Channeling Something New

Happy New Year!

It’s 2017 and a full of year possibilities is ahead of us. I have a lot that I want to do this year, and I’m hoping that by jumping in full-force, I’ll actually be able to say I’ve done a lot of it by this time next year!

I’ve openly admitted that I’m a starter of projects, but not all that great at finishing them. (Pretty sure it’s smack-dab at the top of my “About” page, lol.) I know that makes me sound flaky, but it’s just part of my personality that I’ve come to understand. I’m a passionate person, and I get excited easily. As such, I love jumping into things full force, and I love following my passions wherever they may lead. Unfortunately, what that sometimes means is that a new passion might steer me away from a previous one (see: Zumba, knitting, and my unfinished book sequel…). This ended up with me feeling guilty about leaving unfinished business behind (even if just temporarily.)

Worse than the guilt of knowing I’ve left loose threads dangling, however, is the fear of what people might say about it, say about me. Blogging and working for Yelp has definitely thickened my skin, but I can still be hyper-sensitive to criticism and critique. I’m also a Monica Gellar-level people-pleaser.

But, c’mon, I’m 28 years old! I can’t live my life based on the fear of what others might say about me. And anyway, I’m growing up… kinda! While I’m pretty sure I’m just as passionate and excitable as ever, there are a lot of steady, firm, decidedly not-flaky parts of my life as well.

The average length of time I spent at all of my previous jobs was exactly 1 year. And then I found Yelp, and now I’m fast-approaching my 4-year anniversary! I’m a married lady with two fur-children, I’m older, and, hey, maybe even a tiny bit wiser.

I mentioned in a previous post that one of the things that I’ve been continuing to get more and more interested in is makeup. I’ve been getting more experimental and showcasing my looks on social media more often. I actually have received a few inquiries about whether I’d ever considered making tutorial videos, and the truth that I’ve actually considered it quite a bit. But, you know, the timing wasn’t right, or I wasn’t well-equipped, or it just seemed like too much work… and I didn’t want to start another thing that would just peter out and disappear.

Alas, all of those things might still be true, but as part of my “resolution” (I kind of hate New Year’s Resolutions, so I use that word with caution), I’m taking 2017 by the horns and testing the waters anyway! I went ahead and filmed my very first makeup tutorial video! It’s kind of a mess — evidently putting me in front of a camera makes me unable to pronounce words anymore, and the amount of times I uttered the words “uh,” “like,” and “anyway” made me want to punch myself.

That said, if you’re in any way interested in seeing what goes into an everyday glam look for me, you can check it out on my Youtube Channel:

And we’ll see where it goes from here! If I stick with it, awesome! And if not, hey, I’ll probably have chronicled at least a couple of really cool makeup looks, so that’s still cool.

The Resolutionary War

Happy 2015, friendos!

Let’s see, given that I kinda skipped over the entire holiday season ’round these parts, let’s do a quick recap about what’s been a-going on over the past couple of months, shall we?

First things first. Last we spoke, my hair looked like this:

 

But in honor of the season, it now looks like this:

 

The holidays were all kind of a blur of wonderful at this point, but they involved a joint-Thanksgiving at Taylor’s (my sister-in-law) parents’ house, a roadtrip down to Macon, GA to spend Christmas at my sister’s house, and trying to fruitlessly prove that I’m not old by doing New Year’s in DC. 2014 definitely went out with a bang!

 

The very best part of which was, naturally, spending time with my flippin’ adorable niece Mia:

 

It also probably bears mentioning that at some point during all the holiday craziness, I got promoted at work! Yep, you’re looking at the new Senior Community Manager for Yelp here in Northern VA. Hooray!

Of course, along with the promotion and presents and quality time with the fam and general warm fuzzies, also came a LOT of delicious holiday FOOOOOD:

 
 

Which pretty much brings us up to date with where we’re at so far in 2015! Much like most of America, I’d wager, I did not do the best job of keeping my gut in check over the holiday season. With turkey and ham and prime rib and pies and cookies and Lindt truffles, I definitely did my fair share of indulging. That’s not to say I went balls to the wall or anything, but in the sake of honesty, I did put on a couple of pounds between November and now. I will wait for you to recover from the shock. 😉

So, yes, in the past I’ve preached the ludicrousness of making New Year’s resolutions since, really, there’s nothing different about declaring an intention on January 1st over any other day. And yes, I rebranded this very blog to specifically declare that I was no longer interested in losing weight (or, at least, in blogging about it), well, I’ve gone back on my word and made a resolution to drop a few libbies.

