On Falling Off the Wagon & Hopping on a New One

This summer has been a doozy for me. A lot of change happening, some of it exciting, some of it terrifying, some of it huge mistakes, but all of it at least a little bit stressful. Really, this whole past year has been a roller coaster ride. I’m struggling my way through it, and I know the ride will have to end eventually, but some aspects of my life are taking hits along the way.

Namely, my eating habits.

My eating habits are a roller coaster all their own. I’ve run the gamut from no carb, to low carb, to tracking calories, to cleanses and juices. I always end up back on the “to hell with it” plan, which happens when it all just becomes too much to keep track of and I just want pizza and beer, dammit. Needless to say, it’s a frustrating cycle.

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With how overwhelming this summer has been for me, my eating has really taken a hit, especially in the last month. My workouts are still on point, and I’m still trying to make healthy choices when I can, but I know I could do better.

When life slows down a touch (hopefully in the next few weeks), I’ve decided to try my hand at my next “diet” endeavor, flexible dieting. You may have also heard this called #iifym or “if it fits your macros”. IIFYM in extremely general terms is finding a balance of protein, carbs, and fats that helps your body perform at its optimal level. Your personal macros depend on many different factors. You can calculate your own or have someone who knows about these things calculate them for you. I did some Googling and calculated mine using a combo of http://www.iifym.com and Krissy Mae Cagney. Once you have your macros, you can eat whatever you want as long as it – wait for it – fits your macros. Cookies? Yup. Cake? Yup. Ice cream? Heck yes.

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Of course, it’s all in moderation. You couldn’t actually eat at KFC on the reg and hit your macros. I’m not certified in any kind of way to get into details about any of this, so I won’t, but all I did was Google and do a bunch of reading so if you’re interested I suggest starting there.

While the concept seems simple and the fact that nothing is really restricted is a huge draw, it still has downsides. Specifically, you have to track everything you eat and it definitely involves a certain level of planning. I do find I am at my best when I make a meal plan and prep everything. However, I don’t  always get around to doing that and the past year of my life hasn’t been great for having the capabilities to control cooking and groceries. Once that all changes (soon I hope!) I really want to get back on board.

Anyone out there tried IIFYM? It seems super popular right now and I don’t want to be left out. It also kind of seems like a no-brainer and one of the healthier, more balanced fitness trends I’ve ever gotten on the band wagon for.

 

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The Magic Hour

The temperature has been steadily becoming more crisp in New England for the past few weeks and as much as it pains me and fills me with deep guilt to say this – I ain’t mad.

Summer is my favorite. I love the heat. I love the beach. I love wearing as little clothing as possible.

But man, there’s just something about fall, isn’t there?

The humidity goes away, the air is crisp and fresh, the leaves start to turn colors. Suddenly, all I can think about is cozy sweaters, and pumpkin, and pie, and cooking everything in the Crock Pot.

Fall has always felt more like the start of a new year to me than January. Spring and Summer are all about getting out there, having fun, going on trips, forsaking all kinds of responsibility. Then Fall comes along, and I pretty much say “Welp, it’s almost. Better get my shit together.” So I do all the fun, cozy, nesting sort of things – I bake, I buy “Autumn Walk” scented candles, I wear sweats that are five sizes too big, I take long bubble baths – but I also tend to get a serious urge to re-organize my whole life in the Fall. Probably a leftover side effect from my school days, but this time of year just makes me want to sort everything into neatly labeled boxes and purge all the crap I don’t need or want anymore. It’s refreshing.

This summer in particular was uber busy and stressful and all over the place for me (more on that in a few weeks), so I am seriously looking forward to life winding down this Fall. I have lots to look forward to, and I have a good feeling that everything is going to fall nicely into place and I’ll finally be able to breathe a bit easier.

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Harry Potter Forever

Harry Potter is having a bit of a resurgence in my life right now. Actually, he seems to be having a bit of a resurgence in general. Myself and two of my friends all decided within the last few months, completely independently, to re-read the entire series. Truth: I’ve done this several times since reading the first book when I was 11.

