Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day Nine - My Christmas Gift to Myself

I have a new self-imposed challenge...but I'm not going to disclose the full challenge for fear of failure.

But I will tell you I'm on day nine today.  Day nine of a "get your bottom to the gym X days in a row you silly slacker you" kick.

You see, I'd been quite casual about visiting my beloved Koko Fit Club.   I'd been letting my personal social anxiety overpower me and honestly I was talking myself out of visits with rational like "I'm not feeling nice today, I don't want to hurt Jeff's (the owner and usual staff member) feelings by being short.  Ummm...yeah.  That's a good reason to skip the gym, especially when the reason I got to the gym is primarily to improve my anxiety and moodiness.

So, after the Thanksgiving holiday, when I realized I'd not seen the inside of Koko and not plugged my Koko Key in to a smart trainer in over SIX days...shame filled me.

You see at Koko your workouts are tracked, you log into your My Koko account and you can see how you're doing, etc.  Each time when you setup to either the Koko Smart-trainer or one of the cardio machines, it lets you know when you last visited.  It's embarrassing to go as long as I had, especially when I drive PAST the gym every day to and from work AND the workouts are only 30 minutes!!!  (I could walk there from home in less than 5 minutes it's so darn close)

In any case, I've made a new pledge to close out 2010 with a bang and give myself a wonderful Christmas gift of time.  I've pledged to myself permission to take the time to fill my days with things that make me proud of myself, instead of giving myself excuses to be less than my best -- starting with an easily tracked and tangible appointment with the gym.  Each day I have a promise to myself to give myself 30 minutes, 30 minutes of time dedicated to me and me alone.

Really, in life so often we're consumed with external pressures -- be it social obligations, work, family...that we forget that without nurturing ourselves a little each day, there is NO way we can handle the rest of our realities.  I hope that by teaching myself to have 30 minutes of gym time I will soon be able to call that a habit and expand that personal focus time to other things such as meditation, etc.

After the first of the year, the first week of 2011, if I make my goal for December...I plan to rock the new year with this amazing eating challenge for 2 weeks from my new favorite product Amazing Grass.  I've been starting each day with a quick glass of OJ and Green Superfood and I've got to tell you that combined with my dedication at the gym is really helping the old mood and energy levels.

I'm headed into the busy time of year at work and in life -- end of year -- and I'm happy to report that I think this might be the first year I'll get to say I'm doing things right for a change!!

I hope you all give yourself the gift this holiday season of the permission to take a moment (or several) just for you too, you deserve it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Ask - by Sam Lipsyte

The Ask - By Sam Libsyte

My most recent commuting partner has been The Ask, by Sam Libsyte.  This is his 3rd novel, but the first I have read.  A satirical, dark novel The Ask was a quick read (try 3 train rides).

In an era where estate and income taxes for the wealthiest Americans are being debated this timely novel that centers around the world of development for a smaller educational institution hits home.  The main character Milo is a lowly development officer in a world where there are still "the ruler and the ruled" in terms of economic power equaiting to societal value. In The Ask we follow Milo as he navigates the extremes that come between those that have and those that do not.

Milo is a self-hating dreamer who failed to achieve the dreams of his youth and is now in what comes across as a mediocre existence -- although to some his young son and wife would be "the dream" -- his additional trials are certainly something that many in today's environment of an astounding 9.3% unemployment rate will relate to.   He finds himself in the lowest of his low days only to be reunited with a college pal, who has made quite the fortune and needs Milo's help in a personal task.  Milo is quickly drawn into a world that does nothing to help him out of his depression.  In fact, he is surrounded by iconic figures which reach out to the reader and shake them into the fact that this is not just Milo's reality, but a conversation about the reality in which we all find ourselves today.

As Milo's world closes around him the reader is filled with a general sense of dread and bleakness that can only come from good writing. 

Here's a few other reviews of this book that might interest you from The NY Times  and my personal favorite, if for nothing else but the unique and equally depressing citations, The LA Times.

"According to Santa Fe Institute economist Samuel Bowles, roughly one out of every four Americans is now employed guarding the wealth of the rich."  

Sadly, if you, me and 2 other people were in a room...I'd be that one.

You see, I work for an organization that acts as servants to development officers that work to serve the such I can't help but be left with a bit of a depressive hang-over after completing this novel.

Overall, this is a well-crafted tale that keeps you interested until the last word.  Certainly worth your time, but make sure you've got something light and airy to act as dessert to this heavy intellectual meal.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fewer steps = greater chance of failure?!

Burnt Rice
I don't know about you, but the simplicity that is making rice has challenged my skills for years. 

Either it's burnt, or too al dente or mushy or just weird.  I could NEVER get the perfect rice, even with loads of patience and reading every how to article on the web.  I've done everything short of buying a rice maker that sings to you -- these exist and are AMAZING (I just have a tiny horribly designed kitchen)! 

Mushy Rice
Then stepped in my good pal Ellen with her fool proof way to make rice so that every single time it comes out chewy, fluffy in perfect.

You take it off the gal-darn stove top and pop that stinker into the oven.  That's right rice making as you know it has forever changed for the better friends.

To make this perfect "set it and forget it" rice - all you do is put the rice in a baking dish with a 1:2 ratio rice:water - toss in some flavoring should you choose (dehydrated peppers anyone, anyone?!?) cover with foil and pop in a 350°F oven for about an hour.  Volia - rice perfect each and every time.

Perfect Oven Baked Rice with Zucchini - Tales of a Spoon

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Uninterrupted Online Multitasking

Okay, maybe I'm behind the curve here, but I've recently started a new habit when browsing the web that's genuinely made me happy.  So, of course, I want to share the happy.

I used to read along on a page and when a link came up that interested me, either I'd click and leave the page at that time or I'd try to remember to come back to it.

Now I've started taking advantage of the options that are available if you right click a link instead of just clicking it.  Specifically, I've started using "open link in a new tab" whenever anything catches my eye.  As such, I can finish reading what I'm reading currently, then move on to the next interesting item.

I've found this particularly helpful when I'm hunting a recipe or idea for something to bring to a party.  I can open all the interesting options in separate tabs and then when I'm through looking at options review the ones that caught my eye.

Now I just have to learn to stop before I have 50 tabs of stuff I wanna read later and actually read some of it!

Hope this helps your browsing experience as much as mine.

Ps.  My ever so intelligent sister pointed out that I should note that the way links appear after you click on them - either taking you to that site or by opening a new window is a default based on how the page was designed.  Interesting to consider when working on ones own site for sure!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Such A Pretty Face

My good pal and fellow avid reader sent me this fantastic book, Such A Pretty Face, by Cathy Lamb.  My pal noted it was one of her favorites and after page 14 I was already quite sure I understood why.  I DEVOURED this book in a matter of 3 days.  It is intense and wonderful and heart-wrenching and heartwarming all at the same time.

The novel centers around the life of Stevie Barrett - a now thirty something that has been through hell in her short life.  From a schizophrenic murdering mother to a heart-attack at the age of 32 due to a serious weight issue this novel sifts through Stevie's memories as she recovers from the heart break she allowed to build up inside her until her heart, well genuinely broke.

From eating disorders to multiple personalities to alcoholism and beyond...this book examines neurosis and the way that different people work through the challenges that life presents in a beautiful, non-preaching sort of way.

The metaphors through-out the novel are sharp and clear without being overbearing.  We cheer as Stevie works to find out what being Stevie means and finds out what love means - love of herself, love of the world and love of others.

What I found so wonderful about this book is not only the graphic, no-holds barred look into the mental disorders that so often tear at the souls of people but also the unforgiving way it honestly shows that not everyone is perfect and not everyone is a hero.

The novel also does a wonderful job of weaving a love story within the main characters life without that ever being the main theme for the character.  In so much, finding romance does not heal Stevie and does not make her whole - she does that, she works to fix herself, her life and her soul and reaps the benefits of doing so.  She never gives herself up to the romance in such a way that she loses herself or the reader loses sight of the true self-work Stevie is faced with.

I can't recommend this book enough, but make sure you keep some tissues on hand as you work through it.  No matter how stable you are this honest book is sure to explore some deep wounds and make your breath catch as the tears fall in a refreshing release that can only come from true, honest writing.

A perfect read.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oh the silly things I do because I'm cheap

I'm cheap.  I have trouble spending money and I horde it until then I go on a crazy spree for a day, then follow that spree up with months of guilt-ridden hording again.  I'm just silly like that.

Recently I've been growing my hair out.  I whacked it off in a moment of - "I'm changing my life darn it!!!" and have spent every day since growing it back out.  I'm just silly like this too.

Well being the cheapymccheappants that I am - I got a giant bottle of conditioner at TJMaxx for $10.  Go me, I thought, it was Rosemary Mint, made by a reputable brand not the original maker of said flavor? scent? whatever. I thought I'd done a good thing.

My long lost soul sister
You see, I don't buy or use hair products, so a splurge of $10 on a giant bottle would be a-okay.  I don't use hair products because I'm traumatized by them.  You see...when I was 15 I dated a boy who I desperately wanted to impress.  So, he was taking me to a party one night and I was so excited -- he was older and so were his friends.  I had to look amazing!  Amazing to the 15 year old me meant hair spray, lots of hair spray.  Short story my hair was crazy crunchy and he made fun of me.  No products since for this broad.

Day 1 &2 of conditioner - my hair is kinda weird, but smells awesome, I blame the weirdness on the weather.

Day 3 & 4 of conditioner - my hair is still weird and beginning to have less amazing odor.  I figure, I'm getting used to scent, and my hair is boycotting going to work, no bigs.

Day 5 of conditioner - my hair is still weird and I notice a slightly less that lovely odor coming from my hand as I raise it to apply said conditioner.  Needless to say, that was the end of conditioner.

A good friend suggested a specific brand of conditioner to me and I said "Sure! I'll pick it up after the gym tonight!"  Alas, after the gym came and I couldn't bring myself to spend money on conditioner again, plus the whole Sodium Lauryl Sulfate making your hair fall out debate terrifies me and most brands carried at the local CVS are chock full of the stuff.  I decided I'd wait until my hair fell out or I got paid again instead.  I didn't want to dip into my hording pile for something that has more natural ingredients just yet you see.

But that left me in a quandary.  I can't not use conditioner, I have curly hair!! How can I salvage this situation!?

Then I started to think old school -- we're talking Roman Times old school.  I got inventive and historic all in one fell swoop. I considered, what did they use for moisturizer in historic times?  (remember I was just reading a book set in the 2nd century and they talked all about beauty products!)  The answer?  Olive Oil.  That's right folks, I decided to use Olive Oil.

So, before my shower, I google my historic idea and find others in support of my hair-brained solution to my self inflicted problem.  I generally try not to use too much non-natural stuff on my body and hair, just another quirk of mine.  I didn't want to just pour my olive oil over my head, that seemed too uneven an application and messy too.  What to do?  Then I remember that in my cheap style I have this most amazing kitchen tool - The Misto - it saves me from buying Pam and other gross stuff filled cans to keep my food from becoming one with the pan.

So, I troted into the kitchen, grab The Misto (best thing ever, can't say it enough) and proceed to apply it much like I did the hairspray back in my youth, I went crazy with the stuff -- people don't change folks, it's proven. 

Soft, but flat hair.
Anyway, end result is my hair is crazy soft today, I mean awesome, but sort of flat.  Which isn't ideal either, but at least it's shiny and soft!  I'll definitely keep up the olive oil routine for softness, but I'm not sure how to also get my curls to well, curl while using this technique.  More research is needed and probably I should explore some more modern techniques as a long term solution.

Anyway,  for a quick and easy hair masque I think I'm going to do this at least once a week going forward - my hair was that soft!

Oh, I know you think this is sad and sort of twisted.  But wait. Just  wait until I break the story on how I used vinegar to make my hair shine. Pure Awesomeness.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Online Savings

As we near the first of two family filled whirlwind holidays - I'd like to remind you online shoppers of my favorite little trick.


There I said it.  Please tell me that each time you make an online purchase you Google the store's name with the word coupon after it just before you check out.  If you don't, you're missing out on serious opportunities my friends.

Free add-ins, discounts on shipping, discounts on bottom-line...they're there and it only takes an extra minute to do a quick check in a second tab, copy a discount code then plug it into your checkout.  Volia, magic extra savings.

So go forth and save friends, go forth and save.