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Recapping Bloom

At the start of 2017, I decided, after much deliberation (and with the help of Lara Casey's Powersheets), that my word of the year would be Bloom.

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The idea of blooming came on the heels of a very busy 2016 that started with the birth of my son followed closely by news that we would move to Texas.

Of course, I dug my heels in on the move, even as I wanted it. I wrote about my word for 2017 in a blog post in July, and now I'm back to recap what Bloom meant for me as I moved through 2017. I had no idea what the word bloom would bring, and now that we've begun the new year, I'm excited to look back and see just how much I bloomed.

2017 was full of a lot of change for me. Not nearly as much as 2016, but it was a busy year. It just happened to be the fun kind of busy, not the "what-on-earth-am-I-doing" kind of busy, in part because I became a stay-at-home-mom to my now two-year-old.

It was by far the best decision I could have made, though I was nervous going in. Since my last day of work, and first day of full-time motherhood, I've learned so much about parenting and keeping both of us busy and happy. We go outside nearly every day - unless it's very cold or rainy. We paint, color, and draw multiple times a week. Oscar lives for the library, and will ask to go multiple times a week (though we typically only go once a week, twice if we need more books). I do way more singing, dancing, and cleaning than I thought possible, and I absolutely love what I do now.

I also made  so many friends, ending up in a happenstance-yet-wonderful neighborhood playgroup. We met at the playground by chance - with children around the same age. They've become part of my squad, and now we group text daily about the kids, weather, and what's on sale at Target.  When my little man developed bronchitis in September, they were the first to offer to help out in any way possible, with one friend showing up with dinner, and another offering to go to Costco for snacks so I wouldn't have to take my miserable, sick kid out. 

In addition to local friends, I've become a part of a larger group by surprise, by joining a writing group through the blog Coffee + Crumbs. Joining midway through the year was a huge leap, and I was immediately blown away by the community I found within. Several of us joined together in Voxer to make a group chat and we're now planning a retreat for the summer, building our community of friends who help us grow as writers, mothers, and women. Since joining the group, I am starting to find my voice as a writer, and I cannot wait to see how they help me grow this year. 

Because of the writing group, 2017 brought one of my most valuable long-term lessons, and helped me grow as a writer. I've always expected to be good at most things, right away, and the truth is (and most of us know this, I think): I can't be good at everything. And to be good involves work. By not working on my writing, I wasn't getting any better. The only way to get better at it, was to write. This lightbulb moment, coupled with one in not tying up everything with neat little bows has led to making and finding time to write daily - morning pages, unfinished blog posts, half-written and written essays. I write daily to practice, improve and to continue to bloom.

Lastly, I've bloomed as a person, becoming more outgoing, adventurous, and patient. I'm typically a homebody, thriving on routine, and last year I worked hard to push past those tendencies, go explore and try new things. To lay down roots and grow as a woman, friend, wife, and mother. I've worked hard to take better care of myself- making time for the things I enjoy, like spin class, reading, writing, cooking, and baking. I am working to put down my phone and live within the moment, capturing just enough for the memory books before diving back into the imaginative play of my son. 

While I may not be perfect (what thing in nature is), I'm finding more and more joy the more I bloom. While my year of "bloom" is over, I'm sure I'll continue to benefit from making the choice to bloom as I walk into 2018, eager to see what the year will bring. 

The word for 2016: Open

So in 2015, my word of the year was grow. I wanted to grow as a person and grow in other ways. I wanted to approach a multitude of things in life with an attitude of growth. 

That being said, 2015 was a year of growth. In 2015, I grew as a person. I stopped caring about what other people thought of me (for reals, it only took me 29 years, y'all). I grew in my beliefs and morals and values. I didn't grow this blog - I ended up deciding to take time away from it when I realized I just wasn't enjoying what I was writing, in an attempt to find my voice and grow as a writer. That worked, and I'll be writing more on that later.

2015 is also the year we decided that it was time for our family to grow, too. A few days after our second wedding anniversary we learned we were pregnant with Oscar, and we were thrilled. I grew in many ways during my pregnancy - and not all of them had to do with growing a baby. I had to determine what kind of parent I wanted to be to the little one I was carrying. Note: I'm still figuring that out and he's been on the outside for 10 weeks now. Small steps, right?

In December I started bullet journaling - another topic I hope to write more about it. I love it. It's a great way for me to keep track of my day to day without feeling overwhelmed, and while I fell down on it during Oscar's first month of life, I have been pretty intently keeping it up ever since. It was an exercise in growth and practice for me, the girl who has kept multiple day planners since high school. 

Which brings me to my word for 2016, only very nearly three full months late (though it's been at the forefront of my every day since the first of the year): Open. 

I'm not very spontaneous. I am open-minded, but I am a planner. So this year I wanted to shake things up a lot, and decided that my word would be open. Why?

Well, because I want to be open to possibilities. More open-minded. Open to new things and new plans. To being spontaneous. The one thing everyone tells you about when you have a baby is you need to be open to rapid plan changes. Sleepless nights. Open to more love than you may have ever known possible. I've found for  me, all of the above has been true. I know that this isn't true for everyone, but it has been for me.