They never get old to me. They’re as enjoyable on the 10th read as they were on the 2nd (but let’s face it, NOTHING compares to the first read through of any book, let alone a series as universally beloved as Harry Potter). I watch the movies regularly as well. ABC Family makes it easy because they have Harry Potter marathons pretty much every weekend (and they air deleted scenes, you guys!). I have a Pottermore account, which goes largely unused until recently, when J.K. Rowling posted new material about where our favorite Hogwarts alums are now in the form of a Rita Skeeter article that was supposed to be focusing on the Quidditch World Cup, which took place this year (spoiler alert, Bulgaria won, with Krum out of retirement as seeker!).

I’m sure there are lots of articles and blog posts ruminating on why Harry Potter has such staying power, why the series is loved by children and adults alike, so I won’t go into that here. But I will talk a bit about why I think Harry Potter still means so much to me.

I grew up with Harry and the gang. The first book came out when I was 11, the same age Harry was in the first book. I remember very clearly sitting in my living room and my dad handing me this book he said he had read about in the newspaper. At this point I was old enough to think that whatever my dad thought might be “cool” probably wasn’t at all and I was also not yet old enough to think anyone could find anything of interest in a newspaper.

I didn’t want to read it. I started reading it anyway. And I was immediately hooked. What 11-year-old doesn’t dream that perhaps they are really a prince or princess or maybe they were switched at birth their rich, famous parents could show up any minute to whisk them away into a life of luxury? (Still waiting on that, actually.) Point being, the idea that poor Harry had a half-giant show up and tell him “Hey, you’re a wizard and you can do magic and you’re going to come with me and live in this magical world and have an owl for a pet” was extremely appealing. HOW COOL.

I then spent the next ten years of my life beholden to the publishing schedule of these books. I waited YEARS between some of the last ones. I went to midnight book releases. Then, they started making them into movies. This wonderful, magical, imaginative world that I was so enamored with was being brought to life. I stood in line for midnight showings (but I did not dress up. I had to draw the line somewhere). And don’t even get me started on Harry Potter World in Florida. (I DID wear Gryffindor colors for that visit…)

And then, when I turned 21, it all ended. Coincidentally, I suppose you could say the books ended when my childhood did. (When you can go to a bar and legally order a [butter]beer that basically means you’re an adult, right?) It was the weirdest feeling. Like someone died. NO more Harry? But…what? That’s probably when I decided to re-read the books for the first time.

They’re always there for me. The books are kind of like a security blanket for me. Nothing to read? It’s ok, all seven books are on my Kindle and I can read them whenever I want, complete with my favorite lines highlighted. I also have all eight movies on DVD, in case it’s a rainy weekend and for some weird reason they’re not on ABC Family. I have the Harry Potter theme music on my phone, as both a ringtone and the actual song, just in case I need a touch of magic during my morning commute.

I have all these things, and I enjoy them, because they take me back to when I was 11 and finding Harry for the first time. Nothing can compare to the original time you read a book, but every time I start the Sorcerer’s Stone (“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much”) it takes me back a little bit.

When life is rough or in some kind of flux, I turn to Harry. Because he doesn’t change. He always makes it out okay in the end. And whatever is going wrong in my life at the time prroobbably isn’t as bad as an evil wizard constantly trying to kill you. Perspective.

They stand the test of time. There’s nothing in these books that dates them. No pop culture references to make it obvious when they were written. The stories themselves never seem trite or immature, even reading them as an adult. They were enjoyed by people of all ages when they were originally published, and I don’t see that changing.

I can’t wait to read them to my children someday and share the magic with them. I can only imagine that the next best thing to being able to read them for the first time again is getting to see a child experience them for the first time. Lord help me if my kids don’t like Harry Potter. I”m sending them back.