In all seriousness, I still do very much believe everything I’ve said about making peace with my body and loving myself regardless of what the scale says or where my waistline is at. That said, I also never said I’d never want to lose weight again, and while I do think I’m at a much healthier place mentally and emotionally, I’d be a fool if I simply ignored the fact that I am not at my healthiest physically.

After all, I may have been going to the gym somewhat regularly before now (“somewhat” meaning like, once or twice a week, which, credit where credit’s due, is a big improvement for where I was before that!), but I wasn’t really applying myself. I’d spend half an hour walking on the treadmill and working a few machines, and I’d hightail it outta there while still giving myself a pat on the back for going at all.

And, more importantly, I wasn’t really paying too much attention to how much I was eating. My diet may have been mostly clean, but I know myself well enough to know that it’s always been more of a quantity over quality problem with me. And as most of us are more than well-aware, weight primarily comes down to what you eat.

Sooooo, trite as it may sound, here I am with a resolution for 2015 to get back in the saddle health-wise. I wanna drop some weight, up my fitness level, and generally get my health back up to snuff. I am trying to go about things the “right” way. You know, not fixating too much but cleaning my eating back up, logging my food, and definitely upping the fitness ante.

IMG_9749.JPG IMG_9624.JPG IMG_9756.JPG

So far, things are off to a good start! My fitness-instructor sister has done me the great favor of creating some workout plans for me, I bought some weights and a kettlebell, and I also purchased and began doing Tony Horton’s P90, which was created for couch potatoes like me who get sore at just the thought of doing P90X at this point, haha. This way, even on blisteringly cold days (like the past three days have been! Brrrrr!) where I can’t be motivated to leave the house (heh), I don’t have an excuse to get my sweat on.

Hopefully you guys don’t see this as any kind of wishy-washy reneging on my new blog/life outlook or anything wherein I made bold declarations as to be done with weight loss, but rather as an honest attempt to get myself “back on track” (I actually hate that phrase, haha) with admittedly cliche timing. Either way, here’s hoping it sticks this time around!

And c’mon, I can’t be the only one who made some resolutions, right? We aaaaall do it. So let’s hear ’em: what’s your New Year’s resolution? 🙂

2013 Close Out

Ahoy-hoy, friends!

I hope everyone had a baller Christmas and holiday season! Mine was unsurprisingly awesome, thanks in large part to this little Santa Baby being around this year:

I know I swore that I wouldn’t become one of those aunties that is obsessed with a child that I didn’t even pop out, but, I mean, c’mon! She’s pretty cute, right? And you know what’s even cuter? Stuff like this:

It’s like looking straight into the future if Sean and I ever decide to cook up a (double) Whasian baby of our own, hahahahahahaha.

Yep, Mia’s first Christmas was a rousing success, even if I did go a liiiiittle bit overboard with presents this year (even more so than in years past). But hey, it IS the giving season, after all, isn’t it? Everyone ’round the Powell Family Christmas tree was very generous this year — I got a PS Vita from my brother, amazingly adorable cocktail plates from my sister-in-law Taylor, a bread machine from my sister (IT. IS. AWESOME.) and Sean got me an iPad MINI! Funny story, actually…

So, being the Christmas nutter that I am, I may or may not have been bugging Sean on an almost daily basis as to what he was getting me for Christmas. And, true to his nature, his response each and every time was “Snowman poop.”

For reference, this is what he meant:

Thinking he had, of course, been joking the entire time, I opened my gift from him, eager to see what it was. And it was… snowman poop.