I'm also trying to be more open to whatever may come this year. So far, it's shaping up to be a wild one: I never thought I'd be a mother of a near-term preterm infant (I had to be open to plan changes very early on this year!), and I can't wait to see what else comes from 2016. 

Sunday Snapshot

I'm trying something new this week - kind of a "week in review" sort of post, but more like a snapshot of what I've been into throughout the week, or lately, or even just today.

1. These Smoky Grilled Chicken Pitas by How Sweet Eats are kind of the bomb dot com. I. Am. Obsessed. They combine every. single. one. of my cravings. Briny. Smoky. Chicken. Delicious. I think I've eaten these four times this week and I'm sad that my leftovers are all gone!

2. Taste of Belgium chicken and waffle? Also amazing. This meal was courtesy the Taste of Belgium stand at the ballpark. Sweet, savory, spicy, salty. Noticing a theme?

3. My latest book pick has been Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenrider. I like the discussions of living mindfully, and she has quite the way with words.

4. I've been hardcore into grapefruit and cran-raspberry La Croix sparkling water lately. I've wanted flavored fizzy stuff, and well, my weird pregnancy aversion has been sweetened sodas. Enter La Croix (and OK, OK, Limonata Pellegrino). It's not sweet, but it hits that nice, fizzy flavored spot. And keeps my hydrated to boot!

5. Also? If you're not watching "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," you totally need to be. He's hilarious and his stories are truly thought-provoking - being a little more longer-form than what you might expect from satire news. 

That's my summary there. I think this coming week may be the week of trashy movies and lots of leftovers!

Life Lately, August Edition

Y'all. Life is weird. And it seems like I do a lot of blogging from my yard this summer. But it's too gorgeous not to!

But life, lately, that's what this post is about, right? Well, for starters, I was in a wedding on Saturday. My best friend's wedding, in fact. And it was a blast. A busy day that started with bridal party coffees and ended with post-reception tacos.

The bride was gorgeous. The groom was radiant. And? We. Got. Down. So much so in fact that Monday I called my OB's office to ask why it felt like I had a water balloon instead of a uterus.

Yeah. That totally did happen. 

We were also able to reconnect with some friends from college. Friends who, without us knowing them? We might not be married because we probably wouldn't have met. How is that for serendipity? We spent a solid afternoon out with them exploring downtown, enjoying tater tots at Lachey's, and buying a fun shark clock for the nursery. 

In addition to that there's been a lot of cat snuggling. A lot of reading. And enjoying some of the lovely weather we're due to have this weekend. I finally broke down and bought some maternity shorts (more on that later), because I'm short enough that well, I literally went from able to zip into a slim-fit taffeta gown on Saturday to popping by Monday.

And I never truly understood what ladies meant when they said they popped overnight, but that totally did happen, and now I feel like I can't get enough of the elastic waisted clothing. I'll be doing a "what I'm wearing" post eventually, because I'm still able to mix and match a lot, but I am starting to favor maternity tops. With those I at least look pregnant and not just like I ate too many burritos.

I've also developed quite the obsession with figs lately. They're delicious. But impossible to find. BUT. I had an exceptionally long drive home from work on Wednesday night and necessity led to a stop at Whole Foods. Where I totally bought some Mission Figs. And I cannot WAIT to roast them with some prosciutto and honey and devour them atop some whipped ricotta. Cannot. Wait.

But really, that's been the basics of life lately. At least for now. It's been pretty simple round these parts, which makes me happy. Simple, sweet, and fun. I'm still figuring out where my belly is in space, which sounds odd, but it did pop up overnight! And I am eagerly looking forward to what is going to be a jam-packed but fun weekend.

I'll be back soon with some early pregnancy favorites of mine! Have a great night!

Catch-Up Friday

I know, a post on Friday morning. Who am I? A woman who has been caught in the throes of the busy trap for a few weeks and just now surfaced. That's who.

So now, I'm sort of playing catch-up while eating my muesli and getting ready for my day ahead. 

What have I been up to while caught in the busy trap? 

Well, there's work, of course, which is still going really well. And reading. A lot. My last trip to the library yielded nine books, and I picked up three more the following day. I'm really excited about this because I'm finally getting to read Rainbow Rowell's books Fangirl and Eleanor and Park. I finished Fangirl on Monday and adored it, and I'm halfway through Eleanor and Park and am loving it as well. 

But I've not just been reading fiction, I also have a small collection of non-fiction I've been reading, too, such as Salt: A World History which was fascinating. I learned SO much from this book and it was very hard to put it down. I had no idea how instrumental to our world salt was from a historical standpoint, in addition to being vital for cellular function. I have two more non-fiction books going right now, though I can't remember their exact titles, and I feel like I'm learning a lot, all while doing one of the things I love most: reading.

I've also been running quite a bit. I may be doing a 15k in a month, though based on my IT bands, a 10k is more likely - but we'll see how my mileage stacks up in the next couple of weeks! I ran the Cyclones Frozen 5k a week ago and squeezed in a new PR - it was only by eight seconds, but running that 5k in 29:42 made me feel pretty proud of myself, especially considering how little running I had done up until I started to train for that particular race.

