Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010.....Welcome, 2011!

It seems like time has been flying lately - 2010 is already about to come to a close!  In the spirit of New Year's, I've been spending this evening looking back on the year and looking forward to 2011.

I can't say that 2010 has been the best year.  Lab work has been frustrating at best, and finishing up my thesis has taken longer than I hoped.  Nothing super exciting has happened, really - but nothing really bad either.  It's kind of like when professional sports teams have "rebuilding" years - I'm just putting together the pieces for my next steps.  But there have been some exciting things:

- Brendan and I went to Disney World for our first real vacation

(photo courtesy of Disney but purchased by me)

- I decided to sign up for my first half marathon, and started training

- I published a review article, which will be most of the intro to my thesis
- I visited Colorado with my parents for vacation
- I trained for my first half marathon, and ran the 10-mile Broad Street Run in preparation

- I ran my first half marathon, the 13.1 Marathon Boston, in June (in 3:02)

 - At the same time, I went on postdoc interviews at Harvard and Brown
- I spent a full 8 days at Brendan's house, which was different than our usual weekends together!
- After the first half, I signed up for two more to complete the year

- I visited home with Brendan in August, where we got to visit the State Fair, Duluth, and the MN Renaissance Fair
- I was asked to be a bridesmaid for my friend Ashley's wedding - a first for me!
- I finished my second half marathon, the ING Philly Distance Run (in 3:15)
- I visited a friend in Germany for a week - my first time in Europe and something I'd always wanted to do
- I accepted a postdoc position at Harvard (!)

- I finished my third half marathon, the Philly Half Marathon, with a PR (in 2:58)
- The day after the half,  I had a thesis committee meeting and got permission to defend my thesis this spring
- I visited home a few times and spent some quality time with my parents and Brendan before buckling down these next few months

There has been a lot of excitement, but the real changes are to come!  If things go well, 2011 should bring a Ph.D., a new postdoc position, a big move to Boston, moving in with Brendan, and lots of other changes.  Lots of major life changes this year!

I have a few goals for 2011 that I hope to achieve:

2011 New Years Resolutions & Goals

Fitness/Health Goals:
- Run more.  I am already committed to running the Broad Street Run, even if I have to pay for a hotel for that in May.  I would like to run a few more half marathons, and get stronger and faster as I keep training.  I have new Vibram Five Finger shoes (more on that later), and I'd like to improve my leg and foot strength by training in those sometimes.  My ultimate goal is to run a marathon in a few years if I can keep improving, so this year should put me on that path.
- Get more toned.  I want to work on more strength training and feel stronger! This means using weights more often, working on lunges and ab work, and doing the Exhale Core Fusion and 30 Day Shred DVDs occasionally.  I am going to make a schedule for each month, taking account my work and life schedule as well, so that I incorporate as much strength training as reasonably possible.
- Lose a bit of weight.  I don't have a specific number in mind, but I would like to fit into ALL of my clothes.  I'm not sure which is tightest, but I have a pair of too-tight jeans and a few pairs of capri pants that I would like to fit into.  This is my pre-preparation for all the wedding stuff coming up (two weddings and counting to go to in 2011!), and ultimately for my wedding in a few years.

Career Goals:
- Finish my Ph.D. strong.  Whatever that ends up meaning with the research I can finish, I want to be proud of the work I've done as a Ph.D. candidate.
- Enjoy my actual thesis defense.  I tend to stress about these things, and I want to have fun and celebrate finishing, not panic about it.  Of course, this means getting down to work on everything now so that I don't feel rushed at the end!
- Get a strong start to my postdoc.  I want to tackle a new project with a clear head, tons of motivation, and all the energy I can muster.  I also would like to apply for and receive funding (i.e. a grant) in the next year, but if I try hard on applications and can't get funding yet, that's ok too.

