Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015 & Resolutions for 2016



Well, here we are at the end of 2015.  This year really just flew by!  It's been a pretty crazy year for me with some record highs and lows.  Let's focus on the good: I went camping for the first time, completed a half marathon, gave my first conference talk, learned how to better communicate in personal relationships, and realized I am blessed with great friends.  Since I'm talking about the good, let's move on to resolutions for 2016 and the positive lifestyle changes I want to put in place.  Drumroll, please.

1.  Engage in healthier habits.  
I need to take care of myself, both physically and mentally.  I've really dipped into the illness variety bag in 2015.  Exercise & healthier eating from here on out.  Silver lining to being so ill this December: I've quit caffeine and started eating healthier before year's end.

2.  Be kinder.
I can be really mean when I'm in a negative mood.  I believe that feeling poorly doesn't entitle anyone to treat others in that manner.  I need to practice what I preach and not be THAT person.

3.  Acquire essential life skills. 
Get a driver's license.  Stop spending so frivolously.  Learn to cook more things.  Maybe go out and get to know people instead of being a hermit 99% of the time. 

4.  Be a more productive, efficient and better scientist.
Self explanatory.  I am past the halfway mark and will need to get out of the "arrested development" that is graduate school and become a Real Adult.  Basically, I need to work harder and smarter.

5.  Create.
I have a slew of things I enjoy doing outside of school: drawing, writing, making music, blogging, and photography.  I want to engage more in these interests and create things like I used to.

I think most of the changes I want to make - even if I haven't mentioned them explictly - fall into the umbrella of these five resolutions.  New year, new efforts.  

Goodbye, 2015.  Hello, 2016.  Let's make this a good year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chicago Snippets 2015

I had the pleasure of spending Christmas this year with my mister and his family in the suburbs of Chicago.  My family doesn't celebrate the holiday so it was my first proper Christmas with a tree, small children waking everyone up, and quality time spent with good people.  I really enjoyed it!  Here are some of snapshots of my week in Chicago. 

Luminaria.  We set up these paper lanterns outside the house on Christmas Eve.  They're a cultural tradition (my boyfriend is Hispanic).  Aren't they pretty?  We set up about 50 lanterns.  My fingers got stiff and cold lighting the candles inside, but it was so worth it.



The Morton Arboretum.  We took a 4 mile hike here. I was loving how gray the sky was that day.  We get so much sunshine in California that it was nice to have something different.  We went back the next night for the Illuminations light show. 





Sue & The Field Museum. My boyfriend and I spent most of our time this past week with his family.  We had a few spare hours on my last day here so we went to Chicago's famous natural history museum. I got to see Sue (the T-Rex), exhibits on ancient China and Greece, and a quick view of Lake Michigan from the dinosaur room.





Over the course of the visit, I had the chance to get to know my boyfriend's family better, to eat wonderful homemade Hispanic food, and to generally be in a warm and happy environment.  All in all, it was a very nice visit.  I am now at home in Philadelphia with my own folks for about a week before I head back out to the West Coast.  I'm just taking it easy, resting (I'm ill again), and trying to recharge.  Hope your Christmases went well!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Sunday #4


PHOTOGRAPHY.  I had time before dinner last night that I used to take a self portrait for A Little Runner's Sunday post.  There was no light so I had to rely on indoor lighting.  Did you know that when you don't take real self portraits for a few years, you get to become very awkward in front of the camera?  Not to mention how awful my photography skills have become in the 3+ years since I've stopped fashion blogging.  I've gained +15 lbs in the past 3 years, too, so that is most apparent in my limbs.  Lots of adjustments to take into consideration for future photography.

CORTICOSTEROIDS.  Exactly what the doctor prescribed.  I went to see a specialist (thank you to those who had well wishes) and was prescribed some new medication.  Good news is that it doesn't appear to be any type of infection.  Bad news is that wearing contact lenses, working in a chemical lab, and the desert weather has contributed to dry eyes that are easily irritated and inflamed.  Much edema.  Not wow.  I am very thankful for modern medicine.

WORK.  I've got a little more than a week before I leave town for the holidays.  Not thrilled that I've been unproductive in lab.  You wouldn't believe how much being visually disoriented messes with your general sense of well-being and ability to focus.  It has been extremely frustrating to get anything done at all.  It is certainly safer to wear glasses than contacts in a chemical lab.  However, I'd say I've been less safe this week with my limited visual field wearing 4+ year out of date glasses that need constant readjustment and smudge every few minutes.  I think if something affects your focus, it affects your safety.  Can you read the barely contained frustration? 

