Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Me, Myself, and Food


Awhile back, someone left a request in the combox for a bit on exercising, making a very kind comment in regard to my appearance post babies. Well, I've been thinking about it since November and I am going to write this super long post instead. I won't feel bad if you find you can only manage it in installments...

A little background... Since my teen years, eating and weight and body image have been an issue for me. When I gained a bit of weight around the age of 13, I panicked, and started to get strict with myself about what I ate, thus beginning a long, painful struggle with my body. I have been both twenty pounds lighter and twenty pounds heavier (not talking pregnancy or post-partem here), and I have truly never felt more comfortable with myself than I do now. I'm sure it has something to do with the miracle of bearing and feeding another human being (or three), and of being in a loving and supportive relationship with the man of my dreams. But I don't want to go on a lengthy tangent here, maybe some day I'll write about it and how healing came, but not today. Today I just want to share some of the habits and ways of thinking about food and exercise that help keep me healthy, happy, and at peace with my body. Maybe you will find them helpful, or maybe not, but I'll throw them out there to satisfy enquiring minds and just in case. 

First, eating is for nourishment and pleasure. Eating is for living. Living is not for eating. Guard against constantly thinking about eating, not eating, what you shouldn't have eaten, or what you won't let yourself eat. You are more than this, and life is more than this!

Second, have healthy expectations. Your ideal weight for health is probably different than Victoria Beckham's.

Third, believe in your body. It will gravitate towards its best weight if given a chance. Your body will let you know when it is full, so eat if you are hungry, and don't if you're not. 

Your body will "speak" more clearly if you feed it well and avoid major sugar crashes. I love sweets, but I try to eat them once I've already eaten a good meal and in a reasonable portion.

In my experience, counting calories makes it difficult to hear one's body.

And finally, eating well for a couple of weeks will alter your tastes and cravings. You may have to grit your teeth through those two weeks, but your tastes will change and you will enjoy healthy foods.  I don't eat healthfully because I have super human will power (I don't), but because it's natural and pleasurable. 

And a few particulars:

I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, usually raw, sometimes steamed.

I eat unlimited (meaning as much as I want) amounts of true whole grains. If there isn't at least 2 grams of fiber listed on the nutrition info, it doesn't make the cut for the "unlimited" category.

I eat unlimited amounts of healthy proteins such as eggs, lean meat and nuts.

I eat some dairy, usually cheese and whole (yep) milk, in reasonable portions.

I love coffee and alcohol and dessert. If I'm not going to enjoy them and I am just consuming out of habit, I skip it (don't worry, I truly enjoy my coffee daily). Pleasures should be pleasures.

Have some treat everyday, and have a day every now and then when caution flies to the wind.

If I overeat, all is not lost and thinking so only makes it worse.  If I accidentally foray too aggressively into the pan of brownies at lunch time,  I just try to keep the rest of the day healthy.

In regard to exercise.... Go for the slow burn. Stay active all day. Walk. Take the stairs. Clean your house. Do the laundry. Chase your kids. Stand up straight, put those shoulders back, chest up, and suck in that gut. Really. It's so good for your core. Don't overdo it at the gym; the "rebound eating" and your inability to move for the rest of the day will cancel out any benefits achieved. I used to be a personal trainer, trust me on this. Stay active in ways you enjoy.

I hope that you have found something worthwhile in this excruciatingly long post. I will finish by recommending the book French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano (it came out in 2007, so there is probably a copy at the local library); she talks more about food as ritual and gives a step by step plan for losing weight while eating for nourishment and pleasure. Now I'm hungry...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Looking Good Guilt

Recently a reader wrote to me the following words, "I have a really hard time not feeling guilty spending money on clothes. It seems that it would be better to donate the money or spend it on bills and have to's." She went on to ask if I could touch the topic of taking care of oneself, and justifying the expense of doing so. A timely request, because I was planning on addressing the topic of wardrobe building in contrast to wardrobe collecting. The question and my topic go hand in hand; it will become clearer how in just a moment.

