Tikkun Olam (Hopefully Without Feeling Like a Creeper)

In the lead-up to my birthday last week, I found myself thinking about what I want to achieve this year. This wasn’t like making new year’s resolutions, since I loathe those with the fire of a thousand suns, and for various reasons: my illustrious history of sacrificing my well-being in pursuit of a goal (please refer to exhibit A: high school and the college admissions process), the fact that most resolutions are things you could choose to do at any point in the year, the fact that the whole idea of new year’s resolutions is a weird, fabricated, and artificially-imposed social construct that people seem to do because they feel obligated to participate…well. Suffice it to say, new year’s resolutions — to quote Austin Powers — aren’t my bag, baby.

Given that my stance on new year’s resolutions falls somewhere between “how I feel about migraines” and “how I feel about Nazis,” it’s probably surprising that I was thinking about what I want to achieve during the next year — but, as it turns out, I do really like finding an over-arching goal or purpose for my next trip around the sun.

The more I thought about it, the more the answer became clear as that still, small voice in my head repeated: tikkun olam. To explain what this is, here’s what I posted to Facebook that day:

A Jewish philosophy translated as “repairing the world,” tikkun olam is a long-standing love of mine. Human history is littered with astonishing levels of cruelty and destruction, and although I believe we’re moving in the right direction, we have a long way to go.

So, my hope is this: that we can all work towards building empathy instead of judgment, compassion instead of intolerance, creativity and repair instead of destruction, and patience instead of anger. Let’s give more hugs. Let’s do more charitable work, whether through donations or volunteering. Let’s make each other laugh. Let’s cut each other some slack, because everyone, whether you know it or not, is fighting a hard battle.

Let’s contribute to repairing the world, in whatever way we can — because each contribution, each random act of kindness, and each moment of empathy is important.

As it turns out, my efforts  to do this are a bit more awkward than I’d hoped. (I’ll pause here and express my amusement about the fact that I’m continually surprised by my own awkwardness. This should’ve stopped being surprising to me a looooooooong time ago, but somehow it always pops up and leaves me going “Wait, WHAT? Awkward? Me? Well…yeah. That’s actually quite plausible. Ok, it’s highly likely. Upon further inspection, it’s basically inevitable.”)

On my birthday, I’d planned to use the free birthday drink loaded onto my Starbucks card to purchase a drink for a random stranger. But, as it turns out, the random stranger has to be there, in the flesh, and ordering their drink in order for you to use the free drink on someone else. This has potential to be spectacularly awkward and tremendously creepy. There was a dude behind me in line, and when I looked over in his direction to see if I could get away with doing this in a non-awkward, non-creepy way, the look of apprehension on his face quickly answered that question for me.

So I bought myself a marshmallow dream bar. (For those who may be wondering, they’re both gluten-free and delicious. It didn’t do anything to help repair the world, but it did make my taste buds happy.)

marshmallow_dream_Bar_starbucks
Not my photo – via misterbelly.com

Then a few days ago, I was getting a cup of tea from a coffee vendor near my office. The two women in line behind me were having a long conversation; one had apparently just broken up with her live-in boyfriend, and she was understandably upset. Just as I was paying for my chai, the newly-single woman broke down into tears.

Y’all. I think most of us have been through wretched break-ups. I think most of us can agree that they’re abjectly miserable, and that having an acutely broken heart makes you feel like you may never breathe normally — let alone laugh — ever again.

Before I could think about whether or not this, like my Starbucks attempt, would make me look slightly insane, I turned around and offered to buy her a coffee. “I’ve been through bad breakups too,” I said, “and I know how much it sucks. Please let me buy you a coffee.” I told her that it’s awful now, but that it gets better — and then I felt like I was probably being weird, so I decided it was time to walk away.

As I walked back to my office, I started to reflect on the situation. At first, I worried that I might have come across as a hideously weird old lady. But then I realized: who cares if I did? I’d rather do something nice and look like an idiot than not do something nice at all. Random acts of kindness towards strangers are precisely that: interactions with people I’m probably never going to see again. If they think I’m weird for doing something nice, then so be it.

