April 29, 2011

Friday Favorites

Oh hey there Friday. You certainly took your time this week, didn't you? Seriously, friends, this week did not play fair. I'm pretty sure someone squeezed an extra day in there when I had my back turned. The good news, though, is that it's finally over. This weekend could not be any more welcome!
I've been feeling a little bit under the weather since about Tuesday -- that headache has hung around, my legs have been super sore (thanks to almost 20 miles in the past 5 days), and I've been especially tired. Every day I have promised my body an early bedtime, but sadly I have neglected to keep my word on that and I keep finding myself still awake trying to get things done at night. Last night I spent over 2 hours vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen, putting away laundry, and a thousand other tasks that have been piling up. While I'm glad that I got a lot done, this morning I really wished I had just given up and gotten two extra hours of sleep.
BUT today is Friday, the sun is out, and I have these lovely tidbits to share with you this week:

Have you been to one of these fantastic stores? I'd never heard of them until I went Christmas shopping with my bestie last December, but it was love at first sight. I purchased several gifts while I was there (and may or may not have gotten a thing or two for myself...) and have been dying to go back ever since. Or until two weeks ago, when I stumbled upon hometown's very own newly-opened shop. Hurray! I walked through quickly and looked around, but didn't allow myself to spend any money (oh, the willpower). I am already planning a return trip though: my jewelry collection is just crying for growth (I wear the same few pairs of earrings constantly) and I would love to find a home for some of their gorgeous decorations. Who can deny such a wonderful cause?

Confession: my survival this week required two trips to Starbucks. I try really hard to limit myself to one Starbucks run a week for the sake of both my waistline and my wallet (notice I make no such effort to contain my Dunkin' Donuts obsession... we all know our boundaries, right?) Some weeks, however, call for breaking the rules a little bit. Besides, the pumpkin bread? It calls to me sometimes.

This goofy wonderful guy always knows how to make me smile... and laugh out loud in a room full of cubicles. Our email conversations throughout the day are completely random, hysterical, and totally make my day. Recently he wrote me with a list of "exotic" animals he wanted to try as pets, including an Eastern Wallaroo (named Wall-E) and a Toyger to be friends with Toby. I agreed to both of these, but not the monkey who he wanted to train to run with me. I run so slowly, I'd hate to hold back a poor monkey.

Ahhh, retail therapy. I went shopping after work today and made a few exciting purchases: an adorable bathing suit top, a cute ruffle top, a new pair of running shorts, a pair of $1 earrings, and a really great dress for work. Unfortunately, I couldn't find pictures of most of these new additions to my wardrobe, so the above are stolen from my online wish list. I am especially in love with the one on the right -- so cute and perfect for summer! And speaking of wishing...

Yes, I watched the royal wedding this morning. I'm at the gym crazy early anyway, so I turned on the tv and read subtitles while I sweated through 5 miles. I thought it was a gorgeous ceremony and I definitely drooled over Princess Kate's gorgeous dress (does anyone understand why she's Catherine but Kate?), but I thought Pippa was  truly breathtaking. I can't imagine it's easy being the sister of royalty, but she seemed so graceful and sweet. She also just might have the cutest name in history. 
Hope that you are all as ready for this weekend as I am. Dan is determined to grill tomorrow night, and otherwise I'm hoping we will have a quiet, relaxing weekend. Sadly this is Dan's last (entire) normal weekend at home, so it will be bittersweet but hopefully fun!



