing in the middle of the crowd, surrounded by porto potties galore. While I was using said potty, I heard over the loudspeaker that it was time for us to start lining up. We finished up our business and ran to the start, dumping our bags in the user-friendly bag drop boxes located along the side of the road. I finally found Annie and then my old co-worker Tim popped up out of nowhere! And THEN they pushed the start of the race back 15 minutes! It was all meant to be.

After jogging back to the bathrooms 3 more times, I positioned myself in the back of the 5-8 minute corral. My secret goal was 1:45, approx 8:00 min/miles. Before I knew it, we were off. My first 2 miles were around 7:35 min and so I forced myself to slow down. Around mile 4 I had to pee again (what is WRONG with me??) but I pushed the urge out of my mind and made it through with little annoyance.

I had brought a canned good with me to the expo and was given a pace tattoo in return. I love these things. It was so helpful to look down at my wrist and see exactly where I was in relation to my goal. I tried to leave myself a good minute of buffer for the dreaded Killer Cliff Drive hill at mile 10, until I reached the 10k mark and saw that at 52:32 I was now over a minute behind my goal! After a brief moment of panic, I realized I wasn’t necessarily in a bad position. I was a bit behind my goal pace for the first half – so, if I ran this race correctly, I’d be able to kick it in during the second half and get that negative split I was looking for (I’m still learning how to race…can ya tell?? :)). I amped up the effort just a bit and within the next 2 miles got myself right where I wanted to be – 1 minute under goal pace.

Soon I arrived at mile 10: the 1-mile ascent. For some reason, this hill was not nearly as frightening as it had been last year. I saw a girl in front of me struggling and tried to encourage her on up the hill. Not sure she heard me, but I know I appreciate when fellow runners cheer me on, so I hope it helped her a bit. I read somewhere that cheering on another runner or interacting with the spectators will take 3-5 seconds off your mile! Now I don’t think that is quite possible, but it did truly make me feel a tiny bit faster 🙂

Could the end of this race be any prettier?

Before I knew it, I saw the girls holding the “It’s all downhill from here!” signs. I smiled as I ran past and out onto the stretch overlooking the Pacific. It was the most beautiful sight. Being that it was Veteran’s Day weekend, the last mile was decorated in American flags – there were even volunteers handing out mini flags for us to wave through the finish. When I looked at my watch at mile 12 I saw that I was 1 minute 30 sec ahead of pace. I don’t know what happened that last mile, but I must have flown down that hill, because I ended up just over 3 minutes faster than my goal. I finished, smiling, in 1:41:51.

I made my way, slowly, around the track, hoping to catch my friends coming in. I managed to see Annie coming in down the chute and yelled for her as loud as I could. I was so so proud of her. This was her first half-marathon and the longest she had ever run. Girl finished in 2:02. I was almost more excited for her than for myself.

It was so nice to finish with a group of friends, especially a group of friends who had all PR’d! The rain had held off, the air not tooo chilly, we made it to the start on time, and everyone finished with a smile on their face. What more could we have asked for?

Official stats:
time: 1:41:51 [10k – 52:32 / finish – 49:18]
overall: 284/3541
ladies: 73/2279
age: 17/663

SBIM, Here I Come!

Getting ready to leave the mountains and head on over to beautiful Santa Barbara!
I am very much looking forward to running the half tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed the rain holds off and the temperature bumps itself up maybe 5-10 degrees? (Currently the forecast is at 40. Chilly!) This is the first time I’ll have a little crew of racing buddies with me and I’m super excited. Nothing like knowing you’ve got friends experiencing the same joys and pains you are 🙂

I went for a beautiful 4-mile trail run yesterday evening through the clouds. It felt so nice to run in the rain and the run was honestly one of the most enjoyable ones in recent memory. I’m at the point where I know I’ve done all I can do to train for tomorrow, so to just relax and enjoy a rainy day run was just what I needed. I feel refreshed and ready to tackle tomorrow! Here’s to tonight’s pasta dinner!

The Important Thing To Remember Is…

On Tuesday I voted for Obama. I sat in front of my computer that evening, watching the returns on MSNBC, slowly biting my fingernails off until we had secured victory. When the word was given, I danced around and smiled. I watched my facebook feed fill up with whoops, hollers and exclamation points. Soon after the initial projection was made, in between the congratulatory statuses of my fellow Obama-supporters, I noticed some other thoughts starting to pop up.

Some of my friends who had voted for Romney were not happy. Some were silent, some vocal. I understood. These people felt as strongly about the prospect of Mitt Romney leading our country as I did about Barack Obama doing the same. If Obama had been defeated I would have felt defeated, too. So I understood their disappointment. There was one facebook friend of mine, however, who was so utterly disgusted by the results that she requested that anyone -friends or family- who had voted for Obama “unfriend” her, immediately. I couldn’t tell if she was serious or not, but when she people actually started removing themselves from her list, I got a little concerned.

In all honesty, I hardly know the girl. We share a love for the same band and ran into one another at a number of concerts. I think she’s a riot and a whole heck of a lot of fun to be around. That said, I was shocked by her request. Feeling an urge to reach out, I sent her a private message. I told her that she had been popping up a lot on my page and while I respected her feelings of discontent, I thought she was really great and I enjoyed sharing a mutual musical love. I hoped we could still stay friends, regardless of our political differences. She wrote back, apologizing for her moment of weakness. She admitted she had let her anger get the best of her. We joked around, shared a few smiley faces, and that was that.

So. What’s the point of all of this? To me, this little instance was a reminder of what really matters between friends and family. Sure, let’s disagree on policy and presidents, but let’s not forget that we love the same music. You and I enjoy the same foods, the same healthy lifestyle habits. We share clothes and jokes. We love to run. This is why we’re friends. Let’s appreciate our similarities rather than let our few differences get in the way of our friendship, whether it blossomed 25 years ago while in nursery school or 2 years ago in line for a concert.

