Monthly Archives: January 2014

10 Things I’ve Learned About Myself

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New cut!  Slightly asymmetrical.  I might go a little shorter next time.

New cut! Slightly asymmetrical. I might go a little shorter next time.

1.  I have a lot more self-confidence when I have a great haircut.  Even growing up, the only thing I could ever point to that I loved about myself was my hair.  I don’t remember getting compliments about my other features, but, “You have such pretty hair,” was a constant refrain.  So my self-worth is strongly tied to my hair looking good.  So yesterday I found a new salon and stylist, and got a little update.  Thanks to Sarah at Bellezza in Peoria Heights for yesterday’s cut.  P.S.  I still love Maria at M.D. Waling Salon in Remington, but it’s a long drive, and I’ve been looking for a new stylist in Peoria for 3 years.

It's hard to get motivated when it's so cold!

It’s hard to get motivated when it’s so cold!

2.  When I’m working to lose weight, I need to be able to talk about it.  It’s why Weight Watchers worked for me five years ago; I went to meetings and got to share what I was doing, give advice and talk about what wasn’t working.  It’s why Crossfit works for my best friend; she constantly posts on Facebook about her workouts, and we spend a lot of time discussing what she’s doing during our phone convos.  And it’s why the weight loss competition I’m participating in now is going to work; we all share our struggles and accomplishments.  It’s validating to know other people are taking your effort seriously.

Or a beignet!

Beignets in the French Quarter!

3.  I don’t do well with deprivation.  If I’m craving chocolate cake, I should really just go buy a piece (not make a whole cake), and eat it, because I’ll just spend the whole day eating everything else trying to stop the craving.  A few bites of cake or a cookie when I first realize that’s what I want is usually enough to get my mind on something else.  Candy bars do not fall into this category.  I should remind myself that I don’t really like candy, and eat a carrot instead.

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4.    When I spend money on good quality food like organic produce, quality meat, good Scotch, I’m much more likely to savor and make it last.  That means if I spend $5 on a pint of Belgian chocolate gelato, it will last two weeks, but if I buy a quart of $3 ice cream, it’s gone in a few days.  Also, if I spend some quality time in the kitchen with good ingredients, I’m much more satisfied than eating a fatty meal at a restaurant.  And if I shop with cash instead of a debit card, I’m more thoughtful about the whole process.

Most of the successful dinners I make start with this.

Most of the successful dinners I make start with this.

5.  When my husband tells me that dinner tastes good, I want to clean the kitchen and make dinner all over again.  But when he isn’t excited about it, I don’t want to go in the kitchen again for days.  Last night I made tadka dal, which I’ll be posting about again soon, and it was delicious.  “That was really good, honey,” has stuck with me all day.

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

6.  If I’m planning a menu for an event, large or small, I shop more conscientiously, and plan more healthful and frugal meals for us at home.  There aren’t a lot of things I think I’m really good at, but I’m a good caterer.   I like to plan and get the numbers just right, find and test new recipe ideas and explore the grocery store.  But I’ve learned that I need to be in charge in the kitchen or have no responsibility at all, because I don’t have a happy medium where cooking is concerned.  I can’t help feeling responsible for how things go, and when I’m not in charge, it’s a very stressful situation for me.

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7.  I don’t need to have kids.  I’m a complete person all by myself.  I have a great husband who loves me, and we’re happy just having a fur-baby.  That said, it’s not okay throw my childlessness in my face.  We all make choices about how to spend our time, money, etc.  If you have kids and choose to spend your resources on those kids, that’s your call, and I won’t judge you.  I expect the same.

Still unpacking!

Still unpacking!

8.  I like being a housewife.  I like cleaning my house (don’t tell my husband), even doing dishes.  I take pride in our home, and it makes me want to make an effort.  I want Naren to come home and relax, not worry about all the stuff he needs to get done.  It’s exceptionally frustrating to clean at work then go home and not have the energy to clean my house.

Naren showing Gavin how to fish.

Naren showing Gavin how to fish.

9.  My 5-year-old self was really in touch with what I want.  I wrote an “essay” about what I wanted to be when I grew up that said “I want to be a babysitter.”  Clearly, I’ve been running away from that for 30 years, but it’s true.  I like being a nanny, even on the rough days.  I’m thinking about starting my own business in my home.