A Lovely Discovery

Yesterday morning as I left the gym after pounding out another 4.5 miles, I was hit with a realization that I never saw coming: all of a sudden, it struck me that I was absolutely positively sick of running on a treadmill. I suppose it's not all that surprising -- in the past 2-3 months, I've logged over 200 miles, the great majority of which were completed on the treadmill. Don't get me wrong, I'm really thankful to have such easy access to a great gym -- I'm a wimp during the cold months, and without such an unavoidably convenient way to run inside, I'd still be making excuses and avoiding running like the plague. Truthfully, I've never thought running on a treadmill was as bad as a lot of people think. Once you get past the whole running-in-place thing, it's pretty nice to be in a temperature controlled environment with easy access to bathrooms, no need to carry a water bottle, and the ability to watch tv (although I never take advantage of that last one) Despite all these benefits, as of yesterday morning I was officially experiencing treadmill burnout.
The only difficulty? My neighborhood, as I've mentioned, is not runner friendly. Essentially, the neighborhood itself is built into a small mountain (great for hill-work but not more than once a week), and when you get out onto the main road there is no sidewalk, tall grass, and a fair amount of traffic. These are all pretty major problems.
This morning, though, I was determined to find somewhere to run outside, even if I had to run laps around the dog park. I decided to take a chance on the one place I'd never been: the neighborhood across the street. I still had to run along the main road to get there, but it's less than a quarter mile away and I figured it was worth a try. I'm so glad I did -- guess what I found?

A great little running path! I haven't explored the whole thing, because my legs were seriously sore this morning, but I was so busy being thrilled about my new running spot that I barely noticed. It is scenic, fairly popular (read: safe, Mom and Dad), and a great balance of hills and flat stretches. The best part, though, was this:
That's right, there's a half-mile loop around a little pond, complete with honking geese and lots of pretty trees. Perfect! Plus we got a ton of rain here last night (and more this morning, I barely made it home before another storm hit), so the air was cooler and the path was still wet. Running right after a storm is my favorite!
I'm so excited to have somewhere I can run outside -- even in the mornings before work. Unfortunately I don't think the trail is long enough for a long run, but it's definitely ideal for a quick few miles during the week. I doubt that I'll stop using the treadmill totally, but I'm really looking forward to mixing it up a little bit!


April 26, 2011

Terrible Tuesdays

It's official: Tuesday has become the new Monday. With Dan still home from the weekend (why can't I work 4 day weeks?), Mondays are much more bearable because I know that I'm not coming home to an empty apartment. Tuesday, on the other hand...  
Dan woke up this morning around 4:30 and left by 5, meaning that I didn't get back to sleep until at least 5:30. My alarm went off at 6 (and then again at 6:05) to drag me out of bed and to the gym. Since my neighborhood lacks in the "providing a safe place to run" department, I am relegated to the treadmill for any early morning workouts, since there is just no way that I am going to get up early enough to drive somewhere to run and then drive home to shower. 6:00 6:05 is already pushing it, really.
I got to work and my stress level got another little jolt when I started to have weird, blurry tunnel vision. I sat at my computer for about 20 minutes but was barely able to focus on the screen, an unnerving feeling in itself, but one that I knew was only foreshadowing the big event: a monster of a headache that was sure to follow. Eventually the vision corrected itself, and the headache certainly did make itself known right on schedule, but luckily it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. A little caffeine (best excuse to drink a cherry coke I've ever heard) and a few Tylenol kept it at bay enough for me to focus on my to-do list... which was lucky, because I was ever-so-graciously handed another big project at work today. Lovely. My desk looks like a cyclone blew through and my calendar has gone from empty to booked solid in about three days. The office used to be so low-stress, but now my morning runs are a cakewalk compared to the hours between 8:30 and 5.
Now, to end such a fabulous day, I'm sitting in Panera, having resorted to a strategy I perfected in my college days: when your living space is a mess, relocate. After a weekend of too much baking and too little cleaning, the chaos of my kitchen has begun to creep into the rest of our apartment, and I am now in full avoidance mode. Also, there's that thing about the apartment being empty. Which, recently, comes with the added reminder that it is going to be empty a lot in the next year and a half. Panera is loud and busy, so here I am. The best part though? It was sunny and gorgeous when I walked in, and now it is absolutely pouring. We're talking inches per second here. And my umbrella? In the car, at least 100 yards away. Where else?
Lest you feel too bad for me, though, there were a few little bits of happiness that saved today: a pretty pink scarf to match the (formerly) gorgeous weather, leftover pizza from a great night last night (which included wine and a good friend), an extra long run this morning that was felt easy and good, and the promise of my warm bed on the other side of this horrific rain. Sometimes you just have to focus on the little things, right?
Here's hoping that all of your Tuesdays were... more Tuesday than Monday!