I don’t know how J.K. Rowling managed to create this amazing global phenomenon. I mean, she jotted down the original idea on a napkin, and it somehow grew into what it is. Still, nearly 20 years later, Harry Potter is A Thing. Rowling is still giving us some original material via Pottermore. They’ve just expanded The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. It truly is magical.

So obviously, J.K. Rowling is a witch.

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April Books

I did way better with my book count in April. This is mainly in part to a horrendously boring work project and my discovery of audiobooks. The two went together like peanut butter and jelly and I managed to finish THREE books while working on the project. So I guess the horrible, brainless project was balanced out by getting to enjoy three books while I did it.

I’d never listened to an audiobook before. I thought I wouldn’t be able to focus. Now I’m obsessed. I listen in the car. I listen before bed, like someone is reading me a bedtime story. It’s amazing.

Anyway, here are the books for April!

The Here and Now – Ann Brashares

I didn’t love this one. The premise was intriguing and I loved the Traveling Pants series when I was younger, but I felt meh about this. The love story part of the book was really just horrible if I’m being honest.

Timebound – Rysa Walker

This one wasn’t too bad. It was about time travel, which for some reason always sucks me in. It had a lot of historical elements which could get a bit snoozy. Lots of heavy blocks of text. The romance aspect felt like it was tossed in at the last minute and added nothing to the story, so that was problematic once again.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I had an interesting reaction to this one. I enjoyed reading the book, but when I went on Goodreads and read the reviews I found myself agreeing with many of the complaints people had. It ended up changing how I felt about the story. In any case, it was an enjoyable read if you don’t think too deeply about it.

Looking for Alaska – John Green

John Green is my man. While this was no Fault in Our Stars, it was good.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

This started out so strong! A mysterious bookstore, how intriguing! This was also my second foray (more on the first later) into audiobooks and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this. But as the story went on, it just kind of started to suck. So that was super disappointing. Womp womp.

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

Amazing. Everything you’ve heard is true. Don’t bother with the movie.

Coraline – Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman, oh how I love thee. This was an audiobook which was delightfully read by Gaiman himself, thus making the entire experience that much more magical.

And finally, though this doesn’t count towards my total for this endeavor,  The Devil in the White City (Abandoned).This was my first audiobook attempt and holy crap. More like The Mayor of Boring City. As my mom would say this just “wasn’t my cup of tea”. I ditched it about 1/4 of the way through.

Total: 20

I’ll be back next month with my books from May! (I’m already getting a slow start, ugh.) Also, are you on Goodreads? If you are, add me as a friend! I love seeing what others are reading, and occasionally I’ll write slightly better reviews than the ones I write here.

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Fictitious Dishes

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I love food. This is no secret. I enjoy cooking it, I enjoy eating it, and I even enjoy looking at it. I also enjoy books and reading, as we also know. Perhaps that’s why I find Dinah Fried’s new book particularly captivating.

She created and then photographed meals from various books, and the result is fascinating. She set the meals up as they would have looked to the characters in the books (the top photo here is from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the bottom photo is from To Kill a Mockingbird). Holden Caulfield’s cheese sandwich and malted are presented on a diner counter.

Fried feels that the act of reading fiction is a sensory experience. For this book, she focused on one sensory element from fiction – food – and created visuals to match.

“Each photograph does not represent a meal exactly as it was explained by the author, rather aims to capture the essence of each novel, evoking the setting and atmosphere of the narrative. Whether or not you’ve read the books, these images should provide a little taste of what they’re like.” (Huffington Post)

Kind of cool, right? The Huffington Post link has a slideshow with more meals pictured, and you can also peek inside the book on Amazon. Worth a look!

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90 Days

I have what I like to call Veruca Salt Syndrome. You know, the girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory* who doesn’t care how, she wants it now? Yeah, that’s me. I have a hard time understanding why when I decide I want something I can’t have it right away (i.e. house hunting). I enjoy instant gratification. I want those shoes, I buy those shoes. Very little effort is involved. So when i come up against something I want but can’t have right away, I immediately become frustrated, angry, and sink into a deep pit of despair.

