Monthly Archives: March 2012

Paleo Rant

So yesterday I read a blog post that really stuck in my craw (am I even using that expression right?) I felt annoyed by it in the morning and took to Twitter, as you do. Actually, I try to limit the irritation I take to Twitter, but this was more of a cry for help:

Some of you talked me out of it (Thanks!) others commiserated with me (Thanks for that too!) but last night as I was going to bed I decided to look at the post again and then read all of the comments, and then my head completely exploded. I’m writing this post headless, actually. It’s very Sleep Hollow Chic.

I don’t know why I did that, I knew it was a bad idea at the time but I did it anyway. But because I did that I now have to write some things down about it or else I will not be able to fully exhale. And it’s going to be a a bit of a rant but I will try and not be insulting or a giant judgmental bitch. But I do feel irritated. So yes, those are my eyes that you hear rolling through just about every step of this post.

The Post

So the post in question was a Focus On: The Paleo Diet by Gina over at The Fitnessista. I’m sure you know of her, Google lists her subscriber count somewhere around 7000, so she is definitely a popular blogger who I would say identifies in the whole “Healthy Living” sphere. Can I be honest for a second? I hate the term Healthy Living Blogger. Like actual, visceral hate. Mostly because I think the meaning of the word healthy is often used so incorrectly that it is losing it’s meaning. Healthy = Having Health = Being Devoid of Ailments. And I can’t tell you how many “Healthy Living Bloggers” I see rattling off food advice and then also casually saying they struggle with things like IBS, or digestive problems, or mystery symptoms that are just their “genetic quirks” *giggle.* DUDE THEN WHY ARE YOU TELLING PEOPLE WHAT TO EAT? AND WHY IS THIS CONSIDERED HEALTHY? Bokeh-filled photos of friggin’ oatmeal does not a healthy life make.

Sidebar: I hope you don’t read this website and feel like I’m telling you what to eat, because that is not my intention at all. I hope you also do not feel like I am trying to be a Healthy Living Blogger because I am not. I hate the categorization of bloggers quite a bit in general, but just know that I never come to this space trying to school you about what you should eat. I am no expert. I am just one person living a life and writing about it. End of Story. Where is the categorization for that.

Ok, sorry to veer of the path there for a minute.

The Paleo Framework

So her post on Paleo wasn’t horrible. She did a mostly accurate description of it, though I wish instead of talking Paleo or Primal (both of which are somewhat proprietary names) we could maybe just talk more about the large umbrella of the Ancestral Eating Framework. Dairy or No Dairy, Salt or No Salt, Tomay-to To-mah-to! It’s all based on the underlying research that shows that even though it’s been 10,000 years, our bodies haven’t evolved to THRIVE on the food of modern agriculture: most notably grains, factory-farmed meats, and excessive sugar. And that’s the point — Thriving. Not Surviving. I survived for 31 years eating a Standard American Diet. I honestly do not feel that I was THRIVING until I started Paleo. And from here on out I’m just going to use the term Paleo to refer to that umbrella of Ancestral Health.

How strict you adhere to this Paleo Framework depends on many things, including (shocker) the very state of your health. Are you ailing? There’s a menu for that. Are you moody and tired? There’s a menu for that. Do you have physical complications that your body just isn’t healing? There’s a menu for that. Paleo is like the most bad ass food app that Steve Jobs wishes he thought of. But we’ll forgive him because he thought up lots of other cool stuff.

Wherein I Champion People Who Think & Vegetarians

The problem is that most people — even some pretty sharp people (and I do believe that Gina is a smart cookie) have this over simplified vision in their mind of Ancestral Eating. Some think it’s a cult-like group of wannabe Cave-People eating T-Bone Steaks at every meal and then making fun of those who do Zumba instead of lifting heavy things. Even if she (and others) don’t say that directly, that’s kind of the PR that Paleo has going for it, and dude I’m sorry, but I’m so over that. My shoulders are way too broad to rock a Wilma Flintsone halter-neckline and really, just stop that already you smart people. Making uninformed judgments lowers the value of your stock.

Here’s a quick clarification too if I’ve ruffled some feathers: I’m not saying that if you don’t *EAT* Paleo you are not smart or not thinking. But if you want comment on a blog post about how lame it is and want to disagree with it so passionately, at least have a reason that makes sense and hasn’t been debunked a million times over.

You know who does a great job of that? VEGETARIANS! VEGANS! I don’t find that framework right for me, but I can tooooooootally get behind the reasons why they aren’t into Paleo. Many people eat a vegetarian diet for moral reasons and you know what — good for you! Who am I to say you need to get over how you feel about animals? That would be awful. Don’t eat Paleo because eating meat makes you sad? Makes sense. Again, not the right decision for me, but go on with your bad self. But if you are going to say something is stupid, you best have a good reason otherwise you are just being kind of mouthy.