I found myself on a treadmill on Monday running at at 10 minute mile pace and thinking how slow it was, but it was a slightly longer run and I didn't want to burn out. Maybe 9:35 is my new minute-per-mile training pace? I don't know, but I like feeling fast. Tomorrow it's supposed to be pretty nice out so Allen and I are hoping to get a run in while it's pleasant out, just to enjoy the sunshine.

I'm still scrapbooking, though I'm a bit behind on January. We've had some heavy stuff happening in our family life that's been a bit distracting but things are calming down there, which is really nice.

So I've been busy, yes, and I haven't been writing, which sucks. But I'm working on it. I won't make any promises, but I'm hoping in the coming weeks to at least post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so keep an eye out, and happy Friday!

Currently Loving: Beauty Products

This summer, I have been trying to have fun with all of the beauty products. Lipstick, lip stain, bright nails, and of course, the new pixie cut. It's all really fun, and I'm finding that there are several products I've been going to over and over, along with a new product that I am just LOVING.

So, I thought I'd share with you my favorite beauty and makeup products today. It's summer - why not have some fun with makeup?

Clockwise from top left

  1. Bold nailpolish. I really love the summer shades released every year - they're so unique and different from the norm. Currently, I'm into watermelon pink, mint green, and all of the blues -  and so much glitter! I'm not a brand loyalist, per se, but lately I've been really into Essie brand specifically, over Orly bonder basecoat. I notice the polish holds up really well, and most of my manis last about a week before they start chipping. 
  2. Bare Minerals powder foundation. This is my go-to for everyday foundation. I really want to try their new serum, but right now I'm sticking with powder. It's lightweight, I'm familiar with it, and it's easy to apply. I love that it makes my skin look like my skin, but better. A huge bonus for me is that the foundation is SPF 15, and my mineral veil? Well, I chose the one with SPF 25. It's a little extra sun protection for my day-to-day life, without being too heavy. 
  3. Urban Decay Naked 2 Palette. I tend toward classic makeup looks and favor neutrals. Partly because they're easy and safe choices. While I love trying new things, my everyday eyeshadows are typically found in this versatile pallette. It's got a great selection of taupes and browns, good highlight shades, and the perfect shades for a smoky eye. The brush that comes with the palette is pretty good, though I'm not picky about my brushes. I do use other brushes depending on what look I'm going for, and I can go from night to day with the colors in this versatile neutral collection. 
  4. Stila Smudge Stick eyeliner. I started using this liner during our trip to Chicago last month and fell in love with it the first time I put it on. This eyeliner is smooth and easy to put on, and as the name suggests, really easy and fun to smudge for the perfect smoky eye or other dramatic eye look. I like that it allows me to blend and smudge it, but will set quickly for days I want a soft and controlled line. Once the liner is set, it's there to stay until you take it off, and the water resistance is no joke. 
  5. Lipcolor. I developed a small love for lip color while planning my wedding. Lately I've worn color more days than I haven't, and my purse is kind of full of various tinted balms and lipsticks. I love sheer tinted balms for days when I just want a hint of extra color. When I'm feeling bolder, I reach for richer colors, like my Fresh Sugar balm, lipstick, or pink lip crayon. It's a great way for me to add some extra color to my look while feeling put-together to start the day. I really want to try this season's orange lip trend, and have been eyeing quite a few shades at the store lately. 
  6. Glass Nail File. Here, I have it pictured in its protective case because it kept blending in with my background, but my glass file is AMAZING. It's got a smooth etched surface that is really easy on my nails and gets them filed way faster than a traditional emery board. The protective case keeps it safe in my purse, and it's really pretty, too. Mine is from Sephora and was a gift, and it's become one of my most-used beauty tools. I'm totally won over and love filing and shaping my nails with this great tool 

My beauty products are pretty basic, but I love using them. There are days I go without makeup, weeks I go sans nail polish, and times when I just want some moisturizer and mascara and am good to go. There are SO many beauty products out there that I want to try. So after ogling and hemming and hawing for quite a while, I finally decided to sign up for Birchbox. I get my first box in July and cannot wait to start discovering even more new products. 

Make These: Scrambled Eggs

Today I wanted some scrambled eggs in a serious way. Normally I make cheesy scrambled eggs, and I will be the first to admit: I am terrible at making scrambled eggs - with or without cheese. Normally my cheesy eggs come out a touch crispy. I have an allergy to uncooked eggs so I have to be careful when I go to make a good scramble. 

In the interest of not having cheesy eggs today, but wanting eggs that more closely resembled what I might get at, say, Bob Evans than what I normally make at home, I decided to give this recipe at The REWM a try. 

These? Delicious. They came out perfectly fluffy, peppery, well-scrambled without being overcooked. The addition of butter at the end added that something else that really took them over the top, and I can totally see making eggs like this again and again and again.

I highly recommend trying out this method for scrambled eggs. You won't regret it. 