It’s not a good habit. I’m working on it, honest.

It’s a habit that has also made me lazier than I am. And I’m pretty lazy to begin with. When I identify something I want but can’t have right away, or may have to put in a lot of work into getting, or just plain don’t know how to get, I get overwhelmed* and just give up all together. I’ll just stay in this crappy place, thanks, because I’m too lazy to figure out how to fix it. Or if it’s going to take longer than I thought or be more effort than I originally planned, I just end up quitting. I find myself in an endless cycle of try try try! and then give up spectacularly. It’s ding dang exhausting. For myself and for everyone I complain to.

So instead of complaining all the time, and feeling frustrated all the time, I’ve decided to do something about it.

It really all started when, as usual, I find summer approaching and I feel like a pale, jiggly, blob from a winter of staying indoors and eating ginger snaps obsessively (sooo goood). As standard for me, I immediately jumped into a 24 day cleanse, clean eating, continuing to work out at my beloved barre studio, and then burning myself out and immediately dive bombing into a plate of nachos with a side of beer. Thus getting nowhere in my battle against the bulge that is my muffin top. “Why isn’t this working?” I’d moan. “I was sooo good for like, three-ish days this week!” I’m not that stupid. I get that consistency is my problem. I know that one bad meal or a few rest days won’t make me fat and out of shape, but it’s never one bad meal or a few rest days. It’s multiple bad meals and multiple rest days.

So it was time to face the facts. What I’ve been doing isn’t working. It’s time for something new. So instead of making a grand plan for changing my body and my life as fast as possible, I’m taking a new, slower approach. I’m setting relatively small goals for myself and they working on achieving them. Slowly, one step at a time. I am trying to focus on the long game rather than an immediate payoff. It’s more of a mental shift more than anything, and I’m hopeful that it will bring a sense of clarity and peace to my life that I find myself lacking more often than not. It started as a quest to get into shape, but I can already feel it morphing into so much more.

I’ve arbitrarily set a 90 day time period for me to get this endeavor off the ground. That brings me to the end of June, essentially the start of summer, because I want to start my favorite season off in a happy and healthy place. Mentally and physically.

My goal for the month of April is consistency.

Consistently make good choices when it comes to eating, consistently work out, consistently wash my face and floss before bed (I know, I’m gross, but I never consistently do those things), consistently make the choice to feel positive and happy instead of letting negative thoughts get me down. I know we’re only 10 days in, but I’m already feeling good about this. It’s not about being perfect, just about making the best decisions I can every time I have the opportunity. Small steps that will hopefully lead to big rewards.

Also, just because that got a bit too serious for my liking, I plan on teaching myself to juggle this month. Just because I need a talent and I just recently read somewhere that literally anyone can learn to juggle. So there’s that.

 

 

*The original, not the creepy one with Johnny Depp. Sorry Johnny, I love you, but no.

*”I know you can be overwhelmed and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?” “I think you can in Europe.” Name that movie!

 

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Orphan Black

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The Internet has been telling me to watch this show for ages. I keep stumbling upon various articles saying that “Orphan Black is the best show you’re not watching” or some iteration of that.

And now I am here to tell you that Orphan Black is the best show you’re not watching.

I binge watched the entire first season this past Sunday. Actually, that might be skewing my opinion slightly, because most shows are better if you binge watch them, because you don’t have the frustrations of having to wait to see what happens or the risk of forgetting about a small tidbit of information that later in the series turns out to be a huge tidbit. Regardless, the show is really good.

Sarah Manning is a street dwelling ne’er do well who witnesses someone who looks exactly like her jump in front of a train and kill herself. Seeing this as an opportunity to at the very least rob this woman blind, Sarah assumes her identity. Only to find out she is actually one of several clones, and someone is trying to kill all of them. As you can imagine, ish gets cray.

