Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012!

I ran my second 10K on January 1st!
It was a great race.
I built a new computer to replace my 5 year old pink one. 
I bought my first pair of Altra Zero Drops and they basically
haven't left my feet since.
Eric made us a lovely Easter dinner! :)
We vacationed in Arizona, visiting Sedona and the Grand Canyon.
I ran the Westborough Spring Festival 5K for the third year in a row.
I got engaged! :)
I caved and finally tried the kale chip craze.
I had a deck garden again.
Eric tried his hand at making toffee popcorn.
We visited Seattle!
I took a Digital Photography class to learn to use my new
SLR.
And I celebrated Christmas at home
with my family.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Photo Friday: Ice Storm

Pretty, but not so good for the trees.
It's always so pretty when the trees are covered in ice. They don't seem to like it much, as evidenced by another tree that snapped and fell behind my home a mere hour after this picture was taken.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Photo Friday: Reflections

This is the first impromptu gift I ever received from Eric. It's one of my favorite things and ever since I realized last weekend that I could photograph the reflection of something I've been trying to do exactly that with lots of different objects. I ended up with a stranger reflection of my crystal squirrel than I'd intended but it's actually one of the things in focus which took me a while to achieve. I still struggle with finding things I want to photograph but some practice is better than none!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Photo Fridays

While sitting in the SeaTac airport waiting to board my flight home, I noticed a Google offer for an online digital photography class. It was only $27 so I bought the offer, because I would love to take my SLR out of auto mode. The class I ended up taking was Digital 101 through Flying Photo School and I loved it. Since I knew precious little about photography before I started the class, I felt like I learned a lot.

I wanted to take their Digital 102 class but unfortunately it's sold out until April 2013. I've decided that in the interim, I'm going to start a new series here called Photo Friday. It's mostly a personal assignment to myself, so I'm going to take one new photograph a week to practice what I learned in Digital 101. I'd been posting the pictures to my Facebook page but I think it'll be more fun for me to post them here and give a brief little paragraph description as to what each one is, why I took the photo. So, without further ado, here is this week's photo.

113012

This is my capstone assignment for Digital 101. The picture was meant to encompass all of what we learned, i.e. white balance, ISO and the different priority modes (shutter speed vs. aperture). The ornament featured is one of my favorite ones; we all know I have a penchant for cupcakes. This picture wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be, but I did like the Christmas light bokeh in the background.

If you want to see the rest of my pictures from the Digital 101 course, you can check out my Flickr photostream.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Different Kind of Race

Ever since I started running in 2006, I ran every single race with the clear and singular purpose of improving upon my times. I was always (literally) chasing a goal that I had set for myself.
Nate and me after last year's Gobble Wobble
Until Thanksgiving last Thursday.

I'd been signed up for the Southborough Gobble Wobble for well over a month, but hadn't done a single ounce of training for it. Since, you know, I haven't really been running much at all. Compound that with the fact that the night before the race I managed a measly three hours of sleep and that's a situation that normally would set my teeth on edge with sheer nervous energy.
 
But two weeks before the race, I had made a pact with my little brother: we would run the race together. This was a first for us, since as stated above, I was always chasing my time goals. This simple change altered my entire outlook on the race. I wasn't the least bit nervous at the start line (a first for me!), or worried that I wasn't going to be able to finish. I was just focused on getting us both through the race. We set a comfortable pace and chatted along the course. I didn't even wear my Garmin.

As Nate and I neared the finish, he told me of his intent to sprint from the 3 mile mark to the end. Since he sprints far faster than I do, I let him go on ahead.  The competitive part of me chafed the teeniest bit at that but soon let it go. It wasn't worth letting that part of me taint my accomplishment of running a race wherein I wasn't nervous or worried.

The race that morning was exactly what I have been needing.  It was a reminder of why I enjoy running and how it helps me off the road. It reminded me to be thankful that I could run and that I don't need to compete every time I lace up my running shoes.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Thoughts From A Newbie Zumba Instructor

When Tina convinced me to take my first Zumba class in August of 2011, I had no idea what to expect. I went to class feeling nervous and awkward. I made it through the first class despite having two left feet and being completely incapable of understanding the single-single-double moves. My then shortcomings didn't stop me though; I'd had so much fun in spite of them, that I knew I would go back.