Points of Contention

So let’s get down to the post already. JESUS with the ranting Holly. A few things that irked me:

Right off the bat, This: “Con:…the potential to consume a lot of saturated fat, thus promoting health complications such as heart disease.”

—-> This makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Are we still on this? Because everyone and their mother has pretty much acknowledged that THIS IS NOT THE CASE. But honestly, I don’t even want to get started with that. I’m really more annoyed by everything I’m listing below.

“I can totally see that it’s a method that works for many people –otherwise it wouldn’t be so popular- but don’t agree with eating styles that totally eliminate entire food groups. “

—-> That’s weird because she doesn’t eat “red meat” and she doesn’t eat “dairy from cows.” Sounds like food group elimination works for her, and clearly she has no problem eliminating the food groups that she feels DO NOT MAKE HER THRIVE. Same concept, so obviously you agree with it. Just own that. And own the fact that you didn’t research WHY folks who adhere to a Paleo Diet don’t eat grains/legumes, etc.

“One of my friends, who is Paleo, told me that by eating so little carbs, you’re tricking the body to use fat as fuel instead. This isn’t something that I’ve heavily researched, so I can’t say whether I know if it’s true or not, but it seems a little unnecessary to me.”

—->So at least she is acknowledging that she hasn’t done any research. GREAT! You know what sounds smart? To now go and give everyone your opinion. It seems “unnecessary to you?” I mean, that sentence basically says “I have no idea what’s being said, but it’s wrong.” WHO EVEN DOES THAT??? I felt particularly sad about this part because she is someone who preaches about good health, nutrition and exercise with a very sizeable following. And to me, I think you at least owe it to your audience to craft a post that isn’t full of off the cuff judgments, if that is your bag on the blog. Trying to say a framework of eating “isn’t something you would recommend” when you clearly haven’t researched is just irresponsible. To me that reflected more poorly on the author than the framework.

“Paleo seems to be very hard to follow in everyday life, especially if you’re social and have and non-Paleo friends.”

—->Really? Does not eating red meat seem hard if you are social and also have red-meat eating friends? What about your friends that drink milk? Is it hard to go out at night and find a restaurant to that doesn’t cover everything with cheese? Yeeeeeeah, that sounds exhausting! While we’re at it, surely don’t ever train for a marathon because that sounds hard to do in everyday life. Especially if you are social have non-marathon-running friends.

“I prefer to recommend diets based on whole foods, lean meats, veggies, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy if desired. Not only does it provide health benefits, it’s an easy and feasible plan follow.”

—>So what you are saying is you recommend the Paleo Diet. But you also think it’s cool to eat grains. I’ll leave the dairy comment alone because she has already said SHE ELIMINATES THAT from her diet. That’s basically the ONE difference. What makes that “very hard to follow.” COME ON.

Her Verdict

“Paleo isn’t something I’ve tried, but I don’t recommend it”

Well, except we’ve already established that you do recommend it. Plus “sprouted grains.”

I honestly can’t even bring myself to get into the comments, because then I think we would be here all day and I’m already starting to feel slightly regretful that I’m even posting this. But I will say there seems to be two super vocal attitudes towards Paleo. (In the comments and in real life, really.) The people who have tried it and love it, and use it as a GUIDELINE for how they eat. And then the people who think it sounds too hard and dismiss it before every trying it because it seems hard.

I also feel bummed by that too, but that’s a post for another day. The thing is I totally get that it sounds hard and restrictive. I thought that once too and decided to give it two weeks and then quit. Except that it’s been 2 years and ‘d never go back.

But the other thing I get is that there are many people who have no desire to EVER try it for their own reasons. And I’m cool with that as well. Trust me, even with all of my feeeeeeeeeelings, I have absolutely ZERO feelings about what YOU eat, actually.

But just don’t be this person. The person who says:

Gee, that sounds hard, so therefore it’s veracity should be called into question but I’m not actually going to educate myself at all, I’m only going to sit here at my computer and judge.

Because in that case, I will have definitely have feeeeeeeeeeelings about you.


Thoughts I Have Had While Reading Gail Simmons’ Memoir

So it’s memoir month around my house, apparently. This is what happens when you are cheap and mostly check out books from the library. All of my Library Holds showed up at once, they were all memoirs and it doesn’t really matter if  I am in the mood to read them or not. For the record: I’m not really at this moment, but I am making due. My life of first world problems is so difficult, let us all have a moment of silence.

Currently, I’m reading Talking With My Mouth Full by Gail Simmons, who is not only a Top Chef judge, but a Food & Wine Magazine aficianado and clearly Padma Lakshmi’s Terrible Outfit enabler. A complex woman, obviously. I’m also reading the Jaycee Dugard memoir A Stolen Life, but you don’t really want to know about the thoughts I’m having while reading that book, so let’s just get back to Gail.