Yep, an entire professionally shrinkwrapped bag full of marshmallows. I was… thrilled. But, of course, since Sean is a trickster of the trickiest kind, he had actually hidden the iPad mini inside the marshmallows. And of course Ben got the whole thing on camera, hahaha. So sneaky…

Anywho! So yes, Christmas was wonderful! My December was also filled with plenty of Yelpy holiday goodness, so, for those who are wondering, the job is absolutely just as awesome as ever.

And tonight, the holiday festivities continue with a classy New Year’s double date with my good friends Lara & her husband Dan! Then tomorrow it’s… 2014! Hot damn, I know how cliche it is to say, but this year REALLY flew. Guess that’s what happens when you have a job you love, eh? Not to mention the constant looming pressure of trying to get a sequel out while people still remember the first book, ahahaha. Either way, 2013 has definitely been good to me (though, granted, not good to this blog… ehehe… sorry).

I hope that you all have an incredible New Year — no matter how you choose to celebrate it — and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings! I have some DEFINITE plans to get back on the health bandwagon (I’ve let loose a bit much over the past few months and I am really feeling it) so hopefully that will help me get back on the blog train, too.

Onward & downward, eh?

Guest Post: Try It and See

Hi friends! So I have another guest posty treat for you guys today! My very good friend, Lara, is here to talk about her non-resolution New Year’s resolutions. Which, as you know if you read my New Year’s post, is something that I am SO on board with. Forget New Year’s-specific resolutions — why can’t we just make LIFE resolutions? Not affixed to an arbitrary date, not riddled with stigmas of failure and give-uppery…

Anyway! Evidently Lara and I are seeing pretty eye-to-eye on this front, so I’ll just let her take it from here. 😀

Happy week-after-New-Year’s everyone! Have you quit kept up with your resolutions so far?

Gretchen is a great friend of mine, and she is being so generous and letting me do a little guest post for her! Thanks Gretch :). We have been friends for about three years now, and throughout our friendship we have both made lots of resolutions and goals and promises. We’ve kept some (like keeping in touch), but some have fallen to the way-side.

This post is kind of about resolutions, but mostly about just being better at life in general. I think it’s safe to say that, for the average Joe like me, resolutions don’t work. I remember sitting at my good friend’s New Year’s Day wedding two years ago resolving to lose 20 pounds. And, well, I’m pretty sure I’ve gained at least half of that instead.

So, this year, I’m going to try a different approach.

The first step of solving any problem is to pin-point what makes it a problem to begin with. Why don’t resolutions stick? (Please note that this is simply MY list of set-backs. Yours may be, and probably is, completely different, and that’s okay!)

1. I don’t plan out how I’m going to achieve my goals (and then I forget to track them) – This might be the biggest reason resolutions fail for me. Let’s take that 20 pound weight loss goal from two years ago. 20 pounds isn’t a ton. It’s pretty obtainable with a plan. “Eating better” and “working out more” are good thoughts, but they’re not achievable because there’s nothing to track them against. On day one I need to plan out what I’m going to eat and how often I’m going to work out, and then I need to stick to it. Make a chart, put it on the calendar, set alarms in the cell phone, blog about it – whatever it takes.

2. I try too much, too soon – For argument’s sake, let’s say I had only one resolution. (I usually have about 10 but let’s stick to just one.) Keeping with the weight loss example, here’s how I’ve attempted that one in the past: I immediately start counting calories and limit myself to 1300 calories a day, effectively cutting off all indulgences. Simultaneously, I start hitting the gym, oh I don’t know, six times a week or so. After about two weeks of this, I convince myself that I have “earned” a dessert or a day off from the gym, and then that day off turns into a week off, which turns into never-eating-a-salad-or-working-out-ever-again. Phew. So, needless to say, it’s important for me to ramp up to these things and form an actual habit, rather than sinking or swimming. (Apparently I never learned to swim.)

3. My goals change over time – Seriously, and be honest with me, what could you possibly do for an entire year without having something more interesting/important/exciting come up? My interests change about as often as my underwear, so it’s really hard for me to plan to be interested in one thing for 12 entire months. Maybe that speaks to why I quit after a few weeks? Maybe at first my goal was to lose 20 pounds, but then it was simply to live a healthier lifestyle. That new healthy lifestyle showed me that I love horseback riding and hiking, and soon my goals are entirely focused on how far or fast I can hike, instead of just losing some weight. Sure the latter will (hopefully) contribute to the former, but as my life changes, my goals change, and I think that’s completely normal! So, why would I set a 12 month goal? I’m going to focus on big picture, and know that my goals will change over time. More importantly, I’m going to be okay with it.

