Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Brandon and I are about to head up to Maryland for our annual Easter gluttony dinner with some of my grad school friends — we’ve been doing this shindig since 2007, and it’s one of my favorite traditions.

One of my grad school amigas always makes an amazeballs pork tenderloin, and she always makes a separate one for me with gluten-free soy sauce (because she’s awesome like that).

This is me in 2009, about to inhale a full pork tenderloin in nearly one sitting.

Let there be no doubt: pictures of this epic food fest will make it into Wednesday’s WIAW post.

Upon returning home this evening, we’ll hopefully (please, sweet baby Jesus) power through the remaining five episodes of Breaking Bad so that it can stop ruining my life. Because y’know, I need to become a functional human being again one of these days.

In the meantime, I hope y’all have an awesome Easter!

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Grown-Up Saturday Morning Cartoons: Article Roundup

G’morning, y’all — imagine me raising my ginormous mug of coffee in the general direction of the computer screen and saying something along the lines of “Cheers, my friends, and happy Saturday.”

True to my usual style, Brandon and I spent last night watching Breaking Bad (we’re thisclose to being caught up), and I fell asleep on the couch at 10. I live a wild life, people. Between my dinner of leftover pad Thai, the sweatpants and hoodie I donned, and my superpower ability to fall dead asleep in front of the TV at 10 p.m. on a Friday night, let there be no doubt: Aerosmith’s Livin’ On The Edge was written about me. Obvi.

Anyways, I’m hoping Brandon and I can power through the remaining episodes of Breaking Bad, because yesterday I had an epiphany: spending all my evenings watching 2-3 hours of TV is, well, basically ruining my life. (What do you mean, “being dramatic” and “over-exaggerating”? I’M NEVER DRAMATIC, AND I NEVER EVER EXAGGERATE.)

Seriously, though: I usually spend my evenings writing, and then I work out in the mornings before work. Since the Breaking Bad marathon commenced, though, I haven’t had time to write in the evenings, which means it’s been relegated to the mornings. My mornings are already on a tight schedule, so writing in the morning has meant that I haven’t had any time to work out. I become a cranky, grouchy mess when I don’t work out, so that’s problem number one.

Problem number two? It takes me some time to put together a post that I really like, and there’s just not enough time for it in the mornings. I’ve repeatedly missed the bus during its more reliable time frame, which means I’ve also been late for work more than I’d like to admit. Which means I then have to stay late, which means I have to start cooking dinner as soon as I get home, which means there’s no time to work out in the evenings, which brings me back to problem number one about becoming cranky due to my lack of exercise.

So, like I said: it’s ruining my life. I really, really, really hope we can get caught up on the rest of Season 5 this weekend so I can go back to my normal routine. Pray for us, people.

In the meantime, though, it’s time for the weekly round-up of articles. Grab a beverage (preferably one with caffeine), unwind, get your read on, and enjoy. 🙂

Health & Fitness:

NPR: Maybe Isolation, Not Loneliness, Shortens Life

NYT Well: Extra Fiber for Stroke Prevention

Greatist: Seven Bodyweight Exercises We’re Doing This Week

Time: Multiple Vaccinations On The Same Day Doesn’t Raise Autism Risk

 

Gender Issues:

Time: In Saudi Arabia, Women’s Voices Are Starting To Be Heard

MissRepresentation: #NotBuyingIt – Victoria’s Secret’s “Bright Young Things” and “Thigh Gap”

HuffPost Women: Real Bikini Bodies Look Like This

The Accidental Devotional: The Day I Taught How Not To Rape

NPR: In India, Discrimination Against Women Starts in the Womb

 

Happiness & Stress Relief

Everyday Health: 6 Ways To Reduce Stress and Protect Your Heart

Fast Company: Buddha Had It Right: Relax The Mind and Productivity Will Follow

NYT Well: Easing Brain Fatigue With A Walk In The Park

 

Humor & Warm Fuzzies:

NYT: Rabbi Herschel Schacter Dies At 95; Cried to Jews of Buchenwald: “You Are Free”

Found The Marbles: 20 Acts of Kindness You Can Do From Your PC, Tablet, or Phone

BuzzFeed UK: 28 Newspaper and Magazine Layout Disasters

Time: The 5 Best Comedy Clips of the Week

BuzzFeed: 31 Kids Who Just Had Their Lives Ruined By The Easter Bunny

Overcoming Perfectionism: The Matter of Mindset

First and foremost: HAPPY FRIDAY!

