Monday, February 18, 2013

A Shiny New Home

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This was a wee bit buried in my last post, so I wanted to toss it up front here: in keeping with our recent move into a new (and much nicer) home, my blog has decided to follow suit and move to its own shiny, new, and much nicer home. (Because obviously it's a sentient being with the ability to do stuff like that.)

I'll now be writing at Seize the Latté- feel free to stop by!

Marvelous in My Monday: Big News!

Guess what: I'm not dead! Despite an extended absence from the blogosphere, I'm very much alive and kicking. It was an incredibly busy week, which means this long weekend is very, very welcome in my life.

With thanks to the lovely Katie over at Healthy Diva Eats for hosting Marvelous in My Monday, I gotta say: the most marvelous thing about today is that I don't have to be in the office. Days off are the best thing ever.

The other marvelous thing -- and the big news alluded to in the title -- is that I've decided to move my blog to a legit website! I also decided to change the title and URL; I'd originally started this blog to be exclusively a health and wellness blog, but it's evolved into something muuuuuch bigger and more complex than that. I want to write about all the bajillion things I'm interested in, so I decided to change the title to something a bit more general.

Sooooo...I'm excited to introduce my new baby blog, Seize the Latté!

Feel free to stop on by the new site for my random ramblings on food, international intrigue, fitness, women's empowerment/human rights, life as a thirty-something, interviews, and, hopefully a dash or two of inspiration.

Oh, and caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine.

Monday, February 11, 2013

More Rest For This Cowgirl

Normally I'd be all about it being Monday night -- after all, once you clear the hurdle of the Monday 9-5 grind, it all gets better from there -- but I woke up this morning with a huuuuuuuuuuge migraine. Like, we're talking icepick-to-my-skull territory. 'Twas bad, people.
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I wound up staying home from work in an effort to soothe the Trotsky headache (history geek moment: Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin's rival, was killed by an icepick to the head -- so I've started referring to my migraines as Trotsky headaches). Happily, it seems to have worked: after spending all day with this beast, the headache is mostly gone now, and I suspect I'll be in good condition tomorrow.

That means my Marvelous in My Monday contribution consists of two things: rest and the headache trifecta cure (Tylenol, some coffee, and a couple of ice packs). It ain't fancy, but these things are what made my day bearable!

Truth be told, I'm not all that surprised that I wound up feeling so punky this morning: the weekend was uber-busy, and it involved lots of time spent cleaning the old apartment (which, for the record, is definitely not fun), shuttling stuff back and forth between the old place and our happy new home, and more errands than we normally cram into a month. So, I'm not horribly surprised that my brain decided to ambush me with a Trotsky headache of epic proportions.

After spending today on the couch with the ice packs and painkiller, I'm hopeful that I'll be back in the gym tomorrow morning with the remainder of last week's rom-com.

Tonight, however, Imma do some yoga before turning early in hopes that I'll be able to give the ol' bod the rest it needs. I'll be back tomorrow with a much more lively post, I promise! :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

It's Time for a Rest Day

When I woke up this morning, I had only one discernible thought: "uuuuuuuuugh."

I find that by the time Friday rolls around, I'm desperate for rest of all kinds: rest from the gym, rest from doing my hair (I have a ton of hair, so the process of trying to make it look normal is the cosmetic equivalent of the Bataan Death March), rest from cooking dinner...basically, I want nothing to do with my normal weekday routine. For me, a perfect Friday involves as low-maintenance of a day as humanly possible. If I could do absolutely nothing, that'd be even better.

Alas, I still have to go to work and earn my salary, so doing nothing isn't in the cards for me. But a rest day totally is.

So, instead of sweating it out at the gym right now, I'm giving my body a break and reading celeb gossip and perusing Facebook. Instead of my post-workout green smoothie, I'm having an egg white sandwich with my coffee. And I absolutely refuse to do much of anything to my hair.

Oh, and I sincerely hope that tonight can involve Thai food delivery.


This weekend is going to be jam-packed: we have to clean out the old apartment, which could quite possibly be an epic task. When we're not scrubbing baseboards in our old place, we've got dinner plans, movie plans, brunch did it come to pass that my weekends are so busy?! I think this is one of the things about adult life generally -- but the "real world" of 9-5 jobs specifically -- that really throws me for a loop.

Back in grad school, I could walk down the block at any time of day or night in order to spend time with my friends. The same was true when I was in Israel (one of my closest friends lived three doors down the hall in the grad student dorm), and even when I was working at a real-world 9-5 job in DC after college, I had a gaggle of friends at work (and a gaggle of roommates, some of whom are my close friends). Basically, friends were almost always available for hanging out, movie night, coffee breaks, or, when the weather got summery, margaritas on the porch.