I was actually very excited to get my filthy mitts on this book because I have super pink puffy heart LOVE for Top Chef. (Really anything on Bravo, but I think we already discussed that.) Anyway, I was curious about Gail and her career trajectory and how she ended up with this offbeat career, and so I was excited to see how it all played out. And then I opened the book and all my thoughts started flooding.

Thought # 1: Wait — wasn’t Gail Simmons a Food Writer at one point?

While I won’t say this is the worst book I’ve ever read (it’s totally not!) the beginning was just…not very compelling. Especially when she talked about food. There was one passage where she wrote about her time working in Daniel Boulud’s kitchen (Daniel Boulud! The cuisine he cooks probably deserves many adjectives!) and it read something something like “The blackberry cobbler was purple. Also tart. The seeds got in my teeth.” Short choppy sentences, lots of telling, not showing. Very little description. Stark contrast to other food memoirs that I’ve read. I mean, I’ve read Ruth Reichl passages that made me need someone to bring my inner-hedonist a towel to mop up my drool, you know?

Thought # 2: Jeffrey Steingarten is a total weirdo. And yet I would TOTALLY work for him if I ever had the opportunity!

I mean you guys, when Gail worked for him all she did was shop, cook and eat. This is my ideal job description.

UNIVERSE HEAR MY CRY!

Sure it sounds like she was doing that amazing job in a dark apartment that smelled like goose-fat with a condescending, chocoholic ogre who has a very refined palate but a very UN-refined set of social skills, but still: How do I get a job where this is all I do. I could get used to smelling like goose fat. I think.

Thought # 3: Aspen Food & Wine Classic is going on The Life Bucket List

I mean, how can it not? Check out how fun it looks! Here is the thing, I love my Paleo eating, but I would happily slurp a plate of spaghetti with Mario Batali. I mean COME ON! The book finally gets good when she starts talking about it, and her description of it made me want to go IMMEDIATELY. That was my sly way of saying the writing has improved slightly. Did you get that? Ok good.

It’s an entire weekend full of eating and drinking in excess! Watching cooking demonstrations and taking classes about grape varietals! Schmoozing with famous chefs! Once in a lifetime experiences! Fabulous people and fabulous weather! Oh and did I mention eating and drinking in excess? And all for the bargain price of $1125. Per Person. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…sob!

I’ve started reading the blog just to torture myself.

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Anyway, I’m almost done with it and it’s not the best memoir I’ve ever read, but it moves fairly fast and she’s starting to dish on the Top Chef contestants/meals so you know I’ve gotta get in on that action!

Have you read it? Would you read it?


I Tried It: Barefoot Running


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I don’t know when I concocted the fantasy in my mind of Becoming A Runner, but it was ages ago. It wasn’t because I thought it looked romantic, or because everyone on The Internet was doing it so I should try. Mostly I wanted to run because it looked hard. Awful, actually. And for some reason I have a sick fascination with doing hard things. Personality quirk, I guess. So I tried it, as I normally do, and it was AWFUL.

What was also overwhelming to hear about was all the potential gear and options and stretching requirements and overpronating vs. underpronating and supination and MY GOD, I just wanted to experience that feeling everyone talks about of “Runner’s High” and I never freaking got it — where on earth did one GET IT?

I did, however, experience stiff knees, shins that felt like they took a beating, Plantar Fasciitis that was almost debilitating and general displeasure when I thought about running. So, of course I did what many a lady is wont to do in a challenging situation and I bought new shoes. And then I bought a different pair. And then I was fitted specially for shoes at a fancy running store. And then I spent time running in front of strangers who were going to tell me how to run better. And then I ran around the inside of another running store looking like an ass. It goes without saying I also spared no expense because I was going to be A Runner. Yet I still did not experience pleasure while running.

And so after a while I stopped.

I was carrying a significant amount of extra weight at the time and just figured — well, running isn’t comfortable for people who are overweight. This isn’t a problem with my shoes, this is a problem with my ass — and that problem is that it needs to get smaller.

But I decided to try stopping one more thing before I completely gave up, and with my ass the same size as is always was, I decided to stop wearing “Running Shoes.”

Born to Run

What prompted me to do such a silly thing, and you probably saw this coming, was reading the book Born To Run at the end of 2010. I’ve mentioned it before and surely at this point if you have ears you have probably heard of it, but if you are someone who has even the tiniest desire to run, it is totally a worthwhile read. And since I’ve never really shared my story, I thought it was high time I did so.

So let’s get back to this book, shall we? Born To Run tells the story of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, who are mysteriously the World’s BEST distance runners. I mean, their athletic feats are AMAZING, and they do it all running…barefoot. Like, Jesus-walking barefoot! For that alone it such a fascinating story. But the story goes even deeper into the history of the running shoe, the science of shoe technology and how common running shoes are made and marketed. So Interesting. Because the odds are that you have read it I won’t go on and on, but I will tell you it inspired me, and almost since the day I finished that book, I have been a “barefoot” running convert.