About a year later, I had become so enamored of Zumba and inspired by my instructor, Elena, that I decided I wanted to teach Zumba too. It was relatively easy to become an instructor; You simply take the Zumba Basic 1 class and receive your certification.

Starting your own class and teaching it? That's the hard part. It requires dedication, practice and an ability to critically analyze what's working and what isn't. It requires you to learn the most natural way for you to cue the dances to your students. I've certainly gained a different perspective over the last couple of months and have even more respect for Elena. She works hard to teach four classes a week and still keep it fun, fresh and easy to follow!

I've only been teaching a small class of three for a couple of months now, but I'd like to share a few of my observations. I think they'll help anyone who wants to teach Zumba or maybe even just take a class.

If you are nervous about messing up, you're going to mess up.
It's funny to me because this statement can be applied to so many other aspects of my life. My first couple classes, I worked myself into such a nervous wreck that I messed up a song that I've known how to do for well over a year and could hardly cue at all. I've learned that I just have to let go (a little!) from my perfectionist qualities and relax. I teach a far better class that way. Plus, I have more fun teaching that way and that's really why I wanted to teach Zumba in the first place.

Cuing is different for everyone.
Trying to find what feels most comfortable to me and makes the most sense to my students for cues has been interesting. It's definitely a work in progress right now. I've been trying on other instructors' cue styles and sometimes it fits, e.g. leg slaps to signal which leg to use for the move. Sometimes it doesn't though, such as tapping yourself on the head to signal from the top generally results in me hitting myself a little too hard. On top of that, I still haven't found the best way to signal transitions to new movements but each class I teach, the closer I feel to finding my style.

Dressing the part can help.
I used to be a part of the former Toastmaster's club at my workplace. On the days when I gave speeches, I made sure that I dressed up and looked professional. For me, dressing the part of what you're intending to do has always helped boost my confidence just a little bit. It only seemed natural for me to obtain a piece of Zumbawear that said instructor on it.

Have you tried Zumba? Did you find it intimidating or did you love it?


Monday, November 12, 2012

Avoiding

Hi blog.

I’ve been avoiding you. I'm even going to be cliche about it; it’s not you, it’s me.

Here’s the thing: I’m boring. I do roughly the same things every day with very little variety.

I get up, I eat breakfast, I go to work, I go to the gym and I come home. Rinse, repeat. It leaves me with precious little to write about my daily life. I certainly wouldn’t discuss my career here, short of saying that it often causes me to become extremely busy. Anything beyond that is, in my opinion, unprofessional.

I dislike writing too much about my personal life with my friends and family here because it’s, you know, personal. It’s just too hard find that fine line between what should be shared and what shouldn’t sometimes. I also find that in doing that, it's hard to be authentic. I don't want to come off like my life is all puppies and rainbows. It's certainly not, but sometimes I feel like giving credence to the negative aspects of things gives them more power over me than they should.

So, really then, what’s the point of having a blog?

For me, it’s an outlet for my hobbies, a place to share the things that I love to talk about and would happily drive the people I love insane doing exactly that. That said, my hobbies tend to have a fluid nature to them. I start things, get what I want out of them, give up and move on. I occasionally return to them (e.g. knitting) but sometimes they end up shelved away in a closet. Or I move on to a different hobby that I enjoy more, which brings us to the reason that I’ve been avoiding the blog.

I have mostly given up running in favor of lifting (heavy) and Zumba. When I got injured earlier this year and had to adapt to find new things that I could do that didn’t exacerbate my problem. After I finished physical therapy, I just couldn’t seem to make the time to fit runs into my exercise schedule. I’m no longer interested in running long distances or running much at all. I’ll occasionally go for a short 2-3 mile run once a week but the passion just isn’t there anymore.

I think you could understand why someone who doesn’t really want to run that much anymore might not want to post on her blog entitled “Run Sqrl, Run!” I certainly don’t want to change the name because I still enjoy running just to run every so often and running got me through some tough times in the past. Running just won’t be my main focus for fitness anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share my new loves.



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Oh hi there!

I'm not even sure where to start, I've been away from the blog so long. Work ruled my life for the last month and a half with many long hours and much overtime accumulated. As is usual for me during periods of work stress, I was sneaking candies from everyone's candy bowl with alarming regularity. Fortunately for me (and my waistline), the work all culminated in a series of tests that I ran with a quality control person two weeks ago Saturday.