Around the Web: Milk and Coffee

I am totally that girl who goes into a coffee shop and orders a drink "skim" or "skinny." I've been ording my espresso drinks this way since I got my first taste of latte. Well, mostly. If a coffee shop has a special milk, or takes great care to offer local milks as an option, I go for it, because it's just so good. I'll admit, I got hooked on locally-produced milk when my hometown coffee shop started offering espresso drinks made with Snowville Creamery non-homogenized milk. It is milk I will go out of my way to buy at the store when I can, and it definitely makes espresso drinks shine.

But why am I talking about this? Because today I stumbled across an article at NYMag, discussing 23 Excellent Coffee Shops That Make Milk a Top Priority and wanted to share with you (which, I'll admit, is not my norm). This quote from the article definitely caught my eye:

As Blue Bottle's James Freeman recently told Grub, "How coffee tastes is directly related to how the milk tastes."

I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did!

Just a Few Changes

Good afternoon! I've decided to go live with my new blog design today, though it's not entirely finished. To match my random blogging goals and changes in how I blog, I thought a minor update was needed! I hope you like the new, cleaner look (though the foundation of the blog hasn't changed)! It's my hope that this will really enable my content to shine, especially as we get more into the summer and I'm sharing more and more music and photographs that a larger main content column will really enable my pictures and the videos of some very talented artists to really stand out.

Another change you'll see here is that, well, I've turned off comments. I made this decision after a lot of thought and discussion with Allen and with fellow bloggers, and after realizing that a lot of conversation around my posts was happening in my inbox and on Twitter. Part of my decision was based around what I learned in another re-read of The State of Blogging Essay from Design Sponge.

What you can expect moving forward is the same awesome content, along with more music, more pictures, and well, even more awesomeness! Keep an eye out for tonight's post, which will be the very first in a series of (Unofficial) Bunbury Festival Soundchecks, featuring the Yugos AND J. Roddy Walston and the Business.

Feel-Good Cinnamon Muffins

Life has been a little hectic lately. I don't really have anything to complain about, except I would like a little more sleep, and a lot less snow. I am just really tired of snow. The first couple times it was fun, and then I went a solid two weeks without seeing my backyard for all the snow and ice (and also struggling to free my car from my parking spot) and well, bring on spring!

Why do I say all of this? Well, Sunday I was feeling just a little frustrated. We had our second or third ice storm of the year Sunday evening into early Monday morning, and I, well, wanted muffins. When it's cold and snowy I want carbs. Well, and soup, but Sunday I mostly wanted carbs. After a little Googling, hunting in the kitchen, I found that I had all the makings for some tasty cinnamon streusel muffins.

Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

Muffin recipe adapted slightly From About.com

Makes 12 muffins

Time: 45 minutes

Muffin Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 cup lowfat milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil OR 1/2 stick of butter, melted.

Streusel Ingredients:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup (half of a stick or 4 tablespoons) chilled unsalted butter, cut into half-inch cubes

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Instructions:

1. Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper liners, or grease and lightly flour the tins.

2. Make the streusel: in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter pieces and cut together using a pastry blender, two knives, a fork, or your fingers, working until the butter is well-incorporated into the flour. The mixture will look very lumpy and dry. Set aside. I made my streusel in a large cereal bowl.

3. Make the muffins: In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir well with a fork and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the egg until light yellow and fluffy. Add the milk, sugar, and vanilla and mix well. Slowly mix in the oil (or cooled melted butter).

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix very gently until just blended. This can be anywhere from 10-20 seconds. I folded my ingredients together until everything was moist and combined. There will still be lumps - this is totally okay!

5. Scoop the muffin batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling the tins about 2/3 full. Top each muffin generously with the streusel topping. Alternately, you can fill the muffin tins 1/3 full, add a layer of streusel, then fill the tins to 2/3 full for a coffee-cake like effect. Bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool and eat!

Random Thoughts

A better title for this post may be "thoughts that are maybe not all related, but pertain to blogging so I'll put them here." Mainly, ever since I read this post on Design Sponge about the current state of blogging earlier in the week, I've been thinking about my little space on the internet. It actually really touched on many thoughts I've been having about the blog, what I've been writing, and what I want to write.

The truth is, ever since I transitioned away from being a food/health blogger, I've been trying to figure out how to best define the content I want to share in my little corner of the blog world. I know I need to step up my game and truly create a defined, unique space, and well, I've been second-guessing a lot of decisions made about my blog over the past year or so. I chose, for personal reasons, not to really blog about my wedding as I was planning it, and looking back, I wish I had written more about some of our struggles - like planning a wedding in a small town while we live in a big city, or planning hours away during a very very busy year (and while one of us was working with a business-travel-heavy sort of year).

Now that we're well beyond that, the holidays are over, and we're rapidly moving into February and approaching my birthday, I really want to focus on how I want to develop this space. I've written so many posts about recreating the blog that I worry about posting another, but this is something I have been thinking really hard about since my last post. It's why I have not posted in over a week. I want this blog to be representative of what I care about, but more importantly, I want it to be a space where you - my readers - can come and enjoy.

Lately, I've been thinking about my verbs for this year and how I want to represent them moving forward. I'm already working on throwing myself head-first into more photography than before, along with scribbling down on paper ideas for future blog content, posts, and collaborations I would love to do sometime down the line.