That also led me to wonder: what is it about modern culture that makes niceness so suspect? Why am I even in a position of feeling like people might think I’m creepy or mildly insane for offering to do something nice? It’s not like I’m standing there, wild-eyed and desperate for human interaction, while I offer to tell them about my latest surgery and 27 cats. If that were the case, apprehension would be totally understandable. But it’s not (to the best of my knowledge, at least) — and yet, I got really self-conscious about it.

So, I’ve decided not to worry about whether I look like a complete fool in my tikkun olam efforts, because the fact is, this is something that needs to be done.

So, tell me: have you ever been in a similar situation? Do you feel like strangers doing random nice things for others are greeted with suspicion or gratitude? Or is this just a DC thing?

A Day Redeemed + Coffee Conflicts

Ok, y’all: yesterday was, quite simply, weird.

It started out badly: I hadn’t slept well, I was way behind on stuff around the house, and then things started going strangely awry in really annoying ways. For example, our shower curtain had reached its limits in terms of keeping water, y’know, in the shower — so in an unexpected twist to my morning, I was greeted by water all over the bathroom floor.

It’s a good thing I was way behind on laundry so I could use dirty towels to mop up the floor. Ew.

Then, since I was running late as a result of said unfortunate shower curtain incident, I was frantically applying facial moisturizer — at which point I somehow managed to slice my nose open with my fingernail. Try to put on makeup while stemming a bloody nose if you’re up for a morning challenge! Maneuver around the Kleenex! Apply pressure to the cut while applying concealer to the bags under your eyes!

However, after all that weirdness, my day quickly redeemed itself. We had cool, crisp weather here in DC yesterday, which I looooved — this is the time of year when we get a lot of cool, clear, and gloriously sunny days. And they’re amazeballs.

I decided to take advantage of it and go running in the afternoon, which wound up being the highlight of my day. I ran 3.5 miles (I know this is, like, a warm-up for most of you — but hey, we can’t all be distance runners :)) around the National Mall, and it was as perfect as a perfect run can be. This is the time of year when most of the tourists have gone home, so the path was wonderfully open. I took a few walking breaks since recent medical tests have kept me from consistently exercising, but I wound up feeling better than I thought I would. Between that and the perfect weather, it was an awesome run!

To say the least I’m glad I didn’t give in to the temptation to just give up and go back to bed after the way my morning started. Which I, um, might have seriously contemplated.

Anyways, on to the main news! What is that news, you ask?  I’m feeling conflicted about coffee (hence the title for this post). Given the name of this blog, it doesn’t take much to realize that I’m a big fan of coffee. Seize the Latte = this chick loves her some java. It’s not rocket surgery, amirite?

I didn’t like coffee when I was younger (I thought it smelled amazeballs when my dad brewed it each morning, but the taste made me get all cross-eyed), but that all changed when I went to college.

I was especially overextended and sleep deprived my sophomore year, and that was that bleary-eyed autumn when I went from chugging chai lattes and Diet Coke to hitting the hard stuff — better known as espresso.

 

image
An accurate representation of my life in the BC (that’s Before Coffee) days

 

I still remember my first foray into coffee: in a haze of exhaustion, I went to the Starbucks on campus. “I need your help,” I said to the barista through a jaw-breaking yawn. “I don’t like coffee, but I need coffee. Can you make me something strong – something that’ll wake me up – but that doesn’t actually taste like coffee?”

Thirty seconds later, I was sipping a skim latte with almond syrup. Ten minutes after that, the most glorious caffeine buzz in the history of mankind kicked in. The rest is history.

Since then, I’ve become known for my love of – and, let’s be honest here, my dependence on – coffee. For example,  every roommate I’ve ever had has known that I only became a full-fledged human being once I’ve had my morning latte. Furthermore, my friends here in DC have decided that this little guy is my spirit animal.

 

haha

 

In recent years, though, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not coffee and I are really BFFs. Sometimes coffee makes me feel energetic, upbeat, and optimistic. I want to run! I want to write a book! I can accomplish anything! I BELIEVE I CAN FLY! Other times, though, it makes me anxious, mopey, and jittery. My hands shake, I schvitz like I just went running in Saudi Arabia in July, and I’m a weepy, nervous wreck. I BELIEVE IN IMMINENT DOOM.

