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Who Says I Can’t Have My Cake and Eat It Too?

26 Jan

The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age. – Lucille Ball

Today is my 25th birthday. I’m a quarter-century old, which means my quarter-life crisis is going to happen any day now.  It also means that I can eat cake for lunch (already done), buy myself a fun present (also already done) and revel in all the attention and birthday wishes.

my first birthday and first bite of cake - yum!

Mom used to say that she’d never have kids in January. Instead, she ended up with two, although my due date wasn’t until the end of February. I’ve always believed that being a preemie influenced my personality: I’m very type-A and a bit of a control freak; I’m quite punctual (even when I feel like I’m running late); and I can be a bit high strung (only sometimes though). Similarly, my brother arrived 10 days late (and two days after my third birthday) with an attitude that reflects his laid-back entrance into this world.

Growing up, we always had the greatest birthday parties.  I’m not sure how old I was turning, but my favorite one was an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed celebration.  We had a trunk full of costumes and a make-up artist to work her magic on my friends and me. For an afternoon, my basement was transformed into Wonderland, and I got to play the leading lady. I couldn’t have been a happier little girl!

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten out of the habit of marking the occasion with a party. This year, however, my boyfriend wouldn’t let me get away with it. Because we couldn’t be together on my real birthday, we celebrated a pretend birthday, complete with presents, a movie date (my choice) and a sunset picnic of sushi (my favorite).  If I have to be in my mid-twenties, at least I have a wonderful boy in my life to grow older with me.

not a bad view, huh?

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Starting from Scratch

24 Jan

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve never been particularly athletic.  Even so, fitness has always played a role in my life.  As a little girl and into my high school years, I relied on gymnastics and cheerleading to keep me in shape. During college, I occasionally ran with friends but mostly gravitated towards the elliptical or stationary bike.  After I graduated and moved to Chicago, I no longer had easy access to a gym, but was fortunate enough to have a treadmill in my apartment. When I first climbed on that machine, I could barely run a mile. I stuck with it, and soon enough, I was addicted.

 

i may not be athletic...

...but at least i look good!

However, I didn’t realize how much I truly loved and depended on running – both mentally and physically – until I was sidelined with two injuries at the beginning of this year.  My left ankle is more fragile than most, and thanks to some well-hidden ice on one of my December-morning runs, I twisted it and did some major damage.  After wearing a bulky boot for three weeks, I was finally ready to slip on my sneakers again. Unfortunately, that night, I was brushing my hair and dislocated my shoulder (also more fragile than most because of a childhood injury). Needless to say, I’m a bit accident-prone.

Unfortunately, these aches and pains kept me out of the race for nearly a month. Now, I have about two weeks before I begin training for the Country Music Half Marathon, which means it’s time to get busy! After my hiatus from the exercise world, I feel refreshed and ready to go, but I also feel like I’m starting from scratch. I think it’s the perfect time to reinvigorate my workout routine using the strategies below.

  • Lately, my favorite gadget has been the Garmin Forerunner 60 watch (which my sweet boyfriend gave me for my upcoming birthday). Paying attention to my pace and heart rate not only ensures that I make the most of every run, but it also helps me to push myself and do better than my previous workout.

 

my new running buddy

(photo: source)

  • When it comes to running, rather than stick with a steady pace and minimal incline for my allotted workout time, I’m depending on interval runs (like this one or this one from Peanut Butter Fingers) to keep me energized and motivated. Looking forward to my workout makes my 6 a.m. (or earlier) alarm that much more bearable.
  • Speaking of my early running routine, I’ve previously been in the habit of only working out at the start of the day. If I don’t fit it in before work (or errands or whatever’s on the day’s agenda), then it doesn’t happen. This time around, I’m doing my best to listen to my body and exercise when it’s best for me – if it’s best for me that day.
  • As much as I love to run, I don’t love getting stuck in a runner’s rut. To avoid this pothole, I’m focusing on mixing up my routine and trying new workouts. Thanks to Groupon, I have two awesome options to help me achieve this goal.  Back in October, I purchased three hour-long sessions with a personal trainer from Basics and Beyond.  More recently, a friend and I bought five BarreAmped classes. This workout combines dance, Pilates, yoga and deep stretching, providing me with a perfect cross-training alternative during my half-marathon training. I have a feeling that both of these experiences are going to kick my butt, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.
  • Because I don’t currently belong to a gym (having a treadmill makes a gym membership less necessary), I rely on hand weights and workout DVDs for most of my strength training.  The newest addition to my collection is Crunch – Burn & Firm Pilates.  I first attempted this DVD with a friend during a weekend trip in Chicago, and let me tell you, I was cursing at the television screen shortly after it started. For me, a good marker of a challenging workout is when I have trouble completing the DVD during my initial attempts.  Plus, it makes surviving the entire thing that much more rewarding.
  • I used to approach food in the same way that I approached my exercise routine: lots of sameness.  Motivated by Bethenny Frankel’s Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting and my own resolution, I’m ready to change that pattern once and for all! Cooking more often gives me the opportunity to try new things and figure out what eating habits make me feel full, happy and ready to tackle the day. It also means that I pay more attention to what I’m eating, which in turns allows me to feel more satisfied with my food choices.

if all else fails...