SUNDAY.  I am off to Indian dinner with my two closest woman friends and one gentleman tonight.  (Sounds classier than girls' night + a guy, doesn't it?)  We love Indian food so I'm quite looking forward to it.  My favorites dishes are bhindi masala (fried okra curry, vegetable somosas, and garlic naan.  Mmmmmmmm.  BRING IT.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Sunday #3


One day, my weekly posting will not consist of just The Sunday.  I have a notebook full of ideas for content, but this week has been hectic between work and appointments.  I want this blog to be a positive place, but it's been a rough week so I'm going to talk about it diary-style.

SNAPS.  My favorite snapshots of these 7 days are all from the weekend.  Exhibit A: all dressed up to go out with my boyfriend and some friends.  I feel nerdy in glasses so I was trying to clean up (compensating!).  Exhibit B: my friend's dog, beautiful Stella, who I love spoiling with treats.  Exhibit C: my boyfriends hates pictures so I gotta sneak them in to catch him smiling!

HOSPITAL.  Another year, another trip to the emergency room, both times for an infection in my left eye.  I've been to see my university's health center about it, but went to the hospital on Saturday since doctors aren't usually available on weekends.  I'd rather play it safe than sorry with health (especially when it comes to eyes) so I decided not to 'wait it out'.  The doctor didn't see anything alarming, but recommended I keep an eye on it (punny!) and methods to relieve symptoms.  In the meantime, I'm stuck in glasses, which leads me to...

GLASSES.  They're about 5 years old and I really hate wearing them.  They're forever sliding down on my flat Asian nose.  I lose the 360 degree peripheral vision I have in contacts.  I feel very blind and disoriented.  Wearing glasses is mostly frustrating and I can not wait until I switch back to contacts.

BLOGS.  One of the things that inspired me to come back to blogging was the great blogs out there.  My favorite bloggers are ones who are raw and real with writing from the heart.  I was blown away by the strength in Lauren's birth story, the integrity of Michelle's character and heart in her reasons for blogging, and Anu's empathy for a continuing issue in society.  Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate the resilience of human spirit in Dani's journey?  I love strong, empathetic, and intelligent female voices in the blogosphere.  More of this, please!

I'm going to end this Sunday post on that positive note!  Cheers.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a guilt-free day of no work.  I got up this morning, had oatmeal, and went for a short 2 mile run in the neighborhood.  I was shooting for a 5k, but the route I took is pretty hilly with a steep flight of stairs.  Hey, better 2 miles than no miles, right?  Before moving on with the day, I want to take this moment to reflect on that which I am thankful.  I take a lot of the better things in my life for granted because I get so bogged down by the lower points.  Here are the things I am grateful for:
♥  Everyone I love is alive and reasonably well. (Call your mom, woman!)
♥  I am employed with health benefits.  I do not want for food, shelter, or warmth.
♥  I have my health.  I finished my last annual doctor's appointment/checkup for the year and all was well.
♥  I am in a good, stable relationship.  I have good friends even if I spend more free time alone.
♥  I met Doug Martsch from Built to Spill.  Clearly counting my blessings that are on par with food/shelter.

Since we are all far away from our families, a few of my friends and I are celebrating Thanksgiving together.  There's going to be a 20lb turkey injected with a beer-marinade, apple pie, pecan pie, mashed potatoes, garlic green beans, macaroni-and-cheese, possibly vegetable somasas (a delicious Indian addition), and lots more.  I'm pretty excited to eat all of this!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Sunday #2

[Minus the Bear, left; Murder By Death, right]

MUSIC.  Something the mister and I really like doing is going to shows.   We saw Aero Flynn, Murder By Death, and Minus the Bear (all in one show) this week.  I'm going to see JoJo tomorrow (Leave (Get Out), remember her?).  She's doing her comeback tour and since people go, "WHO?" when I bring her up, I bought myself a solo ticket a while ago.  (Also, she's got sick abs, so if that's not fitspiration, I don't know what is.)  It'll be interesting going to a show by myself as I've not done that before!  In hindsight, I'm also a bit stressed about fitting this into my schedule.  Getting into Los Angeles basically sucks up a whole late afternoon and evening.  Yeah, I know, #firstworldproblems.