Yup. That about covers it.

It’s been a nutty week, but in the wake of Tuesday’s post on perfectionism, the wheels in my brain started turning. The wave of responses made me realize that a ton of us are doing battle with the demon of perfectionism — and if our collective misery with this motif is any indication, the perfectionism seems to have the upper hand.

Once I realized this, I had a little epiphany: I want to figure out why so many of us feel an overwhelming need to be perfect.

I want to get to the root (or roots, since it’s probably a pretty complex thing) of this and figure out how to de-claw the beast. To mix my metaphors, it’s probably not possible to slay the dragon and make perfectionism go away altogether, but it might be possible to at least mitigate it.

So, I started doing some research. (What can I say? I’m both a nerd and the daughter of a professor — so I’m fairly certain that a love of research is woven into my DNA.)

While there are probably many, many things that factor into causing perfectionism, the first thing I read about is the issue of mindset. What’s mindset, you ask? Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place!

First, it’s an awesome book by Carol Dweck. (Here’s the Amazon link. You should buy it. Seriously, it’s worth every penny.)

Source: richerlife.com

As Dr. Dweck discusses in the book, after years of both teaching psychology and basically doing a metric ton of psychological research, she realized that there are two fundamental mindsets that people tend to have: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

I’ll get to the growth mindset in a moment, but here’s a compilation of quotes on how she describes people with the fixed mindset:

Believing your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.

[For people with a fixed mindset] Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I look like a winner or a loser?

In the fixed mindset it’s not enough just to succeed. It’s not enough to look smart and talented. You have to be pretty much flawless. And you have to be flawless right away.

[In the fixed mindset], it’s crucial to be perfect right now…because one test — or one evaluation — can measure you forever. … That’s why they must succeed perfectly and immediately. Who can afford the luxury of trying to grow when everything is on the line right now?

Ok, so after reading the first few chapters of the book, I basically felt like Dr. Dweck had spent untold hours hanging out in my head and recording snippets of my inner monologue. I’m a classic case of a fixed mindset person, and holy mother of God, is it ever exhausting and  effing miserable.

The growth mindset, by contrast, is

“based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

Que the lightbulb going on over my head. I’d never thought of it this way. Never. I’ve spent the bulk of my life being deeply entrenched in the fixed mindset, and it never occurred to me to focus on growth, cultivating new skills (I’m one of those people who, if I’m not immediately good at something, I get frustrated/righteously pissed off and walk away), or, y’know, cutting myself some slack.

Source: fitfluential.com

But ehrmagherd, y’all: once I started reading more about the growth mindset and the growth-focused approach to life, I felt like a huge weight was starting to lift off my shoulders. A burden I’ve been carrying around for 32 years started to lighten. It was pretty astonishing.

With tall that being said, I’ll obviously write a lot more about the growth mindset, other sources of perfectionism, and how to overcome it — and, in fact, I plan to do a whole series of posts on this. So, here’s to a) the weekend, and b) the upcoming Overcoming Perfectionism series!

Blueberry Muffin Tops and Inspirational Quotes

Good morning, and happy Thursday!

I’m still in the process of waking up, so this post might wind up being mildly incoherent. The fun thing, though, is that you might just get to see the process of my brain waking up as the caffeine hits my bloodstream. As my roommate in Jerusalem accurately noted when one of our friends got to see me make the transformation from uncaffienated to brimming with liquid inspiration, “Now watch as Lillian comes alive!”

Anyways, as promised from yesterday, today we have (drum-roll, please) the recipe for gluten-free blueberry muffin tops. HAPPY DANCE!

Source: universalscraps.com

The first and most pressing issue in making muffin tops is hardware. Basically, you need a muffin tin specifically designed for making muffin tops — luckily, Amazon makes this ridiculously easy to acquire. I used this pan, and it works beautifully. And it’s a whopping $12, so it doesn’t exactly break the bank.