Great… this “non-Resolution” post seems awwwfully resolution-y. Well, here’s where things are going to change. I am going to start a list of the things that are important to me right now. Like, right this second in this tiny snapshot of my life. And then I’m going to assume that they will change. With those things in mind, I am going to set planned out, obtainable and track-able goals, starting slow and embracing the changes my life throws at me. Be on the lookout for a new series on the blog about these goals and changes, since I’ll need some help being kept accountable.

Here are a few important-to-me-now items:
– Get serious about training my dog
– Get in shape (for my life and my wedding)
– Spend more time in the kitchen
– Take more (and better) pictures for my blog
– Make more (or just more quality) time for my fiancé

Head on over to Try It and See Blog to see how I’m going to tackle these as life goals, not New Year’s Resolutions.

Lara blogs about life, food, planning her rapidly impending wedding, and her awesome dog Jameson over at Try It and See. Follower her on Twitter at @lara_tal@lara_tal!

From Gretchen: What’s your latest (and greatest) LIFE resolution right now? I have many, of course, but for now, I think #1 is obviously to finally get rid of these last 20 libbies. IT SHALL BE DONE.

Guest Post: Army Pants and Flip Flops

Boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Have I got a treat for you today. Some of you might recognize the name and face behind today’s guest poster, and that’s because today we welcome my good friend Aileen to the blog! Aileen, for those of you who don’t know, has a witty and laugh-out-loud hilarious blog called Army Pants and Flip Flops, where she details her life, opinions, and various neuroses–with all of those things being at least somewhat related to the fact that she is an Army wife-in-training. Oh, and she’s totally the one who edited my book.  NBD.

Aileen has managed to masterfully weave together a post about health, happiness, and new year resolutions for your enjoyment. Also, she utilizes the word “cheese” no less than 36 times, which I think is already very telling as to how awesome and delightful this post is. I strongly, strongly recommend you guys become a regular follower of her blog, but since I’m sure her own words will  be far more convincing than my own… take it away, Aileen!

How I tackled 2012 like a well-balanced cheese plate

In January, 2012, I made a list of resolutions. When I do choose to make New Year’s resolutions (re: rather infrequently), I like to set the bar as low as possible. One year I resolved to eat more cheese. The next year I resolved to eat less cheese, because my primary care physician recommended I have my cholesterol routinely checked, which I took to mean that my cheese consumption was rapidly killing me, and every slice of brie brought me one slice closer to death.

The year after that I went back to eating cheese again, because I decided that life is too short to ignore a sweet-cream gouda. Although my life might be a little longer if I decide to ignore the gouda every once in a while.

So by January 2012, I’d learned an important lesson: resolutions, like a good cheese plate, require a purposeful element of balance.

CheeseClock
Study this CheeseClock; it will become important later. And now you know how to balance a cheese plate. You’re welcome.

At the end of 2011, I came down with bronchitis. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t simultaneously come down with tonsillitis and sinusitis, and a completely unrelated tendonitis in my right hip and left foot, none of which I’d ever experienced before, and all of which left me looking and feeling extremely attractive. Which is I’m assuming why, at the end of 2011, the time was also right for my then-boyfriend to ask me to marry him.

Anybody who doesn’t regret proposing to you after watching medicated nasal spray drip slimily from your snot-filled nostrils for the week proceeding the engagement is definitely a keeper.

The proposal and my sudden onslaught of ailments jolted me into 2012 feeling giddy and breathless. (The breathlessness was mostly from the bronchitis. It took me a while to get used to using the inhaler.) And while the general area of my face, chest, and throat only took a month or two to clear out, the other symptoms of my end-of-2011, it seemed, were a bit more permanent.