(photo: source)

Ready to Run!

17 Jan

Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself. – Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I have to admit that I felt more than a little lost as I entered the real world post-college graduation. While my life has always been filled with great people and endless opportunities, I cannot help but wonder what my future holds, which leads me to My Bucket List. What are those adventures I’ve always wanted to take? What are those things I want to do to feel more fulfilled? How do I want to leave my mark and say that, “I was here?” While that last question may take a few (or a lot) more years of living to answer, I can start checking off some of the less-complicated items on my list. There is no time like the present, right?

It is this mindset that led a friend and I to sign-up to run our first half-marathon in April 2009.  To be honest, our initial motivation may have been self-serving – after all, it is a great way to ensure bikini enviability by the summertime.  But soon after finishing the race, I realized that this experience affords us so much more than a beach-ready body.

First, it served as a great “something” to focus on as I survived a chilly Chicago winter.  Post-holidays can be a bit sad for me.  I spend a week or so with my family, and then I return to the doldrums of the everyday working world.  To this end, my scheduled running also acted as a much-needed stress-reliever.   It was a somewhat-confusing and unconfident time in my life – and achieving a goal like this one ensured that I not only make time for myself but also that I rebuild my self-assurance and become an even stronger young woman than I was before.

Finally, strutting through Nashville with thousands of runners (both more and less prepared than myself) allows me an excellent opportunity to improve upon my current workout wardrobe.  I believe that you feel your best when you look your best, and this motto certainly extends to those times when you perhaps look your worst.  I was sweaty, tired and achy as I logged those miles, but I assure you, I was dressed from head (visor) to toe (sneakers) in coordinating black and pink Nike gear.  After all, accessories are a central part of any outfit.

ready, set, RUN!

For a less-than-athletic girl, this pursuit initially surprised my family and friends. Looks of incredulous belief were usually followed by apprehensive notes of encouragement and endless reminders that the most important thing is to do the best I can. Perhaps this self-doubt from others motivated me even more.  Not only did I have something to prove to myself, but I had something to prove to the people I loved most.

Looking back now, I can say…I did it! Two hours, 34 minutes, and 56 seconds later, I crossed that finish line and was filled with immense pride and a bit of disbelief. How did a girl who could hardly run three miles at the start of her training just survive 13.1 miles in the time it takes to watch a movie? To fly from New York to Atlanta? To enjoy a delicious meal in good company?

As I said before, this adventure is not a one-time deal. In fact, it’s time to start training for my fourth half-marathon, which I’ll run with my mama at the end of April. Next time around, my goal will not only be to finish but to beat my previous times and, of course, to always do my best. If you’re up for it, join me!

jamie and i look quite fashionable in our pink attire and glitter headbands.

Interior Design: A Reflection of My Interior Self

12 Jan

Mere color, unspoiled by meaning and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand ways. – Oscar Wilde

Interior design is a newfound interest for me, one that most certainly stemmed from my love for fashion.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve torn out magazine pages with dresses, outfits, purses and shoes that inspire me, that remind me of my own style, that I simply find pretty.  More recently, I’ve been collecting pages from ELLE Décor, Southern Living, Pottery Barn and other catalogs. Bookshelves holding just enough books, antique keys accenting the top of a table, vases overflowing with peonies (my favorite) – all of these images will serve as inspiration when it comes time to decorate my own home.

I love organizing books by binding color and size (whether the same or quite contrasting) and piling them in horizontal and vertical stacks as I fill up my bookshelf. I love picking out which picture best suits a frame and deciding where to showcase that treasured memory. I love pairing unsuspecting pieces and creating a look that is both unique and more complete than if the parts were standing alone.

But, perhaps most importantly, I love color. While I was living in New York City, a friend commented on my colorful apartment, drawing a connection between my living space (which was the size of a small shoebox) and the “colorfulness” of my own self. His simple observance has since become one of my most cherished compliments, and it unequivocally plays a role in each decorating choice that I’ve made since then. For instance, my current bedroom set includes antique blue furniture (part of the Charlotte collection from Pottery Barn) – just what I needed for a fresh start in a new city.

this bedside table keeps my sleeping mask and ear plugs at an arm's reach.

