Moment of Zen: Marriage Equality Edition

By Katie, 5:39 am

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a staunch supporter of marriage equality for everyone. No matter if you agree or disagree with me on the issue, you can probably appreciate these very clever signs used in various marches and protests. You gotta admire the creativity!

Have you ever participated in a march?

By the Numbers

By Katie, 5:41 am

5:20 – Time my alarm goes off in the morning

2 – Number of times I hit snooze

10:30 – Time I go to bed at night

120 - Minutes I spend commuting per day

80 - Miles I drive per day

45 - Minutes I exercise most days

4 – Number of co-workers I have

8 – Number of times I’ve cooked a proper dinner in the past month (this is not like me at all, and I don’t like it!)

7 – Number of tabs I currently have open on my computer (I don’t recommend this.)

6 – Number of real push-ups I can do

10 – Number of real push-ups I’d like to be able to do

32 – Ounces of water I’ve consumed so far today

2 – Number of Band-Aids I’m currently wearing

2 – Number of accessories I’m currently wearing (not counting the Band-Aids. ;-) )

4 – Number of things that have gone wrong in the past week

40 – Number of things that have gone right

Countless – Number of things I’m grateful for in this crazy little thing called life

What’s one of your “by the numbers”?

One Year’s Worth of Make-Up in a Single Day

By Katie, 5:53 am

Seven bottles of foundation.

Three lipsticks.

Two bottles of eyeshadow.

Two bottles of blush.

In “Natural Beauty,” a short video from directors Lernert and Sander, the model has 365 days’ worth of make-up applied to her face in just one day. Apparently it took nine hours to complete the shoot, and the poor woman had to eat and drink from a straw the entire time.

(Warning: we’re talking a year’s worth of make-up here, people. It’s pretty disgusting by the end.)

Honestly, I’m torn about this video. On the one hand, I appreciate the fact that it gets us thinking and talking about make-up; you can’t watch this video without questioning yourself the next time you go to apply it. Do I really want that goop all over my face?

I also appreciate that the video’s title – “Natural Beauty” – implies that the model is most beautiful before the make-up application begins. The pressure women feel to wear make-up cannot be underestimated; in many ways we are conditioned to feel “naked” or “unattractive” without it.

But a part of me thinks this video goes too far to the other extreme. Instead of simply telling us we don’t have to wear make-up, the short film seems to imply that there’s something wrong with us – maybe even that we’re disgusting – if we do. 

To me, the best part of feminism and the positive body-image movement is its emphasis on choice. I don’t think we should be spreading the message that you have to wear make-up, but I also don’t think we should be saying that you can’t or shouldn’t.

All I want is for women to feel free to make that decision for themselves, based on what feels right for them personally. For some people, that means no make-up, ever. For others, it means a little make-up every day. And for most, it means some happy medium between the two. But the best part is realizing that the decision – to apply or not to apply – doesn’t have to be based on society’s standards or what your best friend is doing. It’s entirely up to you.

What do you think of the video?

and/or

What are your thoughts/feelings on make-up? Hate it? Can’t go without it? Somewhere in between?

Top Workout Songs of 2011…So Far

By Katie, 5:03 am

Some of you may remember Chris Lawhorn from the workout music site Run Hundred. He created an exercise playlist for me based on my love of Lady Gaga, and since then he’s shared with us other top playlists for breaking a sweat.

Today Chris shares the top workout songs of 2011 thus far. The bolded ones are those that are currently gracing my iPod. I’m especially glad Adele made the list!

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Most top ten lists tend to appear around New Year’s, looking back and taking stock. For workout music, though, there might not be a better time than the summer, when folks are getting back outdoors and back in shape.

As you might expect, the most popular songs in the gym from the first half of 2011 err in favor of pop hits and dance tracks. But, as always, there are a few exceptions. The most interesting developments, perhaps, are Adele’s omnipresence – even in the gym—and the continued crossover between dance and pop music.

Here’s the full list, sorted by beats per minute, based on the 15,000 votes cast in 2011 by subscribers from RunHundred.com:

105 BPM – Adele – Rolling In The Deep (Jamie XX Shuffle)

122 BPM – Jason Derulo – Don’t Wanna Go Home

125 BPM – Katy Perry – Teenage Dream (Kaskade Remix)

127 BPM – Deadmau5 – Sofi Needs A Ladder

128 BPM – Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera – Moves Like Jagger

129 BPM – Cee Lo Green – F**k You (Le Castle Vania Remix) (side note from Katie: I only ever heard the clean version of this song!)  

129 BPM – LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem

129 BPM – Pitbull, Ne-Yo, Afrojack & Nayer – Give Me Everything

130 BPM – Tiesto, Diplo & Busta Rhymes – C’mon (Catch ‘Em By Surprise)

150 BPM – Avril Lavigne – What The Hell

To find more workout songs – and hear next month’s contenders—be sure to check out the free database at RunHundred.com. You can browse the song selections there by genre, tempo, and era to find the music that best fits with your particular workout routine.
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Are you currently listening to any of these songs? What’s at the top of your summer playlist right now?