I write all of this to say that yes, you will see changes on the blog. The name is staying the same (at least for now), the layout is not changing, but the content may be a little different. It will still, for sure, be lifestyle-geared, but there will be more about adjusting to married life and being, well, an adult. More about life with more than two pets and adapting to busy travel schedules. It will be, I hope, more resourceful and less personal, though you will still find personal posts scattered throughout. Tuesday Tunes should be sticking around, because music does make up a huge part of my life and my day-to-day.

So maybe these weren't so random thoughts, but changes are a-coming. I hope you'll stick around to see.

Weekending: Snow and Hockey

This past weekend was a long weekend for me, which was just about perfect. We had snow Thursday afternoon and into the evening, making for a frigid start to my time off. I didn't mind it (much), and it was fun to pull on some fluffy sweats and my shearling boots on Friday morning to go stomp around in the snow for a little while. I love how it crunches underfoot, and I'm already pretty impressed with just how much snow we've gotten this winter. 

Friday and Sunday ended up being fairly laid-back days. Saturday was pretty busy, and we ended up going out Saturday night for hockey and a late dinner. It was our first date night in a little while, with a pretty awesome hockey game downtown. The Cyclones scored the first goal of the game, which was followed by lots of stuffed animals being tossed onto the ice. I'm not sure if they do this every game, but they had hundreds of teddy bears tossed on the ice after the first Cyclones goal, all to be donated to the Cincinnati Police Department's outreach program. It was pretty awesome. We ended up leaving the rink after the second period, when the score was 5-2. I hadn't eaten yet and had a HUGE craving for cheese fries, so we made our way into the Banks downtown to get dinner at Johnny Rocket's.

It was a pretty fun evening and a great day. I loved getting cheese fries and burgers after the hockey game and just getting to enjoy the night with my husband. Sunday was fairly low-key and laid back. We stocked up on cleaning supplies and knocked out some much-needed housework, freeing up quite a bit of time the rest of the week to finish out "Trigun" (an anime series) on Netflix, do some Project Life, and get caught up on some blogging tasks I want to do this week as well.

All in all, it was a good and restful weekend, and while I'm not looking forward to the frigid temperatures starting out the week, I am looking forward to what this week will bring. 

How was your weekend?

Playing Dress-Up

I recently went through a stack of photographs I got to use for my bridal shower back in March. They are old pictures of me, my siblings, my parents and grandparents - all from growing up. Something that struck me in all of the pictures was how confident I was in my skin as a small child, and how much dressing up and posing I did for the many pictures we have of me from such a young age. Though we never had what you could call a "dress-up box," I did have a few tutus, some hats, and a nice collection of matching outfits, all of which I enjoyed changing up on a day-to-day basis.

As I grew older, my tendency toward dress-up was put to the wayside. I had a surprising collection of Tweety Bird tee shirts (it was a phase. I outgrew it, and I don't currently have the photographic proof). I was a bit of a tomboy in my early teens and my clothing choices for a while reflected that. It didn't help that I went through puberty before most of my peers, and I often found myself hiding beneath looser tops and baggy jeans. It definitely helped my tomboy image, and it wasn't something I cared too much about while out playing with friends, rollerblading through our neighborhood, or hanging out around the house. I needed clothes I could mess up with paint and dirt and sand, and what I wore fit that need

Some of my favorite pictures of myself from childhood are the ones where I played dress-up with my tutus, hats, and dresses. I also have favorites from my teen years, when I put an effort into my outward appearance, back before leggings were popular (again. I work stirrup pants in 1990. I remember not liking how they felt under my feet). I loved (and still enjoy) skirts, dresses, fun tops, hats, and layers. There is just something fun about putting together an outfit that you feel good about. It almost makes the day-to-day feel like playing dress-up.

There is also an absence of photos from a few years of my life. The years when I lacked confidence, or when I didn't feel at home in my skin. Even though I've read my fair share of books about women, girls, and body image, I am often surprised at how little confidence many girls of a certain age seem to exhibit. I know from 15-18 I struggled in my skin. I felt too big, too small, like my skin was too tight and like nothing I wore looked right, even when I have distinct memories of feeling very cute in low-rise jeans and long-sleeves (to the point that it is a look I gravitate toward ten, twelve years later). I didn't feel like I was playing dress-up then, more like I was in a competition with myself and my peers for who could look the best.

Once I, again, found my center and my confidence, dress-up became one of my favorite activities, but in a much different manner. I had to figure out how to dress for going out (still have no idea how, also, very few clothes for going out in a non-date like manner (like for dancing)), for work, for the weekends, and for lounging around the house (answer there: flannel pants and tanks- my house is chilly!). I had to learn how to dress like a young adult and a young professional. Now, leggings are back in, and they make up a teeny portion of my wardrobe. I don't own stirrup pants and have an affinity for fun tights. My day-to-day outfits consist of jeans and tees, lots of layers and scarves, and I would live in concert tees if I could. I don't own tutus, but I do have several dresses I absolutely love.