WeSPARK 5k Recap (and a big win!)

Clearly this race was a bundle of fun. But let’s start at the beginning!

5am: After waking up every hour between 11pm and 5am (I can’t help it, I get so excited!), it was finally late enough for me to get out of bed. Poured the coffee, ate the oatmeal, walked the dog, out the door by 5:45. Because of the time change, I got a lovely view of the sunset as I was zipping down the mountain. The rising sun coupled with “Friends” by the Beach Boys got me to Universal Studios safe and sound by 7:15.

I parked and headed over to the expo to pick up my packet. I was pretty excited to get bib #1999. I had Prince stuck in my head all morning.

Being as I had an hour until start time at 8:45, I actually had time to warm up properly. I stretched and jogged around for 15 minutes while I waited for my friend, Jackie. This was her first racing event and she planned to walk it with some friends. It’s always nice to have some pals around pre and post race! While I was jogging in circles I caught sight of Max Greenfield, who was going to be starting the race. He plays Schmidt on the show New Girl. Yay celebrities!

Waiting in line for the bathroom took FOREVER. You know how there are a million lines for the porto potties and each line unofficially gets 2 or 3 pots they can work with? Well my line had 2. And someone must have had some pre-race nerves or SOMETHING because for about 5 minutes we were definitely down a bathroom. And I get it, we all gotta unload, but…come on, girl – race starts in 15 minutes!

I quickly dropped off my bag at the bag drop and headed over to the start line. Before I knew it, Schmidt was blowing the horn and we were off! Now, remember when I said I didn’t like 5ks? They’re too fast – no time to relax. Well, I discovered another reason I hate them. I don’t know how to run them. After the 1st completely downhill mile, I looked at my watch. 6 minutes, 3 seconds. WHAT?!!! I started laughing out loud because I didn’t know I even had the capability to run a mile that fast. I made sure to slow down my next mile, but even that was at 7 minutes. Mile 3 was an absolute bitch. There were HILLS. Steep, steep hills. The kind of hills that you wish would just end. Now. But they don’t. And you see people up ahead of you turning and they are still running UP. It was tough.
Also! Can we talk about the temperature, please? So the race was supposed to start at 7:45. A week before the race I received an email stating that the race would start at 8:45 due to some Universal sound ordinance. Then! We had to turn the clocks back. So now we’re running at what is really 9:45 on a day that is supposed to reach into the 90s. Race start temp had to be in the low 70s. Ugh.
I will give credit, though, to the course distractions. The Universal backlot? Amazing! Wisteria Lane, WhoVille, War of the Worlds, the Psycho House – even as I was sprinting by, I managed a whole heck of a lot of smiles. How can you not when there’s a Mariachi band playing on Mexican street right after Zorro is sword fighting on Western ave? I’ve been through the lot on a tram tour before, but being able to run right through made for a pretty unique course. I managed to sneak backwards onto the course after my finish to snap some photos.

War of the Worlds!

Pyscho house!

Anyway, back to the race. I knew I was out front, and as I passed the last woman I could see, I started to wonder…was I in THE front? (We’re talking in terms of females here, of course). I didn’t see any more ladies in front of me, but as the course was twisty and turny, I knew of course there could be a speed demon in front of me.
Sidenote: As the course got tougher and I got tireder, I made a couple of audible noises – you know, the kind when you are really struggling and sounds just escape from your mouth when all you really intended was an exhale. Lucky for me I had music on, so I couldn’t hear myself too much, but when a guy in front of me turned around as I approached him, I knew it was because I was making a racket. Oh well. Pretty sure I beat his butt.

Pretty sure a terrible noise was escaping my throat at this moment

Anyway. As I started up one of the last hills, I set pace with a boy who I later found out was 13. Awesome. Thanks to this kid, I didn’t stop and puke in the bushes like I thought I was going to have to do. I’ve never really considered stopping during a race to vom, but I seriously considered it this time around. Lucky for me, the last .1 was just ahead and boy was that the LONGEST .1 miles of my entire life. But I made it. I even heard my name on the loud speaker.

Oh race photos, you always make me look so good

And when the overall winner came up and said “Hey! First woman – congrats!” I knew my spastic race strategy had all been worth it. I had won. WON! ME! I’ve placed 1st in my age group before but NEVER overall. And boy oh boy did I not expect it to happen in a 5k. I said a small prayer of thanks to my fast-twitch fibers for getting me through this race exactly 1 minute faster than my first attempt at a 5k. I grabbed some free snacks, congratulated the next few women to cross the finish line, and then called mom and dad. My dad used to be a marathoner back in his day and so it means a lot to me to be able to call him with exciting running news. Always the coach, though, he did be sure to remind me that I need to work on not blasting out of the starting gate (I know that, now).

Finishing a race in under 22 minutes means you have a lot of time to wait around and watch everyone else come in. I LOVE this part. It is so exciting to see all of the people who come out at the break of dawn to participate in these things. And for such a great cause, too. WeSPARK really put on a wonderful event and they raised a ton of money through fundraising, too!

I met up with Jackie and she hung around with me for the awards. I received a medal for my 1st place age group finish and a trophy for my overall female win. The female awards were handed out by Maggie Jones, the sweet little girl from We Bought a Zoo and the tv show Ben and Kate. Really, my prize was getting to pose with this NUGGET. Gah she is too CUTE.

So, the day was a success. Any race that’s filled with smiles, charity and the Cat in the Hat is an A+ in my book. See you next year, weSPARK!

partying like it’s 1999

Official Stats:
time: 21:43
overall: 15/2044
ladies: 1/1341 
age: 1/185