Adding to coffee’s propensity to mess with my mood, I have a long and illustrious history of tummy troubles – all of which are definitely aggravated by the acidity in coffee.

So, from time to time, I’ve tried to make the switch to just drinking green tea. Every time I do this, I feel better – less mopey, less anxious, not in a desperate search for more TUMS – and yet, I always go back to coffee. It’s like a bad relationship: it keeps sucking me back in, ploying me with promises that it’ll be different this time. “I love you, baby,” it says. “I promise I’ve changed. Things won’t be like they were before. Just give me another chance!”

And I listen. Every. Single. Time.

 

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A few years ago, I listened because I love it so much and simply didn’t want to give it up. When I tried to make the switch then, I was so irritable that, upon seeing some unsuspecting college student walk by with a Starbucks cup, I actually imagined stealing the coffee right out of her hands and running away while screaming like a banshee. (I obviously didn’t do this, and I was wigged out that it had even crossed my mind.)

In other cases, it’s been because I think that I’ve found a magical solution that will prevent the negative side effects I often experience. I’ll be fine! No tummy issues or anxiety for me, because I’ve figured out a work-around! It’ll be great! (Fact: this is never true, and apparently I’m delusional.)

Sometimes it’s because I have too much to do and not enough time to do it in, and then I wind up desperately tired and sleep-deprived. Not getting enough sleep turns me into a heinous, cranky, exhausted, and borderline psychotic beast. Coffee keeps me from becoming that beast. It’s best that I save myself and everyone around me from that fate. (See? Coffee drinking is in service to humanity.)

Most recently, though, I did it because I needed that extra jolt of energy in order to get through my morning workout. Green tea wasn’t cutting it, and I was draaaaaagggiiiiiiinnnnnng myself to the gym each morning. With the coffee, however, I was raring to go. I was amped! I was motivated! BRING THE PAIN!

 

https://i0.wp.com/commitnesstofitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/pitt-treadmill.gif

 

Last week, however, three separate articles crossed my path in one afternoon — all of which discuss coffee’s role in insulin resistance, depression, anxiety, and hormonal imbalances. Not one, not two, but <i>three</i> articles landing in front of me within one day? This seemed too coincidental to ignore. (You can read the articles, two of which are from Mind Body Green and one of which is from Dr. Mark Hyman’s website, here, here, and here.)

As I read, I realized that all this stuff really, truly, and undeniably is a problem for me.

Anxiety? Check.

Feeling “Wired and tired”? Check.

Inflammation? Check.

An unhappy GI tract? Check.

Hormone imbalances? Check, check, check, and more check.

And so, I decided to try — for, like, the 8 billionth time — to kick my coffee habit in favor of green tea. I’m exactly five days in, and I admit that I mightily miss my cup of java in the morning. I miss the smell, I miss the taste, and I really miss the caffeine buzz.

However, I keep reminding myself that my body needs this. My brain needs it, my stomach needs it, and my endocrine system needs it. The only thing keeping me from successfully making the switch is myself.

So, I’m going to do everything I can to get out of my own way with this. The allure of the hazelnut coffee (both in my freezer at home and in the cafeteria at work) is strong, but I must. Remain. Stronger.

With that in mind, tell me:

Have you ever tried to kick the coffee habit? Has anyone succeeded in letting go of caffeine entirely (and, um, if you did this, did you hate everything)? What have your experiences been with this? Do you have any suggestions on how to ease the transition?

The Health Benefits of Gratitude

Good morning, y’all, and happy Tuesday!

As I wrote last week, my goal of late has been to focus on — and be grateful for  — the things I do have. That’s not to say that I want to ignore or not deal with the sadness of my preliminary diagnosis, but rather to acknowledge and process the bad stuff while focusing on the good stuff.

After all, the practice of cultivating gratitude has some pretty profound effects on both physical and emotional health. Some of those benefits include better sleep, improved mood, greater social connectedness, a greater tendency to exercise (!!!), deeper relationships, increased longevity, increased productivity…the list goes on.

According to a growing body of research on gratitude (some of which was cited in a recent article published on HuffPost), “those who view life as a gift experience a boatload of benefits, from a better mood to stronger relationships to better health and resilience. Gratitude, in a sense, is a muscle and as such requires exercise to stay fit and functional.”