(photo: source)

As someone who loves to write, my desk is perhaps the most important piece of my home décor. I chose the west elm parsons mini desk in polished white (which pairs nicely with white MacBook) and scoop-back chair in a yellow floral print (both comfortable and colorful). I bought a second chair that sits in a corner by my closet and works quite nicely when I need to put my shoes on or find a spot to set my purse.

where all my brilliant ideas come to me!

one of my favorite places to sit

(photo 1: source, photo 2: source)

For Christmas, my brother always gives me a coffee table book, a tradition that began quite a while ago. Last year, I unwrapped Fabulous Frocks, a fabulous book about my favorite piece of clothing. This year, I was the lucky recipient of HUE, written by Kelly Wearstler.  I plan to read it cover to cover, falling a bit more in love with interior design with every turned page.

i cannot wait to see what inspiration lies behind this cover...

(photo: source)

My Smile

1 Jan

Grandpas hold our tiny hands for just a little while but our hearts forever. – Author Unknown

Today is the start of a brand new year. It’s also my papa’s 84th birthday.  When I think about my papa, I think about him babysitting for me when I was only two or three years old.  A little girl with endless energy, I used to drag all my baby dolls and stuffed animals from the living room couch to the entrance-way bay windows and back again. When Mama got home, he’d tell her he was exhausted after watching me run around aimlessly (although I had a very clear purpose in mind). Even though he passed away when I was only five years old, in many ways, I still feel like he is watching over me, each and every day.

my papa, my smile

Papa was a sturdy man; at six feet, one inch, he towered over my little-girl world.  His baldhead made me laugh: why didn’t he have any hair up there? He had strong hands, always reaching down to pick me up.  Like most men, he had “his chair” in the living room.  I loved to join him, jumping onto his lap as though that was where I belonged.  He always made me feel safe as if I had nothing to fear.  Despite these masculine features, it was his warm smile that drew people towards him.  I’ve always believed that your smile is a reflection of your heart, and this statement is surely proven true with Papa, for both his smile and his heart were loving and genuine.  If a stranger were to see Papa’s cheerful face, it’d be hard not to smile back.

Before I was born, Papa had serious health problems: a stroke, which left his left arm almost useless, and a heart attack.   Soon after my fifth birthday, the doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer.  Visiting him in the hospital scared me immensely.  The room seemed so unpleasant, so ominous.  Rather than hugging him as I normally would, I walked over to a window and stared at the ground below.  How confused I must have been! Who was this man? Where was my papa?  Why was he in this strange, gloomy room? Why wasn’t he in “his chair”?  He didn’t look like Papa anymore: so many tubes and machines attached to him kept my five-year-old eyes from recognizing him.   I couldn’t jump onto his lap anymore; my safety, my protection, was gone.

My younger brother didn’t see him like I did. Colin walked in the hospital room exclaiming, “There’s my papa!” To him, Papa hadn’t changed; he was the same man he had always been. Colin didn’t hesitate to scramble up onto that uninviting hospital bed; he graciously helped my papa eat his dinner.  After seeing Colin’s reaction, I opened up.  Eventually, I saw the papa who I knew.

Looking back, I realize that my own perception often changes the way I see the world around me.  On the outside, Papa was different: he was surrounded by machines in an unfamiliar room; he didn’t seem so safe anymore; he couldn’t reach down and lift me to the sky like usual; his body seemed weak, as though a heavy burden had been laid upon him. But on the inside, he was the same.  Even though his body was failing him, he wasn’t losing faith.  He still had the same heart, one that shined through even in his most hopeless moments.  He was always – and still is – my smile.

Il Dolce Far Niente

30 Dec

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t take a look around once and awhile, you could miss it. – Ferris Bueller

I’m a big believer in the power of positive thinking. And it is for this reason alone that I always make New Year’s resolutions. If I set a goal for myself, I’m determined enough (or, if you ask Ross, stubborn enough) to see it through until completion. Below are a few of my resolutions for this year. Fingers crossed that I can check these items off of my list!

1. Take more pictures. I’ve always loved making photo albums. I have books filled with pictures from high school, my trip to Europe and my semester abroad in Australia as well as the rest of college and my post-graduation life. I love pictures of my brother and I as little kids and of my parents from way back when (as evident by many blog posts).

say cheese! the very first picture that i took

Lately, though, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon and been terrible about taking pictures; I want to make sure that I capture the memories of 2011. I recently discovered the fun of iMovie (which I highly recommend to anyone with an Apple computer), making me more determined than ever to take more pictures.