I promptly proceeded to get sick with a nasty head cold the day after my tests and had to take last Monday off. This was a particularly smart decision on my part, because this past Friday Eric and I flew out to Seattle for the Patriots game. Anyone who has ever traveled with any form of nasal congestion on a plane knows how super fun to fly sick.

Saturday
Seattle was a lot of fun and we had brunch at the Space Needle:

I've got no pictures of anything I ate, because, you know, I was too busy eating it. Particularly the Nutella whipped cream on my hazelnut crusted french toast. I devoured that. The thick and crispy bacon on the side was also excellent.

We visited the Chihuly Glass Gardens after the space needle and I was far more entranced by it than Eric was. I was so entertained by it that I have quite a lot of pictures to share, but I'll just pick the top three:


I also got to see my friend Sara (who moved to Seattle after college) on Saturday for dinner, which made me happy. Twice in one week! :)

Sunday:
Our Sunday was devoted entirely to the football game. We wandered down to a bar that was hosting a Patriots "tailgate." I hardly think it can be called a tailgate if there's no truck with a tailgate involved but whatever. It was loud, and there were tater tots with their horrible little tater tot siren call. All crispy, fried and potato-y. I had a few because it's been forever since I've actually had any fried foods. They were alright, I suppose. Eric and I then left the bar early and headed over to the stadium so we could get in when it opened. I have to say, Century Link has far better food options than Gilette does. I got a bag of tasty caramel kettle corn and proceeded to eat the entire thing. Oopsy.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Wedding: The Dress

Our society is wedding dress crazy.

Seriously crazy.

The average wedding dress will run a bride anywhere from $800 to $5000, depending on what she's looking to obtain. Talk about sticker shock for the woman who hadn't given much thought to what kind of dress she'd wear on her wedding day.

As it seems to have gone with everything I've planned for the wedding so far, I spent hours upon hours oogling Pinterest and The Knot's dress directory before I even set up an appointment anywhere. By the time I had scheduled an actual appointment at a bridal salon, these two dresses were my favorites:
Left: Paloma Blanca 4623
Right: Allure Bridals: 8953
My first appointment was at Pronuptia in Worcester, where I was promptly told that it wasn't likely I would find very much near my budget point at their salon. At first, the saleswoman brought me a dress similar to the Paloma Blanca above on the left just so I could see if I would actually like the illusion neckline. The dress was pretty and fit perfectly off the rack, but was well over double what I wanted to pay for a dress that I'd only wear once. She then proceeded to bring me several more dresses that were very much not what I wanted. I left the appointment agonizing over whether I should ask if they would sell me the sample of the Paloma Blanca I had tried on.  I resolved that I wouldn't do anything more until I'd settled down and really thought it over.

A couple days later, calmer and feeling more reasonable, I realized I didn't want to spend a fortune on the dress. In fact, I wanted to spend less than $1K. I did some research, contemplating the possibility of wearing a white floor length bridesmaid gown. I poked around Dessy, looking at the gowns and found this one:
After Six 6588
I loved the style and realized that it could also work as a simple, but elegant, bridal gown. I checked to see what salons in the area carried Dessy.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the salon in the center of town was a Dessy retailer and set up an appointment (alone, no entourage) on a Thursday before Zumba class. Upon arrival, Veralyn (the store owner and my saleswoman) greeted me, gave me a handful of plastic clothespins and told me to put a clothespin on anything I wanted to try on. I was a little surprised by this, given my previous experience with Pronuptia, but happily started pawing through the racks. Towards the end of my searching, I came upon a size six petite dress that I hesitated at. I loved the detailing and the style, but I wasn't sure it would fit me. I shrugged, said what the heck and stuck a clothespin on it.

Having finished my search through the rack, I started trying on the dresses I'd picked out. The first one, while very lovely, had far more intricate and sparkly beading than I wanted.


The next dress I tried on happened to be that petite six.

I stepped into it, zipped myself up and looked in the mirror. I loved it, adored it even. The detailing, the train, the fabric, the fit, it was all just right. Despite that, I took it off hung it up and tried on the rest of the dresses I'd picked out.

Once I'd finished, I realized I wanted to try on that petite dress again. So I did, and I realized how giddy and pretty it made me feel. You'll note, there were no tears shed and I knew I'd found the right dress.