In that same article, the author delves into some of the details on the research:

  • A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison …
  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons and McCullough, 2003) …
  • Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions …
  • Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.

I started keeping a gratitude journal in college, and it made a world of difference. Even though I don’t always write things down any more, I still have a nightly ritual of choosing five things from my day to be thankful for before I go to sleep. There are certainly bad days when it’s a struggle to come up with five new things — and when that happens, I have no trouble relying on gratitude for what I refer to as my Big Five: my family, my husband, my friends, books, and coffee. (Priorities, amirite? Basically, relationships, books, and coffee form the Holy Trinity of my life.)

While I have plenty of practice with a basic, baseline level of gratitude, I’m trying to kick it up a notch in order to help deal with the stress of these recent medical shenanigans. I’ve been making a concerted effort to focus on the things I do have — so, with that in mind, here’s a wee list of things I’m diggin’ and for which I’m thankful:

  • I said this yesterday, but it bears repeating: I’m so very grateful for all the kind comments, emails, and messages we’ve gotten from people in the wake of our news. Old friends from high school and college have come out of the woodwork on Facebook to tell me their own similar stories, and peoples’ kindness has been overwhelming.
  • Summer thunderstorms: I loooove me a good thunderstorm, and last night didn’t disappoint. We’re also due for another round of storms tomorrow night, and I might be just a tad excited (and by “a tad,” I mean absurdly) about it. Yet another awesome thing about our new apartment is that we have a great view of the westward sky, so when thunderstorms blow in, I’m able to stand at the window and giddily watch the lightning show outside.
  • Vitamin and probiotics gummies! Y’all, I’m a child at heart…and apparently in my taste buds, too. I saw Li’l Critters calcium and vitamin D gummies at Costco, and I ordered some Rainbow Light probiotic gummies from Amazon — and they’re the bomb diggity. I’m a goner when it comes to sweet, chewy candies, so the fact that these things taste candy-like while also being healthy as all get-out is a major win in my book.
  • The fact that one of my orchids is blooming: I love the sight of a happy plant, and this orchid is happy indeed.
  • My upcoming urban gardening project: I have 90% of the necessary supplies to set up my little herb garden on our deck! Now all I need are the seeds (they should be arriving from Amazon this week), as well as a plant stand. We’re scouring the ends of the earth for a reasonably priced, 4′ or higher plant stand; while I found a perfect one on Amazon, it’s a whopping $75…and we’d rather not shell out that much dough if we don’t have to. This weekend could very well involve a trek to Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot in search of the right thing, but I don’t mind dealing with the crowds in the name of setting up my wee herb garden.
  • There was an unacceptably long period of time (by which I mean about  one week, but it my gawd, did it ever feel like aaaaaaages) in which I ran out of my beloved Toasted Almond java from Le Target. Oy gevault, did I ever miss it. It was horrible, y’all.  I finally made it back to Target to re-stock, and each morning I find myself thanking the coffee gods that this wondrous stuff is back in my possession.
  • My dad happened to have a long-standing plan to visit DC this past weekend, and it was wonderful to see him — especially since it was at a time when I needed a little bit of extra bolstering. On Sunday morning we took a long walk on the Mount Vernon Trail and talked for hours about my possible diagnosis, my job, my hopes for the future, and a bajillion other things. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful family — the fact that I can spend hours having honest, open, and supportive talks with my parents and my brother is hugely awesome.

So, with all that in mind, I want to hear from you lovely people:

What are you thankful for?

Have you ever kept a gratitude journal?

What element of  the health benefits associated with gratitude do you find most compelling?

WIAW: Sensible Snacking + A Study in Comfort Food

I have a confession: I haven’t taken many food pics this week. It’s been a rough week, and my mind has been quite occupied lately (with apologies for being all vague, I’ll write about what’s going on soon — but I’m not quiiiite ready yet). As a result, foodie photography has been placed on the back burner. Pun intended. I thank you.

Anyways, this week’s WIAW offerings have been a study in comfort food — thanks, as always, from Jenn over at Peas & Crayons for hosting!