A lot of women feel this way, guilty, that is, about spending money on matters of personal appearance. Many such women are mothers, and running a house and home means that the food, clothing, shelter, and education (not to mention recreation) needs seem to never stop. And maybe money is even tighter because the decision has been made to try to make it on one income for the sake of the kids. If you are one of these women, please, hear me out. I know you want to.

First of all, I think it helps to see the maintenance of one's personal appearance as a "have-to", to borrow the words of the inquiring reader. We all have to wear clothing, we all have to get hair cuts, we all have to follow the basic rules of hygiene. I don't think that any guilt ridden soul out there would deny these facts. And unless you are shopping at some store I'm unaware of, even ugly clothes aren't free. So, like it or not, the mere fact that you live in a civilization means that you are spending some resources on your appearance.

Secondly, you are worth it. You are an individual of inestimatable dignity and worth. You are beautiful and it is not vain to desire to be found beautiful. Not only is it in your nature to desire beauty, it is also your birthright to "subdue the earth." In general, this concept means to subordinate and coordinate the material world to higher purposes.  Even in things as apparently trivial as what one chooses to wear, the opportunity to put the stamp of personal creative genius on a material reality exists. In utilizing the resources around you to bring out your best and most beautiful features, you are using your "talents" of both rationality and unique physical attributes.

And finally, the people in your care are worth it and so is your role, whether it is outside the home or not. I know it's something of a cliche, but dressing well truly is a gift to those around you. And this is true in more than just the obvious aesthetic sense; when you feel confident and prepped for action, you just take care of business better. And who doesn't want to be better at whatever it is they do? And yes, I do understand that life can be hard at times, but dressing the part doesn't make it any easier. Rather than serving as a visual chastisement to those around you, choose to be a reminder that life is beautiful, too.

So what's a girl to do when money is an issue, but she still wants to look her best? She needs to build her wardrobe according to her budget, rather than collecting. Collecting is my term for what happens when you don't give your wardrobe thought - random purchases, emotional splurges, indiscriminate acceptance of sister hand me downs, and last minute panic buys, the sum total of which is a packed closet and nothing to wear. Building is everything collecting is not. It is determining what looks best (according to your body type and coloring) and makes you feel fabulous because it expresses you. Building means getting rid of everything in your closet that doesn't meet this standard. Building means planning out what you need to optimize the pieces that survived the culling and to meet your current needs. And finally, it means acquiring those pieces methodically. Sum total of building? A smaller but highly  functioning wardrobe that does justice to you.

Even if you think you have no budget for your wardrobe, you will be surprised what happens when you start thinking and planning. Like I pointed out above, looking bad isn't free (in more ways than one!). By acting with intention you will make less mistakes that cost you money. When a gift card comes your way or a family member insists that you tell them what to get you for Christmas, you will know what to do because you are prepared!

Friday, February 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Possibly About My Living Room...

I was going to write a different post today, the first installment of the re-worked Budget Wardrobe Building series, but I spent the morning doing "stuff" (which you will hear more about in a minute). Recently, after apologizing to my sis for a post filled with random stuff, she responded, "Oh, I kind of like those..." That is all the encouragement I need.

I first heard the following saying from the lips of Margaret Thatcher as portrayed in The Iron Lady. When I googled it to include it here, the saying's supposed sources range from Lao Tzu to Ghandi.  No matter; it's great food for thought, especially during the Lenten season: 

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. 
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits. 
Watch your habits, for they become your character. 
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! 

Now let's talk about my living room. So this "found on Pinterest" project was one of my morning's "stuff." I made two and they actually turned out alright. I used one pillow that didn't match my living room at all and another that just kept getting ripped at the seams. Both did not have removable covers (can you tell that they were purchased before we had kids?) and the no-sew covers go on and off easily so cleaning should be a breeze. The fabric is a very soft, high thread count king sized sheet I thrifted for $2.50. Not bad. 