TIME.  Where do all my hours go?  It's already Thanksgiving this week and while I look forward to the two days off, it's also stressing me out because it's a reminder that I need to be more productive.  I'm moving too slowly and have much to push forward before the holidays.  I wish I were one of those people who is super productive and motivated, all the time.  I'm in awe of some of my colleagues who seem to push from early in the morning to late at night.  Unfortunately, I just don't have that kind of stamina. 

MONIES.  I've decided to put myself on a no-buy of extraneous purchases for the next few months.  There's a big difference between WANT and NEED and I'd say most of my purchases fall into WANT.  I have a makeup/beauty problem.  Let's be real: do I really need another red lipstick to go with the other 6?  Do I need to add to my stockpile of face masks?  Do I really need to try another new moisturizer?  OMG, yes!  Are you kidding me?!  No.  No, I do not.  I chuck a lot of products because they expire before I use them up.  *hides head in shame*  Let's make a change: actively use up my things before buying new ones.  Maybe this will lead to filming an empties video (oh, hey, YouTube!) or blog post.

RUNNING.  I looked at my Nike+ running app and realized I've only done 6.10 miles in November.  WHAT?!  This week, I did one 5K and 3 x resistance training.  I need to get back into doing 1-2 miles before I weight train each day and fitting in 2 longer runs per week.  I can't call myself A Little Runner if I don't actually, you know, run.

TODAY.  Spending most of today in the lab, hustling to get some work done.  I'm hoping I'll wrap up with enough time left to run some errands and spend an evening with some lady friends watching Aziz Ansari's new show Master of None.

*Okay, so basically this week's Sunday wasn't so much a round-up as Go-Fix-Yourself bullet points and rambling.   I won't be moaning about things next week, promise.  XOXO

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Sunday #1


INSPIRATION.  One thing I have also looked forward to reading on Sunday evenings are weekly round-up posts on the blogosphere (such as here and here).  They're a neat, packaged sort of way to end the week, don't you think?  I've decided to take a whack at it alongside my usual time wasters: playing with makeup and watching YouTube videos instead of going to bed. 

FITNESS.  I started exercising for the first time in my life last year and fitness has been a fairly consistent endeavor for me since then.  I have an on/off IT band injury that has put a dent on my running and cardiovascular fitness, but I've been compensating (haha!) in the weight room.  I managed to make the gym 5/7 days this week!  Some personal bests: benched 45 lbs and squatted 100 lbs.  Things I need to improve: getting back into running and incorporating cardio into my workouts.  Actually, overall increased productivity and efficiency in my life would be good goals.

READING.  Two blogs I've remained a faithful reader to over the years are Daisybutter and VIPXO. I've kept up with them even while on hiatus and it's amazing to see how they've grown over the years.  I remember them in their nascent stages and now they are blogs I continue to draw inspiration from.  I think the blogging scene has changed a lot over the past five years, but these two blogs have stayed consistently fresh.

PRODUCTIVITY.  I wasn't as efficient and productive as I'd like to have been this week.  I got some tasks checked off my list, but there remains to much to be done!  I'm making this Monday (BOO) a bright and early start to get myself caught up. 

BEAUTY.  Made a cheeky little shopping trip to Sephora with a friend (she had significantly more self control than  did).  I picked up a few bits and bobs that I've been eyeing up for some time.  I'm looking to try them out and maybe write my first product reviews! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Honest-to-Blog: Pen Names, Blogging, & Real Life

[C'est moi, 2015]
Hi, I'm JXL, also known by my pen name Alyse.  Since I've started a new blog, I've been feeling that this is a necessary post.  During my early 20s, I ran a lifestyle/fashion blog under the pen name Alyse until its eventual hiatus which has persisted for the last several years.  I kept everything on that blog completely honest with the exception of my name.  I had nothing to hide, but beauty/fashion blogging was (and still is) fairly orthogonal to my professional endeavors.  If potential employers or colleagues searched me, I wanted my academic work to be the primary things that surfaced.  That aspect hasn't changed (though my life drastically has since I last had a blog), but I've decided to use both names.

There was another factor to Alyse: blogging was completely my own thing and I didn't necessarily share it with people in real life.  None of my friends were really into the "girly" stuff, but here was a whole community who was equally interested in documenting their daily lives, outfits, and chatting at length about makeup.  To be honest, I felt a little self conscious about it at times, too, because it really didn't fit the mold of my academics.  I was going to school for physical science and my days were spent in either a lab or in front of a computer.  Lifestyle/beauty/fashion blogging just did not seem to fit.  (I think Marianna's recent post on blogging encapsulates this feeling fairly well.)