The best part of the whole show is that one actress (Tatiana Maslany) plays the part of all the clones, each of them having wildly different personalities and even different accents. It’s freaking incredible. You forget they are all being played by the same person, she does such a good job differentiating between all of them. N came over just in time for the last two episodes and I attempted to give him a brief rundown of the series and as we’re watching a scene with three of the clones in it he says “Wait, she’s playing all these characters right now?” and I basically flew off the couch saying “YES. I KNOW. I CAN’T EVEN.” It just blows my mind.

So I’m here to add to all the other articles out there telling you that you should be watching this show. The good news is you have plenty of time to binge watch before season two premiers on April 19th.

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Grand Budapest Hotel

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N and I had ourselves a nice date night consisting of dinner and a movie this past Saturday and we went to see Grand Budapest Hotel. We’re big Wes Anderson fans (N got me into his movies when he forced me to see The Life Aquatic and I ended up liking it far more than expected) and we’d heard good things about this one, so we were really excited.

We also smuggled wine juice boxes into the theater which may or may not have had an effect on our excitement level.

Anyway, we loved it. It was hilarious and, of course, completely beautiful. The colors! Oh Wes, you know how the internet feels about your color schemes. This movie is suddenly making all those pink tiled bathrooms we keep seeing on our house hunt look really exquisite. I highly recommend this one, and I hate going to the movies.

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February/March Books

Started to lose track of what I was reading in February and March! I believe everything below should cover it, bringing the grand total so far up to 13.

 

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Beautiful Chaos – Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

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Beautiful Redemption – Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

I had started this series awhile back and never got around to finishing it, so I picked up the last two books so I could get a couple of quick reads in for this challenge. It wasn’t the best series I’ve ever read, but I enjoyed it and they were indeed quick reads.

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The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

Everything you have heard about this book is true. It is phenomenal. Yes, it’s sad, but it’s so much more than just a sad story. Green captures teenage romance and that feeling of first love so well. His characters are interesting and complex and strong. I’ve added his other books to my list. My barre studio just started a book club (it’s really the best barre studio ever you guys) and this is the first book we are reading. So pumped.

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Crazy Good – Rachel Robinson

This was sent to me from the author as an advance reader copy. Ladies, if you are looking for a steamy romance novel, this is it.

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Orphan Train – Christina Baker Kline

This one was SO good. The story switches back and forth from present-day to around the time of the Great Depression. I haven’t read many stories that take place during the Great Depression, so this was particularly interesting to me. The bits about the actual orphan trains were particularly interesting. I’d highly recommend.

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We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

This was another advance reader’s copy (if you sign up to get Publisher’s Weekly emails sometimes they send offers for ARCs, totally worth it). I’d never read anything by this author before, but the synopsis sounded intriguing. I read it really quickly, which is always a good sign, and the ending is still sticking with me, which is also a good sign.

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The Thrill of the Hunt?

N and I still house hunting. I have a feeling this is going to be a slow and frustrating process. We were thrilled to find out we could afford more than we thought, but our bigger budget hasn’t made the hunt any easier.

I was SO EXCITED to start this chapter of our lives, but it is totally not as fun as I thought it would be. Turns out when it comes time to make your dream into a reality there’s a lot of anxiety involved. It doesn’t help that this dream of ours is also going to cost more money than either of us has ever spent in our lives. So it makes sense that we’re being super picky, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

We went to a few open houses yesterday, but nothing was speaking to us. We both want to have a feeling when we walk into our future home, a this is it type of feeling. We did, however, both agree that if the house containing this wallpaper had been The One we would have kept it. As N said “This is so bad it’s come full circle to good again.”20140324-113635.jpg

After the disappointment that was yesterday’s open houses, there was really only one thing to do. Go buy Frozen on DVD, a giant bottle of wine, and head home. We watched Frozen (I’m completely obsessed, along with every other small child in the world), drank the majority of that bottle of wine, and then made a delicious stir fry for dinner. So Sunday turned out to be a pretty ding dang great day after all.

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