I discovered a little trick awhile back for making a room seem larger: use a visual element to draw the eye all the way (or nearly so) to the ceiling. For example, hang the lowest level of a picture grouping around eye level (try 5 ft from the ground) and continue the grouping almost to the ceiling. Another way to use this trick is to hang a curtain panel from a rod suspended near the ceiling behind your bed. It takes up much less space than a traditional headboard (making the room more spacious in actuality), and creates a sense of depth and height. 

So this morning I added a couple of pics to the grouping above the couch, and I am on the lookout for a couple more...

We recently purchased this set of lamps (tall pictured below, the mate is a table lamp). The white shades just disappear against the white walls. Anyone have a relatively easy way of jazzing them up?

Don't forget to enter the giveaway (it ends Monday)!

Pics to the ceiling.

And again. See the pillow?

And the other Pinterest pillow.

Any ideas for this lamp shade? Anyone?

Now  go see Jen and the other ladies for some more quick takes!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Liebster Award

Don't know what a Liebster Award is? I didn't either until Meghan nominated me (thank you, Meghan!). Read on and it all becomes pretty clear...

The Rules:
Thank the person who nominated you and link your post to their blog.
List 11 facts about yourself then answer the 11 questions given to you.
Create 11 more questions for your 9 nominees, all of whom have 200 or less followers.
Comment on their blogs informing them of their Liebster Award nomination.

Facts about myself:
1. I am the second oldest of seven.
2. My lowest grade in my entire college career was in music appreciation. Yes, music appreciation.
3. I've never thought of myself as a "kid person," but now that I have three... I know that I'm not! Don't get me wrong,  I love my children more than life itself, being a parent is just so much more difficult than I ever imagined (kudos to you, Mom, for making it look so easy!).
4. I love coffee, beer, and chocolate. The stronger and darker the better.
5. I can be social, but I'm really an introvert.
6. I love an adventure.
7. My first [intellectual] love was philosophy.
8. I'm not awesome with technology.
9. I can't get enough of this song, at the moment, at least.
10. I love wearing all black outfits.
11. I used to be a personal trainer, but I've only worked out five times in the last five years.

Questions from Meghan:

1. What is the best book you've read lately?
Hmm, lately... Lets's see, Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls was good (but not as good as her earlier book The Glass Castle), and I finally finished Brothers Karamazov - excellent.

2. Do you have a favorite painting/piece of artwork, and if so, what is it?
I love, love, love the photography of Robert Doisneau and I have some of his work in my house. I also have a print of a painting that I love. The print is thrifted and I don't know what the piece is called or who it is by. I put a pic of it at the top of the post. Recognize it, anyone?

3. How do you feel about Tuesday?
It's ok.

4. Do you have any wilderness survival skills, and if so, what are they?
Um, I'm from the country, so I might do better than your average "city person," but I'm no Bear Grylls.

5. How many (and which) languages do you speak?
Only one fluently (English), but I've studied French, Spanish and Latin over the years so I'm not completely clueless. I also know a few key phrases in Russian, such as "I don't speak Russian," which, when spoken fluently, turns out to be more confusing than helpful...

6. Got any funny stories you'd like to share?
My now husband had me over to his house one afternoon when we had just started dating. I had been in class since the morning and hadn't had time to eat, so I was starving. He ran upstairs to change clothes, leaving me in the kitchen. My curiosity got the better of me and I peeked in the fridge. When I saw a huge dish of lamb stuffed grape leaves, my hunger got the better of me. I quickly polished one off before the boyfriend came back. Later that night, he told me about making all those grape leaves to cook for dinner. Wait, what? They weren't cooked?! Which leads me to the next question...

7. What is the weirdest recipe you've made and loved?
So I'm kind of cheating on this one. Kibbe nayyeh, which is a mix of raw meat, bulgur, and spices eaten with fresh pita bread. There is also just kibbe, which is eaten in various ways, always cooked. I've only made regular kibbe, but I've eaten kibbe nayyeh, and it was tasty.

