Spring break

This week was spring break, and since I work at and attend a university, that means a whole week off for me. I headed straight home after work last Thursday night, making it to my parents’ place by 11 pm. They live out in the middle of the woods of central Louisiana, with several acres on a beautiful lake. Home is like a vacation destination, complete with fine dining, a pool, hiking, and the luxury of cable television (something I don’t pay for at my own home).

IMG_20160326_182037On Easter, we were joined by my dad’s side of the family, as well as my mom’s sister’s family. This included my two youngest cousins (who are like little sisters to me) and my cousin Ira’s three adorable children. We dyed eggs and explored the property. I baked a delicious chocolate cake that was such a hit, my aunt asked me to make another for an upcoming family reunion (recipe here)!

One of my little cousins stayed for the week after Easter. Tuesday she, my mom, and I drove up to the Kisatchie Backbone Trail, part of the Kisatchie National Forest near Natchitoches, Louisiana. This is the only trail in Louisiana where you see a lot of rock outcroppings. It was a neat trail, complete with sandy streams, beds of ferns, some steep inclines, and great overlooks. We hiked a total of seven miles.

We also saw the movie Miracles from Heaven this week. This is an excellent movie, and I highly recommend seeing it. Not many movies these days are worth paying $10 to see, but I’ll gladly splurge to see the few Christian movies that make it to theaters.

I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter as well. 🙂

Rain & the Rotary Shamrock Run

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Me & my fellow grad student Ben.

 

As many of you may have seen in the news, Louisiana got some major flooding last week. The Hammond Rotary Shamrock 5K and 10K were supposed to take place last Saturday at Southeastern University’s campus (where I work and attend grad school!), but the run was cancelled. Some places on campus had water knee-deep–it would have been a swim/run duathlon!

The good news is, the race was rescheduled for today. The bad news is, the 10K was cancelled. So I ended up running the 5K, which I finished in 25:40. I was 4th in my age group, which was a little disappointing. I think I could have done better in the 10K because I’m better at endurance than speed.

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A pre-race pic with my friends!

I like this race because all the proceeds support local charities. The St. Patrick’s Day theme is fun and festive, and it gave me an excuse to make a new tutu. And of course, I love Southeastern’s campus, and I saw a couple of friends there.

I convinced a fellow health and kinesiology grad student, Ben, to run with me. He started out so fast that I didn’t bother keeping up with him, but in the end he only finished 2 minutes ahead of me. He’s actually writing his thesis on the Apple watch as a fitness technology. So of course he was sporting one of those (I think it helped!).

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Crossing the finish!

It began misting as I crossed the finish line, and the rain only picked up after that point. I brought my chihuahua, Stu, to the post-race party, and we were both wet and cold! We stuck around for a while, but within an hour, everyone was packing up. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the Louisiana Marathon and their huge finish festival with lots of food and live music, but I usually make a whole afternoon out of my races.

Oh well. I’m home with Stu now, staying dry and cozy, wondering what my next race should be…? 🙂

 

 

Recipe: Thai beef curry

Today I created my own version of this dish that is simpler than the recipes I found online, many of which have lists of 15 ingredients. Although the coconut milk this recipe calls for is high in saturated fat, this meal is nutritious and healthy in moderation.

So here’s my beef curry recipe; it has less than 10 ingredients and takes about an hour to make:

What you’ll need…

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 small piece of ginger root
  • 3 Tsp. curry powder
  • Sirloin, cut into chunks (I used about 1/2 lb.)
  • 1 Can coconut milk
  • 2 Sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 Cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • Jasmine rice

Follow five easy steps…

  1. Cut onion into chunks. Peel and finely chop ginger root. Cook both in a large skillet over medium heat until the onion is opaque.
  2. Add  curry powder and stir for 3 minutes. Then add beef and continue to stir until meat is browned.
  3. Add coconut milk, chopped sweet potatoes, brown sugar, and peanuts.
  4. Simmer for 30-45 minutes over medium heat, or until potatoes are tender.
  5. Serve over rice.

There you have it! Makes enough to have leftovers throughout the week. You can add peas, carrots, chickpeas, chicken…anything really! Enjoy 🙂

Prom dresses and self-esteem

I recently pulled out my old prom dresses to donate them. Just for kicks, I tried them on one last time. Fortunately, they still fit (albeit, it was a struggle to zip them up), and when I looked in the mirror, I felt like a princess.