How I Started

The book was like a juicy article in a magazine but more inspiring. But I certainly rolled my eyes a bit at all these crazy claims. The Trend of Barefoot Running was being hotly debated, and I wasn’t sure which side I fell on. It all sounded a little extreme, but I was curious nonetheless. I’m not crazy, so I wasn’t just going to go out and start racing with nothing on my feet, no matter how natural and easy and Earth Mother-y it sounded in the book. But at the end of 2010 I did take the plunge and bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.

This was a tough purchase, you all. And I say that after having invested more than $1000 into my attempts at running at that point. They are $100 but more importantly, they are just about the ugliest shoes you can spend that amount of money on Also, people look at you like you are CRAZY when you wear them, which I didn’t love. Garrett called them my hippie finger shoes, my mom made fun of me. I mean, they were a tough sell!

But in the end: THEY WERE AWESOME.

Barefoot Evolution

Most sources recommend easing into minimal footwear because they stretch your calf muscles more than you are used to and engage the soleus muscle in a way that running in heavily padded shoes does not. So I did just that. And I certainly noticed a sore soleus muscle the first few weeks! But little by little I turned into a running machine. And a comfortable one, at that!

Since starting wearing minimal footwear in 2010, I haven’t had a running injury, experienced any pain associated with running, and most importantly I am completely devoid of Plantar Fasciitis even though I’ve INCREASED the amount of high impact exercise I do. My technique has improved without even trying and I honestly think it is mostly because your body has an intuitive sense about how to move itself safely. It is virtually impossible to have heel strike issues in barefoot shoes because your brain just WON’T let your body beat itself up over and over.

Now, quick disclaimer: This is not to say I am the world’s best runner, because I am not even close. Also, I’m not saying that this is right for you and you should run out and immediately do it. We are all different. But what I am saying is that at a time in my life where I thought I was too fat to have fun running, a stupid pair of hippie shoes turned me into something I never thought I would be: a confident runner. And to me, being someone who genuinely enjoys running is way more important than someone who is THE BEST at it. There is a freedom in knowing that you are just a pair of (minimal, of course!) shoes away from a great workout no matter where you are.

Currently

About a year ago I switched to running in a pair of New Balance Minimus M10s, for efficiency purposes because I also use them at CrossFit since I haven’t taken the plunge and bought a pair of weightlifting shoes. (I KNOW! I need to get on that!) And while I can’t say that I will never trade those in for something different, I can tell you that I wholeheartedly recommend them now. I still have love for my Vibrams, and always cheer people on if they are thinking about taking the plunge, but I like the way the New Balances look like actual sneakers, but have the Vibram sole. It’s a great compromise!

Some things to keep in mind for context: the longest distance I’ve ever run at once is less than a half marathon, and I generally run on asphalt or dirt, but not too heavy on the trails. So far, this is what works for me.

The craziest thing I can tell you is that I tried running in my old Running Store Sanctioned Professionally Fitted Very Lightly Worn Expensive Sneakers a few months back just for shits and giggles and my whole body hurt for a week. Knees, shins and feet…ugh, my feet! And that is AFTER losing 100 lbs.

Yes this is completely anecdotal and not scientific but I’ll just say I was ASTOUNDED.

Some Additional Resources

This video touches briefly about how the foot works while running and how a regular shoe helps/hinders your body. (Born to Run talks SO MUCH about this, it’s awesome!)
Why Run Bare?
Forefoot Striking & Training Tips

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So I’m not interested in striking up a huge debate on this issue, I just wanted to share my own experience. Whether you are For or Against Barefoot/Forefoot Running, I know you feel passionately. And that’s cool. We all have to do what works best for us, and this is what works best for me. For now.

But I’m curious — do you wear minimal footwear when you run? What has been your experience? Have you ever considered about it? Think it’s a bunch of hogwash? I love to hear varying perspectives.

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5 Jedi Mind Tricks For Kickstarting A New Fitness Routine

One of the most common questions friends ask me about CrossFit when they are contemplating trying it is, “Should I get in better shape first, or should I just start.”

My advice every single time: JUST START.

But starting a new fitness routine is HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARD. And this isn’t just a conundrum if you’re contemplating CrossFit. I think lots of us find reasons to put off starting new fitness routine even though we want to be in better shape. Heck, I put off CrossFit for almost an entire year before I walked in the doors based on intimidation alone. I could actually be a really successful rationalizer if I wanted a second job:

*I will start once I get some new work out clothes so I don’t look like an ass.
*I will start on Monday so I can get the week started right.
*I will start next week when my life isn’t so crazy because I don’t want to flake right away. Better to set myself up for success!
*I will start after I go grocery shopping and my fridge only has healthy food in it. Having crap food will defeat the purpose so I better eat all the Nutella instead to get rid of it.
*I will start when (insert friend’s name here) starts. We’ll do it together! I’ll just wait for her. She needs motivation too and I’m a good friend. I don’t want to ditch her.
*I will start first thing tomorrow. Seriously. I mean it. Tomorrow.