I knew I wanted it but I needed to know how much it would cost. Veralyn told me that the only way the dress could be purchased was as is because it was the last of its kind and that it would cost me a little under $300. I was pretty much decided at that point but I wanted to have my mom come and give me an opinion before I bought it.

So, I dragged my mom to the salon two days later and purchased the dress. And now? Now you'll all have to wait until April to see the pictures of it. :)

Did you buy a sample? How did you know it was the right dress?


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

When I get stressed out, I bake. Last summer, I baked something to bring in every single week. My job didn't provide me with a great summer. I haven't been quite so stressed lately but something about this weekend has me feeling a little stressed. I'm not sure what has me so unsettled exactly, but I do know that I channeled that extra energy into some pretty tasty cookies.
Peanut Butter Cookies
Source: Baking Illustrated

Yield: 54 cookies

2 1/2 cups (12 oz.) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. (3g) baking soda
1/2 tsp. (3g) baking powder
1 tsp. (5g) salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup (7 oz.) white granulated sugar
1 cup (7 oz.) light brown sugar
1 cup (256g) crunchy peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp. (10g) vanilla extract
1 cup (~150g) dry-rosted, salted peanuts, finely chopped via food processor

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and cover your baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the first four ingredients with a whisk and set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat until combined, then beat in the peanut butter.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated. Stir the vanilla in.

5. Pour in half of the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Repeat with the second half of the flour mixture.

6. Fold in the chopped peanuts.

7. Using a small cookie scoop (2 tsp.), scoop some dough and roll it into a ball. Place the balls 1.5" apart on the cookie sheet. Using a fork dipped in cold water, gently press the criss cross pattern into the cookies.

8. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350°F. The cookies won't look completely done when they come out, but they will be. If they do look completely done, they're overcooked!

9. Allow the cookies to rest on the pan for five minutes before moving them on a wire rack to cool completely


Are you a crunchy peanut butter person or a smooth peanut butter person? I'm definitely a bigger fan of smooth but the crunchy in this recipe definitely added to it!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wedding: The Venue, Part 2

A couple of days later, I started looking into The Saphire Estates in South Eastern, MA. I put in an inquiry and set up a tour before I'd even found out that the minimum capacity for their smallest ballroom was 200 people. I suspected that meant their minimums for that day were probably outrageous. They were. The number I was provided was 80% of our budget. Disheartened yet again, I canceled my tour.

It was about this time that I finally gave the information I received from Wedgewood Pines more than a cursory glance. The package seemed reasonable and the photos made the location seem pretty, so I set up a tour for the next Saturday. It was only a half an hour from our place in Northborough so Eric decided to come along. Upon arrival we met with the event director, Kerri, who blew us both away. She sat us down and went through a slideshow of several weddings that had been previously held at Wedgewood. She gave me a copy of the latest Knot Boston magazine (score!) and then took us for a tour of the facility.

The moment I stepped around the corner where the ceremony would be held, I knew that it was the right place. The package was great and the location was perfect. The whole place satisfied the major criteria that each of us were looking for in a venue. However, not wanting to make a rash decision, we decided to think it over and get back to Kerri the following week. We discussed it in the car on the way home and then both decided that it was the place we wanted by Sunday night. We booked for April 13th, 2013 on July 13th, leaving us with nine months to plan the whole wedding. I'm completely thrilled to be working with Kerri as the event director and I'm thrilled to see what the place will look like come wedding day.

The Venue: Part One

If you're married or getting married, how long did it take you to find your venue? Did you have to sift through a lot of wrong places to find the right one?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wedding: The Venue, Part 1

Within 24 hours of our engagement, Eric and I had completed the list of guest names and a rough head count of 85-100 people.

What can I say? We both have our overachieving moments.

Our next step was to determine a list of eligible dates, which for us, was constrained by his eldest sister's availability. Within couple of weeks, we'd narrowed down the list to exactly four Saturdays, two in April, one at the end of October and one at the beginning of November. It may seem restrictive but I was quite happy with such a small list. It's much easier to make a decision quickly when you don't have that many options, or at least that's what my experiences at Wooberry have taught me.