(Side note: can I just say how awesome it is to be able to find and quickly purchase semi-obscure things on Amazon for totally reasonable prices? I vividly recall the days of schlepping from store to store in pursuit of some random item that nobody seemed to have in stock, as well as the increasing frustration and stabby-ness that came with it. To say the least, I thank my lucky stars for Amazon and all its glorious awesomeness. That place is effing MAGICAL. But I digress.)

As soon as I got my grubby little paws on the muffin top tin, I knew I wanted to make the muffin-top variety of my favorite springtime treat: blueberry muffins. DSC00776

My recipe is a modified version of this recipe — as you’ll see from the link, the original recipe is Paleo. “But wait,” you might be thinking, “I’ve never heard her mention Paleo before, and her WIAW posts prominently feature grains and lentils and other things that don’t jive with Paleo!”

You’d be right, my friends: while the original recipe is Paleo, I’m definitely not. (Frankly, I love me some grains, and lentils are my homies.) Although I find some Paleo recipes to be great starting points for gluten-free baking, I always modify the recipes to incorporate some kind of grainy goodness. So, while Paleo is great for some people — and I’m a big proponent of the “do whatever works for you” school of thought, so I mean no disrespect to the Paleo crowd — I’m just not one of them.

But I digress! Again!

Ok, before I go off on another tangent, here’s the recipe already.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Blueberry Muffin Tops

1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup Mama’s Almond Blend All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
3 eggs (or, for those going egg-free, 3 flax eggs)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350. While the oven is getting its heat on, spray a bit of Pam into the muffin tin cups (it’s a non-stick pan, but I figure a wee bit of Pam can’t hurt). Mix the ingredients together until well-combined, then pour evenly into the tins. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven, cool, and enjoy! (I, um, had to sample at least three as soon as they were cool enough to eat. Y’know, quality control and all.)

DSC00777With that, I figured I’d add to the it’s-almost-Friday happiness with a compilation of some of my favorite inspirational quotes. Because, well, why not? Really, who among us couldn’t use some inspiration? (Seriously, if you lead such a charmed life that you don’t need the occasional pick-me-up, we probably can’t hang out.)

Enjoy!

At the center of your being, you have the answer: you know who you are and you know what you want. ~ Lao Tzu

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. ~ Anais Nin

Scatter joy! ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Khalil Gibran

Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes. ~ Goethe

What are some of your favorite inspirational quotes? Are there any particular words of wisdom that help you feel better whenever the going gets rough?

WAIW: Snacks and Dinners Galore

Good morning, y’all — it’s time for the Wednesday sigh of relief, is it not? 🙂

Before I get into this week’s What I Ate Wednesday offerings, I want to thank you for the wonderful comments on yesterday’s Perfectionism, Failure, and the Growth Mindset post — you guys are awesome! 🙂

And now, on to WIAW: the coolest little cyber-potluck on the interwebs, hosted by mamacita-to-be Jenn at Peas & Crayons. (Is it just me, or does Jenn seem like she’ll be one of the coolest moms ever?)

Peas and Crayons

Ok, so I won’t even pretend like there’s any variation in my pre-gym foodstuffs: coffee and toast (made with Rudi’s GF multigrain bread) all the way, y’all.

dsc00679While there usually isn’t any variance in my breakfasts either — all hail kale and the green smoothie! — this weekend I decided to, well, be bad.

image.jpeg

On Sunday morning, I really, really wanted something sweet for breakfast. I tried making GF pancakes, but they were an epic fail. By the time I’d tried two different takes on said pancakes, I felt like the sides of my stomach were flapping together due to my profound hunger. NO BUENO.

In the interest of not descending into a hangry (that’s hungry-angry) rampage, I went with a more reliable option: a Garden Lites Chocolate Zucchini Veggie Muffin topped with peanut butter and banana. I freaking love these things: I mean, they taste like a chocolate chip muffin, but they have vegetables in them. THIS IS CULINARY SORCERY.

DSC00770My lunches have also been fairly consistent: it’s been frigid beyond all reason here, so I’ve been chowing down on a veritable deluge of soup. Moroccan lentil soup, French lentil soup, chicken soup with rice and veggies…it’s a soup-fest, my friends.