Now, however, it takes a lot of planning and strategizing -- sometimes even weeks in advance -- before I'm able to see my friends. It's insane, and it kind of bums me out. Other elements of adult life don't bug me *nearly* as much as this does.

I do think, though, that this is one of the reasons I enjoyed our wedding as much as I did. A huuuuuuge portion of our friends made the trip out to Colorado, and as soon as the reception got underway, it was basically a big party with some of our favorite people. Brandon and I have said, on more than one occasion, that we wish we could have a repeat of our wedding reception just so we could have all our friends in one place again.

Failing that, though, I'll gladly take a busy weekend and weeks of advance planning so I can see these wonderful people. Hopefully I can get some extra R&R tonight so I'm back at it and ready to roll tomorrow. White noise app, I'm lookin' at you.

In the meantime, happy Friday -- I hope everyone has a fabulous day!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jealous of Boston

As a Colorado gal, I have to say: I love me a good snowstorm.

It's been ages since DC had anything in the way of accumulating snow (officially, we've had a total of exactly 1.5 inches this year...this makes me sad), I find myself looking back on Snowmageddon with what basically amounts to overwhelming nostalgia.

Brandon and I had only been dating for a few months, but we were more or less living together at that point. Knowing that the snowstorm was going to pretty much cripple DC, we hunkered down in his apartment, grilled ribs and steak on the deck amidst blizzard conditions, and I think I read at least two books in short order.

Oh, and I played in the snow like a little kid. Because, as I may have mentioned before, I'm basically a four-year-old trapped in an adult's body.

Sigh. I miss it.

This, of course, makes me immensely jealous of Boston, which is supposed to get slammed with an epic snowstorm tomorrow. If there are any Bostonians out there reading this, please go frolic through a snowdrift for me!

Anyways, I might not be on the business end of an historic blizzard, but I've still had an awesome week. This week has featured a handful of things that have either improved my quality of life by, like, a bajillion orders of magnitude, or have just generally made me really happy.

And, since it's Thursday, it's time for...Thankful Thursday! Thanks, as always, to Jessie over at Jessie Loves to Run for hosting.


...The white noise app I discovered on my phone. As you may recall from last week, I was having a really hard time sleeping through the night -- random noises kept waking me up, and it was driving me slowly insane. Then I found the white noise app, and I've been sleeping like the dead ever since I put it to use. Epic win.

...The bus. I've relied on the Metro during my daily commute for the past four years, and it was infuriating. This week I finally got out of the house (and the office) early enough to take a bus, and...HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. The bus is amazing, people. My commuting time has been cut in half, I don't have to walk a half mile on crowded, narrow sidewalks filled with chain smokers (so. Effing. Gross.), I usually get a seat, I'm not crammed into a small space with a ton of angry people, and I can actually see the sun instead of being stuck underground while breathing noxious fumes that smell like burning electrical equipment and are probably loaded with carcinogenic junk. I've gone from hating my commute to loving it -- and as anyone who reads my Facebook feed can tell you, this is a really, really big deal.

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...The idea to watch movies on my Kindle while I'm at the gym. I no longer feel like I'm slogging through my cardio, *and* I get to watch all the crappy rom-coms that I've been wanting to see for ages. It's such a win-win! After finishing Pitch Perfect, I realized there are some free rentals available since I'm a member of Amazon Prime, so I've moved on to No Strings Attached. Natalie Portman + Ashton Kutcher = good times.

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...Libraries. I'm a voracious reader, and now that I'm done with my IIN schoolwork, I once again have time to do lots of leisure reading. Of course, the list of books that I want to read is as long as your average cruise ship: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, The Bungalow by Sarah Jio, Mindset by Carol Dweck, Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller, In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson...the list goes on. And on. And on and on and on. I don't want to buy all these books, though -- we're trying to save money, and a book-buying binge won't help us on that front. Between the Kindle lending library and the public library, though, I'm all set. I can get most of them on my Kindle, and those that I can't read electronically I'll gladly read in hard cover. The only downside is that there's a good chance I won't come up for air for the next six months.

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Lastly, the biggest and most exciting thing I'm thankful for this week (!!) is...drum roll please...the fact that my first article for Girls Gone Sporty has been published! (*Does happy dance*) You can check it out here, and feel free to distribute far and wide. This aspiring writer is practically verklempt with happiness!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday

Ok, so I have to say: my rom-com and cardio plan is going swimmingly thus far.