Moment of Zen: Oxford Comma Edition

By Katie, 5:37 am

The Oxford comma – also known as the serial comma – is that little period with a tail that is sometimes used before the coordinating conjuntion in a list of three or more items. Example: I ate ice cream for dinner on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The Oxford comma is the one preceding the word “and.”

Whether or not the Oxford comma is necessary is a topic of hot debate among linguists and grammarians (you know, the cool crowd!). Where you side probably depends on a variety of factors: what you were taught in school, what kind of writer you are, which side of the Atlantic you live on, etc.

I personally am an Oxford comma devotee, so I just loved this!

Hahahaha.

Where do you fall?

A. Of course you need the Oxford comma! Without it there would be mass chaos!
B. Psssshhhh. The Oxford comma is only for fuddy-duddies.
C. Ummmm, get a life? ;-)

Shopping as a Coping Mechanism

By Katie, 5:20 am

As the story below shows, shopping and food/weight issues often go hand-in-hand.

I had just come off of a few months of undereating and overexericisng, and my body was actually underweight. It was rebelling by driving me to eat everything in sight, which was causing a major panic inside of me. I had to get out of the house as a way of trying to run away from my own appetite.

So I went to the mall. And bought a bikini.

 (Source)

The connection here is not coincidental. During the times I’ve struggled most with food, I’ve often spent a lot of time shopping for clothes. In this instance, buying the bikini was an attempt to shield myself from the inevitable weight gain that I knew was coming, and that I needed. It was a desperate cling to an an article of clothing my body did not want to fit into.

At other times, clothes shopping has been a frenzied, frantic effort to boost my self-esteem. I feel horrible about myself, so I try to cover it up with a new wardrobe. Problem is, I usually end up with nothing more than an unnecessary surplus of clothes and an empty wallet.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that clothing can play a very effective, important role in our self-images. That’s why I preach so strongly about wearing clothes that fit and flatter the body you have right now, rather than the body you want to have or think you should have.

But I also think that many of us try to use shopping – and in my case, specifically clothes-shopping – as a way to cover stuff up. Buying something shiny and new often gives us the same illusionary satisfaction that comes from overdoing it on sweets; in the moment it’s all we want to do, it’s the only thing we think will make us feel better…and yet we end up feeling worse.

For many people, the urge to shop even emulates the urge to overeat (or diet, as the case may be). Some people say they feel driven to shop in a way that feels automatic or compulsive.

It is important to remember that just like overeating or losing weight can’t actually solve our problems, neither can a new wardrobe or a shopping spree. Eventually the food stops numbing us, or we can’t count another calorie, or the new outfits fade to old.

While I don’t see anything wrong with using a little shopping trip to boost my mood, I also know it’s just a short, temporary fix. What really matters will never be found inside a mall.

Do you think there’s a connection between food/weight issues and shopping?

Admire and Inspire: Some Thoughts on the Comparison Game

By Katie, 5:26 am

I’m good friends with two very amazing women. We’ll call them Jackie and Jill.

Jackie and Jill are both gorgeous. Stunning, really. On top of their good looks, they’re both really intelligent. Good grades in school and top performers in their current employment. If that weren’t enough, they’re both also really outgoing and have tons of friends. Even though I know they aren’t perfect, because no one is, they sure do have a lot of good stuff going on.

(Source)

I was recently thinking about the comparison game that we all play – even when we don’t want to play it, even when we’re trying not to play it – and I realized that the way I relate to Jackie is very different than the way I relate to Jill.

With Jackie, I’m always reminding myself not to compare myself to her. I tell myself that comparisons are pointless and fruitless; the only thing comparing ever does is make me feel bad about myself.

And yet with Jill, I don’t need that constant reminder not to get down on myself. I don’t struggle to be happy for her when things go her way. There’s no envy or jealousy…in fact, I sort of look up to her.

There are no external factors that create this difference. Both Jackie and Jill are caring, compassionate people; they don’t flaunt their good looks or brag about their many successes.

The only difference is my attitude, my perspective towards them.

With Jackie, I’m always thinking “compare and despair.” Have you heard that pithy little phrase? It’s useful for remembering that the comparison game is a no-win situation. And yet, as Molly McCord writes in this very insightful blog post another friend sent me, “compare and despair” is an inherently negative thought. It isn’t productive; it’s just a reminder not to be miserable.

The more useful phrase, McCord says, is “admire and inspire.” That’s how I relate to Jill, I think. I don’t compare myself to her in a way that is negative; rather, I appreciate her good qualities in a way that lets them rub off on me a little bit.