Eric and I discussed where we thought we'd want to have the wedding and he suggested New Hampshire. Since I'm from NH and it will always have a place in my heart, I set about finding acceptable locations. After much research on The Knot and Wedding Wire, I came up with four places that I wanted to know more about: The Inns and Spa at Mill Falls, The Wolfeboro Inn, The Bedford Village Inn and the Sheraton in Portsmouth.  I obtained wedding information packages from all of them and started poring over the research material. I quickly determined that the Bedford Village Inn and the Wolfeboro Inn weren't suitable, but the other two merited visits.

More than that, I'd fallen a little head over heels in love with The Inns and Spa at Mill Falls. Thus, with great excitement, my mom and I set out to tour the place one Saturday morning in June. Unfortunately, even before we met with the event director, I knew it wasn't right. The decor was a little too rustic and the room we'd have to rent smelled of grease. And to top it off, they didn't even have our preferred date available.

Disheartened, my mom and I obtained lunch from a Dunkin' Donuts and headed for Portsmouth. The Sheraton in Portsmouth is a lovely place but I wanted windows in the venue, so again I struck out.  After nearly 8 hours of driving, I arrived home in MA disheartened and weary. I spent a few moments poking around The Knot again, looking at the 2011 picks in MA then half-heartedly requested information from Wedgewood Pines Country Club in Stow, MA. Upon receiving the information, I gave it a cursory glance and set it aside. I just wasn't in the mindset to care.

The Venue: Part Two

Monday, September 3, 2012

Shoe Review: Altra Zero Drops

Ever since I started running six years ago, I've been searching for the perfect shoe.

In particular, I wanted a shoe that I wouldn't have to lace specially because it squeezed my forefoot so tightly that my little toe would go numb. Is that really so difficult? You'd think not, but it was.

And then, as I was reading my Runner's World from March this year, I came across the shoe to end all of my running shoe woes.
Altra Zero Drop
After reading about them in Runner's World, I knew I had to check out their website. Gender specific shoe? Um, heck yes! Actually designed for the anatomy of a foot? Sold. I bought a pair on the first visit to the website.

I received my first pair of Altras within five days of ordering it and they've gone with me everywhere, every day since then. I took them to Arizona, I wore them for Zumba and I wear them to lift weights. They are the most comfortable shoe that I have ever purchased. In fact, I love them so much that when a coworker found a deal on LeftLane sports to get them at 50% off, I bought two more pairs. My only gripe is that the laces are particularly slick and have a tendency to occasionally come undone during a run. It's a pretty minor flaw and one that a little creativity easily overcomes.

I would definitely recommend that anyone who is considering a less traditional running shoe give these a try. Just as a word of warning, as with any minimalist shoe, if you haven't been running barefoot or in another pair of zero drops before, rotate these in slowly so your body can adjust without injury.

Have you tried Altra? What's your favorite running shoe?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On Wedding Planning

As you might already know, I announced Eric's and my engagement at the beginning of June. Since then, I've been keeping relatively quiet about everything here on the blog.
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Why?

Mostly because I'm having a hard time deciding what to share here and what not to share here. It's difficult to find that line between what we want to keep private and what it's okay for me to share, but I'd like to try and share what I can.

If only because wedding planning is not as rife with drama as the T.V. shows would have you believe. I certainly haven't shed a single tear over any of the actual decision making to date. Though apparently I made a random woman in the bridal salon cry while I was standing around in my dress waiting for the seamstress.

That was weird.

I won't say that I haven't gotten wrapped up in the idea of scouring Pinterest or Etsy for the perfect something or other. I definitely spent my fair share of time doing exactly that, only to eventually realize that I wasn't staying true to myself. I am not a glitzy, or glamorous woman. I didn't spend my youth planning out an extravagant affair that my groom would have no say in.

No, by and large, I'm profoundly pragmatic and I trust my instincts to tell me when something is right. Thus I've decided to actually put my thoughts about the whole process so far into words and share them over the course of the few weeks. Hopefully my experiences will help some other pragmatic bride feel like it's completely okay to stay true to themselves.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Released Into The Wild

Alternatively this post could be titled Wild squirrels run free! but I thought that would be a little too cheesy.
I had my final physical therapy appointment two weeks ago. I've made significant progress, which is enough to get me cleared to continue on my own. I did have some lingering calf pain because I tried to do too much to soon (argh) but its finally completely cleared up. I've been running every other day for about a week or so now.

I'm still a bit nervous every time I run. I'm constantly checking in with the past hurty parts to see if they hurt again and so far they haven't but once bitten, twice shy, I guess? The mileage I've started introducing back into my schedule is low, just a few meters over 2K on average. It seems to be working and nothing is hurting, but I'll continue with my 10% increases until I know that I'm truly 100% again.