I could go on, but for the sake of brevity (HA!) I will leave it at that.

On the off chance that you are struggling in that space between “Wanting To Workout” and “Actually Working Out”, I thought I would throw out some Jedi Mind Tricks that helped me turn my fitness desires into habits:

1. Be Where You Are

There is no right and wrong place to be when it comes to fitness. You are where you are in the moment, and guess what? That’s okay. No one is making a judgment about it but you, so take a minute to let yourself off the hook if you have gotten out of a regular routine. Trust me, I understand how hard this is. But you MUST do it.

Interest and participation in fitness endeavors waxes and wanes through every season of life, but the thing that stays the same is that everyone has to start at the beginning. And if your beginning looks different than someone else’s beginning — who cares? It’s a start.

2. Stop Focusing On Where You Think You Should Be

This whole Be Where You Are business sounds all well and good until you realize it means you need to let go of “where you should be.” Please note, this an entirely different destination from “where you would like to be.” It’s a small difference, but a tricky one.

If you only remember one thing from this entire post, let it be this: You are not in competition with the fittest version of yourself. Just because you used to play sports regularly, or ran marathons, or nailed hot yoga LIKE A BOSS at one point and time doesn’t mean that if you aren’t there now you are a total loser. Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s unproductive logic that doesn’t help us get where we want to go.

I get it, maybe in high school you ran a 6 minute mile and now you only want to run if there are zombies chasing you. Oh how fast we fall! But if you were anything like me you should also remind yourself that in high school you made poor fashion decisions, dated boys that were not cool enough for you at the time, and generally had questionable judgment also — so really, why compare?

3. Let Your Fitness Goals Be Commensurate With Your Life Goals

A regular fitness routine is a lifestyle choice that will always need to be managed. For some of you, your current Fitness Management Strategy might be just ignore it and hope it goes away. But I suspect those of you who want to ignore it, also might be guilty of the old Compare-O game we were just talking about. But what if instead of wondering why you don’t feel motivated to *insert endeavor that one of your friends is currently doing/loving/raving about* you spent that time pursuing something that actually worked with YOUR life?

I think of this a lot now that we are seriously thinking about having kids. I’m not a person who thinks when you have kids that fitness should be immediately placed on the back burner, but come on! The first year of my child’s life is probably not going to be filled with me preparing for CrossFit competitions, no matter how bad-ass that sounds! And that’s okay. Your life and your fitness strategy need be in alignment or you won’t be successful. So look at what season of your life you are in and make some goals based on THAT, instead of some arbitrary marker that sounds good.

4. Recognize That Fitness is More About Time Management Than Skill

My friend Liz wrote a couple of great posts a while back about the amount of “Life Commitment” (and time commitment) it takes to train for an Ironman. This one was particularly enlightening. She’s a straight shooter, that Liz. But she speaks the truth, you all. ANY fitness endeavor (bad-ass Ironman or trip to the yoga studio or CrossFit every week) is nothing more than a life commitment that you CHOOSE. (Or don’t choose! Yep, that’s okay too.)

Maybe you have been choosing to prioritize your family the past few years and spending 8-10 hours a week running doesn’t make sense. Maybe you have been prioritizing super hot date nights with your new love interest and have been opting for romantic restaurants instead of the gym. All of these lifestyle choices are valid. But they are choices, and it’s okay to own them. But when you want to try something new and get fit, understand that you will need to make space in your life to do it right.

(Sidebar: Best decision Garrett and I ever made was to CrossFit together. It’s the lazy man’s way of getting fit while keeping the romance alive. He’s always bragging about my snatch! Ok sorry, I couldn’t resist a snatch joke.)

5. Act Like You Own The Joint

Lastly, we need to talk about the intimidation factor, since it something that I am well-versed in. I really think when it comes to confidence, there is no better advice than Fake it ’til you make it. End of story. Yes it’s hard, but the only way out is through!

When I first started running I remember with every step I took thinking “Oh my god it’s so obvious that I suck at this and everyone is laughing at me for even trying, I should probably just quit.” Now that I run pretty frequently and feel confident doing so, do you know how often I stop and laugh at a fellow runner for not being as bad ass as I am?

Um, how about NEVER.

Mostly because I am too busy focusing on my own breathing and posture and pace and I do way too much sucking wind to even notice what others are doing. True Story. Nobody knows you are doing something new but you. So show up and tell yourself you’ve got this! This is old hat! And before you know it, it will be. Find a confident mantra and repeat it. Repeat it until you believe it.

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So that’s my two cents. What Jedi Mind Tricks do you employ when starting something new?


All Hail Routine!

I sort of don’t want to say this out loud — or maybe I should say it and then knock on wood — but life, man: it’s been very pleasant lately. My version of a pleasant life doesn’t look particularly glamorous, but man does it feel fantastic.