2. Take the time to cook more meals at home. I rarely eat out during the week, but that’s not to say that I enjoy home-cooked meals. Usually, it’s a bowl of oatmeal for lunch and a bowl of (canned) soup for dinner. Cooking for one isn’t always easy, but clearly, I have no problem eating the same thing for a few days (or a few weeks). Thanks to Peanut Butter Fingers (one of my favorite blogs – highly addictive), I’ve started to cook simple meals for myself based on things that I usually have in my kitchen. As a further motivator, I asked for a new cookbook for my birthday. Time to kick it up a notch in the new year!

hint, hint mama!

3. Enjoy every moment. I know it sounds cheesy, but I sometimes get so wrapped up in the craziness of every day that I forget to enjoy myself. I’m so thankful for every part of my life, and I want to take the time to soak it all up over the next 12 months.  In order to do that, I need to slow down a bit and embrace the sweetness of doing nothing (il dolce far niente, hence the blog title).

To get the year started off right, I’m spending the first two weeks of January with the sweetest boy I know. Yes, we’ll be doing lots of somethings (traveling, skiing, cheering for the Sooners – just to name a few), but I also hope that we take plenty of time to be together and do nothing.

spending new year's eve in our spot: telluride

Puppy Pleasures

27 Oct

Whoever said you can’t buy happiness, forgot little puppies. – Gene Hill

From the time that I returned home from the hospital, I had a dog. During naptimes, Cousteau would look over my crib. He never warmed up to other kids, but for whatever reason, it was okay that I interrupted his world. Except for one unfortunate incident (when I crawled into his territory underneath my parent’s bed), he never growled or snapped at me, always being my protector.

good dog, cousteau!

After Cousteau moved on to dog heaven, another furry creature came into my life: our yellow Labrador Retriever, Travis.  When my brother was 18 months old, my parents decided it was time to get another dog. Being the older sibling, I had the honor of accompanying my dad to pick up our newest addition.  On our drive home, I accidentally dropped the six-week-old squirming puppy, and he spent the rest of the trip trapped under the seat. So much for making a good first impression.

From the start, my brother and Travis were the best of friends. Colin was quite a rambunctious and adventurous child, often climbing on our dog’s back or crawling into his crate with him. Thankfully, he was an extremely patient dog and understood that his boy pulled on his ears and tail with unshakeable love. Despite their unbreakable bond, Travis was very much a family dog. Whenever I was having a bad day, I wanted nothing more than to sit on our dock with Travis by my side.

Like most Labs, Travis had a passion for the water – something that he shared with the rest of my family, my dad in particular.  He went for his first swim at only four months old, falling into the lake while playing too close to the edge of the dock. From then on, it was hard to tear him away from the water. He could swim for hours, retrieving dummy after dummy and diving deep for sunken tennis balls. Even after arthritis claimed his limberness, he would still amble down the boat ramp next to our house and go for his morning dip.

Ironically, we got a second dog on Travis’s fourteenth birthday. Lucy came into our lives by surprise, but she was always meant to be with us. Lucy’s personality reflects her being a rescued dog: she focuses entirely on pleasing you, never wanting to disappoint or upset you and always excited to be with you. She is quite attached to my mother, often hiding under her desk while Mom is doing work. Perhaps she knows that it’s her responsibility to fill that empty nest that my brother and I left behind.

For a few months, Lucy helped to revive Travis, giving a very old dog a bit more spark in his last weeks. She always knew that he was the alpha and respected that we were his family first and foremost. After he passed away, she spent days aimlessly wandering around our backyard and looking for her missing friend. Little did she know that, soon enough, a very rowdy puppy would be bounding into her peaceful world.

lucy & travis - happy campers at the beach

It should come as no surprise, then, that three months into my tenure in the real world, I got my own dog. Milly changed my whole life – completely for the better. That’s not to say it was always easy. I picked Milly up in Manila, Indiana a mere 10 days before I packed up and moved into a new apartment in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Surviving that brutal winter with a yet-to-be-housebroken puppy certainly tested my limits, but together, we managed just fine.

Milly has taught me patience (something I’m still learning) – it’s pretty hard to argue with a stubborn puppy. She has taught me greater fiscal accountability – from her purchase price (equivalent to that pink pair of Louboutins that I’ve been lusting after) to all of her accessories, I have to budget. She has taught me responsibility – she relies on me for everything from bathroom breaks and dinnertime to long walks and playtime. And in return for treats and toys, she gives me unconditional love and countless smiles. Pretty great exchange if you ask me.

my sweet baby girl - 10 weeks old