Regardless, I've already signed up for one of my favorite races from last year: The Southborough Gobble Wobble Turkey Trot 5K. It's on Thanksgiving (duh) and I've even convinced a friend and Nate to run it with me. I though about coming up with a training plan for myself, but I realized that at this point I just need to run. I don't need to worry about speed training, or endurance training, just running. It makes going for a run easy since I don't even worry about taking Beepy or a regular watch with me.

Hopefully within a month or two, the title of my blog will start to be apropos again.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fashion Envy

This is me.

I'm the queen of the zip-up hoodie, t-shirt and jeans combo. I also (wish) I rocked a mean Pikachu backpack. You would be correct in assuming that my list of labels has not ever included and likely will never include fashionista.

Sure, I can be persuaded to dress up a little bit.
But it doesn't happen with much regularity.

You see, I'm hopelessly inept at styling myself. I have a grand total of three hairstyles: ponytail, barrette & low ponytail, and straight. Make-up? I can do the simplest of tasks but I wear make-up with even less frequency than I dress up. Accessorizing? I hardly ever think about it.

Sometimes I wish I were more capable of styling myself. And truthfully, I could be if I put my mind to it. I'd probably even be good at it.

Why don't I?

I've finally come to the realization that it's just not something I care enough about to prioritize. I'd much rather dress myself for a workout, play Minecraft with my Mom or read a book.

In fact, I'm totally okay with being the woman who'd rather have a Pikachu backpack than a designer purse.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Not That Girl

Image: winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A couple of days ago, I was looking through this post. It's a post that is as much for me as it is for everyone else. It's good to look at from time to time to remind myself of how far I've come.

Only this time, I looked at it and realized that I was no longer that girl anymore.

At that age and maturity level, I blamed everyone else for my problems. I was fat because something was wrong with my endocrine system, not because I was inactive and ate too much of all the wrong foods. And the blame game wasn't limited to my weight and health. Didn't finish my homework? I'd come up with some ridiculous excuse.

Thinking about it now, I'd never say that I was happy I grew up fat but I am most certainly grateful that I had to pay the price of having an unhealthy lifestyle so early in my life. Struggling with it has taught me that I'm the only one responsible for my actions, reactions and subsequent consequences in the world around me. It's taught me to be introspective, understand my thought patterns and question my feelings about something.

It's taught me the power of commitment and hard work.

It's taught me that every person's struggle is a little different and no one struggles quite the same way.

In losing all that weight, I gained a healthy mindset, which has been instrumental to my long term success at maintenance.

What has your weight loss taught you about your own thought patterns?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Weekly Weigh-In and Musings: 7/27/2012

Last Friday's Weigh-In stats
Weight: 126.4
Body Fat %: 20.2 + 3 = 23.2%
Measurements: 34"-26"-34"-20"
------------------------------------------

Yup, I meant to post this yesterday but I got super involved and focused on creating my own invitation suite for the wedding. I happened to find a plum/cherry blossom graphic on iStockPhoto so I downloaded the Adobe Creative Suite 6 trial intending to use Photoshop to edit the colors to my liking. I accidentally opened Illustrator first then realized that the graphic I'd gotten also came with an illustrator file making the creation of my invitations that much easier. I even found a great place that will print, cut and mount the cards if I so choose.  Working on the stationery this past weekend was a lot of fun, and I think has reminded me how much I love doing stuff like that.

Which is good because my blog design needs a serious overhaul in the IE and Firefox browsers. I have no idea what happened to my template but it's hideous now! I do know about it and I am working to resolve it, but it could be a couple weeks, so please bear with me. Or you can download Chrome. :)

Deck Garden
I have flowers! They're not supposed to be white though...

I also have a ton of cherry tomatoes.
That's all for this super delayed post!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Eric Makes: Way Too Good Toffee Chocolate Popcorn

On Friday last week, I was sitting on my bedroom floor sorting my large pile of laundry into several smaller piles when Eric called to me from the other room. "Are you going grocery shopping tonight?" He asked. I thought how I didn't have a list or any idea what I wanted to eat the next week, and called back, "Probably tomorrow, why? I'd go tonight if you went with me. Why?"

Why, indeed.