The first permanent symptom was Jonathan, my now-fiancé. I realize that calling him a “symptom” makes me sound like an asshole, but before you JUDGE ME, consider that I call Jonathan a symptom of my new life in the same way that the blooming bud of an orange day lily is a symptom of pollination, which is a symptom of photosynthesis, because the working world is full of beautiful symptoms that happen because we need them to, but also because we want them to.

I also call Jonathan a symptom because, as much as I believe every new marriage should strive for happiness and permanence, marrying Jonathan also means marrying his job as a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army. If you want to know how inadequately my upbringing and temperament has prepared me to be an army wife, feel free to take a look at my history with semi-violent situations and my fear of Republicans.

When 2012 began, I knew it would end with my fiancé’s second deployment to Afghanistan, and the promise of a new beginning when he returned.

What I didn’t know when 2012 began, however, was just how permanent my second symptom would be.

While the tendonitis in my foot disappeared easily with systematic rest and a nauseating dose of NSAIDs, the tendonitis in my hip decided it was really enjoying hanging around. It was having such a good time, in fact, that it decided to invite increasing joint and muscular-skeletal problems to the party. You know those really charming Mucinex commercials where they turn a big blob of mucus into a middle-aged New Yorker with a tiny bowler hat and suspenders? I imagine it’s something like that mucus guy that settled into my hip; except, instead of mucus, he is made of A THOUSAND TINY RETRACTING SWITCHBLADES, and he has no charming bowler hat.

While my doctors and I had legitimate reasons to be concerned about this, the symptom (and this time I’m saying “symptom” in the traditional, non-fiancé sense) that manifested earliest was that I absolutely had to stop running, under penalty of tiny switchblade death. And also under penalty of a very nice MRI technician who let me listen to a local country radio station in giant headphones while he scanned my hips for fluid, so he seems like a trustworthy guy.

I guess my saving grace in this new army-wife-suddenly-crippled life was that I’ve never actually enjoyed running. I ran several times a week for many years of my life because I’m lazy, and running was the easiest way for me to exercise my whole body and keep my weight down, but still leave the gym in time to be home for Jeopardy. Running was the entire foundation on which my fitness routine was based, and suddenly, in the midst of these other life changes, that foundation crumbled like a chunk of pungent feta cheese when you take your first bite into a Greek salad.

I can make almost anything a cheese analogy if you give me time.

As 2012 began, so did many changes. I needed to find a way, with my doctors’ help, to stay healthy in a body that felt completely new to me (and was apparently a complete asshole to me, too). And I needed to do so in a way that would fit my life as it somersaulted into a new world of unknowns and anxiety.

With an eye for balance, I went about setting my 2012 New Year’s resolutions in the same way one would go about balancing a cheese plate according to the CheeseClock: from mild, to medium, to bold, to strong.

  • Mild cheese plate selection: Start your cheese plate at the 6 o’clock position with young mild goats, double or triple cremes, or bloomy rind cheeses.
  • Mild resolution for 2012: Get better at using the touch screen on my iPhone.

In my habit of setting the bar low, I chose to make sure my first resolution had nothing to do with anything. This resolution was mild (like a creamy chèvre) because it was literally impossible for me to be worse at using my touch screen. As a bonus, I resolved to train my autocorrect to recognize the word “chèvre” without suggesting I change it to “Chevrolet.”

  • Medium cheese plate selection: Proceed clockwise, with the next type of cheese being a soft to semi-firm, such as a mild cow, aged goat or sheep milk cheese.
  • Medium resolution for 2012: Incorporate poultry into my diet.

When I walk through the cheese aisle at Trader Joe’s, I will inevitably purchase at least one block of artery-clogging, semi-firm Manchego. Finalizing my departure from 10 years of vegetarianism was something I’ve known for a long time was equally inevitable.

While my doctors couldn’t prove that my lack of meat-derived amino acids was necessarily causing any of my health problems, they urged that being committed to appeasing my health problems meant cutting out any external factors that could be contributing to my body’s unhappiness. While I was already health-conscious and balanced my diet fairly carefully, I knew that my life would be much easier without the constant worry that I wasn’t getting enough protein. Which sometimes led to unhealthy binges on Greek yogurt and pad thai with tofu, which in turn left me unsatisfied and bloat-y.