After growing reeeeeeeaaaaallly tired of my workout playlist, deciding to rent a shamelessly girly movie that Brandon would never, ever, ever watch has proven to be a brilliant plan. I've always loved working out, and the fact that I was starting to dread the monotony of the elliptical was freaking me out more than a little bit -- but now I'm all excited to watch the next segment of my chick flick.

Workout win!

Today I did 30 minutes on the elliptical while finishing Pitch Perfect (which is fabulous) and then did a quick circuit training routine (repeated a second time for maximum muscle-y benefit):

10 push-ups
15 squats (+10 pounds total)
50 reverse crunches
15 chest press (+10 pounds each side)
10 forward lunges
10 backward lunges
10 tricep extensions (+ 8 pounds each side)
50 crunches

Now that my daily sweat session is in the bag, it's time for What I Ate Wednesday - many thanks to Jenn over at Peas & Crayons for hosting!

I started off with a pre-workout cawffee to help me power through the early-morning gym session:

After getting my sweat on, I had an egg white sammich on gluten-free toast (one of my absolute faves -- and I have to say, Rudi's GF Multigrain Bread is some of the best GF bread I've ever had) as well as a green smoothie made with kale, banana, frozen strawberries, and frozen mango:

Snacks du jour included an apple, a banana, cantaloupe, celery with peanut butter, and non-fat Greek yogurt with berries and GF granola:

Lunch was a particular point of excitement for me: I made sweet potato, apple, and lentil soup after being inspired by a faaaaaaaaabulous soup served at a restaurant this past weekend. I did lots of research in order to hunt down what I thought could be a good recipe, combined elements of the two recipes I liked the most, and...voila! A delicious, warming lunch creation:

By the time Brandon and I both got home, we were both zonked out. We reserve one night a week for what we refer to as "F*ck it" night: a night when we don't want to cook and would rather say "F*ck it, let's go out for dinner" so other people can cook and do dishes. On nights like that, we just don't have to do any work. And since it's only one night a week, it keeps expenditures to a minimum. Brandon had cheeseburgers on the brain, so we went to Fuddruckers -- and they just happen to have a lovely salad (Napa Valley Salad, sans blue cheese and toast) that I really enjoy.

For dessert, I basically inhaled some chocolate frozen yogurt -- that stuff is amazing. Benjamin Franklin once famously said that "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy," but I think he got that wrong: the proof isn't beer, it's chocolate fro yo. :)

Hope everyone is having a fabulous Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Ode to Old Running Shoes

I don't know about you guys, but some of my best thinking is done while running. I’ve organized countless research papers, analyzed countless boy problems (all pre-Brandon, obvi), and had countless epiphanies – all while hitting the pavement.  On more than one occasion, I’ve been struck by some key realization or insight that helped me nurse a broken heart back to health or make an important decision about my future.

As a result of all this, I don’t see old pairs of running shoes as products that have served their purpose and been worn out. Instead, I see what those shoes represent. 

For example, my 2004 Mizunos propelled me through my first real job in DC (it was a "pay your dues" kind of gig, and it wound up being a particularly rough experience), cushioned my feetsies during long runs that helped me feel better after a bad breakup (the kind wherein, out of the blue, the guy you've been dating for two years says he doesn't love you anymore), and pushed me through a critical period when I was torn between going to grad school or moving overseas (I chose to go overseas, which I never would've done had the aforementioned boy not dropped the aforementioned "I don't love you anymore" bomb - so I'm actually really grateful that he did). 

My 2005 Adidas trail shoes were broken in on the red clay trails in my beloved Colorado, and they traveled with me throughout the Middle East. I wore them on the runs that helped me survive hours of language immersion (Hebrew and Arabic are effing hard, people), and really, these shoes deserve their own passport: I wore them as I hiked to the monastery in Petra, hiked though the Golan Heights, and trekked though Egypt. 

You can't see them, but those shoes were awesome for climbing large rocks in Jordan.
Once I was back Stateside, I wore them when I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to hike up a fourteener with some grad school friends, which in and of itself was a huge accomplishment.

Chillin', and being chilled, at the summit of Mt. Bierstadt. Note the kicks.
I stopped running in grad school due to the arthritis in my feet, but I started again when I found shoes that make my feet and knees happy - so my pair of 2010 Brooks Adrenalines were with me as I dipped my toes back into running and eventually ran my first 5K since 2002.

I realized the other day that because of what they represent, my running shoes feel like old friends. They’re familiar, comfortable, and broken-in – for example, with each pair, there’s a hole on the top of right shoe where my big toe has pushed through the fabric. (I apparently flex the hell out of my big toe when I run.)   