He stumbled across the recipe on Foodie With Family. He's not sure how he got there, but that's the magic of the intarwebs.

How do you like your popcorn?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Weekly Weigh-In and Musings: 07/22/2012

Friday's Weigh-In Stats
Weight: 127.2
Body Fat %: 20.8 + 3 = 23.8%
Measurements: 34"-26"-34"-20"
------------------------------------------

Wedding
I managed to set up two photographer interviews for this upcoming week, both of which are in our price range. I think that means by this time next week I'll know which one I want to hire. Oh, and I found my wedding dress. ;) No pictures here until the days after the wedding though!

Deck Garden
I chopped off a bunch of basil last weekend to give to my friend, Meaghan. Hopefully she's enjoying the fresh basil. My cherry tomatoes are starting to turn red and are delicious straight off the plant. My very first zinnia bloomed and I think it's going to be yellow, but it'll be a week before that's confirmed.




How has your weekend been? Fun? Boring? Lemme know down below!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tried It: Pole Dancing Class

I'm always interested in trying new fitness classes, and lately, I've really wanted to try a pole dancing class. Why? Mostly because when I watch pole dancers from an athletic perspective, I'm blown away by the strength and agility they have to possess to even do simple moves.
(source)
I mentioned it to one of my friends who admitted she'd bought a groupon for a couple of classes in the city. Since these kind of things are always more fun with another person, we picked a weekend and I signed up to take a class with her. 

What's the verdict?

Pole dancing is hard but it's quite a lot of fun to try if you go in with an open mind. It requires a ton of upper body and core strength, and flexibility. It also requires that you have tougher spots on your shins and hips because you will likely bruise the crap out of them the first time you do it. You don't want to wear a lot of clothing either because you need the skin contact to stick to the pole.


Will I try it again?
I definitely think so, but it won't become a primary form of exercise for me. :) 


Have you taken a pole dancing class? Do you want to? Let me know down below!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weekly Weigh-In and Musings: 7/13/2012

Friday's Weigh-In stats
Weight: 127.8
Body Fat %: 20.4 + 3 = 23.4%
Measurements: 34"-26"-34"-20"
------------------------------------------

I'm pretty happy all that sushi bloat was gone that morning. 129 would have caused me to have to report failure on my Stickk contract.

PT Updates
Between Pilates and my prescribed exercises, I'm doing much better. My PT told me that I should ease back into running, starting with two miles and building by 10% each time. I ran on Monday and I made it to about 1.8 miles before it started to get difficult to ensure that my pelvis was stable. I think that means, I'll try another two miles this week and hope that I feel stable for the full two miles.

We have a venue!
That venue I said Eric and I were going to tour last Saturday? We loved it. We booked it! Our wedding will be next year at Wedgewood Pines Country Club in Stow, MA and I could not be more thrilled with the location and the staff. Now we're onto the rest of details. First up? Stationery! Eric and I went to The Paper Store today and looked through several ginormous books of samples. It was pretty much just like the movie.

Tasty Cookies
I leave you today with a picture of these fantastically delicious Raspberry Linzer Cookies that we had after Zumba today.
Thanks Joyce! :) They were good.

Monday, July 9, 2012

3 Reasons Everyone Should Take a Pilates Class

Several years ago, I picked up a cheap Pilates DVD. I watched it once through completely and tried to do it on the second watch. It was difficult and the cues the instructor used didn't make a whole lot of sense. My takeaway? Pilates was a silly, pointless way to exercise. I completely wrote it off.

Let's fast forward to a couple of months ago where I have my first physical therapy appointment. The root of my problems? The deep core muscles that are supposed to stabilize my spine and pelvis don't engage when they should and everything is all out of whack. On my drive home, a little light bulb lights up in my head. My problems sound like something a good Pilates class would help me with. The studio where I take Zumba, The Core Connection, is also a Pilates studio and since they offer a fantastic summer class pass, I decided to bite the bullet and try out Pilates Mat 1. After a couple of classes, I even jumped on the offer to take a fundamentals class.

Now?

I've become a Pilates convert. Never again will I think that it's a "silly, pointless" way to exercise, I've been completely humbled by the experience of a great Pilates studio.