  • Bold cheese plate selection: Your next cheese can become stronger, bolder and nuttier like a hard mountain, long-aged cheddar and mild washed rind (“stinky”) cheese.
  • Bold resolution for 2012: Plan (most of) my wedding.

One time I went to a wine and cheese bar, and was served a cheese that was purposely covered in fuzzy, pungent mold. Stomaching that cheese was more pleasant than planning a wedding has been so far.

Side note: I also learned that when a cheese is “washed,” it can sometimes be “washed” with penicillin. So make sure to warn your waiter about allergies you have to any medications. But only at wine and cheese bars; other waiters apparently don’t care that you’re allergic to penicillin, even though you were just trying to prevent a stinky cheese lawsuit for them, so they should really stop being such an asshole to you.

  • Strong cheese plate selection: To finish, choose a cheese with a bigger presence, such as more assertive washed rind cheese, or a classic blue cheese like Roquefort.
  • Strong resolution for 2012: Lift twice my body weight on the leg press.

In the winter of 2011, I ventured for the first time into the weight-machine section of my gym. While I’ve always felt safe and comfortable among the treadmills and suspended flat-screen TVs playing Hardball with Chris Matthews in closed captions, the weight-machine area was like some weird factory on Mars to me. It was filled with levers, and clanking, and angry, grunting men. Who smell your virgin weight-lifting fear. And then stare at you like you’re a toddler sporting a stinky, poo-filled diaper when you remove the pin completely from the bicep curl machine, because you realize you can’t lift more than 25 pounds, and that’s just the bar.

In my first two months of lifting, I hated it so much that, once a week or so, I decided maybe my body was better now and I could start running again. On one such occasion, I ran for an entire 11 minutes before my friend the DELIGHTFUL BALL OF SWITCHBLADES remembered he was on duty in my hip. F that guy.

I stopped running. Indefinitely. And, thanks to the backsliding, I had to stop all cardio for a few months, because just the strain of my apartment-to-work commute was prompting my doctor to recommend my taking short-term disability from my job. OKAY. I GET IT. I’LL STOP RUNNING.

I learned how to properly use all the machines. I discovered a particular affinity for the leg press, which is probably because I learned to channel my rage through my legs during six years of soccer as a kid. I even learned to use the machines I hated, i.e. THE STUPID BICEP CURL, which, even when I finally got the machine adjusted to the right height and position, I still couldn’t set it to more than 25 pounds. A guy at my gym who wears short shorts and those webbed-toe shoes that make you look like a frog continued to eye me patronizingly for weeks. I decided not to care, because maybe my lack of strength was ridiculous, but his shoes were also ridiculous so in my book we’re even.

When I began lifting weights at the end of 2011, I weighed 115 pounds. Which sounds like maybe I should quit my bitching and just skip a few weeks at the gym, until I mention that I’m 5’2” and I consistently have to go up a size in bikini bottoms because the size that accommodates the rest of my body absolutely cannot accommodate my butt. Which also probably explains why I’m overzealous about the leg press.

So I set my goal. Starting at a measly 100 pounds on the leg press, by the end of 2012 I resolved to lift twice my body weight: 230 pounds.

Then halfway through the year I gained five pounds and angrily realized I’d have to get to 240 instead. Jonathan says this was just a result of building muscle. I say it probably also has something to do with the manchego.

December 27, 2012 marked my one-year engagement-versary with Jonathan. He celebrated by attempting to find a free computer at the MWR in his post in Afghanistan so he could email me. I celebrated with this:

Leg press

Seated leg press

Leg press, and seated leg press for good measure. 10 reps; 3 sets. 240 pounds.

For 2013, I have resolved to make no resolutions. Except for dropping back down to 220 on the leg press for a little while, because apparently completing my New Year’s resolutions was at some point more important to me than being able to walk up and down stairs for the next week.

And as for the others…

Touch screen

Turkey leg

wedding-binder-details

Aileen blogs regularly about cheese, life, and her gun-wielding hubby-to-be at http://armypantsandflipflops.com. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!