My junior prom dress is especially elegant. It’s long, black, and strapless with white beading. I’m sure I looked gorgeous in it ten years ago (wow, that makes me feel old…). But the weird thing is, the guy friend I brought to that dance hardly even noticed me. I remember he ended up dancing more with our friend Julie than me, and by the end of the night he had his arm around her. Meanwhile, I hung out with Julie’s abandoned date; he’s a dear friend, but he never seemed to notice me either. Even still, my mom will ask me if he ever calls, and my answer is always “Nope, haven’t heard from him.”

Looking back through my high school pictures, I realize I was very pretty (at least, after I took Accutane and got my braces removed…). There was certainly nothing wrong with me. And yet, I always felt invisible.

Fast forward to senior year of college. I have a blog site entitled “Not-Quite-Princess,” on which I wrote a post where I stated “with mediocre grades, looks, and talent, there’s nothing about me that stands out above the average.” I can’t believe that’s how I viewed myself at age 21; in reality, I was very pretty, young, smart, ambitious, and an excellent swimmer and writer.

I’m not sure why I’ve always been ignored by guys, or why the ones who did pay attention to me turned out to be total jerks. I’m also not sure why I never thought I had much potential and that I was ugly. I still feel this way about myself to a degree, but when I’m 30 I will probably look back and wonder why.

Every girl should know that she’s beautiful. This is my hope for the two young women who receive my prom dresses, whoever they may be.

Greener pastures

Sometimes you think the grass is greener on the other side, so you venture on over there, but only to find that the grass was pretty darn green where you were. You find yourself wanting to return to that first pasture, but your pride gets in the way.

In life, change can be good or bad; that’s what makes it scary. You never know if the best decision is to stay where you are, or leave your comfort zone for something that could possibly be better. It’s always a risk.

My personality type is INFP–the idealist. For me, the grass is always greener on the other side. I’m always looking for the most ideal situation, for my happy ever after. The thing is, this makes it hard to be content with what I have at the moment.

“Ideal” may never happen, because life isn’t a fairy tale. The key is to recognize a good thing when you have it, and let it bring you happiness. If you leave it behind for something better, but then realize that you truly loved that pasture, then admit you were wrong before it’s too late. Happiness is more important than pride.

 

An open letter to my future spouse

Dear future husband,

I know I haven’t met you yet, but I hope you are learning all the lessons you need to shape you into the perfect match for me. It takes enduring many heartaches, successes, and failures for a person to mature and become wise. I always wanted to be at least 27 before I got married; I knew it would take that long for me grow wise enough to make that decision, and mature enough to understand that level of commitment. I still have quite a way to go, but that’s okay. Although I wish I would find you tomorrow, I will patiently wait until our timing is perfect.

I’m learning to be happy on my own, but it’s often lonely without you. It will be so nice to someday have you there all the time, to share a home, enjoy meals, go for walks, watch TV, go to church together. I’m tired of doing everything solo, but I refuse to settle for anyone who’s not…well, you. (By the way, I hope you love running as much as I do, because I need someone by my side at all my races.)

Please don’t worry about whether you’re tall, handsome, athletic, rich, or successful enough; I don’t care about those things. Instead, focus on your character and integrity. I care about how you treat me and how you treat others (particularly those less fortunate than you). It also matters that you can take care of yourself and can take care of me. I hope you make the effort to eat right, exercise, enjoy nature, and see to any of your medical needs. How can you take care of me if you can’t take care of yourself? I also don’t care what you do for a living, as long as you can provide for me in hard times. And I will try to do the same for you.

I hope you’re not out there breaking too many hearts. I also hope you’re not getting your heart broken. You must be Catholic, because that’s my number one dating requirement; I hope you’re staying true to your faith and keeping your relationships pure. Don’t fall into the hookup culture of our generation. Keep your standards high, and don’t settle.

Hopefully by the time we finally encounter, I will meet your standards. Everyday is a step toward self-improvement. Just please know that I’m not perfect–in fact, I’m far from it. There are some days when I can be jealous, cold, and distant. But what makes you special is that you love me in these times, just as much as when I am happy and cheerful. Because that’s what unconditional love is, and I can’t wait to find that in you.