Part of learning how to really dress like an adult and taking ownership of my personal style was to learn how to create a wardrobe and a uniform. It involved learning how to play dress-up again, and not be afraid of taking risks and looking silly. Most of the time, my intuition is right on for how an outfit ultimately will look. Sometimes it fails (tiered skirt and very patterned scarf? too busy! tiered skirt and plain scarf? perfect!). Most of the time, it's spot-on. Now, for the holidays, I'm learning to love glitter and sparkle all over again (though I don't think I really stopped, I think I just pretended not to care about glitter, sparkle, and sequins. I mean, the bodice of my wedding dress was very sparkly, which was one of its major selling points when I first put it on!), and learning how to incorporate sparkle and glitz into my outfits every day is just one spot of fun during this cold season. I may never again own a tutu, but man, will I keep loving to dress up just like I did when I was little.

Let's Workout: Or not - Cold-Weather Goals

With all of the snow that fell in my neighborhood this weekend and overnight, and temperatures hovering around twenty-five for a good chunk of the past week, working out has not been high on my list of priorities. Keeping warm? Yes. Hot cocoa? Yes. All of the veggies and carbs? Yes. Running? No thank you. I surprised myself last week and made it to the gym three times - something I have to push myself to do when the temperatures fall. The snow added to the challenge, as I can make myself go running when it's cold (and I'm pretty well-stocked on running clothes specifically for cold temperatures), but when the ground is covered in snow and ice? not happening.

So, what am I doing? Aiming to gym. I'm antsy, and it's probably because I haven't worked out since early Friday morning (truth). There have been a few walks in the neighborhood, but mostly I've been in the house reading a collection of books I have out from the library (I currently  have 16, with five due this week. My library history is to return five and check out another eight, so we'll see what happens - that being said, any recommendations?). I know that I will only get antsier if I don't set a plan and stick to it, so that's exactly what I'm setting out to do for the coming weeks - at the very least to get through the holidays!

What's on plan for the next few weeks? The basics. I plan to do SOMETHING three or four times per week, though I couldn't say what that something exactly will be. Lately I've been loving the stationery cycles and weight training at the gym, yoga at home, and running. I've been counting my workout weeks from Monday through Sunday, so between today and Sunday night I have three workouts to get in. This week I'm planning for two cardio-type and one yoga or weights. We'll see what that gets me. In theory I'll be less antsy, and while I'll have to deal with the cold, once I've worked out I don't mind the cold quite as much. 

We don't have any races on the agenda just yet, though we may be racing a pre-Christmas 5k in a couple weeks. For the month of December, I know setting a plan for three or four workouts will be enough, but I want to see what's coming up next year in terms of races and other fitness-oriented events to get involved and stay in shape for. I'm eager to see where I can go fitness and running-wise in the coming year, and I know to get there I need to stay committed. 

What workouts have you been up to lately?

Weekending: Visiting Family

Our weekend was spent visiting Allen's folks for a relaxing but whirlwind of a trip to areas of the state I haven't seen since our wedding in May. We were up fairly early on Saturday morning to hit the road, as we had agreed to meet Allen's mom early enough to help set up for a fundraiser she was hosting during the Ohio State game. This meant for an early Small Business Saturday trip to the coffee shop on the way out of town so I could get adequately caffeinated for the busy day ahead. 

As we made our way east, I sipped my latte and until my hands finally warmed up, was incredibly happy to have my hand-knit armwarmers ready for use that chilly morning. I tend to have cold hands so I have quite the collection of gloves, mittens, and arm and handwarmers at the ready when the temperatures turn cold. Unsurprisingly, going into this week, we are looking at temperatures warming up close to sixty before falling again just in time for me to travel - on my own - back home to visit my folks next weekend. 

The cool temperatures this weekend were aided by quite a bit of lovely cloud cover. As we made our way east Saturday morning, it was fun to watch the sun rise through the clouds, and as we drove back home Sunday, the clouds were similarly patterned for sunset. I'm nevertheless amazed at how the ambience of a day can be impacted by clouds, and I was happy Saturday afternoon when the sun peeked out for a little while and warmed things up! It's been a cold couple of weeks so I am eager for this week's reprieve from the frigid temperatures, even if we will be getting lows in the teens before the weekend.

The fundraiser Saturday was a success, and we spent the rest of Saturday evening enjoying time playing Wii - including boxing, Super Mario Bros 1 and 3, and taking a Wii fitness test. Sunday we slept in and woke up in time for lunch. I found myself a little on the very stuffed-up side Sunday morning - moreso than allergies. It's unsurprising as Allen had a cold for most of the past week, so I was likely to catch it. It will just involve extra rest, fluids, and healthy foods this week to be well by Friday.

Regardless of colds and early mornings, we had a fun and restful weekend. The week ahead looks busy as well, and I'm trying to decide what deals I may want to take advantage of for Cyber Monday. I may finally spring for a Dear Sugar mug at The Rumpus, but we will see what happens. For now, I'm going to read and enjoy a mug of hot tea.

What did you get into the weekend?

Weekending: Strong Winds

Our weekend was unusual. Our plan was to relax. Go to the gym. Visit the cat shelter. Play some Magic. Snuggle with our cats.