Develop postural awareness
Most of us hop in our cars each morning, staring intently at the road. We get to work and sit at our desks each day, staring intently at computer screens. We then hop back into the car and head home, staring intently at the road once more.  And the sad thing is, most of us are completely unaware of our posture the entire time. We sit with our chins jutted forward, slouched in our chairs. Our brain realizes that it doesn't need to engage the deep core muscles to stabilize the spine or pelvis, so it doesn't.

Our workplaces may have us take ergonomic surveys but I suspect, that like me, many people don't give it a lot of thought. Posture, similar to basic nutritional concepts, isn't something that's taught or emphasized in school. Our necks hurt, our lower backs are tight and we simply write it off as a nuisance of existing. Which is pretty dumb, if you give it more than a second's worth of thought. Pain is your body telling you something isn't right. Yet, we take Advil and continue on with our days, eclipsing the true problem.

Our posture is terrible.

But if you give Pilates a chance and approach it with an open mind, it'll help you understand what you're doing wrong. It may help you realize that you are pushing your head too far forward, that you aren't using those deep core muscles to stabilize your spine and pelvis. After a few classes, you might find that you're paying attention to your posture, making minute corrections throughout the day. And then, you might find that your lower back or neck pain seems to happen just a little less often.

Increase core strength
This one's pretty obvious. All that focus on your core will help strengthen those muscles so that they can start doing their job without your conscious thought. A strong core is a happy, healthy core. That's pretty much it.

Prevent injuries
I almost hate to say it, but my injury could have been prevented if I hadn't written off Pilates so many years ago. As a software engineer, I sit on my butt all day with terrible posture. As a person who loves to exercise, I'd then go out for a run wherein my stabilizing muscles wouldn't do their job and other muscles would overcompensate. I'd come home wondering why my calf hurt and my back felt so tight. It all seems so obvious now. Hindsight is 20/20 and all.

Lastly, I'd like to mention that not all Pilates classes are equal and the instructor matters. If your instructor isn't wandering around helping you understand the correct feel of a particular exercise or helping you modifying one, you might want to reconsider. If you're in the Northborough area, looking to take one, I highly recommend The Core Connection.


Have you ever taken a Pilates class? Had a terrible instructor or a really fantastic one? I'd love to hear about everyone else's Pilates experiences!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Weekly Weigh-In and Musings: 6/6/12

Weight: 126.8
Body Fat %: 20.8 + 3 = 23.8%
Measurements: 34"-26"-34"-20"
------------------------------------------

I feel as though my weight fluctuates like crazy with all the weight lifting and Zumbaing (totally not a word, I know) I've been doing lately. I love the changes in my physique but it can be difficult mentally to be content with weigh-in whose graph looks like a sine wave. Eventually I'll get back to running and things should start to stabilize a little more.

More venue updates!
A week ago, I booked a tour of a venue in southeastern MA. At the time, I hadn't located the sizes of the rooms but I wasn't overly concerned. A few days later, I was poking around the website again and finally stumbled across the capacity for their smallest room. The smallest room held 220 with a dance floor, which started to worry me because I knew this place went by minimums for food and beverage. I e-mailed my contact and asked about the minimums for my dates and the response made my jaw drop. Even with our off-season dates, the minimum for a Saturday evening wedding at the smallest room was $18K. Obviously that's quite far out of my budget and since we're set on having a Saturday evening wedding so I had to cancel my tour and go back to looking into more venues.

I found a country club with decent reviews and a discount for off-season bookings about half an hour from where we live, so I set up a tour. Hopefully it'll be a little more promising than the last few weeks of venue locating. I feel like this has got to be the hardest part of the whole planning process.

Zumba Instructor Training
This past weekend my friend Meaghan and I went to Zumba Basic 1 instructor training. We had a blast and I racked up 20K steps on the Striiv. The first item on the agenda was a Master's class taught by Ann Saldi, our Zumba Education Specialist (ZES). The room was huge and the class was packed. After a couple of songs, Meaghan and I had to move to the back of the room. I definitely had a harder time in the back because there was very little room and I couldn't exactly see Ann so great. Yeah, I should I have put my glasses on.  After that, she took us through a lot of the instructor basics. I definitely have a heartier dose of respect for my Zumba instructor (Hi Elena!) at The Core Connection now. It really is a second job (albeit a fun one) to learn and choreograph songs. It's definitely going to take me a few months to get a full playlist worth of songs for a class.

Deck Garden Updates
And know it's time for the obligatory deck garden plant photos: