Time Marches On

Man, time just keeps marching on, doesn’t it? Even though it feels like I just posted Penny’s 10 Month update, it’s already been weeks! And a lot’s happened since then! Though she didn’t stay up to see the fireworks, we celebrated her first Fourth of July:

 
And the day after, she and I flew down to Atlanta for another visit with my sister, brother-in-law, and their three little munchkins!

Penny is becoming quite the seasoned traveler, and while she is really a very good baby on the plane, it just keeps getting more and more challenging for me. She is just soooooo busy, and soooooo nosy! She wants to be in everyone’s business, and I’m just trying my darnest to get her to stay with me. I mean, maybe just a tiny bit of stranger danger wouldn’t be such a bad thing, eh? At least on our flight back home she miraculously fell asleep for a portion of the flight. My arm went totally numb but it was worth it.

 
I had a great time visiting my sister, as I always do, but I gotta admit, coming back has been a bit of a bear this time around. Since traveling always makes time fly even quicker, and between our San Francisco trip & this one, I haven’t been able to really get settled back into a routine. So the days are kinda just whooshing past, and I’m just here like, okay, suddenly it’s mid-July. Penny is now ten and a HALF months old. I’ve got a huge slate of stuff to tackle for work before my next trip, for which Penny & I are heading back to Atlanta in a just few weeks for Alex’s first birthday (squee!)… and to see Taylor Swift (all my local DMV friends may have seen her show this week, but I bought the tickets for Atlanta a zillion years ago so my sister and I could go together.)

Whew. It’s just a lot, especially considering summers for my job tend to rocket past anyway. Plus, thinking about Alex’s first birthday being just around the corner makes me oh-so-very aware that Penny’s is as well (they’re only 3 weeks apart). Which means I need to start turning all of my many vast and unrealistic ideas for Penny’s first birthday party (just seven weeks away!) into an actually manageable checklist, lol.

Call it the burden of hosting events on the regular for my job, or just the fact that I am, indeed, a crazy Instagram mom, but I want this party to be the bomb-diggity! After all, it’s really the only one I get to do up completely and totally to my own whims, as something tells me that by next year, Penny will have opinions about what kind of party she’ll want, hahaha.

The other thing that’s been on my mind is that I haven’t been feeling very positive about myself lately. I’ve been feeling emotionally drained (Penny has almost completely weaned from nursing, and it hit me pretty hard last week especially), and have not been feeling confident or happy with regard to my body, my weight, and my health.

The hard truth is that I’ve let myself get out of control with some truly terrible eating habits (fast food in particular, sigh), and despite all of my best intentions and former proclamations (“I wanna get healthy for Penny! I want to be able to keep up with her forever! I want to set a good example for her!”), I hadn’t made any effort or taken any actual action to back up those claims. In fact, despite “knowing better,” I kind of kept doing, well, the opposite.

So, I just kinda stopped talking about it, and slinked quietly back into the shadows with my waffle fries. Which, I mean, hey, that’s fine, being fat is not a crime, it’s not really even an issue as long as you’re happy and feel good about yourself. Which I guess I kind of was, for a time? But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t cracks in my self-confidence, and slowly but surely, I started feeling less and less healthy, less and less good about myself, and less and less happy.

So, I finally hit my tipping point a couple of weeks ago. Sick of agonizing over my closet because my clothes don’t fit well anymore and being upset over how I look in candid photos and just generally not feeling good, I decided I don’t want to — and that I don’t have to — feel like this anymore.

So, I finally dragged My Fitness Pal back up from the depths of my iPhone’s app folders and hodgepodged together a plan. I’m cutting way down on sugar, trying my best to limit simple carbs (at least for this initial period — there is no power on Earth capable of keeping pasta from my life permanently), tracking everything, and, of course, eat mindfully & healthfully. And it’s working! I’m down 10 pounds already, which feels nice to say, though, the seasoned dieters among you know that’s mostly water weight. Plus, when you’re as heavy as I am, 10 pounds is also like, barely anything. But regardless, I’m feeling optimistic and motivated.

I do intend on adding fitness back in, as that’s obviously an important part of the health equation (though, as we also know, when it comes to weight loss specifically, it’s a much smaller part than what we eat), but I went to the gym for a step class with my sister while I was in Georgia and left feeling defeated and sad because I’m just so uncomfortable with my body right now. Also, I didn’t actually bring any real workout clothes with me, and I don’t think it helped that I was exercising in one of my regular tops, with two doubled-up nursing bras in lieu of a sports bra, hahahahaha.

So, baby steps. Literally. Carrying a wriggly, always-on-the-move, twenty-pound bundle of energy is my strength training right now, and chasing after her as she terrorizes the dogs is my cardio, lol.

And speaking of our little mischief-maker, we have an exciting new development… Penny finally (FINALLY!) cut her first tooth!

 
She is the Toothless Wonder no more! Which explains why she was shoving the local Georgia flora into her mouth incessantly during our backyard photoshoot, why she has been drooling up a storm lately, and also why she had a temperature the day prior to that little thing pokin’ on through. She’s got a real little chomper in there! (It’s her bottom left.)

And I think that just about catches us up. Here’s to looking at a brighter, lighter, happier, & healthier tomorrow (and the day after that, and the day after that) — as well as to getting these cutie pie cousins back together very, very soon! <3

Fatkinis in Paradise

Back in January, my family and I made plans to go on a giant summer vacation together to Cabo San Lucas. It’d be the whole gang — my parents, my siblings and siblings-in-law, my sister’s parents-in-law (they actually have a timeshare down in Cabo, and are prett much the whole reason this thing is happening), Sean, and me — and the timing, I figured, would be perfect! I’d have more than six months to get my body back to bikini-ready shape after typical holiday-season slacking. It was just the motivator that I needed to get back on the wagon and drop some libbies again, right?

Weeeeell, actually, wrong (as we already know.) I have indeed managed to shave off about 20 – 25 pounds from what I had regained, which is awesome, but in the months since I have clearly stopped making any attempts to hide the fact that I’m not actively dieting anymore. And yet, this tropical vaycay was still looming, looming, looming… and I realized that sooner or later, I’d have to face my body and whether it was bikini-ready or not.

Now, first up, my feelings about the term “bikini body” in general can now pretty much be summer up by the following (adorable) graphic:

But even so, hey, I’m not immune to the pressures that society puts on people to want to look a certain way. I mean, I’m a mass consumer of media in all its various forms, so of course I’m not, hahaha. So I would be lying if I said that the idea of baring skin by the poolside didn’t cause me at least a little bit of stress. But you know me, I’ve never really been able to subscribe to the idea that skinny feels better than food tastes or whatever, so ultimately it came down to whether I wanted to get myself all bent out of shape over how I looked at the beach, or if I wanted to, you know, continue enjoying my life the way it is. And I mean, I know I probably sound super douchey saying it out loud, but my life is pretty stellar right now.

S0 since I am, at least currently, totally uninterested in torturing myself both physically and mentally over a vacation (which, hello, is supposed to be relaxing anyway), I came to realize that the best way for me to get beach-ready probably wasn’t to agonize endlessly over my bodily imperfections. No, I’d take a different approach.

Rather than forcing myself to do a juice cleanse in the hopes that it’d shave another 1/4 of an inch off my general body circumference, I decided to do a mental cleanse instead. I rejected the notion that summer is limited to people who wear single digit sizes. I faced the fact that I am really not as important as I make myself out to be, and people out there enjoying their own vacations really don’t give two hoots what I, some random stranger with outrageously colored hair, am wearing at any given time.

I know, I’ve talked a bit about this kind of body acceptance before, of course, because it’s always been true. But my past posts were written with the looming idea that I still needed to lose weight. So, you know, I could love my body and all, sure. But in the back of my mind I was still telling myself, “Just don’t love it so much that you stop wanting to fix it.”

Weeeeell, obviously I have a little bit of a different perspective about things now. I don’t want to have to fix anything anymore. And you can say that’s just me being lazy, but it’s not going to change the fact that I fully embrace the fact that any body really can be a bikini body. After all, just like bodies, bikinis come in lots of different shapes and sizes. And whether you have thunder thighs or flat butt syndrome or belly flab or big boobs or small boobs or no boobs, you’d be pretty amazed at how great a relatively tiny amount of fabric can make you feel, if it’s the right cut.

This idea of there being different swimsuits for different bodies isn’t news, of course. I’ve been reading magazines for years, all offering advice on what swimsuits work best for different body types. Small bust, wide hips, broad shoulders, hourglass, there were options for all, and the features usually even came with photos of real-life women illustrating the effects of properly allocated swimwear.

In retrospect, though, I realize that while these articles might have been a great way to showcase poolside fashion, they still fell into the trap that a lot of  mainstream fashion does when it comes to dressing one particular type of body shape: they don’t really know what to do with it, so they just cover it up. Which, yes, granted, not everyone has a nice flat tummy to showcase between the top-part and bottom-part of your swimsuit, but does that mean we’re not allowed to show it at all?

I have distinct memories of flipping through magazine pages as the feature addressed pear-shaped and straight-shaped and hourglass-shaped figures and showcased adorable, fashionable bikini looks for each of them, only to finally get to the “Full Figure” or “Plus Sized” section at the end and have it be full of one-pieces and tankinis.

Yeah, kinda like that.

And hey, don’t get me wrong, there are some might fine one-pieces and tankinis out there. I’m a big fan, myself.

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Terrible iPad selfies aside, this is literally my favorite suit to ever exist in the history of swimwear. I pretty much just hung around the house wearing it all yesterday afternoon because I didn’t want to take it off, that’s how much I love it. I mean, aside from the whole wet swimsuit + full bladder predicament that surfaces every once in a while, I’m all about the one-piece. But I think you know that really isn’t where my issue lies.

I just don’t love the message that it sends when the media showcase all these different kinds of women looking fab in two-piece swimsuits… except for one kind. Because even larger, thicker, curvier, whatever-er women can still look totally bangable in ‘kinis, and not showcasing that fact, as unintentional as it may be, still perpetuates the idea that we should be hiding our bodies because there’s something wrong with them.

Luckily, I think the tide is finally beginning to turn on that front. Maybe it’s due to the resurgence of vintage-style clothing coming back into vogue (high-waisted bottoms FTW!), or maybe it’s because of body positive figures like GabiFresh (I believe she’s the originator of the term “fatkini”), but either way, I am so on board with all women being able to wear whatever the hell they want and hopefully feeling beautiful and confident while doing so.

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Which is why next week you will see me, proudly rocking my own fatkinis (given how much I’ve admitted to hating the word “fat,” I actually really love the term “fatkini”) and maybe even inspiring other women to do the same. It’s your body, after all. Wear what you want!

And that goes double when on vacation.

Creamy Gazpacho

Summers in our nation’s capital come in pretty much one flavor: humid. And though, granted, this summer has been slightly less sticky than most, I’m still just one big ball o’ sweat most of the time when I’m outside. So when it comes to foods that I’m craving in August, I’m almost always going to prefer something chilled over something hot. Duh.

Of course, one can’t live off of popsicles forever (I’ve tried, believe me), so upon occasion you might find me in the kitchen trying to whip up a nice no-heat meal. Don’t worry, I’m not going raw. I’m just hot — all the time. Which brings us to the following recipe — one that’ll make you forget you ever even liked hot soup to begin with.

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Whether eaten (er, drank?) straight from the blender or allowed to chill for a few in the fridge, I just know that this creamy (yet dairy-free!), zesty gazpacho will hit the spot. It’s light, it’s bright, and depending on how spicy you want to make it, you can take your tastebuds for a real ride, hehe. Reserve a bit of the tomato, cucumbers, and onions to chop and serve in the bowl for a bit of texture, or blend it all to your heart’s desire. There’s really no wrong way to make this, since all it takes is a handful of fresh, natural ingredients and a blender!

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Creamy Gazpacho
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup crushed tomato juice (about 3 medium to large ripe tomatoes)
1/4 large onion, or 1/2 small onion
1 small cucumber, cut into rough pieces
1 poblano pepper (or green bell pepper)
1 – 2 jalapeño peppers (optional)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lime (juice only)
1/2 cup unsweetened Almond Breeze almond milk (vanilla or original — your choice!)
Salt & pepper to taste
Dash of green chile Tabasco sauce (optional)

Instructions:

1. Crush tomatoes until you yield ~1 cup of juice. Seeds and some pulp are okay.

2. Combine tomato juice, onion, cucumber, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, and jalapeño (if using) in blender. Reserve a tablespoon or so of the onion and cucumber if you want to dice and add to soup for texture. Blend on medium – high speed for 30 to 45 seconds, or until ingredients are all finely combined.

3. Add lime juice and almond milk, salt and pepper, and a few dashes of Tabasco (if using) to the soup and stir.

4. Pour over chopped tomato, onion, and cucumber, or serve ungarnished! Eat immediately, or keep it in the fridge to chill further before consuming.

5. Enjoy!

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almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Melon Refresher Smoothie

I know you guys are strewn all throughout the country… and the continent… and the world! So I’m not sure exactly what the weather situation has been like in your individual areas over the past few weeks, but let me tell you: In the DC area, weather has been crazy this spring. We have gone from winter to summer to winter to spring  (oh, please, PLEASE let it finally be spring!), all within the timespan of a few days! A couple weeks back, I swear, it was 38 degrees one day and 90 the next. That hot (hot, hot, hot!) summer weather stuck around for a few days, and boy, did I feel it.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever explained that summer is actually my least favorite season. I know, blasphemous, right? Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot the things that summer brings: pool parties, beach trips, ice cream trucks, and tons of general feel-goodery. But summer also brings with it lots of things that I don’t love: Mosquitos, humidity, and—oh yeah—the heat.

I am not a slight woman. This much has been, and will always be, true. Whether I’m 250 pounds or 150 pounds, I will always have big ol’ bones and this 5’9” frame and I will always, always be the sweaty beast that I become when it’s 90+ degrees outside. I know that paints an extremely attractive picture of me, but seriously. Is there anyone in the world who gets as sweaty as me when the weather is hot? I doubt it.

Given my proclivity for transforming into the aforementioned Sweaty Mess Formerly Known as Gretchen, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to cool me down, inside and out. The out usually means I exist solely in sundresses and flipflops from May – September, while the inside means I’m eating lots and lots of cooooool foods. So when the weather unexpectedly spiked, what do you think I did? Yep, I immediately sought out a light and refreshing new smoothie recipe to cool my sweaty soul.

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Plus, I won’t lie, I really, really wanted a reason to use my new Vitamix. Hehehe.

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Enter: the cantaloupe smoothie.

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I know, sounds kinda weird, right? Well, let me assure you, if you are a melon lover of any kind, you will lo-o-ove this smoothie. It’s sweet but oh-so-light, cooling and very refreshing. I sucked down half my glass without even realizing it, that’s how wonderful it is. This can be made with any kind of melon, too. I happened to have a perfectly ripe cantaloupe on hand, but it would be awesome with honeydew, or even watermelon! Especially watermelon, actually. Mmm, watermelon… And with only five—count ‘em, FIVE!—ingredients on the list, you can be sure this is going to be a staple in my summer eats rotation.

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Melon Refresher Smoothie

Half a cantaloupe, seeded and cubed (~3 cups)
1 cup Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almondmilk Original (unsweetened or not, your preference)
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup ice
Drizzle of honey (add more or less to taste)

Regular blender instructions: Put ingredients in blender in order listed, blend on high for 30 seconds, or until smooth.

Vitamix instructions: Put ingredients in blender in order listed. Start on Variable speed 1 and quickly increase to 10, then high. Blend for 15 seconds.

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This recipe makes about three 12-ounce servings… or, if you’re me, two 18-ounce servings. Heh. You can store extras in the fridge for a couple days (you may need to shake or re-blend for a few seconds). Enjoy, and keep cool out there!

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Refreshing Summer Meals

So I have some thoroughly exciting news for you all: my car’s A/C is working again! My amazing mama, who simply couldn’t bear to see her beloved youngest child suffering in the heat any longer, offered to take it into the shop and get it checked out for me. They recharged it and put that dye in it to check where the leak is, so while the A/C isn’t technically FIXED, it is working again. At least until all the freon leaks out again. But that could be tomorrow, or it could be next summer. Here’s hoping it’ll be much closer to the latter!

The timing of this fix really couldn’t be better, considering that we’re in for another set of HOT days over the weekend.

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Eep. On the bright side, there is nothing that curbs my appetite more than having to peel my sticky thighs off of a chair. In fact, the very idea of eating anything warm on crazy hot days — let alone turning on the oven! — makes me actively (and dramatically) wretch. So hey! Maybe this summer I will actually stop making excuses and finally drop these last 20-ish pounds! Hey, a girl can dream, right?

In that vain, I thought it might be a fun Friday thing to offer up a few of my favorite light, summery, (mostly) no cook recipes. Usually, the biggest thing they require is boiling something on the stove, and you can always do that ahead of time (maybe in the dead of night? When the sun is gone? And the sweat is only pooling in the creases of your body rather than actively dripping down your extremities? Heh. Gross.).

Hokay!

 

Ha! As if I would start with anything other than my delicious, sweet & savory, tropically-twisted Mango Guacamole. This stuff will change your life, I swear it. And look! Not a stove nor a pan nor a baking dish required! Just a bowl, a spoon, and some sweet chopping skillz.

 

My girl Cassie has some banging recipes on her site, and one of the ones that caught my eye most recently was this Cold Greek Quinoa Salad. The only thing that requires heat is cooking the quinoa. Otherwise, it’s a refreshing, chilling salad that’s full of nutrition and flavor! Yum.

 

My Healthy Chicken Salad recipe is another one that requires just one cooked ingredient: the chicken! Why not take advantage of that summertime tradition and cook ’em up on the grill? Of course, if the thought of manning a hot grill on a hot day isn’t your ideal summer activity, you can always find pre-cooked chicken at the store. You could even tear up a rotisserie chicken for this! You have as many options as your laziness will allow. 😉

 

Finally, I recently saw this recipe for Summer Macaroni Salad on Gina’s fantastic blog. It looks absolutely delicious and is a rather low-calorie pasta option: only 115 calories per cup!

So tell me: what’s your favorite easy, breezy summertime recipe?