8. Are you right-handed or left-handed?

9. What would be your ideal vacation?
A Roman holiday with the husband.

10. What is the age from which you have your earliest memory?
Three or four, I'm not exactly sure.

11. Can you separate an egg without using some sort of man-made egg separator?

And finally, the questions for the nominees...

1. What is your least favorite book?

2. What is your perfect day?

3. Who is your greatest inspiration?

4. What is your favorite song?

5. What is your go to dinner?

6. Can you name a current event that has changed the way you think?

7. Name the funniest movie ever, of all time.

8. Coffee or tea?

9. What is most misunderstood about you?

10. Which city in America do you like best?

11. What do you appreciate most about your life?

The Nominees (in no particular order):

1. Martha
2. Sheena
3. Laura
4. Mona
5. Stephanie
6. Dagny
7. Sarah
8. Emily
9. Kallah

Don't worry, ladies, my feelings won't be hurt if you don't have time to participate!

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Tale of "Bling and Book" and Giveaway

Good Monday! I hope that all of you had a wonderful weekend! While making a quick milk run on Saturday, I received a text from my dear husband that there was a "Bling and Book" sale going on at a church just minutes from the store. How fascinating, I thought, so I headed there first. The sale turned out to be a fundraiser hosted by the Ladies Sodality, and included books and all manners of accessories. I passed on the books because we already have a collection large enough to start a small college (while I read every book I was ever assigned during my education, my husband purchased every one...) and found some great little treasures at great little prices! 

For myself, I snagged a beautiful vintage camel clutch (circa 1970's) that is in great condition. One neat detail - it has a built in mirror that takes up very little of the precious interior real estate and makes touch ups a cinch! This treasure set me back one whole dollar. I also bought a pair of earrings for myself, and scored three beauteous pairs to share with you! Just follow the rafflecopter instructions at the bottom of the post to enter to win (if for some reason you are unable to comment in the combox, you can do so on the FB page and it will count, sorry for the inconvenience!). Thank you for reading!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Style Second: Florals

Spring is a big time for florals, and this year is no exception. It's perfect for those with a romantic fashion personality, but what if floral just isn't your thing? Try a floral pattern, bold or sweetly feminine, on a black and/or white background. Or, incorporate one floral piece into a color blocked or monochromatic outfit. Having difficulty finding a pattern that fits your vibe? Check etsy, ebay, and the local thrift stores to find a piece that's all your own!

Prabal Gurung for Target

ASOS Maternity Exclusive Tank In Floral Print

Vintage yellow and blue floral bag - etsy

Tilly's Velvet Floral Tote Bag 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Little Love at Trevi

Happy St. Valentine's Day! In honor of this day of love, I would like to share with you some photos that my sis Elizabeth took (all except the first one) around Trevi Fountain in Rome. For those unfamiliar, Trevi Fountain is a quite large Baroque fountain that was constructed in the 18th century. It is visited by thousands of people every year, and legend has it that those who throw a coin (or three) into the fountain will one day return to Rome. 


Aren't they sweet? Thank you, Liz, for sharing these! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What I Wore: My Favorite Travel Outfit

The last ten days have been hectic and wonderful, and I'm really excited to get back to with my sisters. I'm also excited that Mary Boctor, personal stylist, will soon be open for business, but more on that later! I'm still getting into the groove of things since my return from Chicago, but I wanted to take a few minutes to share an outfit with you! The pics aren't as crisp as I'd like, but c'est la vie, and they are enough to get the idea.

What I needed: An outfit to wear for my flights to and from Chicago. No one was meeting or dropping me at the airport, so I needed something comfortable and stylish that I could wear on the plane, and on the trains as I traveled with my luggage. Throw in a late arrival time and the characteristically cold weather, and you see my situation. Too much to ask from one outfit, you say? The one below did the job perfectly. It consisted of a soft grey v-neck tee, dark wash boot cut jeans, a black cotton unlined blazer, black leather booties (with camel soles - I love the little details!), and a camel leather tote. I kept the accessories simple, just pearl stud earrings, stainless watch, and my wedding ring (which didn't deter an elderly - yes, elderly - Greek gentleman in the way one would have hoped, but that's a story for another time...).  Once out in the cold, I threw on an up-cycled grey angora snood and black wool coat. What do you think?

And, since this is what I wore Sunday, I'm going to go ahead and link up with these fine ladies!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Until Next Week

A good Monday to all of you readers! I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I will be taking a week long hiatus from with my sisters. I am going to be in Chicago for a fashion consultant certification program, and I will be focusing all my mental energies on that.  Until next week!

Me and two of my best friends in Chicago, ten years ago, on Fall break. It was my first visit.

Friday, February 1, 2013

What I Wore: Nowhere

I know it is cynical, but I can't help but think that title sounds like a government work project... Anyways, I've been wanting to link up with this massive mama fashion link up that I'm sure most of you have already come across and this lady so kindly suggested to me. And since I concocted this outfit as I was laying awake the other night trying to solve the world's problems (I just couldn't sleep), I've been wanting to try it on even though I'm going... Nowhere.

From the top: grey, hot pink, and oxblood (or the more vegetarian, less sanguine "radish"). More than the outfit itself, I just wanted to see the colors together, especially the pink and the oxblood. And in response to the link up prompt: "How has your style changed since becoming a mama?" Well, I don't think I would have given a shift dress a second look pre-baby (read, pre-baby body changes), but my eyes have been opened. This style is great in the early stages of pregnancy, and post-partem, because it leaves everybody guessing about the midsection.  And I'm not pregnant. I know you were guessing... 

What do you think of this look?


Friday For Fifteen: Football Edition

About time for another Friday for Fifteen, don't you think? This one is for your good man, the one who joined you for all the foreign film Fridays. For those who don't know, this Sunday is Super Bowl XLVII, Ravens vs. 49ers. To get warmed up for that event, today is going to be a football Friday. So here we go:

The Entertainment: A football movie. I heartily recommend Invincible (2006), the true story of a south Philly bartender who defied the odds to become a Philadelphia Eagle at the age of thirty. As a thirtonian myself, it's nice to have a little "anything is possible" story pick-me-up. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you probably aren't thirty yet, but you are probably human so you will probably love this movie despite any age defects. Some other good choices are We Are Marshall (2006), Remember the Titans (2000), and Radio (2003). Rudy (1993) and the Blindside (2009) are also good films, but is it my imagination, or has everyone already seen both of those?

The Food: Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip. I associate football with pizza, wings, and dips that feature cheese and cream cheese in prominent roles. This dip is the best of most of those worlds. My husband, who is something of a wing expert (isn't everybody who is born and raised in Buffalo a wing expert?), gives it his hearty approval. I, on the other hand, am not crazy about wings and I also give it my approval. A real winner. There are many slight variations of this dip floating around out there on the internet. I recommend that you make it like this:

Preheat oven to 350. 
Mix together 2 (eight oz.) packages of cream cheese and 3/4 cup pepper sauce (you can definitely go generic, as long as it is in the style of Frank's Red Hot, and less if you're not a fan of spicy). 
Then add 1 cup bleu cheese dressing (again, generic is fine), 2 cups diced, cooked chicken, and 1 cup shredded cheese (both cheddar and mozzarella work great, or a mix of the two). 
Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray, spread in the dip, and bake for 30 minutes. 
Serve with crackers or tortilla chips, and fresh carrots and celery.

The Drink: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA ($8.49/6pk). Now I know that you don't come here to with my sisters for beer education, but just know that this is a great American style India Pale Ale that brims with citrus and hop flavors. You may think you don't like the flavor of hops because of the bitterness, but give it a chance! Bitter compounds open the tastebuds, causing you to salivate in anticipation of food, really whetting the appetite. The strong flavor also, paradoxically, tempers the spicy intensity of the Wing Dip.


Now doesn't that make you thirsty?
What is your favorite football, food, drink combination?