WIAW: 6 Days Until Christmas! WIAW: The Birthday Edition dsc00621Snacks — which, let’s face it, are one of my favorite things in the world — have been mainly fruits and veggies, but I’ve been excited by two new pieces of snacky goodness: Think Thin Divine bars and the blueberry muffin tops I made last night.

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=6f94ded14d&view=att&th=13dab68508101843&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=6cae878353b8ae45_0.1&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P-TYtb2Y1y1ya4X0X6A7vFj&sadet=1364380410367&sads=LzAbSag8izwBb3WyaMToT89Oy3Y

These things are, well, divine. The name is totally apropos, at least for the German Chocolate Coconut variety (the only kind I’ve tried so far). As soon as I took a bite, I had one of those campy moments that they always show in food commercials: I actually closed my eyes in delight.

Granted, this is where I diverge from the image said commercials always show, which is of an impeccably groomed, graceful woman who’d never mumble through a mouthful of food. Which is what I did, so my reaction came out sounding like “Ofmgud, thith ith f**king duhlithiuth.” Obviously I’m the poster child for finishing school.

I also recently bought myself a tray in which to make muffin tops – I’ve always loved muffin tops more than the rest of the muffin, and I’ve been ridiculously jealous of all the non-celiac types who get to have Vita Tops. What’s a girl to do when she can’t have something like Vita Tops? She makes them herself, that’s what. And so, I present my latest kitchen obsession: GF blueberry muffin tops.

DSC00776 DSC00777I’ll post the recipe for these puppies tomorrow, so stay tuned!

As for dinners, Brandon and I have been trying some new recipes in addition to our traditional favorites. This week we had beef Bourguignon as our big Sunday meal (we both love the idea of having a special dinner on Sundays, particularly something more time-intensive that we wouldn’t have time to cook during the week), which I totally failed to get a picture of because I was so busy stuffing it into my face. Failing my ability to take a picture of it before eating, here’s a picture of Martha Stewart’s beef Bourguignon:

Let’s pretend that our beef Bourguignon looked exactly like Martha’s, m’kay? (Image source: marthastewart.com)

As for other dinners, we always make a meal plan for the week so we can know what to get at the grocery store. This week’s meals are thus: chicken coconut cashew curry with broccoli (my take on a recipe from Nigella Fresh), spaghetti squash with marinara and chicken meatballs, grilled Greek marinated chicken with salad, and carne guisada (a recipe from our new Tex Mex cookbook).

However, the only thing I’ve remembered to photograph before I inhaled it, Conehead-style, is the carne guisada. It’s traditionally served with tortillas, but I served mine up on a ginormous bed of spinach.

DSC00778I thought this dish was the bomb diggity, and I immediately told Brandon that I’d like to add it to our list of heavy-rotation dinners.

And with that, now I have questions for all y’all: do you like just the muffin tops, or are you a fan of the whole thing? How often do you try new recipes?

Have an awesome Wednesday!

Perfectionism, Failure, And The Growth Mindset

Hi, my name is Lillian, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

Perfectionism has been my public enemy number one for as long as I can remember. (Y’know, insofar as something can be a public enemy for one person…thus making it not public at all, but that’s not the point.)

To wit: when I was in first grade, I came in third for a handful of events at my school’s track and field day — and I was a close third behind two boys whose athletic prowess was already busting at the seams at the tender age of seven — but instead of being happy, I wept bitterly at the end of the day.

My mom couldn’t figure out why I was upset, since a gaggle of third place ribbons seemed pretty darn good. Awesome mom that she is, she pulled me onto her lap, gave me a hug, and gently asked why I was so upset. I distinctly remember saying (between heaving sobs, since I’m a champion of the ugly cry) “Because they’re not good enough! Third place means I lost to two people! Only first place is any good!” She tried valiantly to explain that, actually, they were awesome things that I could be proud of, but I was having none of it.

Yuuuup, that pretty much says it all.

When I was in school, anything other than an A was cause for the kind of mourning generally reserved for abused war orphans or victims of horrific tragedies. If (God forbid!) I got a B, there’d be gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.