We definitely got to relax, snuggle the cats, visit the shelter and play some Magic. We also sat and watched in horror as towns were devastated by tornadoes that swept across the midwest as part of a large, windy storm cell. After living in the midwest since birth, tornadoes and windstorms are something you grow to expect, just not in November. They're more of an April/May/June sort of phenomenon, so waking up to friends posting about tornadoes on Facebook was surreal.

Rather than risk going out and being caught in a storm, we spent a lot of time at home on Sunday, trying to remain vigilent and be ready to shelter in our basement at a moment's notice. It was definitely a high-awareness situation, especially as we learned of EF-4 tornadoes taking out entire towns, and saw the devastation live on The Weather Channel.

As we kept an eye on the weather, read, and caught up on laundry we also texted friends who were at home, while others were at the football game as the weather wasn't anticipated to reach Cincinnati until after the game was over and the crowds dispersed. We weren't really worried until we were told the storm was about an hour out and twenty minutes later our tornado sirens were sounding, the EAS alert was blaring on our TV, and the meteorologist was saying that there was a possible tornado sighting within our county.

Then, we had to move, and quickly. The storm seemed to be moving a bit faster than anticipated as it bowed, and we had to get into the basement for shelter in case the tornado came our way. After fifteen minutes of sheltering, high winds, and rain (along with nail-biting and texting) we had an all-clear and trundled back upstairs. We were exceptionally lucky in all of this, and I am truly grateful. The storm passed quickly, and while some trees were minus a few more leaves, the affects of the high winds were limited. We know others weren't as lucky in areas near to us and across the country, with communities devastated, properties destroyed, and people's lives changed forever.

What was underscored most for us during the storms on Sunday was our emergency preparedness plan. Ours is basic, but it was there and it worked. We are going to have to make slight changes, so that if there is a next time we'll be faster at getting into the basement and taking shelter. For now, we're grateful that it wasn't worse and that we were safe.

Weekending: Setting another PR

Five weeks. It's been five weeks of travel in my household. Four weeks were Allen traveling. The weekend I went to the bar mitzvah was the other. That's a lot of time apart, and a lot of schedule shake-ups happening (at least in the beginning). It's a little odd having your spouse home only on the weekends, and I got very used to going for runs on my own, setting my weeknight schedule and watching a lot of "Scandal."

Now, things have calmed down, and Allen is home for the foreseeable future. That makes things a bit easier (two folks available to scoop litter boxes, vacuum, and keep the laundry in check is always a good thing). It also means a more regular running schedule than what we'd been adhering to, which will make our next running race (a 5k in December, if not a turkey trot next month) a lot easier.

That brings me to what we did this past weekend: PR yet another race. This one a 5k, on an unseasonably chilly October afternoon. Yep, you read that right: we ran a 5k in the afternoon on Saturday. This race was the Cincinnati Cyclones 5k. The Cyclones are a local hockey team with quite the following, and the 5k is a precursor to the first face-off of the year. Race registration includes a ticket to the face-off, and this is the second year we've run this particular race.

As per usual, I didn't take any on-course pictures, and unfortunately was unable to take pictures after the race. The picture of the leaves above was taken before, while we were headed to race start. Because this was the first race we did as a couple together, it is one we both work to run our best for. The course was unchanged from last year, but the weather was quite chilly at race start - being a damp day it felt 43, a temperature neither of us have run in since before the relay in May.

Because we both wanted to PR, it was agreed that we wouldn't stick together - Allen is a faster runner than I am, and we both wanted to see just how fast we each could get the race done. With our pace watches, when the race started, we were off, and almost immediately separated. The cool fall air worked to our advantage, keeping us cool through the first half of the race, which is when the sun came out. I ran my first mile just a touch too quickly, managing to make a 9-minute-mile. That's about thirty seconds a mile faster than what I can sustain, and my splits from the race indicated that, as I ran miles two and three slightly slower. I never went below a 10-minute-mile, however, even with needing to take a walk break to take off my gloves.

The race was over quickly, and as usual, I was surprised at how fast the time spent running flew by. I found myself running up the hill around Great American Ballpark a lot sooner than I anticipated, crossing the finish line on the plaza 29:49 after starting the race. My fast start worked in my advantage, and I managed to make my goal of a 5k in under 30 minutes, surprising myself (I thought I would finish a little over 30 minutes in, not a little under). Allen crossed the finish line a minute before me, and we were both a little too warm, proud, and ready to take in some Cyclones hockey.

I was and am proud of our quick finish. Our training since the 7k last month has been sporadic, and I took a week off while I had my cold so I could recover (I was too worn out to run). My speed and determination was surprising, even as much as it wasn't; my focus on running well and efficiently lately is paying off. We're eager to run one more 5k before the new year, and maybe we can be equally as fast then, too. In the meantime, I'm going to do more speedwork, focus on nutrition, rest, and maintain the consistency in training that's gotten us this far.

Let's Get this Restarted

Now I have a song by The Black-Eyed Peas stuck in my head, but that's okay. What do I mean by restarted though? If you've visited the blog recently, you've probably noticed a few small changes. By small, I mean a new header, slightly new menu bar, and a re-arranged sidebar module (still under construction). I'm rebooting the blog.