Fresh and dried curry leaves.

Fresh and dried curry leaves.

10.  I do not have enough things going on in my life to justify multiple blog posts every week.  So I’m adjusting my commitment to write 3 times a week.  Instead, I’m going to write at least one post about a recipe I’ve made, and if I can come up with something else to write about, I’ll do that too.  Look for a recipe post later this week.

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The mirror may not lie, but it doesn’t have to keep being right.

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I’ve spent the past few days writing and discarding a post about what I hate about being fat. But what it comes down to is that I don’t like having a reason to dislike myself. I don’t like talking negatively about my body, which I’ve been doing for decades. The problem is that no matter how much I practice positive self-talk, when the button on my jeans is biting into my stomach, it’s hard to say, “I’m beautiful.”

Forget that society has a prejudice against the un-airbrushed body. Pretend I don’t hear disparaging comments on an almost daily basis. Ignore that I can’t even buy work out clothes at Target. If I can’t say nice things about myself, I’m failing at the kind of life I want.

I want to be healthy, the kind of person who walks because it’s close enough, rather than drives because walking will take longer. I’ve been there before, and I let it slip away. I ate and lazed away every pound I’ve put on, and I’m not okay with it anymore.

I am not defined only by how I look or the number on a scale, but feeling unhealthy leaves me feeling self-conscious. Instead of feeling like a failure, I’m going to work hard to make positive changes. It’s not going to be easy. I’m going to have bad days, but I will get past them. Starting today, I’m going to reach for the life I want, and grab it.

Roxie (or Why I Took a Break from the Blog)

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Coming home!

Coming home!

WE GOT A DOG!!!!!!!!!!!  I don’t know how to tell you just how excited I am, although the bevy of exclamation points may help.  So I decided to forget about all my responsibilities, including doing the dishes (but that’s mainly because the drain was clogged) and writing blog posts, just so I could snuggle with my girl.

 

Roxie thought she was more important than my writing.  She was right!

Roxie thought she was more important than my writing. She was right!

 

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She fell asleep this way, and was snoring in my ear.

According to the vet, who was awesome (Prospect Animal Clinic, Peoria Heights), Roxie is 5 months old, Beagle/Brittany Spaniel/Shepherd mix, and pretty healthy considering she came from a rescue shelter (TAPS in Pekin is doing great work).  She’s a cutie, as you can see, and we’re both completely in love with her.

Naren had a helper.

Naren had a helper.

Today was the first day since we got her that I didn’t spend the whole day with Roxie, and I missed her so much!  I don’t know how I could love her so much already.  It’s probably a good thing we don’t have kids, or neither of us would leave the house!  So here’s a completely unnecessary photo over-share!

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Who’s afraid of the dark?

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I’m not really afraid of anything.  I mean, I don’t like spiders, but I’m not walking on water to get away from them (like someone I know).  Snakes and other creepy crawlies don’t bother me in most cases.  Well, with the gigantic exception of cockroaches, which I think are so disgusting that I kind of freeze up when startled by one or faced with several at once.  And then I proceed to itch uncontrollably until I manage to shift my focus.  But I’m not afraid of roaches; they’re just gross!  Remember that commercial about the pest control company where a roach roams across the screen?  I’m likely to turn the channel, but I’m not going to have nightmares.   

When we moved out of our apartment, the cleaning checklist we were given required that we clean under and behind the oven and fridge.  Now, I’m not the best housekeeper, and I couldn’t move the fridge on my own, so we hadn’t cleaned underneath it.  It took both Naren and I to pull it out, and when we did, there were roaches.  I managed to kill one without too much reaction, but then a few more scurried out, and I had to leave the room.  I didn’t scream and run out, I calmly, probably twitchingly, walked into the other room and proceeded to scratch my head and arms for ten minutes, then got back to work cleaning a different room.  Naren thinks this irrational reaction is hilarious, by the way, but he’s been warned that I don’t have a sense of humor where roaches are concerned.  Realistically, if I had to take care of roaches on my own, I could, but it’s likely I would have just pushed that fridge back and pretended the roaches weren’t there if Naren hadn’t been there to kill them or Mom hadn’t been willing to mop that area.  (My mom understands this irrational reaction because she’s absolutely and irrationally afraid of spiders.  In one incidence she jumped out of a canoe and made it to shore over six feet away without getting her feet wet, because she saw a spider when the canoe went under a tree.) 