April 25, 2011

A Hoppin' Easter Weekend

[please excuse the terrible pun... it's that kind of Monday]
I am simply astounded at the speed with which our weekends fly by these days. I feel like I barely sat down, barely slept, barely took a breath at all this weekend, which was wonderful and exhausting all in the same sentence. Monday really did come a little too quickly for my taste. 
Dan and I often take Friday evenings off to relax and be boring, but not this week: as soon as I left work we headed straight for the grocery store and then home to make dinner. Dan's youngest brother Z and his adorable girlfriend came over and we had pierogies (best. appetizer. ever.), grilled chicken sandwiches, mashed potatoes, stuffed mushrooms, and this amazing pie for dessert. [Please, if you do nothing else this week, make that pie. It is surprisingly easy, sticky, and heavenly. Really, so so good. Go on, you know you want to.]
(before it went back in the oven to melt the marshmallows... all over my oven... which was absolutely worth it)
 Saturday I got up early for a long run while my awesome hubby went back to the grocery store to get ingredients for last minute sugar-less and egg-less cupcakes (my family has a thing for allergies). I made this recipe (not terrible but I'm not sure I'd make it again) and used a Splenda version of my favorite icing (definitely better with real sugar), finishing off some with sliced strawberries and the rest with sprinkles. While baking, I learned an important lesson which I feel compelled to share with any of you who are, like me, slightly clumsy and blessed with blonde hair: after turning the oven on to preheat, even for only 10 seconds until you remember that there are melted marshmallows lining the bottom, do not simply turn the oven off and dive in to start cleaning. The oven will be hot. You will burn your thumb to pieces and then jump up and down squealing, which will cause your husband to alternate concern and barely suppressed giggles. Two days later, your thumb will have a nasty blister that still hurts. You're welcome.
So Dan and I first headed out to my aunt's and uncle's to help celebrate my cousin's 8th birthday (we never turn down a party). We had a great time catching up with the adults, chuckling at the fearless 5-year-old-on-a-bicycle, and enjoying some fantastic hamburgers. Then we headed to Dan's parent's house for more grilling, easter egg dye-ing (for the girls), and a scary movie.
Sunday brought another morning run and super-fast baking session (this time cake-mix cookies and no burnt thumb... much better on both accounts) before we headed off to my mom's and then Dan's great aunt's to visit with lots of family and eat more excellent food. Last night, at the request of the four-year-old who I am convinced is stuck inside Dan, we went to see 'Hop.' It was a cute movie (although not nearly as good as Despicable Me or Alvin and the Chipmunks), and if you ask me there are definitely worse ways to end your weekend than a cherry coke, buttery popcorn, and holding hands with your hubby. 
Speaking of Dan, I was so thrilled to discover the most wonderful easter basket "hidden" in the pantry yesterday morning! Unfortunately, I was so excited that I didn't even think to take a picture, but it was filled with cute little tea towels, an adorable bunny dish, a piggy bank (because I am forever being made fun of for my overflowing "change cup"), and all the best kinds of easter candy. What a great husband, right?
As exhausting as this weekend was, I am so glad that we have been taking advantage of every last minute that Dan is here. I know that once he leaves, weekends are going to go from crazy busy to lonely and sad, so for now I'm loving all the time with family, friends, and my sweet hubby. I only wish time would slow down a little bit!
Hope that you all had a fantastic Easter with your own loved ones!


April 22, 2011

Friday Favorites

Let me tell you, it's mighty hard to complain about a week in which you A) get married to the love of your life, B) spend a few days relaxing at the beach with said love of your life, C) eat several metric tons of seafood and wedding cupcakes and peach rings and the best hot dogs on earth and ice cream and oh, the list goes on... and D) spend only two days at work. Even as annoying as those last two days can be (think sand in your bathing suit, another little annoyance to which I've been recently reintroduced), they really just can't produce a big enough stormcloud to overshadow the rest of such an amazing week. And what better way to celebrate than to share a few of the things that made this week so perfect? I'm truly over-the-top grateful for sooo many things this week, but here are some of the very best parts:

Did I mention that I ate enough seafood in three days at the beach to sink a relatively large, relatively water-tight cruise liner? Poor hubby has never been to the beach with me, and since he's such a nice guy (and had no clue of the damage I can do when presented with plate upon plate of crab legs), he agreed to take me to one of those all-you-can-eat (or eat-all-you-can) seafood buffets. It wasn't exactly a pretty sight, as I cracked and ripped and clawed and dipped and went back for more.... and then groaned all the way back to the hotel and basically all night about how incredibly, awfully full I was. Dan was such a good sport about it though, just shaking his head and laughing at me as I continued to stuff myself full of crabmeat. This is the point where I remind him, gently, that he did marry me, seafood-obsession and all.

I have said it many times before (and even included her in a previous FF post), but I just have to repeat myself: I would be totally lost without this amazing girl. She is the best best friend you could possibly ask for, and getting to spend so much time with her preparing for the wedding was beyond wonderful. She (and her awesome boyfriend, who kept Dan company) got in Friday morning just as I was getting home from a run, and we spent the next 30-ish hours running around like crazy trying to get everything ready (except for Friday night when we were able to take a break and enjoy a great dinner together, and Saturday when we sat down for 90 blissful minutes of spa pampering) Despite the chaos of those two days, the quality time we got to spend together was fantastic and I am so so lucky for her help and support. She always gives the best advice, made sure my hair and makeup looked amazing, and kept me laughing right up to the door of our venue. I honestly don't know what I would do without her!

(that's greek yogurt with granola in there, not some weird thick and chunky drink)
I mentioned my love of bowls a while back, but I don't think I've yet confessed that I also have a thing for mugs. Over the past few years, I've developed a rather large collection and I love each and every one of them much more than anyone should ever love a mug. This week was a good one for my little love affair, as I added two more mugs to the collection: the one above from the beach (which, since you can't tell from my sad phone pic, is a gorgeous shade of coral), and the most adorable set of "mr." and "mrs." mugs from my mom (only one of which is mine... apparently... sigh). I'm going to be making tea all weekend just to have an excuse to drink out of these two lovely new friends. Should I be worried about my unhealthy attachment to dishes?

Sadly, this is the best picture I have of the brand new diamonds that now call my left ring finger home. Speaking of love affairs, though.... I can't lie: I'm pretty sure I fall more in love with this little bit of bling every day. I've caught myself so many times in the past week just sitting there staring at it, completely oblivious to the world around me. Dan would likely blame this on my (blonde) hair, but I'm really just mesmerized by the added sparkle. It was the only wedding band out of about a gazillion I tried on that really worked with my engagement ring, which made my final choice pretty simple. You can tell in this picture that, since it's a wrap, it fits around the solitaire to make what looks like one ring, and I'm probably going to get them soldered so that I don't have to fit them back together at least a thousand times a day. Have any of you done this with your rings? Advice for or against?

It just wouldn't be right to end a post about this wonderful week without including this amazing guy. One would think that this would be a perfect time to give you a little wedding picture teaser, but the sad reality is: 1. I haven't looked through even half of the pictures that were taken yet, and 2. of the pictures I have gotten my hands on, not a single one of them contains just me and my new hubby. I know that we had at least one picture taken of the two of us during the whirlwind of flashes that followed the ceremony, so I'm crossing my fingers that I will find it soon! For now, though, you'll have to be content with this picture and the assurance that we looked pretty nice for the big day. 
Even though it still feels kind of strange to be a wife (I still don't feel old enough to drive or pay rent, much less choose a soulmate), I could not be luckier to have married the man I did. It's funny to think back to my junior year of high school and realize that I was meeting the guy who I will spend the rest of my life with, but I absolutely wouldn't have it any other way. He has proven to be the bravest, kindest, funniest, and most loving boyfriend/fiance/husband I could ever wish for, and I am thrilled that we get to embark on this next stage of our life together.
On that note, I am off to spend a busy but fun weekend with my new hubby. We have lots of family celebrations to attend and I'm pretty excited to go to each as a married couple! Hope that all of you have a wonderful weekend and an Easter filled with lots of chocolate bunnies (the best part)!