My logical side says I should throw out a pair or two to make room for my work shoes. However, the very idea of throwing out any of these ratty old things sparks a visceral response, and I have to fight the urge to say “Absolutely not!” out loud. It would be like throwing out a friend because he or she got old. 

These shoes, albeit old and dirty and falling apart, are part of who I am. They’re far too important to toss out with a week’s worth of banana peels. So, instead, I’ve decided that some day when I have the money and the living space I’ll bronze them and use them as book ends. 

That said, if any of you lovely people have ideas for how to re-purpose ratty old running shoes, I'd gladly take suggestions/ideas!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Marvelous In M Monday: A Perfect Weekend

The hardest day of the week is almost over -- huzzah! 

Mondays are tough for me, for the obvious reason that going back to work after a lovely weekend just generally sucks, but this morning was particularly tough. Staying up late to watch the Super Bowl? Fun on Sunday night, but decidedly not fun when the alarm goes off before 6 a.m. on Monday morning.


Despite the painful wake-up, this morning's workout was made much easier by the fact that I decided to rent a movie to watch on my Kindle Fire while I commune with the elliptical. So, because a certain husband of mine doesn't want to watch rom-coms with his wife (but really, he's a dude's dude - who could blame him for not wanting to watch girl movies?), now that I've discovered this entertainment source I'm totally going to indulge my love of chick flicks while churning out some cardio at the gym.

First up? Pitch Perfect. It was an awesome partner to keep me company through my 45 minutes of ellpiticizing -- I'm not the least bit bored during my long stretches on the machine, and my workout went muuuuuuch faster today than it has ever before. Also, this movie is hysterical. It'll carry me through two more days of cardio, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't stoked about it.

Adding to the excitement of new and awesome gym entertainment (gymtainment?), this weekend was fabulous. Before I go further into that, though, I'll take a brief interlude to thank Katie over at Healthy Diva Eats for hosting Marvelous in my Monday. To say the least, just about everything from my weekend was marvelous -- so, without further ado:

Marvelous is:

...Weekend naps. I zonked out early on Friday night -- and even after a full night of rest, I still managed to take a nap on Saturday afternoon. Now, a word on me and naps: I never take them. Like, ever. My mom reports that I started ditching naptime when I was about one year old, and that trend has continued for the last 31 years. 

Except for Saturday afternoon, which found me very much asleep. It was delicious.

I also apologize to my Mom, who endured my many napless afternoons. 

Reunions with old friends. On Saturday night we went to dinner with one of my buddies from grad school who was in town from New York. I haven't seen him in four years, and it was awesome to catch up with him and another Denver homie. I miss my grad school crew -- they were a huge part of why I loved grad school so much -- so it was fantastic to get together. 

(Seriously, though, I think we should all just live within a few blocks of each other, just like we did from 2006-2008! We'll all hang out and drink home-made margaritas/cheap boxed wine while complaining about obnoxious international political economy books and "that guy" who always asks annoying and absurdly complicated questions 30 seconds before class ends! Just like old times! IT'LL BE GREAT!)

Except with less hand-to-hand combat and more movie nights. 

Coffee and bargain hunting with a dear friend. Sunday started off with a bang when I met up with my friend Holly -- one of my favorite people here in DC -- for coffee, followed by a trip to Marshall's. 

Now, here's the thing about me and shopping: I hate regular shopping. I can't stand going to malls, and I absolutely loathe paying full price for clothes or accessories. 

However, it dawned on me this weekend that I loooooove bargian/discount shopping. Omigod, people, it's thrilling. Being able to get something I like for a reasonable price is freaking awesome. Marshalls? Yes please. Nordstrom Rack? Yes please. 

Reporting for duty. (Image source)
I did a lot of browsing, but not a lot of buying -- I got one cute pair of workout pants for $14, which is a total steal for such things (take that, Lululemon! Booyah!) -- because I wanted to avoid spending much money. 

Now, I'm generally trying to spend less money overall, but this weekend I was doing so for a special cause: after months of crappy reception, memory failures, and overall lameness, it was finally time to replace my phone. I was due for an upgrade on our contract anyway, and after much research, I decided to go for it and get a long-coveted iPhone 5.


I'd had a smartphone before I got this, but this is approximately 8 bajllion times better than my old HTC. I'm in wuv.