Every time I did or produced something that was less than perfect, I took it as a personal failure. I’m not sure where this deeply embedded perfectionism came from, since my parents never once did anything to foster it — but deeply embedded it was, and it turned me into one twitchy, miserable cowgirl for a very long time.

I’d been trying to overcome my perfectionism for ages, but my big breakthrough came over the course of the last year.

The first step in this process came last spring, when I was a particularly unhappy camper: I was deeply unhappy in the career I’ve worked towards my entire adult life, and I felt like a total failure. All that education, all that money, all that hard work: I was wasting it all by wanting to do something else with my life. I felt like an epic failure and a total waste, and I was kicking myself — hard — for my perceived failure.

Image source: sherievenner.com

Around that time, my mom came to my rescue when she dug up a whole series of articles about perfectionism and the importance of seeing perceived failures as opportunities for learning and growth.

One article in particular — “Next Time, Fail Better,” from the Chronicle of Higher Education — hit the nail on the head. When I read this portion, I felt like the author had been hanging out in my head and recording my inner monologue:

Humanities students are not used to failure. They want to get it right the first time. When they are new to the game, they want to get good grades on what are essentially first drafts. Once they learn how much work it is to write and edit a really good essay, their goals shift—from getting A’s on papers written the night before to getting A’s and making the difficult process look effortless. Because it’s embarrassing to have to admit that you had to throw away two drafts before you got to your thesis. They feel silly admitting to spending three days researching a topic that just didn’t pan out. How could they have been so stupid? Surely the other English majors found their topics right away and then turned out beautifully coherent papers.

Yes, yes, and yes. This has been my MO for…like…the entirety of my existence. The author’s end point was spot-on, though: it’s not about failure, it’s about what you learn. Failures don’t mean that all is lost — they mean that you know where to start from next time. Failures build the foundation for future successes.

In a superbly shocking (by which I mean not the least bit surprising) turn of events, I quickly found that this approach makes me feel a whole lot more warm and fuzzy than endlessly berating myself for not being perfect or getting something exactly right on my first try. (You’re stunned, I’m sure.)

mmm! Beautiful! ♥ Another way of sayin.... there are no mistakes, just opportunities for learning and growth!

Mind: blown.

Once I started putting this into practice, I saw a dramatic shift in my perspective. Ok, so I want to do something different than the field for which I went to school. When I was looking at this as a failure, I was stuck — and there I sat, spinning my wheels and stewing in a toxic cocktail of perfectionism and self-inflicted derision.

Once I started seeing it as a learning experience, though, two things happened: first, I stopped treating myself like I was the the poster child for failure. Secondly, I got un-stuck and was able to move forward in figuring out what I do want to do.

By looking at my situation as an opportunity to learn something about myself and to then use what I learned as a sort of GPS for taking my life in a more satisfying direction, I began to feel a lot better.

Image source: bashzone.com

Not surprisingly, this has made a huge difference for me — and it has improved more than one area of my life. Instead of kicking myself when I have a few days in which I can’t seem to get my shiz together, I’ve started looking at it as an opportunity to figure out what I can do differently in the future. Instead of berating myself when I don’t get to the gym as often as I’d like, I started seeing it as an opportunity to learn about how I manage my time and how I might change things up to make life flow a bit better.

And with all that in mind, now I’d like to hear from you!

Are you a perfectionist? If so, do you think this approach to failure and perfectionism would help you feel better and put less pressure on yourself?

MIMM: One Lovely Blog Award

Monday has returned…replete with wintery slop.

Gross Weather
THIS IS NOT OKAY.

WTF, Monday? What’s next? Are you planning to commemorate the beginning of Passover by bringing your Biblical plague homies (frogs, pestilence, locusts, etc.) to DC for the day? I mean, wintery slop is fairly miserable on its own, but it’d be a lot more amusing if it were accompanied by a downpour of frogs. At least then maybe work would get cancelled?

Biblical plagues aside, though, there are two things making my Monday look brighter: Marvelous in My Monday, hosted by Katie at Healthy Diva Eats, and the fact that I was nominated for my first blog award, thanks to the amazing Meghan of After the Ivy League!