Peas and Crayons

Breakfasts:

Each morning involves my beloved GF toast and coffee combo; with my generally sensitive estomago, my theory on food is that if it works, stick with it. And Rudi’s Multi-Grain GF toast, served with a steaming mug of Toasted Almond Amaretto coffee, most definitely works. I then follow it up with a smoothie, packed with frozen mango, banana, kale, almond milk, and Vega French Vanilla protein powder.

2013-06-007

Lunches:

My mid-day meals have involved evol chicken teriyaki bowls, and the unpictured (but much-loved) GF turkey, hummus, and veggie wraps that I created last week. I wash my meals down with my fave beverage, grapefruit mineral water.

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DSC00989

Snacks:

In keeping with this month’s WIAW snacking theme, I do love me some snacks! I’ve noshed on Chobani Almond Coco Loco flips (seriously, best yogurt EVER), celery with creamy dill dip, strawberries with chocolate almond milk (sooooooo delicious — it tastes just like chocolate-dipped strawberries, sans the mess or dessert label), Luna protein bars, bananas foster muffin tops, GF pretzels with Laughing Cow cheese, and the bomb diggity Trader Joe’s kale chips that are impossible not to adore.

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Dinners:

Dinners have basically involved carbs galore (like I said, comfort food is the key motif here), primarily in the form of Pad Thai and GF pasta with pesto and grilled chicken.

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Desserts/post-dinner snacks:

Fruit galore! Cherries or blueberries with frozen Greek yogurt have been my go-to choices lately, and they’re delicious.

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I hope everyone is having a fabulous Wednesday!

What’s your favorite comfort food?

What are your go-to snacks?

Short and Sweet: Yea or Nay

Good morning, y’all!

I’m going to keep things on the shorter side this morning, since it’s going to be a busy day and I feel like I have approximately seven bajillion things to do. This picture was spreading like wildfire on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, and it just about sums up the way my brain rolls these days:

Uh huh ;)

So today, I’ll go with some of the topics that occupy those 2,857 tabs — but divide them into ye olde fashioned categories of Yea or Nay (not so ye olde fashioned translation: likes and dislikes).

Nay:

  • This magazine cover. I’m not one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s biggest fans, but my bigger issue is how fitness magazines fawn over her for allegedly having the perfect body. I see this all over the place, and it’s monumentally irritating. She works out for hours and hours each day and follows an incredibly restrictive diet regimen — and somehow that’s supposed to make her a role model? (Although really, fitness mags don’t ever get into the reality of what she has to do in order to look like that; instead, they cover small fractions of her routine and act like you can also have 4% body fat if you just follow her super-doable tips and tricks. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, ladies! Obvi!) However, I call bulls**t on this. Not only is it wildly unrealistic, it’s unhealthy as all get-out. Color me peeved, my friends. Colossally peeved.
SELF magazine Gwyneth Paltrow
Source: mamasarollingstone.com
  • The persistent homesickness. I’m working hard to focus on the positive and make the best out of life in DC, but I find that the homesickness creeps right back in as soon as I let my guard down. I’ve been here for four years, and I keep thinking that the homesickness will get better with time — but it’s not, so I just have to make the best of it. Le sigh.
Homesick
Source: memegenerator.net
  • With apologies to any dudes who might read my blog: I have a raging case of PMS, and it’s driving me batty. I feel like someone injected saline into my skin — and although I don’t weigh myself, I must’ve gained a lot of water weight because my pants quite literally stopped fitting overnight. I’m increasing my intake of magnesium and potassium (and cutting waaaaaaaay back on the sodium) in an effort to shed some of the water retention, but UGH. No likey.

Yea:

  • One of my girlfriends recently went on a business trip to Israel, and I asked her to stock up on one of my favorite Israeli exports for me: Ahava skincare products. I love, love, love this stuff, but it’s obnoxiously expensive on this side of the pond. (Side note: ahava is actually Hebrew for love, so one could say that I have much ahava for Ahava. I’M SO PUNNY.) Since it’s so much cheaper there, I gave her some cash, asked her to go to town, and was able to get far more bang for my buck. This mineral hand cream is like a dream come true for me:

Ahava cream

  • I’m finally getting back into my workout routine after the two-week Breaking Bad-induced hiatus. I really missed exercise, and I really missed how good I feel — both physically and emotionally — after a good sweat session. I will say, though, that I had a substantial epiphany during this two-week hiatus. It was a big one, and I’ll write about it when I have a bit more time — but for now, let’s just say that I’m seeing exercise, health, and weight in a very different light these days.