(*Falls on floor from aforementioned hyperventilation*)

You are mine now! Muuuhahahahaha!
Soooo, as you can tell, my weekend was quite marvelous -- here's to what will hopefully be a marvelous week ahead!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Smoky BBQ Turkey Chili

It's a cold and snowy morning here in DC, and I have to admit: I feel like someone has attached lead weights to my feet. I didn't sleep well last night; as it turns out, I'm a reeeeeaaaaaaally light sleeper, and the slightest noise will wake me up at 0300. I think it's time to invest in a white noise machine, if only so I can make it through the night without groggily looking around the room while thinking "What on earth is that noise? And why can't I sleep? This is so lame!" 

I suspect that in addition to a white noise machine, I'm going to need one of these babies today:

 Photo: This would be a great birthday gift for you!

My workout this morning was similarly dragging. I did one 9:05 mile on the treadmill before opting for 10 minutes on the elliptical and 10 minutes on the bike -- it's not the most hard-core of workouts, but I hope to get some lifting in tonight when I get home. I figure there's no harm in taking a day to go slow when I need it, or to break up my workouts into manageable chunks when I'm short on rest!

In response to the generally frigid weather, I've also been eating a lot of hearty soups and stews. I love chili, but the last few times I've tried to make it, my stomach has voiced its strong dissent. My mother-in-law used a recipe that I loved when I was in Texas (and it didn't instigate any backtalk from the estomago!), and I had big plans to whip some up for our first real meal in the new place -- until, that is, I realized that we didn't have the right spices.

If my life were a movie, this would be the part where we'd flash to a scene of me shaking my fist at the spice cabinet. I'd also probably bust out some Medieval term like "Fie upon you, spice cabinet! A pox on your house!"

But I digress.

Failing the ability to get the needed spices (the food was already cooking away, so I'd reached the point of no return...or no leaving the apartment, as the case may be), I decided to improvise with some BBQ sauce. Brandon and I both love BBQ, and I particularly love Sweet Baby Ray's sauce.

This is apostasy in our home, since Sweet Baby Ray's isn't legit Texas BBQ sauce -- but it's still damn good.

As luck would have it, I loooooooved this chili. It has just the right amount of smoky and spicy flavor, and it's loaded with protein and veggies. For a vegetarian version, you can leave out the turkey and add a second can of black beans.

As a side note: I was also ludicrously excited to use the gorgeous soup/chili mugs Brandon's mom made for us for Christmas. She created the pattern for these mugs, knowing that we have a Moroccan/Middle Eastern theme to our decor -- to say that I'm basically in love with these things would be a huge understatement. Expect to see these in many a food photoshoot in the future!

Smoky BBQ Turkey Chili

1 lb. 99% fat free ground turkey breast
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper (preferably organic), diced
1 red pepper (preferably organic), diced
3 cans Muir Glen organic fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cans Bush's chili beans (we used one mild and one medium)
1 small can green chiles
1 can black beans (preferably organic), drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup BBQ sauce (I recommend Sweet Baby Ray's)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions, garlic, and turkey until the turkey is cooked through. Transfer to a stock pot, and add the other ingredients (yup, all of 'em in at once!). Simmer on low-medium heat for 30 minutes, then serve.

You can top this with cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, avocado, cilantro -- the list goes on, but it'll be delicious and warming no matter what!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Ack, I'm posting ridiculously late in the day! I forgot to set my alarm last night, which meant I overslept like woah and didn't wake up until 7 -- which, for me, is absurdly late. Egads!

While it definitely threw me off schedule this morning, I suspect it was a good thing in the long run. We didn't get home until late, and I know myself well enough to know that, had my alarm gone off at its usual hour, I would've dragged myself out of bed despite knowing that I didn't get enough sleep.

So, in the end, the AWOL alarm clock probably did me a big favor.

Since the unintended late wake-up threw things into a bit of chaos for the remainder of the day, tonight's post is going to be short and sweet! 

The lovely Jessie from Jessie Loves to Run hosts a weekly link-up party called Thankful Thursdays, and it's one of my favorite times of the week. Being able to take a moment to reflect on the things I'm grateful for -- especially on a night like tonight, when I'm a wee bit cranky (thank you, PMS) and irritated after a few days of things like forgetting my keys, being late for work, dinner taking twice as long to prepare as I'd anticipated, feeling like there's not enough time in the day to get everything done, and other admittedly first-world problems -- is a wonderful respite from all the hustle and bustle of daily life.

So, with that...


...Costco. No joke, people: they have such awesome stuff, and for insanely reasonable prices! I got three bottles of Nivea CoQ10 lotion for $11 (one bottle costs that much at Target), two loaves of Rudi's GF multi-grain bread for $6 (one loaf costs that much at Whole Foods), and a package of 16 individually-portioned organic, GF hummus for $5. (Hummus, as it turns out, is basically my life force. I freaking love hummus. I use it even more prolifically than the folks in Don't Mess With the Zohan, which is really saying something.)