Love,

Cori

#Tbt: My high school playlist

Anyone else still love these songs?! Some nights I get in a weird mood and just have a throwback to the early 2000’s. I was in high school from ’04-’08, and I must confess, I was a little bit emo in my music tastes. My old playlists are pretty great. It’s fun to go back and listen to them.

When your brain is developing as a teenager, the neural connections you make between music and emotions is very strong. That’s why songs from our high school and college days often evoke powerful emotions and feelings of nostalgia. Here are some of mine:

  1. The Mixed Tape – by Jack’s Mannequin
  2. Lips Like Morphine – by Kill Hannah
  3. The Suffering – by Coheed and Cambria
  4. Niki FM – by Hawthorne Heights
  5. Lazy Eye – by The Silversun Pickups
  6. Almost Easy – by Avenged Sevenfold
  7. Smile in Your Sleep – by Silverstein
  8. MakeDamnSure – by Taking Back Sunday
  9. Swing Swing – by All-American Rejects
  10. The Kill – by 30 Seconds to Mars

You’re welcome 🙂

Reducing screen time

I’ve recently realized that almost every activity we do on a daily basis requires looking at a screen. Whether we’re catching up on social media, shopping online, completing an online class, filling out job applications, or watching Netflix, we always seem to be on the computer. And then when we close our laptops, we start texting and looking things up on our phones. The problem is, we’re addicted to the internet.

As an introvert, I love that I can connect with the world from the comfort and solitude of my cozy, Disney-adorned bedroom. I can stay busy and productive all day without moving an inch. But I don’t let myself do that.

It’s not healthy physically, and it’s not psychologically healthy. We can read so much on the internet, it can send us into sensory overload; we can have the opinions of hundreds of people in our heads, people we don’t even know. It’s important to set limits on screen time, to step out of virtual reality and remind ourselves that we live in the real world.

The problem is this: with so much of our work, education, entertainment, and even personal communication happening online, how are we supposed to reduce screen time? I’ve had a few ideas:

  • Go for a walk
  • Try some new recipes
  • Go to the gym, or put on some music and do an at-home workout
  • Sing, play guitar
  • Read a book
  • Write in a journal
  • Clean the house
  • Play board games
  • Go visit someone
  • Do a puzzle, coloring book, or crafts
  • Sort through the closet and donate clothes you no longer wear
  • Browse at the mall
  • Check out local events like free concerts or festivals

Any other tips on reducing screen time? It’s easier said than done!

Mardi Gras Mambo 10K

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! I hope you all get to spend this day doing something you love or spending time with someone you love. Yesterday I spent the day doing what I love most–racing! I ran the Mardi Gras Mambo 10K in downtown Baton Rouge, with a goal of finishing in under an hour. I surprised myself by surpassing that goal and finishing in 55 minutes. What a great Valentine’s gift to myself.

P1040646This was my first year doing this race, and I’m definitely adding it to my list of favorites. It was super fun–from making my purple-and-green tutu, to enjoying the lovely route and the post-race party, I loved this race. There were over 1,000 runners in the 10K, and we were grouped with those running the 15K distance as well. Before we all took off, a group ran the 1-mile fun run. Basically, there were a lot of people in North Boulevard Town Square that morning.

Everyone was dressed in Mardi Gras colors, with several (myself included) wearing tutus, costumes, wigs, or beads. A DJ was already playing at 7 a.m., so the party had started. I got to the square an hour early, wearing nothing but a tank top, shorts, and my tutu. The temperature was in the 50’s and a cold wind was blowing. I was freezing! But I knew once I started running, these conditions would be perfect. (Which they were. Once the sun came out, the temperature rose into the 60’s or 70’s. It was a beautiful day.)

When race officials opened the corral around 8 a.m., they had pace signs set up for walkers, 10-minute milers, 9-minute milers, etc.. I lined up at the 9-minute sign and took note of the people standing around me. If I kept up with these individuals, I’d reach my goal.

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My race medal

A mile or so into the run, I picked one guy in particular and made it my mission to keep up with him. He was lean, in his mid-twenties, and wore a Louisiana Marathon hat and compression socks; I reasoned that he was probably an experienced and fast runner.

Whenever he got ahead of me or people came between us, I sprinted until I was right next to him again. We were neck-and-neck for miles. Then, on the last mile I passed him up. Then he passed me up. And so on and so forth. I wondered if he noticed or got annoyed that a twig of a girl in a gigantic tutu was getting a competitive edge on him. In the end I actually beat the guy. If he’s reading this, thank you for being an awesome pacer!