This weekend went by super quick, but it involved all of my favorite things:

*Sitting on the couch in my pjs drinking wine and eating chips (Zone Cheat Meal, FTW!)

I don't know what you wild things do on Friday night but we drink wine. And eat chips. #hisandhers

*Sitting on the couch in my pjs drinking coffee

*A rockin’ picnic at a winery (plus many sips at other wineries)

Picnic!

*Cleaning my house

*Organizing my fridge and planning and preparing some Zone-friendly meals

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*Catching up on some much needed rest

*Getting to chat with my mom about silly things

*Tinkering around with this blog.

Honestly, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Time, sleep, bad reality television, good coffee, great friends — I mean, this is the life.

Now if I could just do all of that while simultaneously being FILTHY RICH, that would also be cool. I guess I better get to working on that. 🙂

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Any exciting adventures for you this weekend? Did the time change throw you for a loop? Did you have a better Friday night dinner than Chips + Wine? Talk to me…

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I Would Like Every Saturday To Look Like This


2012 // Spring Bucket List

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Spring has sprung around here, and even though we have a whole week before it’s official, I think it’s time to get scheming now.

Here’s some fun stuff I’m hoping to accomplish between now and the end of May.

Social

Wine Country Picnic at least once
Host Brunch + Make a Fun Cocktail
Plan + Execute something fun for Garrett’s Birthday
Go to the theater
Win March Madness Pool
Invite friends over to make S’mores in the fire pit

Beauty + Style

Get my fake tan on
Wear a dress everyday for a week
Buy a new bathing suit
Buy some freaking colorful pants
Get a pedicure
Dye my hair (eep! haven’t done this in TEN YEARS)

Travel

Spend a long weekend in Portland
Day Trip to Tahoe
Day Trip to Sonoma
Day Trip to SF

Home

Read 10 Books
Plant Garden
Buy a Hydrangea
Hang Art in the kitchen
Paint the office (or one GD room!)
Buy fresh flowers for the house more than once

Food

Hit up the Carmichael Farmer’s Market
Make a Home Cured Corned Beef
Make Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes (and find someone to eat them)
Make 5 New Salads
Make Eggs Benedict for Easter
Hit up a You-Pick Berry Farm
Make Jam
Drink a Key Lime Martini at Centro

Fitness

Explore Trail Running
Run outside more
Conquer Toes to Bar
Get 1 Unassisted Pull Up
Run a 5K
Go Kayaking

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What are you guys up to this spring?

Did I leave out anything MAJOR that must be done?


Spinach Salad: The John Malkovich of Salads

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Here’s the thing about spinach salad: it’s seems slightly more exotic than your average salad, right? But in the end it’s just a salad, like every other salad: some green stuff, some other stuff, some dressing.

But it’s also the kind of salad that people have very strong opinions about. Most people either detest it with every fiber of their being, or have a strange fetish like love for the brilliant combination of raw spinach, salty bacon, and perfectly cooked, sunshine-yellow yoked eggs. I guess you can probably guess where I fall on the spectrum, can’t you?

Ordinary ingredients, but when you put them all together and dress them with a warm bacon vinaigrette — EXTRAORDINARY. Which I think is a lot like John Malkovich, who really is just a regular actor dude. But man, people either hate him or talk about him like he is George Clooney covered in gravy and OMG HAVE YOU EVER SEEN SOMETHING SO DELICIOUS, JOHN MALKOVICH HOLY CRAP?

I don’t know if I feel that extreme, but I have to say if he one day hopped on my elevator, I may just hit the emergency stop button. Who knows?

Wow, this has gotten very off topic, hasn’t it? I’m sorry but sometimes while I’m washing dishes I have these very long involved tangents in this crazy brain of mine, and dammit I started a blog so I could share these tangents WITH THE WORLD!!!

You’re welcome.

Now let’s talk about the best spinach salad. The best spinach salad has 6 ingredients. Anyone can handle 6 ingredients, right? You probably keep them on hand anyway!

1. Spinach — bet you didn’t see that coming, did ya? Baby spinach, preferably. A giant mound of it. This is your foundation — make it a good one!

2. Perfectly Cooked Hard Boiled Eggs — I’m sure you have opinions on how to cook the perfect hard boiled egg, everyone does. Now don’t go being stingy with the egg. Make plenty because you can always eat them later. Chop them up in slivers and top with some flake salt and some course black pepper.

3. Way Too Much Bacon — If I’m using a bag of Trader Joe’s baby spinach, I’m thinking at least half a pound of bacon. What? Don’t judge. Bacon makes everything better. You will never feel like there is too much bacon on this salad.

4. Tomatoes — Little cherry tomatoes, Multi-colored baby heirlooms, chunks of juicy beefsteaks — it doesn’t matter. Just get some tomatoes in there. The sweetness and acidity cut through all of that bacon. And when you do add the tomatoes, salt them just the teeniest bit!