...Writing. I've always wanted to write -- it's one of my greatest joys -- and I used to write all the time when I was younger, but I think I internalized all the "Writing isn't a practical career path/under no circumstance should you become a writer unless you want to wind up waiting tables while praying someone discovers you" messages I heard, so I just...stopped. Since I've started writing again, though, I've found that it continues to make me incredibly happy. I'm so, so grateful to be writing this blog and finding other venues where I can write to my heart's content.

writing quote

...All the wonderfully kind comments from you lovely people on my blog posts this week! You ladies rock my world, and I can't thank you enough.

...All the birthday love I received from friends and family yesterday. I feel incredibly lucky to come from such a wonderful family and to have such amazing friends. Warm fuzzies ensue!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WIAW: The Birthday Edition

Good morning, and happy Wednesday!

It's a good day around here: today is my birthday, which I'm pretty stoked about. I'm getting a massage after work, which will be followed by dinner with Brandon at our favorite steak restaurant (it's a pricey venue, so we only go for special occasions). Adding to which, I have a good feeling about this year -- and, in the interest of full disclosure, let's call it like it is: I'm turning 32, not going for a perpetual repeat of 29.

Although I know it's not normal for women to like anything about the aging process, I have to say: I'm actually a big fan of getting older.

Now, there are definitely some things I don't enjoy, like those blasted wrinkles (if I'm going to be old enough to get wrinkles I at least want to be old enough to stop getting zits, m'kay?) and the occasional gray hair. I'd be lying through my teeth if I said I didn't own at least one bottle of anti-aging wrinkle cream, and I've totally searched my scalp for silvery strands (and carried out strategic strike hair-pulling operations) on more than one occasion.

But whenever stuff like that really gets to me, I have two counter-arguments that shut it down faster than Katniss Everdeen would be able to shoot a lame, morbidly obese rhinoceros with her bow and arrow:

First and foremost, I think it's important to have a sense of perspective. Here in the developed world, we're taught to fear aging -- but if you contrast the life expectancy in the U.S. to the life expectancy in countries like Swaziland (where it's an astoundingly low 31.88 years), one thing becomes clear: when compared to places where it's normal to die of AIDS before you're 30, where it's standard for children to succumb to preventable diseases before their fifth birthday, and where young women are routinely killed by pregnancy complications and a lack of access to emergency obstetric care, it's a privilege to get older.

Sign me up for the wrinkles.

Secondly, one thing I like about getting older is the feeling that I'm really progressing in my life. When I look back on the last 10 years (I published that post yesterday, and it's easily my favorite blog post thus far), I'm struck by how much I've done, experienced, and learned...and that's just in the last decade. Who knows what else I will have done and learned by the time I'm 42, 52, and beyond?

I've always loved the idea of the wise, kind, well-lived older woman -- women like Madeleine Albright, Helen Mirren, and a long list of similarly amazing role models -- and I hope to grow into that role someday. At this stage in my life, I love learning and experiencing as much as I can -- but it's something that can only be done if one is, y'know, alive and thus growing older.

So when people ask how old I am today, I'll proudly say that I'm 32. No perpetual 29's for me: it's onward and upward for this cowgirl.

Aaaaaaand with all that being said (my apologies for the Tolstoy-esque intro here), it's time for What I Ate Wednesday, as hosted by the lovely Jenn over at Peas & Crayons!

I started my birthday off with toast and coffee, per the usual -- seriously, coffee is the nectar of the gods. Whoever came up with the idea of drinking it needs to be canonized, or given a monument, or something to commemorate their awesomeness.

After my workout, I slurped down a green smoothie made with kale, a frozen banana, frozen mango, and non-fat kefir:

Snacks du jour included a soy hazelnut latte (thank you, Starbucks, for the free birthday drink -- or, in LOL-speak, MOAR KOFEEZ), blueberries with Greek yogurt and granola, an apple, and carrots with hummus.

Lunch? Soup! After this weekend's moving bedlam, I wasn't about to attempt something wildly over-achieving like making a soup from scratch for the week. I normally do that on the weekends, but I'm a big fan of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good -- or in this case, not letting my usual drive to be uber-healthy keep me from being pretty darn healthy -- so I decided that it'd be perfectly acceptable to rely on pre-made soups this week. I combined a can of Progresso lentil soup with some French onion soup, and voila: three days' worth of lunches.