Compare and Despair versus Admire and Inspire. There’s a huge difference between those two attitudes, and that difference is compassion. It’s love and light and a willingness to connect with someone for who they are, rather than how you look or feel in comparison to them. It’s an openness to being changed for the better by another person’s positive influence, rather than being sucked dry from a fruitless attempt to ignore your differences.

Admiring and inspiring means that you can appreciate the good in someone else without wanting to change yourself. It means you can look up to someone without tearing yourself down in the process. It means you can focus on ways to feel positive, rather than just trying to avoid feeling negative.

And that, my friends, is how I believe we should be fighting the comparison monster. Not by running away, but by running towards.

Have you ever fallen into the comparison trap? Do you tend to “compare and despair” or “admire and inspire”?

Almost-Perfect Blueberry Muffins

By Katie, 5:01 am

This weekend I found myself with a surplus of blueberries. A very good position to be in, I assure you.

I turned to one of my favorite go-to cooking blogs – Smitten Kitchen – and found a recipe for “perfect blueberry muffins.” And these muffins almost lived up to that title. They were so very close.

The only thing missing? A drizzle of crystallized sugar on top. A blueberry muffin simply can’t be perfect without it! Next time, my friends!

Almost-Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 9-10 regular sized muffins

Ingredients
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (this makes the muffins – don’t skip it!)
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
optional: large crystallized sugar

1. Preheat over to 375º.

2. Prepare muffin tin by spraying with nonstick spray or lining with paper liners.

3. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well, then add yogurt and lemon zest.

4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

5. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture, stirring until flour disappears.

6. Gently fold in blueberries. Batter will be thick.

7. Fill your muffin cups about 3/4 full with the batter. (An ice cream scoop works well for this purpose!) If using crystallized sugar, drizzle a little on top of each muffin.

8. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.

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On another note, I wanted to share two pieces of good news. First, my biopsy came back normal! WOO HOO! Such a relief. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers!

Second, a few of you asked how my kitties have adjusted to our new home, and I’m happy to report that they are loving it. Their favorite part? The windows, especially the ones looking out onto the back yard. Can’t wait to put a bird feeder back there!

Doesn’t Hamilton look so regal? He’s the king around here, that’s for sure!

What’s your favorite way to use blueberries? For me, it’s a tie between muffins and sprinkling them on top of cereal. Both are so delicious!

and/or

What’s your go-to cooking blog/website/cookbook when you need a new recipe?

Moment of Zen: Harry Potter Edition

By Katie, 5:54 am

All the Harry Potter mania this past week was pretty darn crazy, wasn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I happen to love the Harry Potter books (the first ones more than the last ones). Heck, I even took a course in grad school that used the characters in the series as a model for leadership (we read a book called If Harry Potter Ran General Electric).

Even so, some of this stuff is just nuts! Like a Harry Potter corn maze…

A certificate saying you were accepted to Hogwarts…

A Harry Potter quilt…

There are even real live Quidditch matches! (No idea how that works…)

Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Harry Potter has left a huge impact on our culture.

Any Harry Potter fans out there? Anyone see the movie already?

Images Credit

Kids at the Pool

By Katie, 5:36 am

The winner of Julie Parker and Emma Kate Codrington’s e-book is Shannon from Shannon’s Food Run! We’ll be in touch with your e-book!

One of the perks of my new neighborhood is that it has a very nice community pool.

Last weekend Dave and I checked it out for the first time, and I loved it. I often have trouble really relaxing at home because I always feel like I should be doing something, but as soon as I hit that lounge chair I felt totally at ease, free to soak up the sun and a magazine.

 (Source)

Our neighborhood is very family-oriented, so there were lots of kids playing around the pool – some doggy-paddling between their parents, some floating around on noodles, some perfecting their cannonball dives.

One particular little girl caught my eye. She was maybe 6 years old and had long blonde hair pulled into a messy, sopping wet ponytail. She wore a hot pink two-piece swimsuit, complete with frills on the bottoms. And she was loving the pool. Like she was born to splash around in the water, like she was a dolphin in a former life.

As is the case with most children, she was completely consumed by the physicality of the experience; it was all about the heat of the sun on her face, and the refreshing cool of the water on her back. There was no room for inhibitions or self-consciousness; she was too busy having the time of her life. Her body wasn’t there to be looked at or judged or praised; it was simply the vehicle for experiencing life.

I thought to myself, there is so much I can learn from that child.

Life’s funny like that, isn’t it? We spend our childhoods constantly learning, learning, learning, only to grow up and realize those early years were already chock full of wisdom.

That little girl has become the role model for the rest of my summer. Starting now it is all about being in the present and absorbing the moment; it’s about the feel of being in the sun and water rather than the way I look in a swimsuit. It’s about re-capturing a joy that comes before – and goes beyond – our daily stresses and insecurities. I hope you’ll join me.

What life lessons do you think we can learn from children?

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