5. Cheese of Choice — Get crazy here. Sometimes I throw in shredded cheese just sitting in our fridge. Sometimes I do parmesan if that’s all we’ve got. Sarah does Blue Cheese and I think that sounds AMAZING but have never tried it (gasp!) Just get some cheese in there!

6. Warm Bacon Vinaigrette — If you are a person who likes red onion in your spinach salad — this is where you get the best bang for your buck! After you are done cooking your bacon and pulling it from the pan, mix those delicious bacon renderings with some chopped up onion or shallots. You only need to caramelize them for a second, then stir in some dijon mustard, a touch of apple cider vinegar, and a generous sprinkle of black pepper. Pour that baby straight from the pan right over the top of your greens.

After all of that, I promise that you will die happy. And if you pair it with a good John Malkovich movie and very full glass of red wine, you may even experience true spiritual enlightenment.

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6 Things I Do To Stay Motivated

Motivation is a funny thing. People often treat it like it is something that just *appears* in fits or bursts. We all wait for the big wave so we can surf that sucker to a cleaner house, better eating habits, a more organized life or pursuit of our creative passions. And yes, this sometimes happens: a rogue wave inspiring you in the middle of a random afternoon. And when it does — of course, it’s awesome. But I like to think of motivation as more of a skill, or rather a technique that needs to be practiced. Motivation is your brain’s way of manipulating your body — and you should never lose sight of the fact that YOU hold the marionette strings!

The other day I asked the crowd on the Holly Would If She Could Facebook Page what they would like to read about, and a couple of you suggested writing about how I stay motivated — not just with exercise, but in life. So of course, I did the thing I love to do most — made a list! These are the tactics that I use to stay motivated.

1. Have a Vision In Mind

To the beach...

If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? Motivation is an abstract idea, so give yourself something concrete to work towards. What is it that you want to accomplish? What does your ideal look like at this moment? What do you want it to look like a year from now? 5 years from now?

Give yourself a minute to think, and when you are done – say it out loud. Say it to your spouse, to your friends, to your mom, to anyone who will listen. Make your vision public. My dad used to always say “If you can see it, you can be it.” He would generally say this the night before my dance competitions or cheerleading competitions when he was suggesting I visualize, and man I just thought that was the silliest thing. But I was a teenager, and what the hell do they know? Not. Freaking. Much.

Also: Give yourself permission to change your mind. Your vision doesn’t need to be permanent, and if it is not working for you — MAKE A NEW ONE. I think this is where a lot of people get caught up and therefore de-motivated. If you’re not excited to do what you are doing, maybe you need to be doing something new. Now go figure out what that something is instead of wasting precious time! 🙂

2. Stay Focused on You

Saturday Sparkle

I think the first thing to recognize is that you can’t do All The Things.

Nope, let’s try that again. I want you to REALLY mull that over in your brain. Everyone says they recognize this, and then continues to look at the lives of others and think “Why can’t I run my own business//workout every day// have a better paying job // live in a house that could grace the pages of Elle Decor // look fashionable every moment of the day?”

You will never get anywhere (nor will you feel motivated to get anywhere) if you are constantly comparing you at your worst to to others at their best. Are you guilty of this? Quit that right now! Because here’s the thing (and I know I say this all the time, but it bears repeating): You can have it all, but not all at once. And if you have a vision, but you allow yourself to be distracted by what everyone else is doing, you are giving away your energy!

3. Cultivate Seeds of Inspiration

Tomatoes (I think) that need to be caged at some point

Read books related to your vision
Seek out a mentor
Watch an movie where triumph is a theme
Make a new Pinterest Board
Listen to good music
Call your mom (or someone else who sees you through rose colored glasses!)
Talk to new people
Take a chance

Whatever it takes — but you must, YOU MUST, get in touch with that feeling inside of you. We all have it, but it takes work to allow yourself to be a conduit for inspiration. Do the work. And if you are not feeling inspired, seek out a different route.

4. Recognize When It’s Time for Input and When It’s Time For Output

Pretty much how I spent every morning

Motivation is just as much about being as it is about doing, but I think sometimes we forget that. Sure everything looks glossy when you are in the midst of kicking ass and checking things off lists but if you don’t shut down and recharge the batteries every once in a while your inspiration conduit will short circuit. And nobody feels motivated when their brains are fried!

Allowing yourself to get to that point is like actively sending out an invitation to malaise. And malaise is not a good party guest. This is the piece of motivation that I struggle with the most, but it is definitely worth keeping in the back of your mind. It’s easy to forget that giving yourself downtime ensures that when you get ready to execute, you fire on all cylinders.