Dinner: We're going out to our favorite steak house for my birthday dinner, and since we won't be back until late, I figure I'll post a picture of our first legit meal in the new apartment: smoky BBQ turkey chili. It was delicious, and it was the perfect meal for a rainy, gross Monday. I'll post the recipe later this week, so check back if you'd like to get the recipe hook-up.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a fabulous Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Letter to My Younger Self

A few years ago, I was browsing around Anthropologie (and not buying anything, since their offerings are all waaaaaaay beyond the confines of my budget) when I stumbled across What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self, by Ellyn Spragins. The timing couldn't have been better: I was newly graduated from college, unemployed, and scared out of my mind about the future.

I've thought of that book often over the last 10 years, and so, on the eve of my 32nd birthday, I decided that I want to write a letter to the 22-year-old Lillian who stood mesmerized while reading in the back of an Anthropologie store in Philadelphia.

Darling girl (yes, I'm giving you a term of endearment),

Happy 22nd birthday! As you know, you're on the cusp of some big stuff. Graduation is looming, and I know you're scared out of your mind about the future.

First and foremost, I want you to know that everything's going to be fine. You're not going to wind up living in a refrigerator box on the banks of the Potomac, and you're going to do and experience some awesome things over the course of the next ten years.

You also will learn a lot, which is to be expected in the turbulent decade between 22 and 32. Here are some key lessons to bear in mind as you venture out into the real world:

  • Remember the time at Girl Scout Camp when Susie basically begged you to stop being so mean to yourself all the time? She was totally right: you don't deserve such harsh treatment. One of your biggest challenges has been loving yourself, and it's high time that you show yourself as much love, compassion, and kindness as you show everyone else. You deserve it. It's your birthright.
  • Trust your instincts. Always, always, always do this. They've never led you astray, despite what your brain so ardently tries to tell you. Trust your instincts on when to go, when to stay, and with whom you spend your time.
  • There are going to be some challenging experiences over the next few years. There will be times when you feel crushed by the stress of your job or the pain of a breakup, but I promise that each one of these experiences has a purpose. More specifically, each one sets you up for something better. With each of these cases, you'll eventually find your footing and launch yourself into bigger and better things, but the challenge is a necessary prerequisite. Each of these difficult experiences forces you to grow -- which, in turn, will enable you to achieve some of your biggest life goals and dreams. 
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett, the English author who wrote The Secret Garden, once said "Hang in there. It is astonishing how short a time it can take for very wonderful things to happen," and it's absolutely true. When things look unrelentingly bad, remember this. You'll see this very phenomenon play out time and again.
  • A word or two on boys: stop trying to mold your life to accommodate their plans. You'll be tempted to do this more than once, but remember that the right guy won't require such accommodation. Build the life you want, and trust that the right one will fit seamlessly into your plans. He will move forward with you, not hold you back.
  • Spoiler alert: in the interest of saving you hours of heartache and worry, you should know that yes, the right guy does exist. You'll find him and marry him.
  • Fitting in is overrated.
  • For that matter, so is perfection. It's unattainable, no matter how perfect some people may seem -- so stop comparing yourself to them. Do the things that make you feel happy, alive, and edified, and do them to the best of your ability. Don't worry about whether you're keeping up with the seemingly perfect people, because running around that particular track is a recipe for misery. 
  • You have a purpose. You're not sure right now what that purpose is, and it'll take a while before you really figure it out -- but I promise that, much like the right guy, it's out there and you will find it. 
  • Finally, the best piece of advice I can give you comes from someone else. Ten years from now, you'll read this quote on CNN and feel like it was written specifically for you:
I have bad news for you: you're not clairvoyant. Not even a little. You have no idea how the future will unfold. But it will unfold, slowly and quickly, and slowly again, in ways that you cannot now begin to imagine. So stop trying to guess what's coming next. All the effort you put into trying to figure out what will happen, all the scenarios you play out in your mind -- they're useless. And that's a good thing. 
Relax and allow the future to arrive on its own time and in its own way. 
Allow yourself to be astonished.
~ Robin Bernstein, Historian at Harvard University, as quoted for the International Day of the Girl

Take good care of yourself over the next ten years, and enjoy the ride!

With love,

Your Older Self

Awesomeness Ensues

Good morning and happy Tuesday, lovelies!

I have to say: I'm beyond excited right now. We're finally, finally on the other side of our move -- moving day went about as smoothly as a move can possibly go, and we're making serious headway on unpacking and getting set up in our new abode.

And I have to be honest: I loooooooove our new apartment. It's a bit smaller than our old place, but it's much, much nicer; I keep looking at all the upgraded amenities and, for a moment, getting nervous about whether or not we can afford it...before remembering that we're actually saving money by living here. Score!