April 21, 2011

Checking In from a Whirlwind

Oh hey there, real life -- nice to know that you kept up with everything while I've been off basking in newlywed bliss! I do apologize for the deafening silence from my end lately -- last week's to-do list got a tiny bit ahead of me and every time I tried to sit down and write, I was interrupted by at least 3 more things that needed to be done rightatthatmoment. Needless to say, the days leading up to Saturday's festivities were absolutely filled with stress, over-commitment, painful credit card swipes, and butterflies. Thankfully, though, there were lots of fun moments with friends, incredibly helpful family members, an overwhelming abundance of pretty flowers, and a few glasses of wine thrown into the mix to keep me sane. Despite all the chaos of the preceding days, every last detail went (surprisingly) perfectly, and I was lucky enough to be able to relax and just enjoy the day. 
The next time I take a vacation, though, please remind me to take the whole week, because there is truly nothing more sobering than coming back to work on a Thursday to a chorus of "Congratulations!" followed quickly by "Here's the pile of work that I could have done, but decided to save for you!" Top that with a few versions of "While you were gone, we decided that you'd be the ideal person to take care of this new project," and you have one seriously swamped new bride. Especially since all I can think about is how much I'd like to be at home with my sweet new hubby and our fluffball, who we both missed an obscene amount while we were gone. Trust me, I have never been so thrilled that it is Thursday and the weekend is right around the corner!
As you can tell, I'll be playing catch-up for the next few days -- on work, all of your wonderful blogs, and the laundry, which is again threatening to swallow poor Toby alive. Regular posting will return soon with wedding pictures and other exciting things!

April 13, 2011

A Wedding Dilemma

Brace yourselves, dear readers, because I'm about to let you in on a little secret about me. Except really, it's no secret at all, I just like to pretend that not everyone I've ever come into contact with has picked up on this itty bitty... character flaw. You see, when it comes to making big important life-changing any choices, I can be incredibly, awfully, annoyingly indecisive. It's a personality trait that has driven my parents crazy for years, and now, they are (quite graciously) handing over the frustration to Dan. Who has approximately the same amount of difficulty making decisions. It's truly a wonder we ever eat dinner when we are together, if one is to judge by the number of times "I don't really care, what do you feel like?" is repeated.
Surprisingly, though, when it came to wedding planning, I had pretty solid ideas about what I wanted (and what I definitely didn't want). Luckily, those ideas were, for the most part, fairly easily realized. I knew what kind of dress I wanted, and I found it. I knew what kind of shoes I wanted, and I (finally) found them. I knew what I wanted the flowers to look like, (generally) how I wanted the ceremony to go, and even what I wanted to ice the cupcakes (cream cheese frosting, what else?). So now, with 3 days to go, almost everything is locked and loaded, leaving me with just one more major decision. Only this particular choice has been plaguing me for weeks, keeping me up at night, and monopolizing my thoughts during the day: the music. The processional, specifically. Dan and I have picked the perfect "recessional" -- even though we won't really be leaving, it will just be played when the ceremony is finished. I am thrilled and can't wait to see everyone's faces for that one. But after hours and hours of searching for a processional, I am still completely and totally... indecisive. 
Part of my problem is that I have, actually, had this gorgeous piece selected for over a year, but when confronted with two weddings, I decided I wanted to save it for the big one. Since the processional will be quite short this time around, I didn't think it would do such a beautiful song justice... and thus began the hunt for something else. For a while, I was set on this Mussorgsky piece, but even I had to admit that it would probably be more appropriate for the future princess Middleton (can I make a suggestion, Kate?!) So here I am, back at square one, googling and scouring YouTube like mad in search of an ideal musical addition to our ceremony. Hunting for the perfect combination of unique and familiar, soft and harmony-rich, whimsical and situationally appropriate. I've found several possibilities, and this is where you, dear blogging community, come in:

[I love this song, but I'm worried that the instrumental version sounds a little like a movie trailer]

[from The Princess Bride -- this theme is so simple and cute]

[Again very simple, and this is one of my mom's and my very favorite artists, meaning that I would definitely cry....]