Exercise = my natural high

  • I kind of love the fact that there’s a truly obscene number of rom-coms on my Amazon watch list. Using my time at the gym to watch movies that Brandon would never watch (I refer to this magical time as rom-coms and cardio) is quite possibly the awesomest multi-tasking I’ve ever done. Brandon would sooner cover himself in raw steak and go hang out with a pack of hungry wolves than sit through a crappy rom-com, but gawd, I love those movies. Much like celeb gossip, I fully realize that they’re horrible — but I don’t care. Cue Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” replace Kevin Costner with celeb gossip and rom-coms, replace the beautiful, impeccably dressed Whitney with a sweaty, yoga pants and t-shirt clad me (but keep Whitney’s voice, because she was amazing), and you have the perfect image of my feelings on this matter.
Rom coms
This is an alarmingly accurate representation of my Amazon watch list. Source: http://www.ommster.com
  • The toasted almond-amaretto coffee I bought at Target this weekend is effing sublime. It smells amazing, and it tastes even better. My long, arduous, and often frustrating search for good almond-flavored coffee was 100% worth it, my friends, because it led me to this wondrous stuff. The sheer deliciousness of this coffee has only reinforced my feeling that Target can do no wrong; while this is great for Target, it’s probably bad for my bank account. (I shouldn’t be let into Target without a chaperone, because left to my own devices I’ll gladly BUY ALL THE THINGS.) Target addiction aside, though, this coffee is a serious winner. My mornings have become considerably easier due to its heavenly qualities.

Coffee

And now, I’m off to prep dinner, write an article, get ready for work, and try to keep my ducks in a row — thank God for the coffee, my friends. 🙂 Hope everyone has an awesome Tuesday!

MIMM: Springtime Happiness

Good morning, everyone — is it just me, or did the weekend go by waaaaaay too quickly? (Granted, every weekend does this, and yet every Monday I’m stunned by how fast the weekend felt.)

However, some awesome stuff happened this weekend that has made Monday morning much more manageable. As a result, this week’s Marvelous In My Monday (with thanks to the lovely Katie from Healthy Diva Eats for hosting) post will be fairly epic.

What’s so marvelous, you ask? Weeeeelllll, let’s start with this:

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It’s finally getting warm, and springtime is finally here!

Seriously, I was getting so. Effing. Tired. Of being cold all the time. There’s something refreshing about cold weather after a long, hot summer, and I enjoy it in December. By March and April, however, I’m very much over it. I want nothing to do with it. I want to put away my winter coat and bust out my flip-flops.

The weather gods had other plans for my wardrobe, however, and DC was graced with January/February-like temperatures throughout March and into April. Until now, that is — and let me tell you, there’s a major happy dance going on about this.

Since it’s now warm enough for the triumphant return of my beloved flip-flops, that means I obviously needed to prep my feet for their re-exposure to something other than a highly insulated, heavy shoe.

PediI’d been waiting for the return of flip-flop weather to get my first pedicure of the season, and I was getting spectacularly antsy. Yesterday, though, ushered in the weather I needed to finally get my feet done, and let me tell you — it was awesome. I was sublimely happy, and I love polish color I picked. (I’ve usually gone with pink or red, but I give credit to De from Cooking For The Other Half for the inspiration to go with lavender. Excellent idea, De!)

Adding to yesterday’s #winning motif was a particularly awesome find at Target: good almond-flavored coffee. I love, love, love nut-flavored coffees — I am, however, picky about them. As it turns out, this stuff is really hard to come by, and I’ve had to go on a wild goose chase to find brands that make decent hazelnut and almond flavored coffees. I’ve tried a bajillion different brands, but they’ve all been, well, frickin’ disgusting.

I was just reaching my wit’s end with this Odyssey-esque quest when I decided to go to Target. Lo and behold, they carry their own brand of it — it smelled good through the bag (yes, I totally did the creepy customer thing where I stuck my nose up to the bag and inhaled deeply), and it smelled awesome when I groggily stumbled towards my coffee machine this morning. Having now had two mugs of it, I can confirm that it has passed my taste test with flying colors.

