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  • Favorite Songs: Uptown Girl

    Sitting in Barnes and Noble, trying to cover up the sound of women talking loudly next to me, I popped on my headphones and started listening to music. I started thinking, I haven't made a list of my favorite songs in a long time.

    I still don't feel like making a list - too time consuming. But it got me thinking, why not share some of my favorite songs here and there?

    Let's start with Uptown Girl.

    Billy Joel is totally my dad's influence. He and Elton John are the two artists I best remember hearing from my dad's stereo growing up. I'm not sure whether this is my favorite Billy Joel song, but it's one that I love to sing in the car.

  • Health Loopholes

    Health Loopholes

    I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin's work. Her most recent book, Better Than Before, came out in paperback at the end of the year. I highly recommend it. It's all about forming habits, and how to use our personalities and strengths to make those habits stick!

    One thing that makes us stumble is invoking loopholes - and as it turns out, there are lots of different loopholes we can use! I was listening to Gretchen Rubin's "Happier" podcast (which is so much fun) recently, and she talked about the different loopholes. I started thinking about how these are so easy to apply to how we eat and exercise (or don't!). Here are some examples I came up with:

    What it is:

    False choice loophole.
    I can't exercise tonight because the dishes are piling up.

    How to bust it:

    Take a moment and be honest with yourself. Is this really a valid excuse? Are the two choices muturally exclusive, or are you just looking for a way out?

    What it is:

    Tomorrow loophole.
    I don't need to exercise tonight, because I'm going to do it tomorrow!

    How to bust it:

    Is tomorrow really going to make you do it? Or is tomorrow always a day away? Maybe just do a little bit - five minutes is better than nothing, and a little gentle yoga could make you feel more relaxed.

    If you absolutely must do it tomorrow, plan on doing it as early in the day as possible. You're far less likely to have life catch up to you that way.

    What it is:

    Concern for others loophole.
    I should finish my plate, I don't want to offend my host. I can't exercise, I might wake up my spouse. I can't go on a diet now, my friends will want to celebrate (XYZ) with me.

    How to bust it:

    First of all, we have to be honest - is someone really going to be offended/inconvenienced? Often, we project our insecurities, fears, and excuses onto someone else, and it's not the case! Don't assume someone will feel a certain way.

    If it does turn out that someone would have a negative reaction, it's time for a decision. There is a time and a place to be polite to someone (where it may be very culturally offensive to decline a drink, for instance), but remember that you are valuable too. Don't put yourself last. Your health and well-being are important too, and those close to you should definitely understand that.

    ---

    So, loopholes are not necessarily a bad thing. But it's important that we be honest with ourselves when we're making excuses. Try to get to the heart of the matter, and figure out why you're trying to invoke a loophole in the first place.

    For more information on habits and loopholes and all that good stuff, check out Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before! (Not an affliate link)

    Want to bust some excuses and start a new exercise program or try Shakeology? My beachbody coaching page is here.

  • Where she fits, she sits

    Where she fits, she sits

    Lately, in the adventures of the calico kitty, Gwen has been testing out the world of sitting on laps.

    After 14 months with us, she has suddenly decided that our laps are pretty awesome. We're pretty happy with this development, but it's led to several instances of her perching on things that were already on our laps. Sometimes it's notebooks, sometimes it's computers or books. She doesn't really care. When she decides it's time for lap sits, that's all there is to it.

    One night, she conked out on the keyboard of my netbook while I was trying to use it. She stayed there so long that Matt turned out the light and went to bed. Gwen just cozied up to the screen, and I admit, I wondered if cats could tan.

    Gwen's also tried out other places to perch. For a couple days, she seemed pretty content in Mikenna's crate. I don't know why she was suddenly so interested - the crate has not moved or changed in ages.

    Comic books are also fair game for napping. At least she has good taste.

  • A new adventure

    I've really struggled with exercise and nutrition since Anklegate back in November. I went from feeling like I had things under control, and I had consistency and plans, to needing help just to get to the dog gone bathroom. But I'm not upset that it happened, because taking that step back helped me to realize that I wasn't happy with how I was eating - or more accurately, I wasn't happy with the burden I placed on myself to eat healthy, and the guilt I inflicted on myself whenever I didn't.

    Putting yourself under a guilt trip whenever you eat suboptimally or whenever you miss a workout is no way to live. However, I missed feeling my body get stronger and leaner. I liked seeing my body do new, cool things, and I missed having the motivation to try new recipes.

    I was invited to, and joined, a challenge group in March. The weather was getting nicer, I was physically and mentally starting to feel a bit better, but I just didn't know what to start with on my own. So this challenge group came along at a really good time for me. I decided that I was going to throw myself head first into it - not just the PiYo program, but try the shakeology too. Worst case scenario, I was out a bit of money and a few weeks. At least I could say that I had tried something new!

    What I didn't expect was to love what I tried.