[from Finding Neverland]

[a little more traditional, but still very pretty]

What do you think of these options? Do you have any more perfect ideas that I just have to try? 
Please, please lend me your wisdom!


April 11, 2011

How Was Your Weekend?

Mine was beautifully, fantastically, fabulously.... boring. Which is, considering the extreme speed of life lately, exactly how I like my weekends served: laid back and stress-free, with an extra side of sleep. I'm pretty sure I did get more sleep in the past three days than I have in several weeks, which in itself would have been enough to make it a glorious weekend. 
Luckily, though, it did get slightly more exciting than the hours and hours I spent fighting the cat for at least a corner of the pillow (he's a persistent one). On Saturday I went for a very long, very cold run around our local university campus (and then spent about two hours trying to coax feeling back into my fingers), and Dan and I headed out with a good friend to the brewery where I used to work. I'm relatively certain that I gained back all the weight I've been working on losing during that single meal, but it was absolutely worth it: such amazing food!
Sunday I ran and then met up with my little from my college fraternity, who was in town for the weekend. We had a yummy breakfast and it was so great to catch up and hear all about her recent international travels. I spent the afternoon by the pool (white wedding dress + white bouquet + white walls = someone needs a tan) with the April issue of Food Network Magazine and a list of recipes I want to try, which is rapidly growing beyond the bounds of what is possible in the next oh, say, 5 years. Law school = 0, culinary school = 1. 
Dan and I also went out to see this movie last night:
Dan was dying to see it because the previews made him tear up with laughter, and I kind of love Natalie Portman, so I was a willing date. Plus, there was popcorn. And cherry coke. I don't turn either of those down. Surprisingly, neither of us were disappointed -- definitely not a movie to see with your parents, but if you're prepared for questionable, and at times downright horrible, humor, then it's not so bad.
For those of you keeping track, you're absolutely right: unless you count tanning or running, I did absolutely nothing this weekend to prepare for the wedding. Actually, that's not totally true -- I sent a few emails and talked through a few things with the groom-to-be, but definitely nothing terribly productive. I do have a list of things I need to finish up this week, but thankfully it's pretty short and definitely doable. At this point, I'm just ready for this week to go quickly so that I can enjoy a few days off work with my new hubby!
Hope that everyone else had a lovely, relaxing weekend too!


April 8, 2011

Friday Favorites

I feel a little a lot like a delinquent mother these days. My poor blog has been a bit neglected, and unfortunately the dust bunnies floating around in here are only going to multiply over the next two weeks, as I take on extreme wedding craziness and then escape to the beach for a few days with my new hubby (I am counting down the seconds until my feet hit the sand!) For now, though, I wanted to take a few minutes off from the wedding that is consuming.my.life. to reflect on a few things that I am loving this week!

This granola must be what heaven tastes like (despite the terrible pic). I am automatically a big fan of any granola that I am not deathly allergic to, and I may or may not have done a little happy dance when I found this one online. Peanut-less. Soy-less. Homemade. Fantastic. I might have also done an even-more-happy dance when it came in the mail and I tasted it. Heaven, I am telling you. Also reasonably priced, now that this wonderful website (where I also get yummy trail mix) has introduced a $6 shipping policy.

I've been reading all kinds of good things about Cupcake Vineyard for quite a while, but hadn't tried any because I rarely drink anything but red. I picked up a bottle of their Pinot Gris (which was on sale!) for a white-wine-drinking friend who came over last weekend, though, and decided I would try a glass too. Such a delicious surprise -- I will definitely be buying more of this!

I wrote earlier this week with some ramblings thoughts on body image. I've also been doing a fair amount of reading on the subject, and found this article, which I think is not only exquisitely written, but also intriguing and inspiring. I look forward to having kids and the joy will undoubtedly bring to our lives, but even until then, I would  love to embrace the beauty that comes with "the consciousness of my good fortune." What a wonderful, if difficult, thing to remember! The other stories in the series are definitely worth a read, too.