I decided that I needed to make a change when I was caught struggling to write. I had a niche and felt out of place. I was caught somewhere in a mindcasting and lifecasting limbo and needed to get out. I just cannot limbo that much, and I needed a plan. So I sat down at the kitchen table after a weekend visiting Allen's parents and wrote one out.

Which brings us here. After taking a week off from blogging to do some behind-the-blog work, I'm back. As back as I am going to get. Brainstorming about what I enjoy and what I enjoy writing about led me to realize that I really prefer lifestyle blogging in a way that combines lifecasting in a getting-to-know-you manner and mindcasting in a how-do-you-do-it way.

This brings me to the primary changes you'll see as I get the redone blog back up and running after nearly ten days of quiet. It is my hope to share with you tips and tricks I've learned in the six years I've been working full-time, and I hope that any of you can apply what I've learned to your life - busy or relaxed. My goal is to offer up anecdotes and various how-tos to tame a busy life, regardless of what you do, from quick lunches, to cleaning house, to getting dressed in the morning and more.

Additionally, interspersed with the how-tos, tips, tricks, and fun ways to live a healthy life, I will be sharing recipes and stories from my day-to-day life. I plan to post at least three times per week, and will be offline (at least the blog) on the weekends.

As I reboot, restart, and rework the blog, I hope you stick around. It's been fun to figure all of this out, and I can't wait to get started.

On life happening and Working Out

Typically, after a long hiatus from any sort of regular workout routine, I put up a post about "getting back into it," along with goals I have for the months ahead. Through the whole wedding planning process, however, a lot happened. Routines were muddled. The Boy went on A LOT of business trips. We made plans to run a race. The Boy got an IT band injury, and my old IT injury flared up.

Needless to say - a lot happened. Life happened. I can honestly say that I only worked out about three times between the relay and the wedding. Part of this was due to the fact that The Boy was traveling the week prior to the wedding (though not wedding week) and I was busy wrapping things up at home so we would be ready. Part of it can be attributed to us leaving to prepare for the wedding the Thursday before the wedding. Most of it, though, is that there was so much going on that when given the choice between working out and sleeping, I chose sleep nearly every time.

Of course, this isn't the first time (nor will it be the last) that my routine has been thrown off. We've gone on vacation and taken time away from working out or eating as healthfully as we do at home. I think of vacation as an exception, though. While on vacation I am likely to want to try new things, visit breweries, taste the local cuisine, all while doing quite a bit of walking. Illnesses and other events intervene with our routine regularly, though we always like getting back into some sort of routine when the dust settles. 

The best examples I have of this, in addition to the wedding, would be when our cat needed to have surgery. For the ten days he had stitches and was in an e-collar, he needed a lot of supervision. He couldn't eat with the collar on, and because it obscured his peripheral vision, tended to walk right along the walls, making quite a bit of noise. Our sleep was not so great those ten days, and we chose to devote a good bit of time to him, all while training for the relay.

All that being said, I've realized over the past year that life happens. Rather than getting back into it, I am finding that I prefer to look at working out and healthy eating as an ebb-and-flow sort of thing. There are weeks I go without doing any sort of technical workout, but we go for hour-long walks after dinner. There are other weeks where I manage to get in five workouts. If I didn't stay flexible with my routines, habits, and expectations, I would probably drive myself a little crazy. 

Life happens. When it does I accept a little change to my routine. It's inevitable. What matters to me is making an effort - whether it be eating a lot of raw fruits and veggies in place of steamed or going for a walk after dinner, every little bit counts. Rather than be all or nothing, I'd rather be fluid and flexible and roll with the punches. I think rather than thinking of now as a time to be getting back to it - with it being regular workouts - I am going to look at how to make activity a part of my everyday, whether it's a walk on my lunch hour or after dinner, yoga, a run, or a trip to the gym. This way, life can happen, and I can satisfy my anxious need to move by doing something, all while handling what every day throws at me.

What about you - how do you handle it when life throws you a curveball? Do you have a regular workout routine?

 

Virtual Coffee Date

If we were having coffee today, I would say that this month is shaping up to be busy. We have a lot of company coming in over the next few weeks, and it’s a bit crazy.

I would tell you that I am as ready for the relay as I can be. Sheena comes in on Saturday and Sunday morning we have a very early wake-up call. The forecast calls for rain currently, and I am hoping very hard that it doesn’t.

I would also say that I am eager to see my friends this weekend, and to see more of our friends next week. The Boy’s bachelor party is in just over a week and we are going to have a house full of guys. I plan to hole up with movies and books for a good portion of the weekend, in addition to visiting.

I would tell you that the zoo babies are at the zoo this month, and I am excited to try to go to see them. I love seeing all the new baby animals in their habitats, even as I wonder if they want more space than their enclosures allow.

I would tell you that as busy as this month is shaping up to be, it’s exciting. Even with some heavy stuff happening in addition to the happy stuff, it’s shaping up to be a pretty decent month.

What’s going on in your life lately?