In true DC fashion, I’ll say this: a pajama-clad happy dance may or may not have taken place when I saw that she’d nominated me. Further, I can neither confirm nor deny any allegations of said happy dance.

But whatevs, the happy dance totally happened.

So ok, the One Lovely Blog rules are to share seven random things about yourself and then nominate seven other bloggers. And, um, I think I’m pretty well equipped to rise to the challenge of being random.

…Because I’ve never been random on here before. Once. Ever. In just the same way that I’m never, ever sarcastic.

One-Lovely-Blog

Ok, so…random facts:

1) Brandon and I had a Borat-themed wedding. I’m not kidding. When we were wedding planning, prospective vendors would want to know what our wedding’s theme was. They’d throw out suggestions like princesses, fairy tales, Romeo & Juliet (ok, why do people choose this as a wedding theme? Romeo & Juliet is a tragedy. They both wind up dead.), and the rest of the conversation would usually go like this:

Me: Um, our theme is Borat.

Vendor: *Stunned silence*

Me: You know, Borat? The movie? Sacha Baron Cohen? Yekshimesh? High five?

Vendor: *Crickets*

Me: Hello? Are you still there?

Vendor: *Sputters in horrified disbelief*

We even had a wedding sack so we could re-enact the scene where Borat tries to bag and marry Pamela Anderson:

IMG_9041
That’s me, getting bagged and carried out of our wedding reception by my beloved.

2) I absolutely loathe fish. I mean, I can’t even handle the smell of it, or anything else that comes from the ocean. I want to like fish, because I know it’s really good for you — in the same way that I want to like tomatoes and cucumbers, which are super nutritious but also high on my “I’ll barf before I eat this” list (which is a big deal, considering that I’m mortally terrified of barfing and will do anything to avoid it) — but every time I try fish, I’m unspeakably grossed out. Even the smell of it makes me want to run away. So, my apologies to my brain cells for all the omega-3s I won’t be consuming through fish.

3) I’m incredibly OCD-like in my cleaning and organizational habits. I can’t sleep when I know the apartment is messy, unmade beds drive me to the brink of insanity, and I get all twitchy and agitated if my stuff is disorganized. It’s all a coping mechanism, though: when left to my own devices, I’m absent-minded, forgetful, and generally a hot mess. So, my rigid stance on cleanliness and organization is basically the only thing standing between me and total dysfunction.

4) I miss the West like woah. Every time I see a picture of the Colorado, Texas, or the Rocky Mountains, I get that “Why is someone trying to rip my beating heart out of my chest?” feeling before realizing that, no, it’s just crushing homesickness.

This is where I grew up, and I can confirm that DC ain’t got nuthin’ compared to the Rocky Mountains. (Image source: http://www.cheyennemountain.com)

5) I cannot — CANNOT — handle horror movies in any form. Scream, the movie that most of my friends thought was so campy as to be considered comedy instead of horror, made me terrified to answer the phone for weeks. Legit horror films aren’t even a vague possibility for me, as they’ll instill unspeakable terror in me for way too long. A colleague once told me the plot line for Paranormal Activity, and yours truly had to sleep with multiple nightlights on for at least the next four days. No lie. It’s a really good thing Brandon and I hadn’t started dating yet, because that almost certainly would’ve sent him running for the hills.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, my furry compatriot in horror movie avoidance.

6) When I was in London last fall for work, I took a few hours to go to Westminster Abbey. While walking around, I happened to see a plaque listing the names of various barons and other types who were buried there…only to find the name of one of my ancestors staring up at me. I wigged out, insofar as one can very quietly and respectfully wig out in Westminster Abbey.

7) I love doing accent impersonations. I can mimic Russian, Middle Eastern, French, British, Southern, Upper Midwest, and Jersey accents, and I wish I had time to take an improv comedy class so I could put this random skill to use. Since I don’t have time now, let’s just assume that I’ll be yukking it up in a retirement community circa 2046.

And now, to nominate seven other bloggers! All these are blogs that I’ve recently discovered but really enjoy — so to all those I’m nominating, I apologize if this is the blogging equivalent of a creepy blind date where the guy calls you 5 minutes after you get home.