This beautiful girl is my maid-of-honor/singular "attendant" for the small wedding, and, more importantly, my best friend. I write about her often and how much I love spending time with her (and miss living just a building away from her at school and seeing her every day), but I'm including her again this week because there is no way that I could have planned this wedding without her. She went with me weeks and weeks ago to look at dresses, helped me find shoes, searched for jewelry with me, and has been a constant source of ideas and (thankfully) calm. She is by far the most patient, practical, thoughtful, and kind person I know, and I am so lucky to have her in my life!

Finally, even though it hasn't technically happened yet, I have to include this weekend, because I've been looking forward to it all week. This is Dan's and my last weekend as an engaged couple (!), and we have very little planned, so I'm looking forward to spending some quality time relaxing and just enjoying his company. He has promised me that we can go see a movie (if I go too long without popcorn and a cherry coke I start to get the shakes... it's kind of sad, really), and the weather is supposed to be nice so we will definitely be spending some time outside. So hard to believe that next weekend, we will be married!
Hope you have all had weeks full of equally wonderful things, and happy weekend!


April 6, 2011

Mirror, Mirror

I've been thinking a lot lately about a topic that strikes fear in the hearts of females all over the world: body image. You could blame it on a wedding in less than two weeks (gulp). Or it might be my new-found determination to keep up with running and push myself a whole lot further than ever before (right into a big, scary race, it seems). Really, though, my history with this subject is much more complex. I've studied body image through the eyes of a high school girl with friends of all shapes and sizes. I've looked at it from the perspective of a psych student with a textbook definition and a lecture hall full of stereotypes. I've questioned it from the vantage point of a girlfriend/fiance, wondering why someone else can look at me and find something so different from what I see. I've struggled with it as someone who loves food but doesn't always love exercise. I've examined it as a girl who adores women like Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson, but doesn't quite find it fair that they always look so skinny. No matter how I approach it, though, I've never quite been able to wrap my brain around body image: the way I view my body, the way I should view my body, and the annoying space in between.
I was never what I would consider overweight growing up -- although I definitely was not the athletic type, I did play soccer through elementary school, swam (often year round) for years and years, and stayed in fairly decent shape. I was not, however, ever to be confused as "thin": I had broad shoulders, a round face, and chubby little thighs that used to embarrass the heck out of me. I wasn't fat, but I definitely wasn't slender. My weight didn't bother me much, and I never dieted or participated in sports specifically to drop pounds, but I do remember being jealous of certain petite, built-like-a-dancer friends. It wasn't until I got to college that I started paying a little more attention to my physical appearance, as I came face-to-face with a brand new student population which contained a fairly large number of slim, pretty females. I wanted desperately to be naturally thin, but even as a freshman I knew the reality: I just wasn't born skinny.
For a while, I kind of stopped trying. I worked out when I was able to drag myself to the gym (which wasn't all that often), I ate basically what I wanted to, I slept when I could. I lost weight during finals, or when Dan and I took a short break in the spring of my freshman year, or when the only thing appealing being served at the dining hall was salad for several days in a row. I didn't keep track of my weight or its fluctuations, and even though the desire to be magically thin took up residence somewhere in the back of my head, it remained mostly quiet and inconsequential. I never skipped dessert because of the calories, or passed up a big dinner out, or pushed myself to go running when I really didn't feel up to it. Frankly, quite often I just didn't have the time or the energy to stress about my body -- I had classes, student organizations, social commitments, friends, and a long-distance relationship to worry about. As long as it remained functional and at least minimally healthy, my body was the least of my worries.
Today, for better or for worse, my body and I are in a very different stage of our relationship. I'm really not sure what caused this change: whether it was graduating from college, moving in with Dan, the introduction of "business casual" to my closet, the purchase of a scale, the impending wedding, the impending swimsuit season, or possibly just a change in my way I look at myself in the mirror every morning. Whatever the reason, these days I have a tendency to be much more critical of what I see staring back at me. Even though, to be honest, I probably weigh less and I'm definitely in better shape than I have been in several years. I'm not exactly proud of the things I say to myself when I really stop to look, and I know that all kinds of experts would chastise me for being unnecessarily cruel. If I take time to stop and think about it, I know that I should make an effort to be kinder to myself. It is true that my body can do some wonderful things, and I am constantly amazed as it continues to adjust to the new demands that my running regimen imposes upon it. It is also true, I know, that getting annoyed with my body for the way that it looks is not going to trigger any magical reinvention -- I am what I am because of a grand mixture of genes, habits, events, and attitudes, and no amount of frustrated berating will change that. Unfortunately, these realities can be somewhat hard to see when a little bit of stomach pudge is in the way.
As a result, I've become much more conscious of my habits in the past few months. I am not hyper-vigilant, but very much aware of the calories I consume in a day, or the hours I spend exercising in a week, or (unfortunately) the trajectory of that number on the scale. I am making a concerted effort to eat healthy foods, limit my portion size, and say "no" to the rewards I used to think I deserved just for small accomplishments. These days, a trip to the gym does not earn me a trip to Starbucks. I've cut down drastically on my intake of cherry coke (although I do still drink it), my favorite pasta (it's been almost 2 weeks since my last bowl... hold me), and fast food. I rarely eat dessert anymore, don't often pour myself a glass of wine when I'm having dinner by myself at home, and have started going to bed much earlier -- not only does it keep me from snacking, but I feel a little less like death when I wake up early to run. I know that all of these changes are good for me and are likely to pay off in the long run, but they have been super tough and it's sometimes overwhelmingly hard to keep them up week after week. It's not that I mind eating well in general, but I really miss the splurges. I recognize that my body image in college had some serious issues, but sometimes I long for the days when I could polish off a large mac&cheese and not feel even the faintest guilt.
These changes in my habits have certainly helped me feel a little better about my body and appearance, but they have not stopped my self-criticism when I catch a glimpse of my stomach or waist in a mirror. I am proud of myself for taking steps to lose a little weight and get in shape, but I'm just not satisfied with the visible results so far. It bothers me a little to think that I am kinder to others than I am to myself. If I ran into me on the street, I might very well, as an outsider, consider this body thin and even enviable. After all, I don't walk around judging my friends for their size or eating habits, and to inflict such judgment on myself isn't especially fair. I truly wish that I could strike a balance between my college years and today: healthy eating and exercise habits and a moderate amount of attention to weight, but a lot less guilt and criticism along with it. I want to look my best, but not at the cost of my happiness or rationality. I want to love my body, but I also want to love food. So for now, I'm going to keep pushing my body to look better, but also encouraging my mind to go a little easy on myself. I want to work on reversing my negative beliefs about myself, and focus a little more on my abilities and the progress I've seen so far. There is a happy medium somewhere here, however elusive, and I am determined to find it. And maybe, hopefully, to enjoy the journey it takes to get there.