    I'll break it down further at another time, but PiYo is amazing. It is hands down the most difficult workout that I can still muddle through and feel like I got a great workout out of it. What's great about it is that there are modifications for everything, and you aren't shamed for using them. The point is to do your best and feel better at the end of it, and boy, hearing that really kept me going. It's a great workout, but not high impact, and doesn't make my exercise-induced asthma flare up.

    Shakeology was by far the biggest surprise for me. I've tried protein powders before, and I like them, but I didn't think Shakeology could be any different. Well, after using it consistently for just about a month now, I can say that it really is better than other things I've tried. For one, the taste is incredible. My mom likened it to her favorite dark chocolate ice cream, Matt to brownie batter. When I mix it up in the blender with some milk, banana, and frozen fruit, it keeps me satisfied for quite a while!
    I can't back up any of the claims about lowering cholesterol or blood sugar because I haven't had a doctor visit since starting it. But I can say that before starting the Shakeology, I was jonesing for 'something sweet' every night. Now, I'm not. Seriously. I can't describe it, but I could just take it or leave it.

    During the 21 day challenge group, I lost 8.75" and, more importantly, gained a whole lot of optimism and confidence. Being in that group, having something to focus on, doing something that I really enjoyed, all helped knock me out of the rut I had been in.

    I believe in it enough that I signed up to be a beachbody coach. If I never make a sale, I still get an awesome discount on the shakeology and exercise programs, and I like that.

    But I won't lie, I want this to be something more. I feel it in my bones.

    I want to change my life. I want to change how I think, how I see the world, to be my best self and I want to help other people do that too.

    I don't believe in pushing things on people who don't want them. That's skeevy and nobody has time for that. But if you're at all interested in a new exercise program - beachbody has some great stuff out there. After PiYo, I'm excited to try other stuff as my fitness level increases. I'd love to hear what Shakeology does for other people that I actually know. Internet testimonials are one thing, having someone you know try it is completely different.

    So this is what's inspiring me right now. I'm feeling really good about it, and I want to see this grow. Physical activity is great for mental health, and if I can get my mental health in a consistently good place, that will be great for my creativity. It all works together.

    Here's my beachbody page, if you're interested in looking at what products they have to offer. If you want to talk to me about it, I'd love to help you find a program that works for you, and see how I can help you be happier and healthier.

    If you're not interested? No biggie. :)

    I look forward to sharing the results of my new adventure with you!

  • Grumpy Gwen

    Grumpy Gwen

    Good grief. Gwen can look like such a grump. She's got the "do not care" glare down pat. I think she must have spent those two years at the humane society perfecting it.

    I feel like it's hard to catch the real Gwen on camera. She's a fairly active cat, following us around, darting around the house, jumping out and playing tag. It's hard to get good pictures of her because she's always moving - unless she's sleeping, or perched. And if she's just perched on the couch, that's when she looks like a grump - because she's probably just woken up, and does not understand for the life of her why I'm putting my phone in her face. 

    This is not the face I see when I hear "MAO?" and look over to find Gwen standing on the bed next to me. Or when she jumps out and tags my leg. 

    The real Gwen is wide eyed and inquisitive. She's got sassy peridot eyes that watch things carefully. The real Gwen isn't grumpy at all (except for when her sister is being a pest). 

    Even when Gwen looks grumpy, when she realizes that you want to pet her, she's more than happy to meet your hand halfway for a head bonk. Someday, I have to dig out my real camera and take some pictures of Gwen. Maybe then I can capture our little miss sassypants. 

  • The little garden that grew

    The little garden that grew

    I love the idea of plants and flowers. However, I am ... not exactly experienced, nor do I have a particularly good track record. But dog gone it, we have the space now, and I decided to try planting things in the ground this year. 

    The main things I had to keep in mind were the area I was planting in, (down the stairs is very sunny. up by the house is permashade.) and the ability to withstand deer. I had some decent luck with succulents last year, though they didn't really withstand winter because I moved them too far from the sun. Also, the stupid deer kept kicking over the containers. Vengeful little buggers. So I thought, maybe I'd have better luck with succulents in the ground.

    What you see above is actually the second batch of hens & chicks I planted. They're teeny tiny little things that I ordered, along with this stuff called dragons blood seedum. The seedum came in the form of these tiny little sticks that looked quite dead. I wasn't sure which end to stick in the ground to be honest. They're not very photogenic at this state, but I noticed this week that they're starting to get the teeny tiniest little bud leaves on them, so I think I haven't killed them! 

    These were the first hens and chicks I picked up. They're going to spread eventually - I hope. My plan is to kind of take over this one area, slowly get rid of the grass and plant hearty things. I'd show you a wider shot, but honestly, right now it looks like a lot of patchy grass, dirt, and dead things. I planted some more seedum, and that hasn't taken off yet, so it looks like a wilted weed. I also planted a couple bleeding hearts, and those just look like dead sticks.

    But eventually it'll look great. If it all doesn't die first.

    This is the same hens and chicks trio about three weeks after being planted. They're totally getting bigger, especially that little guy on the top left. 

    It's a fun little experiment. I won't lie - I'll be disappointed if nothing makes it through the year. But it looks like maybe - just maybe - things are going to take hold. Someday, I'd like to try out vegetables, but that will take a lot more effort than the succulents. I'm not ready to wage war with the deer just yet. 