I decided to do it differently when I built A Little Runner and use my real initials, JXL, in addition to Alyse.  I know people use pen names all the time, but personally, it makes things feel "invented" and I'd just rather not do that anymore.  It might make things awkward if I ever get connected to the people on my former blogging network, but I'll deal when the time comes.  I've actually shared this URL with a few friends now so, in the spirit of "keeping it real," it only feels natural to connect a real name to the face that's going to be on this space.  A Little Runner is a new blog, a fresh start, tabula rasa, and I'd like to keep it as true to myself as possible.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rocks and Woods



I went hiking this past weekend with some lovely folks on the Switzer Falls Trail in Southern California.  I didn't bring my DSLR so here are a few snaps from my phone.  The trail was paved at the start, but gave way to a damp soil and clusters of rocks, weathered smoothed by flowing water.  There was a stream that sort of guided the way towards the ascent up the mountain.  Unfortunately, we were there so late in the season that the actual "waterfall" was more like a stream of water down the side of rocks.  It's supposed to be more impressive with the winter ice melting.  See the stream in this photo and the dampness of the soil?  I bet it really flows at other times in the year.  Walking through the forest was really nice, though. 




It was quite foggy that morning.  I've never hiked into fog before so that was pretty cool.  Here is how thick the fog was over the mountains.  The mountain tops were  covered for quite a while.  It was a cool morning (< 80 degrees Fahrenheit, woo hoo!) so the hike was really pleasant.  I'd say we did about 3.7 - 4.5 miles round trip.  It was a really good time!  I'd go again.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Big Sur


We descended a dusty gravel ridge
Beneath the Bixby Canyon Bridge
Until I eventually arrived
At the place where your soul had died


All the way from San Francisco
As I chased the end of your road
'Cause I've still got miles to go


And I want to know my fate 
If I keep up this way 
And it's hard to want to stay awake

 "Bixby Canyon Bridge"
Death Cab for Cutie

Thursday, October 1, 2015

First Time Camping: Joshua Tree National Park

About a month ago, I went camping for the first time with my boyfriend and our friends.  I approached it with some trepidation because I have never been a very outdoorsy person.  I like my amenities and I don't like getting sweaty/dusty.  Well, there's a first time for everything and Joshua Tree National Park was it.


Joshua Tree National Park is part of the higher Mojave Desert.   The desert is full of Joshua trees (it's the numerous spindly trees in this photo that seem to "reach" for the sky), tiny lizards, gigantic flies, and giant rocks.  As per any desert, it was sweltering hot the entire time we were there.  Shade was pretty sparse and most of the plants were either cacti or had short, spindly leaves.  Off the camp site, we spent a lot of time hiking over dry desert land or climbing the giant rocks/hills that were out there.  Fun fact: all the hills and climbing meant I got an excellent weekend long workout for my glutes!


One of the trails we went on led to Barker Dam (shown above). The dam was used to water cows before it dried up. This was one of the last remnants of a stretch of water.  It was also the most verdant part we saw of Joshua Tree; the rest of the area looked so parched!  The piled rock formations were also really common.  They looked like someone had perfectly arranged a lot of giant boulders to make cobbled mountains.


The last stop we made was to Keys Point which overlooked Coachella Valley.  The view was pretty spectacular and there was a nice breeze up on the mountain which alleviated some of the blistering heat.  Afterwards, we got on our way home. Gotta say, the trip was worth the dust, heat, and sweat.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Balance

"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."
- Nelson Mandela

One of my favorite quotes is this one by Nelson Mandela.  I found it one day when I was searching for inspirational quotes (mostly centered around perseverance and tenacity) for a good friend/fellow graduate student of mine who was writing her doctoral thesis.  Here is the thing about graduate school: when you're working day to day in a space with no windows, your inspiration and drive can give way to tedium and you can get tunnel vision. 

This is where A Little Runner comes in.  Graduate school is important and I firmly believe education should be a top priority.  However, work-life balance is pretty important to one's emotional and physical well being.  Not having a balance means ignoring other areas of one's potential.  In my case, I've put aside a lot of things I used to do: blogging, drawing, photography, guitar, and in general, creating things. 

A Little Runner is my attempt and springboard to make time for hobbies instead of procrastinating on them in favor of Netflix.  I figure having a space to document my endeavors would be nice even if no one reads this.  Well, here goes.