Life Goals:
- Become financially stable.  As a college student and then a graduate student, my credit card balances have almost always been going in the wrong direction.  Starting when I move in with Brendan and start my postdoc, I would like to allocate $500 or more per month toward savings (for emergency funds) or paying off credit cards.  I currently pay $200 or so towards credit cards and savings, so this is a huge improvement!  It won't fix everything all at once, but it should slowly improve my credit (and my ability to pay for house-, wedding-, and kid-related things in the future).
- Take at least one vacation (or mini-vacation).  Of course this is at odds with the last goal, but I need to learn to relax, and this year I'll really need that.  In addition to our yearly trip to Maine, I would like to take another trip out of state.  It may be easiest to do that in May, when I'm in between jobs, but we'll have to see when everything works out!
- Enjoy all the life changes that come this year, and take them in stride.  This means trying not to worry so much.  I will only get to move in with my boyfriend for the first time once, and only get to start my first postdoc once, too.  They are major milestones, so I want to cherish them, not have them as a source of stress.
- Work on not stressing and panicking when things don't go right immediately.  I don't deal well with setbacks, or with conflict.  I am used to being a "good girl," and when things go wrong or I get in an argument, I seriously start to panic (I've even started hyperventilating before!).  This has to change in the upcoming year for many reasons.  Part of being an adult means taking criticism well, and finding solutions to problems.  For the health of myself, my career, and my future family, I need to take this seriously.  I'm starting out by repeating a mantra, "let it go" or "I'm ok," every time I feel the need to obsess over a problem or conflict - hopefully this will help me learn better coping skills!
- Savor the first 7 months of living together with Brendan.  I want to enjoy every minute of us finally getting to have a life together - the good and the bad - because we'll never get the same kind of "start" again and it should be full of excitement.  I want to make sure we get through any difficulties we face smoothly, and keep our home and our new identity as a "family" (not just people who date) full of love and kindness.

So there you have it - not too complicated, but I think they are good goals for 2011.  And now it's time to watch the ball drop, have a drink, and kiss my sweetie over Skype for the new year (for the last time before we are together!).

Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas!!

I'll be back with more scheduled programming in a bit - but for now it's time to enjoy time with family - and lots of Christmas treats :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Three Things

1. I'm at a conference this week, so I've been very, very busy.  Trying to go to a conference in your home town is tough - normal life goes on at the same time, so chores and whatnot still need to be done.  And there are Christmas presents to buy and make too!  It's total craziness here right now.

2. I'm from Minnesota, so it was weird to see the Metrodome collapsing under the weight of snow.  I'm glad it is going to be fixable, and that they rescheduled the game so no one got hurt.  I'm a bit bummed about the rescheduling, though, since I may not get to see the game tomorrow night.

3. I'm making yet another batch of Christmas Cookie Dough Balls, this time for the doormen at my building.  I may or may not have eaten the entire first batch myself.  Mama Pea is brilliant, I tell you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's sandwich time

With all of the craziness around my committee meeting and trying to get my lab work finished in time to write a paper, I haven't had much time to make anything creative for dinner lately.  I've been sticking to roasting vegetables (since I have a lot around the house from the CSA), and I've also been relying on an old standby: the sandwich.

And this is where Nature's Pride comes in: as a part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program, they sent me two loaves of bread to try at the end of October, and I promptly froze them, since I was leaving for Germany at the time.  I've been taking pieces out here and there to try, and I think I can finally give a complete review.

I received the OvenClassics Oatmeal and 100% Whole Wheat loaves.  The information I got with them told me they were nutritious, but had "a smooth texture that's perfect for the entire family."  The nutritional stats:

I'm not a huge fan of the long ingredient list, and I wish that there were more vitamins, but I do like that I at least understand most of the ingredients, and the calorie count is low.

I started out with what is usually my favorite bread snack: bread with peanut butter and milk.  Simple, but yummy.

 was ok, but just ok.  I was super excited about it because I usually make my PB bread with oatmeal bread, but I was definitely missing what I like about "healthy" breads: texture.  The "smooth texture" they talked about was very, very smooth - more like Wonder bread than whole-grain bread.  With just the peanut butter and nothing else, it was a bit bland.  But I persevered, and tried again!