CoffeeSeriously, I love Target so, so much. If I were Shakespeare, I’d write a love sonnet about all the ways I love that place. (Let’s ignore the vast difference between Elizabethan England and 21st century America. Willing suspension of disbelief, people. Roll with me on this.) It would include things like excellent coffee, really good pillows, the wide selection of cosmetics and beauty products, and a plethora of other amazingness.

As if all that weren’t enough, I woke up this morning, checked my email, and saw this:

Borat Twitter

BORAT IS FOLLOWING ME ON TWITTER. I can die happy now, people. This may or may not rank as one of my greatest achievements in life.

And now I’m off to the gym, where I’ll watch crappy rom-coms and try not to spend the rest of my day saying “VERY NIICE!” or “HIGH FIIVE!” 🙂

Hope everyone has a lovely (very niice!) Monday!

WIAW: Spring Chicken

Ok, so: I woke up this morning thinking it was Tuesday. For about 30 seconds, I was seriously bummed out and was all “Omigod, it can’t only be Tuesday. It seriously feels like Wednesday.” Then, as I groggily stumbled around the kitchen getting my coffee ready, I realized: it is Wednesday!

Insert huuuuuuge sigh of relief here.

Since it’s Wednesday (thank God), it’s time for What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by the lovely Jenn of Peas & Crayons. Oh, and because I’m inordinately excited about the arrival of spring (despite the persistently wintery weather that’s all up in our grill in DC), I have a few spring flower pictures to throw into the mix. Rest assured, though: I didn’t eat said flowers, despite their presence in a post dedicated to showcasing what I ate.

But I digress.

Like last week, this is a bit of a mash-up of my meals of late — and you’ll notice a theme here: chicken. I love, love, love chicken. My mom said she was once at a baby shower where they played a game of identifying baby foods based solely on smell, and that she was immediately able to identify anything involving chicken. Apparently I chowed down on insane amounts of it when I was a wee lass. As she tells it, I’d eat almost anything — as long as it involved chicken. As you see from these meals, that trend continues today.

wiawgoesgreenBreakfasts:

As always, I begin my day with coffee (aka: nectar of the gods). I looove nut-flavored coffees, and either amaretto or hazelnut flavored coffee will have me drooling like one of Pavlov’s dogs in a matter of seconds.

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Almond Joy coffee with amaretto creamer: basically the only thing that keeps me sane at 5 a.m.

I normally have my beloved green smoothie, but yesterday I tried using organic baby kale from Earthbound Organics instead of my usual full-leaf kale. EPIC FAIL! It tasted awful. I mean, it was so bad that I made a face and violently shook my head in disgust each time I took a sip. I tried to fix it, but it was truly a lipstick-on-a-dying-pig situation: no amount of fruit, yogurt, or honey could redeem it. I tried holding my nose when I drank it, but the then aftertaste lingered in a truly heinous way.

At that point, I realized it was time to throw in the towel on the failed smoothie and just eat something else. Sooooo, I had some Cinnamon Chex with almond milk. If there’s one place where I can always find solace, it’s in a box of Cinnamon Chex.

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Oh, and we had no clean cereal bowls, so I went slightly ghetto-fabulous and had it in a glass instead. I figure this either looks super-classy and stylish or super-ridiculous and lame. I can’t decide which one it is.

Other breaky offerings have included egg whites with GF toast, and, prior to the baby kale fail, the usual green smoothie:

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Never again, baby kale. Never again.

Oh hai, here’s a random picture of some pretty flowers!

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So purdy!

Lunches:

I’ve been on a soup kick lately, which has included chicken and rice soup with added spinach.

WIAW: 6 Days Until Christmas!
This is a low-maintenance dish: I took pre-made GF chicken and rice soup and added some frozen chopped spinach. Et voila: lunch.

This weekend, though, we had rotisserie chicken from Costco (seriously, they have some of the best rotisserie chickens ever) with organic baby greens, raspberries, and avocado. It was soooooo effin’ delicious!

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SO MUCH DELICIOUS.