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Me and Jacob!

As I approached the finish line, I spotted my big brother, Jacob. “Lengthen your stride!” he shouted, as he ran alongside me to the finish line. I was so happy that he showed up to cheer! It’s a little disappointing that no one wanted to do this run with me. I guess people don’t get as excited about running 6.5 miles as I do (confession: I could hardly sleep the night before, I was so excited…).

That being said, I did make a new acquaintance that day. He’s a 70-year-old man who ran the 15K in 1:07. That’s impressive at any age! He gave me some training tips and encouragement, saying that it takes 10 years of running for you to reach your peak. He also said that with the right training, I could be running a 10K with a time in the mid-40’s. So that’s my new ambition.

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Enjoying my post-race jambalaya!

I also met a lady while I was grabbing a jacket from my car after the race. She’d just moved to Baton Rouge from Houston and, seeing my tutu, was wondering what was going on. I told her to come check out the post-race party. She seemed excited about it. Later, as I was enjoying the free beer and live music, I saw her taking pictures on a very nice, professional-looking camera. She waved and snapped a picture of me. I wondered if she is a journalist or fellow blogger. Maybe my picture will show up somewhere 🙂

The post-race party included live music from Baton Rouge Studios, and jambalaya, pulled pork sandwiches, Jimmy John’s, king cake, cake balls, Cane’s lemonade, beer, and more. All of which was all free and all-you-can-eat. Core Power, the main race sponsor, gave free drinks to all the finishers. There was also a gumbo cook-off fundraiser going on, and for a $10 donation you could have all-you-can-eat gumbo. Gosh I love south Louisiana.

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The post-race party

I’d recommend this race to anyone. It’s a great way to have some family-friendly Mardi Gras fun, and the race is large and competitive enough for serious runners.

 

Louisiana Quarter Marathon 2016

signLast Saturday I participated in the Louisiana Marathon weekend for the third consecutive year. This event is a 3-day, Louisiana-themed running festival in downtown Baton Rouge. Friday was the running expo and packet pickup at the River Center; Saturday was the 5K, quarter, and kid’s marathon, and Sunday was the half and full marathon.

I registered myself, my mom, and my brother Jacob for the quarter marathon (6.5 miles). The company my dad worked for is a race sponsor, and they cover the registration fees for employee and retirees’ immediate family. Not only did they cover our registration, but the funds went to a great cause–the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.

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Behind the starting line!

Friday afternoon I headed to the River Center to pick up our race gear. While there, I bought some sport headphones, donated a half teaspoon of blood for stem cell research, and grabbed free samples of anything edible I could find.

Saturday morning Mom, Jacob, and I arrived downtown an hour early and did some stretching. At 7:50, we wiggled our way to the middle of the crowd behind the starting line. I don’t know how many runners were in that crowd, but with the 5K and quarter marathon groups combined, it was in the thousands. In fact, registration for all Louisiana Marathon race distances had sold out!

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A post-race pic with Mom and the Louisiana State Capitol!

When the clock hit 8 a.m., we were off. I immediately lost Mom and Jacob in the crowd. My first two miles were slow because I was pacing myself and also weaving around people. Once the 5K runners turned around, the course became less crowded and I was able to run at a steady pace of about 9 minutes a mile. Cheering spectators and volunteers along the route kept me motivated (they’re the best!).

I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:02. My best 10K time is under an hour, but considering I took most of the last year off from running, I was happy and proud of my accomplishment! Besides, it’s not about how fast you run or how you place; it’s about doing your best and giving it 110%.

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Mom and Jacob with their medals!

Jacob finished 10 minutes faster than me, and Mom finished 15 minutes after me. We were all happy with our times, and next year we plan to do the 5K and the half marathon. We retrieved my chihuahua Stu, who had been waiting in the car, and headed to the finish festival. There were some great bands playing, the sky was blue, the temperature rose into the 70’s…I can’t imagine a more perfect afternoon.

Several restaurant vendors came out to the Rendevous, and my post-race meal included: Core Power milk, gumbo, pulled pork sliders, Abita strawberry beer, and seafood pasta. It was amazing.

Here are more pictures from our day. I can’t wait to do it again next year!