Grilled cheese, made on my electric sandwich maker - it seals the sandwich and makes those little lines on top.  This was much, MUCH more yummy.  Having the contrasting texture made the bread much more interesting.  The star of the sandwich was still the cheese (beer cheddar which my parents ordered for me from Humbird), but isn't that usually the case with cheese?

Other sandwich recipes I've tried lately?  Turkey, brie, and cranberry (after Thanksgiving!) and the good old PB&J.  Both were good on the Nature's Pride bread, so I would definitely recommend it for sandwiches.

The bread is advertised as being a family-friendly way to get some nutrients into your bread.  While I'm not blown away by the nutritional stats, I have no doubt that this bread is family-friendly.  My boyfriend grew up on Wonder bread and doesn't like the grainy texture of whole wheat - I didn't get to have him try it, but I'm sure this would be a great way to make his sandwich a bit healthier!

So there you have it - sandwiches galore.  I will probably be having even more of them this week, although I just finished up a batch of potato leek soup as well.  It's going to be a busy week, with a conference, a few important experiments, and a trip to New York.  Enjoy the holiday season - I'll be back closer to Christmas!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New fitness challenge!

I promise I have another product review coming up, but I felt compelled to post.....

I have mentioned this a few times before while I was training, but I'm taking the winter off from long-distance running.  I'm going to be doing speedwork and short (up to 3 mile) runs to keep myself in good running shape, but I just can't bring myself to run 10 miles in the cold.  I will be picking it up again in the spring, probably going for a 5K PR early in the year and then doing Broad Street one last time in Philly.  But for now, I'm focusing on strength and yoga, which brings me to...

The Core Fusion Fitness Challenge!!

This one is funny, because it is born out of complete and utter laziness.  I was sitting on the couch this evening, dreading going down to the gym, and looking for something fun to do.  I remembered Rachel mentioning Exhale Spa's Core Fusion a few times, and I happen to have a friend who works at Exhale who swears by the classes as well.  I remembered that Rachel said there was a way to do the real classes online on Yoga Vibes (as opposed to their DVDs, which are in 10-minute segments).  I decided I'd go for it today, and bought the 14-day pass for their class (using the 20% off coupon code from Rachel's post, of course).  And....

 It was HARD.  Super, super hard.  I only made it 12 minutes into the 1 hour video, and I thought I might die.  Holy mountain climbers!  I had to skip ahead to another part of the video to even finish up a respectable 20 minutes.  And I'm pretty sure I'll be sore tomorrow.

And thus, another fitness challenge was born.  I obviously need to work on my strength training, and this is the perfect opportunity.  Here's the plan:

- Three times a week: Core Fusion Cardio (as much as possible)
- 1-2 times a week: Run - speedwork and/or "long" (up to 3 mile) run
- Once a week: other strength workout or yoga

This will continue until at LEAST the end of December, when I hope to be able to finish the entire 1-hour video.  I would like to keep going through the end of January to see better results, but we'll have to see how busy everything gets!

So.....let the challenge begin!!

P.S. Love, love, LOVE the Glee Christmas episode!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lea & Perrins Giveaway Winners

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving break!  I did, but now it's back to work for me.  Lots of work to do this month and so very little time.....I will literally not be at home any weekend out of this month (I'm counting next weekend as "away" since I'll be at a conference here in Philly), and I have a feeling I'll be scrambling all month!

The winners of the Lea & Perrins giveaway were Ashley and Emily.  Congrats, girls!  I'll have your coupons to you right away.

Speaking of Lea & Perrins, they are having a contest right now called "Shine at Dinnertime."  The contest features videos of recipes that use Worcestershire sauce.  There are some great ideas, and since Worcestershire sauce is so great on savory dishes, this is the best time of year to   The submissions have already closed, but the voting is on right now - so check it out!  If you head on over there, go to their main page to print out a $1 off coupon too.  Gotta love a good deal :)

I'll have more in a few days, with some thoughts on working out in the winter, my wish list for this holiday season, and another product review.  For now, though, I've gotta get back to work!