1) Stephanie @ Riverside Baking
2) Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie
3) Kate @ Quarter Century Southern Living
4) Sara @ The Life Effect
5) The awesome, hilarious women @ A Confederacy of Spinsters
6) Caitlin @ The Siren’s Tale
7) Jorie @ The Midwest Maven

Anyways, it’s now time for me to hit the gym – and here’s a hint as to today’s entertainment while sweating it out on the elliptical:

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I REGRET NOTHING.

Hope you all have an awesome Monday!

30s > 20s (And Not Just Mathematically)

I always used to hear people say that life ends at 30. People fear turning 30 with the same level of dread that you’d feel if you encountered, say, a pack of rabid badgers.

For years, all I heard was that turning 30 heralds the impending demise of all that is fun and exciting in a girl’s life.

But I gotta say: it just ain’t true. Granted, I’m only 32 — but so far, I can definitely say that my 30s are far preferable to my 20s.

Even my 30th birthday was chill: dinner and drinks at my fave Thai restaurant. 30s FTW!
Even my 30th birthday was chill: dinner and drinks at my fave Thai restaurant. 30s FTW!

To wit:

I’m unspeakably glad that there’s no longer any compulsion to go out on the town on Friday and Saturday nights. A couple years ago, I was walking through Dupont Circle late on a Saturday night after spending the evening hanging out with one of my favorite girlfriends, who just happens to be a fantastic cook. She’d whipped up so much delicious Bengali food that I thought my distended stomach was going to give out in its attempt to process the metric ton of spicy deliciousness I’d consumed.

While walking through Dupont, I repeatedly saw gaggles of young women looking like Dolce & Gabbana threw up all over them. This was in the dead of winter, it was frigid out, and there was a biting wind to add to the misery. These girls, however, were in towering high heels and miniskirts. Without jackets.

I snuggled deep into my parka, feeling happy about wearing three layers and being decidedly un-sexy, and  thought to myself, Sweet baby Jesus, do I ever love my sweatpants and movie streaming service.

My parka, also known as my BFF.
My parka, also known as my BFF.

I’m an old woman trapped in a younger woman’s body, and this “You can have the bars, I’m watching movies on the couch” motif — which people do a lot more of in their 30s — suits me quite well.

Last night, for example, Brandon and I had a raucous evening…and by raucous, I mean incredibly chill (aka: the perfect Saturday night). We picked up a couple of custom framed paintings from our local Michael’s, got dinner at our favorite Afghan kabob place, and then watched Breaking Bad until midnight. Whenever I think back on the more wild times of my 20s, I’m filled with gratitude that that particular phase of my life is over.

If this is what the 30s are like, then I feel confident in saying that 30s > 20s.

The Grown-Up Version of Saturday Morning Cartoons, Week 2

Good morning, everyone — and, of course, happy Saturday!

First of all, I want to thank all of  you again for your wonderful comments and support on my body image and fitness posts. I’m tickled pink — thrilled, actually — to know that those posts resonated with so many people. I plan to write many more such pieces on issues like this, so stay tuned! 🙂

For today, though, we have a busy day planned — and I’m really hoping to get outside and enjoy the one freaking day of nice weather we’re supposed to have before it gets cold and nasty again. Ok, ok: it’s more accurate to say that I’m practically rabid in my vehemence that I WILL SPEND TIME OUTDOORS during this all too brief interval of sunshine and mild temperatures.

Sick of winter
Story of my life, y’all.

Since a lot of you seemed to like the article round-up from last Saturday, I’m going to do the same thing this week — and feel free to let me know if there are other topics you’d like to see in this little muster of reading material. Enjoy, and have a lovely Saturday!