  • Protein crepetastic

    Protein crepetastic

    I've been really into making crepes the last couple of weeks. They're easy, they're filling, and the recipe I use is pretty healthy and flexible. Ready? It goes like this:

    • 1 scoop protein powder
    • 1/2 cup egg whites
    • Milk to thin out the batter (I probably use between 1/3-1/2 cup

    You mix it all together, and cook your crepes on a hot, greased pan. Super easy to double the recipe for two people. Since deciding that we like the recipe, we've picked up a few different protein powder flavor sample packets. That makes it super fun!

    The first time we made them, it was with a strawberry powder, and I filled them with sliced bananas and topped with a light drizzle of honey. YUM.

    I've also made them with chocolate protein powder, filled with banana and topped with a little watered down PB2. 

    This weekend I was too lazy to roll them up, but I topped them with banana and I had melted some raspberries in the skillet and glopped those on top. The crepes themselves were salted caramel, and let me tell you, they felt decadent.

    I love breakfast foods. I love them even more when they aren't so sugary that it leaves me bouncing off the walls after. These are good, easy, and quick. I think I'll be playing with these for quite a while. Maybe I'll even venture outside of bananas! 

  • Pinterecipes: Spinach Macaroni and Cheese

    Pinterecipes: Spinach Macaroni and Cheese

    Okay, let's start with my substitutions, because apparently I can't just follow a recipe as written.

    - I used only 2% milk, even though it calls for 2% and whole. I typically only buy regular milk for recipes anyway, and I'm way too lazy to buy two kinds of milk. I can't imagine that this recipe needed to be any thicker or creamier though, so it was fine!

    - I used a mix of kale and spinach. I mean, it was a package that had a sell by date for the day I was making the recipe, and was marked down to .99. It looked fine, so who can pass up .99? 

    - Instead of using smoked gouda, I used smoked gruyere. This is for three reasons: 

    • There was no smoked gouda
    • I know that we love smoked gruyere
    • The gruyere was cheaper

    Other than that, I followed the recipe. Based on a completely arbitrary ranking, and based on my changes, I give this recipe a 10. It was rich and creamy and so flavorful. In fact, it's so rich, that I don't necessarily recommend it as a main dish. At the very least, it needs a salad to go with it. But Matt said it was the best macaroni and cheese he's ever had, and both my dad and I loved it. (I don't think Mom tried it, though I don't think she's a fan of smoky flavors, so I don't think she'd have cared for it anyway)

    It's a great change of pace, though when push comes to shove, I like my extra sharp white cheddar mac with peaches best. Nothing can upstage that, though this would come the closest!

    Spinach Mac and Cheese

  • Carla and Fred

    Carla and Fred

    Above is Carla. I feel like I describe every cat as affectionate, and I'm not sure whether every cat is affectionate, or I'm just a cat whisperer. I like to pretend that other cats can smell my girls' happiness, and they're like, "oh hey, this must be a good one." Carla really wanted to curl up in my lap, and was loathe to relinquish custody of me. I was happy to hold her for nearly an hour before she decided to go eat. A few days after visiting with her, Carla was adopted. She's going to be a great cuddle buddy.

    This is Fred. If you look up at the top picture, you can see Fred curled up at my feet. He waited there, very patiently, for Carla to leave. Then he hopped up and asked for attention. He's a sweet guy, and a big cat. Like, I know that Gwen is on the tiny side, but he was closer in body composition to Mikenna! He's a sturdy guy. Very calm. I imagine him as a sage cat, sitting next to an older child as they do their homework. 

    As for me, I've started volunteering for field trips and birthday parties at the humane society. This isn't as weird as it sounds. It helps children learn about animals, how to approach and handle them correctly, how to care for them, stuff like that. Being around kids helps the animals learn to be handled, learn that people can be good, and helps make them more adoptable. It's good for everybody! I find that it's something I really enjoy so far, and I love having another way to help out. 

  • Pinterecipes: Lentil Spinach Soup

    Pinterecipes: Lentil Spinach Soup

    Okay, let's start with the positives.

    This is really easy to make. It makes your house smell homey and delicious. If you've really got a hankering for a light soup, this is a good choice. It's a great soup to sop up bread with.

    I always feel impressive when I make soup, and I don't know why. There's something about soup that feels mysterious - like, I could open up a can of Campbells, but look, I did this! Again, I'm not sure where this comes from - it's not like soup is that difficult.

    The downside to this soup is that I found it fairly bland. There's probably something I could have done to make it more flavorful, but as written, there's not a lot of punch there. This soup would probably make a good little side dish, but as a main supper, it's lackluster. 

    Or, maybe I just learned that lentil soups aren't my cup of tea! Maybe this is a great soup if you're a fan of lentils. 

    My completely arbitrary score is 4/10. It was easy, but I don't plan on making it again. If you love lentil soups and are looking for something vegan friendly, give it a shot!

    Spinach Lentil Soup