I also don’t enjoy being startled, as in movies that are only after shock value with no story.  I do like scary movies with a plot, but not at the theater on opening night.  Mainly, I like being entertained and want to escape reality in some way when I pay for a movie, but also, people in groups do stupid things.  On that note, I generally avoid haunted houses, whether they’re actually haunted or just theatrical representations. People who are afraid often aren’t rational, and I prefer not to follow them through unfamiliar places.  

I’m not afraid of ghosts. I’m fascinated by ghost stories, and watch my share of The Dead Files.  I even have my fair share of strange experiences that might qualify as ghost stories, and they generally don’t freak me out.  Sure, I’ve watched one too many episodes of some scary reality show, and ended up sleeping on the couch with the lights on, but I usually recognize that I’m psyching myself out.  I don’t think that’s real fear.  In my whole life I’ve been really scared only a few times.  

I had a lot of premonition dreams when I was around 12, not typical deja vu where you think maybe I heard this conversation before, but real premonitions.  I dreamed that my grandmother had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital.  It was so real and traumatizing that my mom had me call her at her sister’s house, where she was visiting.  We found out she’d had a bad fall, and gone to the hospital that day.  So when I started dreaming I was raped, and rumors began circulating that someone in our neighborhood had been date-raped at a party, I had a very real fear of being outside at night.  That fear has morphed into being cautious about my surroundings, which I think is pretty realistic.  It also probably made me overly cautious about parties in college, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

During college, I spent a semester at Harlaxton College in England.  We took a weekend trip to Paris, and an acquaintance and I decided to take a walking tour instead of going with a larger group to Euro Disney.  We had a great time exploring, and although I don’t generally feel safe in Paris, I wasn’t afraid.  But then it started getting dark, and we jumped on a bus.  Neither of us spoke French, and at some point we were the last people on the bus.  The driver shooed us off, literally make sweeping motions in our faces and chased us off the bus, in the middle of a residential area about as far away from our hotel as possible.  We ended up walking to a miraculously close police station and some kind officers took us to the metro, but not before a terrifying car ride.  We were outnumbered by young plainclothes officers in an unmarked car, and the road signs indicated we were leaving Paris.  The men were speaking French and occasionally laughing.  I was terrified we were never going to be seen again.  The very nice officers dropped us off at a metro station with a train that took us just a block from our hotel.  I couldn’t get out of that car fast enough.  One of the officers gave us his phone number in case we had any trouble getting back, then saw us safely onto the train.  And my heart stopped trying to strangle me.

I woke up thinking about being scared this morning because I was afraid in my house last night.  We’re new to this neighborhood, and though it seems relatively safe, and the neighbors we’ve me have been friendly, we don’t really know much about it.  Naren told me last night that he hadn’t slept well the night before because he kept waking up to noises.  Our house is ridiculously creaky and makes some pretty loud noises, but we’ve been here two weeks and it hasn’t kept him up, so I was curious.  Apparently, he thought he heard the storm door open followed by a creak, and he thought someone was coming in.  He was rational enough to realize that if he didn’t hear more creaking, no one did come in, and he fell back to sleep.  But he heard it again.  He didn’t get up to investigate, I’m assuming because he didn’t have a weapon, and he told me that it occurred to him that we might be killed in our bed.  If that’s not a soothing bedtime story, right?  And I spent the rest of the night turning on lights unnecessarily and refused to go to bed without him.  I also locked the garage door, which wouldn’t keep anyone out, and triple checked the windows and doors.  Overreaction, perhaps, but irrational?  Okay, maybe a little bit.

I think society tells us it’s uncool to be scared, that if you show any reaction to fear, it’s an overreaction.  We’re taught that “strong” people aren’t afraid.  And that translates to people doing stupid things because they worry more about what other people will think than about their safety.  It leads us to be completely unprepared rather than look crazy.  And I think the fear leaks out in other areas of our lives, making some people mean, others obsessive or overly timid.  Most of the people I know don’t have a lot to really be afraid of, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t exercise caution or prepare for a disaster or occasionally leave extra lights on.

I Can’t Find My Running Shoes.