 

Health and Fitness:

New York Times: New Worries About Heading the Soccer Ball

Greatist: Healthy Passover Recipes

MindBodyGreen: Five Ways to Get More Good Germs in Your Gut

FitSugar: Creative Ways to Make Kale Chips

Oh She Glows: Vegan, Gluten-Free Chocolate Macaroons

Greatist: Seven Bodyweight Exercises We’re Doing This Week

 

Relaxation and Stress Relief:

New York Times: Mindfulness Requires Practice and Purpose

Blissful Healing Arts: Stress Relief When Your Brain is Being a Jerk

Huffington Post: How to Do Less and Live More

MindBodyGreen: Five Benefits of a 10 Minute Meditation Practice

 

Gender Issues:

Jezebel: Women Profiled in Feminist Housewives Piece Say New York Misrepresented and Misquoted Them

Good Men Project: Beyond Steubenville – Why You Must Hear NPR’s Harrowing Coverage of Rape in the Military

TresSugar: New App Lets You Call Out Company for Sexist Ads

 

Humor and Warm Fuzzies:

Buzzfeed: 32 Tips for Taking the Perfect Wedding Photo

HuffPo: Cow Photobombs Horse, We Can All Go Home Now

Greatist: 5 Things That’ll Make You Happy From Around the Web

TresSugar: Spring-Themed Someecards

 

Fitness Magazines and Body Image, Part II

First of all, thank you all for your lovely comments and likes on yesterday’s post! Y’all made me smile, and I’m so happy to know that this resonates with so many of you. 🙂 Thank you for making my day!

Rachel — who writes over at The House Always Wins and is one of my favorite bloggers — brought up a great point in the comments section:

So, one thing I’ve seen with some mags is that they’ll use “real” looking models for regular stories (like, say, a story about being happy at work) but they ALWAYS use super fit fitness models for exercise routines. I suppose they are just trying to say their routines work but it’s still kind of a bummer. I’d just love to see DIFFERENT fit bodies — not all fit women are tall and very thin. I’d like to see petite dancers or super-muscular athletes too. I honestly like looking at beautiful fit bodies, as well as beautiful bodies that look more like mine, so more diversity would be a huge improvement.

This makes perfect sense. Body diversity in fitness magazines would be fantastic — I’d love to be able to see women who are naturally tall and skinny, short and muscular, average height and curvy.

Athletic Female Body Types
Image source: http://www.the-beheld.com

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that two things could happen if fitness mags deviated from the tall and impeccably toned norm:

First, showing a diverse set of body types would help drive home the point that there’s a wiiiiiide range of sizes and builds that can be considered normal. 

As I said yesterday, I used to seriously berate myself for not fitting the tall and thin, beautifully sculpted norm presented in fitness magazines — but if they were to use models who are athletic, fit women of different shapes and sizes, those of us in the audience would be better able to identify with those women.

I mean, women who are gymnasts are petite and muscular. Women who are ballerinas are petite and lithe. Women who are built for sprinting have an entirely different body type than women who are built for distance running. Meanwhile, women who are swimmers look very different from women who are yogis.

But you know what? They’re all athletes. They all take health and fitness seriously. And they all can serve as fitness role models.

Athletic Female Body Types
Image source: samanthamenzies.com

This would help women realize that they can be in great shape without looking like they fell out of a photoshoot — and that, in turn, can do wonderful things for a woman’s confidence and body image.

That brings me to my second point: by showing a wide range of body types, fitness magazines can truly emphasize fitness instead of weight loss.

Fitness is about being as strong and healthy as you can be. Why not emphasize strength, health, and well-being over perfectly toned abs, sculpted thighs, and a tight butt? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the aforementioned perfectly toned abs, sculpted thighs, and tight butt — but for me at least, working out so I can look like a fitness model makes me feel wretched.

When I work out for aesthetic reasons, I feel like I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never work hard enough. I’ll never do enough squats or crunches to look like a woman who, y’know, gets paid to look like the poster child for squats and crunches.

By emphasizing health and fitness over weight loss and skinniness, fitness magazines might introduce reasons to work out that really make women feel good — reasons that focus on their intrinsic worth (i.e., “I want to take care of myself because I love my family/job/insert-gratifying-thing-here and I want to be able to do the best I can in that role” or, in a truly revolutionary approach, simply loving oneself and wanting to stick around and be healthy for as long as possible) rather than how they look.

Ultimately, I think Rachel hit the nail on the head with her comment about body diversity. Body diversity in fitness magazines could drive those magazines and readers alike to focus on being healthy, strong, and physically fit — no matter what you look like.