5. For The Love Of God, Make A List

But don’t just keep To-Do lists. Keep LOTS of lists. I have lists of tasks, ideas, quotes, random thoughts, tv shows I want to watch from the beginning, blog ideas, artists who inspire me, outfits I want to wear, paint colors I like, chores that need to be done, hairstyles I want to try out, novels I want to flesh out. If I’ve thought of it, I probably have a list for it. Lists help me keep from using getting distracted.

But here’s the thing: They aren’t always organized. I didn’t come up with surefire system. They aren’t alphabetical or filed by order of importance. But they are written down on paper. They are out there in the Universe. Most importantly they are expelled from my brain, freeing up valuable space in my mind. I can feel comforted by the fact that if I flip to a piece of paper my ideas will be there. It’s like a running tally of motivational fuel just waiting to be used.

6. Set Deadlines and Provide Rewards

Words. #febphotoaday

Generally if something sits on a To-Do list I’ve made and I don’t get around to it, I use that as an indicator that it’s time to re-think my vision. But ultimately there are those times when we need to get motivated to things to that CAN’T be excised from the list. What motivates me on that stuff?

A deadline and a reward.

For example “Do your taxes” has been languishing on my list for quite a bit of time. So I’ve picked a date that will give me plenty of time to just get it over with; however if I get it done BEFORE that date, I get to go try on some hot pink denim. And I reeeeeeeeeeally want to know if I LOVE hot pink denim on as much as I love it in pictures. But not until I get my taxes done! As a result, I’ve been trying to squeeze in doing my taxes at every possible free moment. 🙂 Sure, they aren’t done yet. But they will be. OH THEY WILL BE. Because Holly *needs* a good shopping trip in her life!

Holly also needs to stop talking about herself in 3rd person. YUCK.

*****

So those are my favorite tips. What have you got for me? Heck, what have you got for all of us? This is group therapy here, folks!

Tell me one thing that you do to keep motivated when going gets tough?

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February 2012 // Books

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Remember how last month I was all: “Wah, I only read 4 books. So sad!”

Yeah, so this month I only read two!

The Bad News:

It’s looking like I will probably amend my annual reading goal at some point. (I’m not quite ready to concede just yet, but entertaining the idea.)

The Good News:

They were both AWESOME books! But very different. Wanna hear about it? Here we go…

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This book was recommended to me a number of times before I actually picked it up. It was on my radar all last year but I could never get SUPER EXCITED about it because the premise had a lot to do with video games and I feel relatively MEH about video games. Then Garrett read it and said, “I don’t know, it might be a little too Dungeons & Dragons for you.” Of course, I heard that as a challenge and obviously I accepted. It immediately became the book at the top of my list to read.

I know. I am stubborn about stupid things.

The thing about this book though, is that it is no more about video games than the movie Goonies is about pirates. Sure the entire premise of Goonies centers around pirate lore, but can you even imagine what a giant hole would exist in your pop culture psyche if you decided to forgo watching it because Pirates: I’m Just Not That Into You. It would be a travesty!

Well this is how I feel about Ready Player One. The whole premise is about secret puzzles inside a virtual reality of the future. If you know me at all, you know that is least scintillating sentence I have probably ever written. I am almost snoring re-reading that description.

BUT YOU GUYS — It was so fun!!!

It’s full of 80s pop culture references, adventure and intrigue. And if nothing else, it was totally page turning and I was really engrossed the entire time. I wanted to be reading ALL. MONTH. LONG. Definitely worth picking up. And if you were one of the smart people who recommended it to me here, thanks! Keep the recos coming!

Then making a complete right turn, I read

Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody

And for the record, yes I did sing this song every time I picked the book up.

I bought this book years ago when Juno came out (before I had even watched it, actually) and everyone was wondering who the heck this Diablo Cody chick was. I have a soft spot for screenwriters who come out of nowhere and all of a sudden become super famous. She had a blog, and at the time I had started a blog…so you know..kinship and all that.

Anyway, I thought Juno was alright (maybe a little overwritten) but was always more interested in her memoir about her time stripping. What? You don’t think a good stripper memoir sounds like a page turner? I don’t know, maybe I’m weird. But I love a good inside look at a subculture or slice of life that I have no chance of EVER being a part of, so yes — stripper memoirs? Fall right into that category. And onto the bookshelf it went.

Incidentally, this book is a part of The Bookshelf Project and I’m happily crossing it off the list. SCORE! I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m working on it. And even though I only read two books this month, 50% were from my bookshelf. (HA!)

It was a super quick read and I thought it was actually pretty hilarious. It was a bit overwritten in some parts (the word somnambulatory showed up so many times I ran out of fingers to count on) but overall it was laugh out lout funny. Especially the part where she mentioned a deaf customer who held up a sign that said “Take Off Your Panty” I mean COME ON! That is hysterical. But also — it was graphic and a little bit gross in parts, so you know — not for every audience. That’s my disclaimer. But if you can handle a little vulgarity, you will laugh your pants right off. Uh…no pun intended.

Really.

*****

So what did you read that knocked your socks off this month?

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