I'm also super excited (as Brandon said, "If you were a puppy, your tail would be wagging vigorously right now") about the fact that I'm soon going to be a contributing writer for Girls Gone Sporty! I'm a huge fan of GGS, and I'm thrilled to be able to a) contribute to their mission, and b) do some writing. Ever since I decided to focus on writing, I've had all sorts of ideas for how I can do that -- and as soon as the GGS opportunity arrived, the little voice in the back of my head practically screamed "Yes! Do this! This is awesome!"

It's also the day before my birthday, which I always get excited about (who needs to worry about aging when there are presents and steak dinners involved?!). I have a pre-birthday retrospective post that I've been working on for a long time -- I'll put it up later today, so check back this evening!

In the meantime, I hope everyone has an awesome day!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thankful Thursday: The Big Day Is Almost Here

Good morning, loves - Happy Thursday!

For this week's Thankful Thursday (many thanks to Jessie from Jessie Loves to Run for hosting), I have one key point of gratitude to focus on: the fact that the big move is almost upon us.


Full disclosure? Sweet fancy Moses, am I ever ready for this move to be over. I'm sick and tired of packing boxes. I want to be on the other side of this gig, stat. I miss all my kitchen supplies, which have been packed up for the last few days. I miss my stuff.
This is what I see when I walk in the door each night. Blergh.
Now, I know everybody talks about the importance of owning less. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard people carry on about this. The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you. Roger that.

(Insert other pithy Zen-like phrases here.)

But the fact is, we moved a lot when I was growing up, and the one thing that remained constant for me was my stuff. My belongings -- my art posters, my books, my pictures, my bedspread -- were the only things that helped me stay grounded whenever there was a lot of upheaval in my life. They provided stability and a sense of continuity, which was comforting when faced with a new school (or, in the case of our move to Pennsylvania when I was 16, a new town that I'd never even heard of before we moved there).
I swear, we're not alcoholics - liquor stores are a great source of free boxes!
As a result, I'm the total opposite of all those Zenned-out minimalists. I'm very, very attached to my stuff. I feel terribly unmoored -- and ridiculously agitated -- when I can't have access to my belongings.

This also means I'm totally neurotic about unpacking once I move into a new place. On more than one occasion, I've forgone sleep just so I can get everything unpacked, organized, put away, and decorated within the first 48 hours of moving. If it takes longer than that to re-gain access to my belongings, I start getting twitchy.

With all that in mind, I'm incredibly glad that this process of migration is nearing its end. 48 hours from now, we'll be loading up the truck, and I'll be a very relieved cowgirl. :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday: It's Frickin' Freezing!

Ok, so I have to take a moment to kvetch about the weather: It is so. Effing. Cold. Frigid, if you will.

Today's high is 25, and the wind chill is going to dip well into the single digits. This is what I keep re-enacting, over and over and over again:
At times like this, the only things that keeps me going are hot drinks and hot soup. In fact, during my walk to work from the Metro yesterday, I spent the entire 10 minutes trying to distract myself from my frozen face by mentally chanting "Hot beverage, hot beverage, hot beverage" and dreaming of the electric tea kettle in my office.

So, as you can imagine, today's What I Ate Wednesday (with many thanks to Jenn over at Peas & Crayons for hosting) offerings are all based on one objective: stay warm.

I started my day with the customary cuppa joe, a banana, and 2 slices of gluten-free toast before heading to the gym. (Post-flu and bronchitis workout update: I'm back up to 2 miles at a 9:04 pace, which I'm incredibly happy about -- heal, lungs, heal!)

My snacks du jour included Greek yogurt with blueberries, a Kind bar (nuts + dark chocolate + sea salt = heaven), an apple, a grapefruit, and some carrots. Lunch, which I got reeeaaaaaalllly excited about (I was starving, and the idea of a big bowl of hot soup was insanely appealing - I was sitting in an important meeting while my stomach growled loudly, which added a nice ambiance to the whole experience), featured chicken and rice soup with carrots and spinach:

And, of course, tea. Lots and lots - okay, craploads - of tea. Green tea, chai, red tea, herbal tea: it's all happening here, folks. Me and my electric kettle are besties for life.

Dinner featured herb-roasted chicken with salad and - surprise! - more tea. (Humor me and pretend like you're shocked by the news that I drank my 8th cup of hot tea after wolfing down dinner.)

I hope everyone is having a fabulous Wednesday - stay warm! (Now, can someone please change the rules regarding the impropriety of wearing sweats at work? Because I'd really be a lot more comfy if I could be sporting my favorite sweats, a hoodie, and three pairs of socks. Someone needs to get on this, stat.)