April 3, 2011

Silent Sundays, Crazy Wedding Style

I have spent an incredible amount of time this week researching anything and everything wedding: readings, flowers, music, shoes, decorations, invitations, cakes.... you get the idea. I've seen enough ruffles and lace to last me for at least the next 10 years. Some of the pictures I have run across, though, were just too ridiculous not to share:

Yep, ladies and gentlemen: that's all train. A mile's worth. Think about this for a second: when this bride was standing at the altar, the end of her train was a few blocks down the street!
I really hope it's just the light that makes this dress look pink. It's bad enough without being the color of cotton candy. This poor girl looks like she's in danger of drowning though.
I get that every bride should feel like a fairy tale princess on their big day. Dressing like one? Not so much.
The blue cowgirl-esque dresses, the flowers, the headpieces, the half naked woman in the background... there is just so much wrong with this picture!
I really have no words for this. Just... ick.
What happens when you tell the cake designer that you'd like "a little of everything?" This disaster.
Of all the awful wedding pictures, though, this one really just takes the cake (I know, I just couldn't pass that one up). This lovely and oh-so-modest bridezilla had a cake made of herself... complete with sunflowers adorning her busom. What wedding guest would be willing to eat this?!


April 1, 2011

Friday Favorites... The Abridged Version

Only room for (and time enough to write about) one Friday Favorite this week... the guy who sent me these:
I'm so lucky to be marrying him! Hope all of you get a little spoiled this weekend too!


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