Dinners:

Dinners have run a wide gamut lately, since Brandon and I are trying a bunch of new recipes. We’ve had Moroccan-spiced chicken with a carrot and chickpea tagine, chicken crusted with za’atar and served with Greek salad (both of which come from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Fresh cookbook — she’s one of my favorite chefs, and her cookbooks are the bomb diggity), and tacos al carbon from a new Tex-Mex cookbook that we bought in an effort to soothe Brandon’s homesickness for Texas and our shared longing for good Mexican-ish food.

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Moroccan chicken with carrot-chickpea tagine
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Za’atar-crusted chicken with Greek salad

Oh hai, here’s another random picture of pretty flowers!

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Can I just say what a relief it is to see some pretty colors after months of dreary winter blah-ness?

Anywho, I hope you’re all having a lovely week — and, of course, happy Wednesday!

Have you ever had a smoothie go seriously wrong?  What’s your favorite kind of coffee?

Thursday By the Numbers

Good morning, and happy Thursday! Welcome to the home stretch before the weekend — which is unquestionably the best part of the workweek. As if that weren’t enough, I have an awesome evening planned: my friend Holly and I are having dinner at a restaurant that I’ve been wanting to try for ages, and then we’re going to see a talk by Sheryl Sandberg (of Facebook fame). I can’t wait!

I’ve been intrigued and amused by various bloggers’ By the Numbers posts, so Imma do one myself. Anyways, without further ado, this week by the numbers:

5 – scented candles purchased. My stockpile is growing! Muuuahahahahaha!

3 – Mediterranean countries/regions that have inspired this week’s dinner menu. Morocco, southern France, and Italy can really dish up the awesomeness, so this week’s menu has featured two chicken dishes (made with red wine and basil…insert excessive drooling here) from Provence, a Moroccan chicken tagine, and spinach and feta turkey burgers with loads of garlic and Italian herbs. Deliciousness has ensued.

2 – Days when I’ve looked at the weather forecast, seen that it’s calling for rain, and proceeded to say “Screw it, I’m not doing my hair.” Humidity wrecks my attempts to beat my hair into submission, and the lengthy process of drying and straightening it just isn’t worth it if I’m going to walk outside and have it get frizzy within minutes. So, I went for the sloppy bun approach:

Like this, only less model-y…by which I mean not the least bit model-y. (Image source: http://www.hairpediaclub.com

2 – Meals spent in the fabulous company of my junior high bestie, who was visiting DC from Colorado this weekend. I hadn’t seen her since 1999 (no joke), and it was beyond wonderful to reunite with her. I feel incredibly grateful to have people like her in my life!

1 – Pair of workout pants purchased. They’re super cute (pink waist band, flare leg), and I bought them at Costco for $20 — seriously, Costco FTW.

3 – Times when I’ve abandoned my usual two cups of coffee in favor of one giant, enormous, frickin’ huuuuuuuuge mug of coffee. Efficiency is key, right?!

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To give you a sense of scale, this mug is almost as big as my face. SO MUCH COFFEEZ.

1 – Brilliant design idea: I have a sari that I wore for a friend’s wedding a couple of years ago, but I know that a) I’m probably not going to have another occasion for which I need to wear a sari, and b) even if I did, I’d be totally flummoxed by how to wrap it. So, the probability of me wearing it again is just about nil — but it’s beautiful, and I absolutely love it. I’d been taking with my mother-in-law about ways to re-purpose it, and on Tuesday morning I had a revelation: we need a new bedspread for the bed in the guest room, so why not incorporate the sari into that? My MIL is impressively talented when it comes to all things design — including sewing. She’s made bedspreads, clothes, and all sorts of awesome stuff, so a new bedspread is totally doable. Not gonna lie: I’m seriously excited about this.

12 – Ideas for blog posts and articles that are bouncing around inside my head. I’ve written out the ideas and some key bullet points for each, but I haven’t had enough time to deal with any of them.

9 – Hours that I think I’d need in order to do intensive writing and get all these posts and articles written.

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Image source: Pinterest. Obvi.

1 – Realization that since I basically need a full work day to do all this, it’s time to finally take the day-long writing sabbatical I’ve been dreaming about for the last few months.

1 – Day of annual leave scheduled so I can focus on writing! Wahoo! March 25: here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Hope everyone has a fantastic day!