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Last week I agreed to participate in a “Biggest Loser” style weight loss competition. I signed up because two of my favorite cousins, both of whom inspire me to be better, are involved, and because I need the motivation. Most of the participants are going to weigh in weekly and share their numbers, but I’ve found that I get easily discouraged when the numbers on the scale do not immediately reflect my effort. Instead I asked my chiropractor, who is a real-food and fitness nut, to weigh me and make a note in my chart while I closed my eyes. I go in for an adjustment every couple of weeks to manage headaches, and I’m sure he’ll ask me about my progress and make suggestions.

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Wine at the Line 2012

One of the things I’m most proud of is that I earned this giant red t-shirt by run-walking a 5 mile race. Every time I see it, I think about how capable my body is, even when I’m not taking good care of it. My intention for that race was to run the entirety of a 5K, but my good friend, Paul, and I lined up for the 5 miler by mistake. I hadn’t trained very well, so we did a lot of walking, but I hadn’t even attempted a 5 mile distance before that, so I was really proud of myself at the end.  I’m also inspired by that red t-shirt. I’ve noticed that on days I wear it, I’m much more active. It’s hard to be lazy wearing a fitness “trophy”. Sot that’s my plan for getting healthy. Not wearing the red shirt every day, no, I’m looking for inspiration and putting it front and center whenever I can.

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I moved my back-up pair of athletic shoes (because I haven’t unearthed my regular pair from the moving mess) to the hearth, so I will see them every time I walk into the living room. I also put my magazine basket where it’s visible and with a running magazine at the front. It’s upside down, so every time I look at it, I see feet in running shoes.

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Junk food and some treats Naren’s mom sent us that are too good to be called junk!

I took this picture of the junk food we have in the house. I sent the candy to work with my husband, and threw away the pumpkin spice caramels left from my holiday care packages — I kept the whiskey and butter pecan ones because they’re too good to throw away (My cousin, Carrie, makes awesome soft caramels in various flavors to make some extra cash). I decided to physically separate the junk food by corralling it on top of the fridge. I don’t want to feel deprived while I change my lifestyle, but I do want to set myself up for success. If I have to pull down that basket every time I eat something unhealthy, that should be a good reminder.

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That says -14 degrees.

Since it’s too cold to get outside today, I took an exploratory trip to the basement to see what we have for exercising. There’s a big open room down there that is perfect to do one of the no-gym workouts that are all over pinterest. I also have a balance ball I’ve pretty much exiled that might come in handy, but I’m not sure where the legs for the trampoline are. That scale, I’m afraid, is destined for the garbage. I am just not inspired by the numbers.

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My favorite part of this plan is that we’re getting a dog. Naren noticed that when we dog-sit for our pal. Garth, I’m a much happier person. But we also noticed that I’m a lot more active. So we’re looking for a puppy or young dog with a lot of energy, who will need a walk/run every day. When you rent and don’t have a fenced yard, you can’t ignore an active dog in need of some exercise.

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Garth!

I’m not coming up with a fun name for these posts, but my plan is to write something every Monday about my health journey. I’ll post a picture in the same clothes (and probably with unattractive hair) and document how it’s going. One thing I learned when I did Weight Watchers is that I’m more likely to make healthy decisions when I’m actively discussing how things are going. If you’re inspired to make changes or share your strategies/struggles, please comment! I’d love to hear your insight or suggestions.

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January 6, 2014

Home Decor (or Where do I put all this stuff?)

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Do you know the word “criminetly”?  It’s the word that comes to mind when I realize I’m only about half way unpacked, and other than clothes, what I have left is basically knick-knacks.  Try explaining that word to my husband in the middle of packing, by the way.  Criminetly, according too the interwebs is an expletive indicating shock or disbelief.  Well, I didn’t realize I was cursing at you until I looked it up, but the disbelief part is certainly on target.  It makes me think of a little old man shaking his cane at some children, yelling, “Criminetly, you kids are making a racket!”  Or in my case, “Crimintely, is that another box of junk?”

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Ugh… Boxes in the spare bedroom.

So, criminetly!  We have a lot of small objects used for decoration.  That’s the Webster’s definition of knick-knacks, in case you didn’t know.  I spent about an hour last night filling my china cabinet.  China cabinets, at least the kind that your grandpa made for you, do not count as knick-knacks, but they sure do hold a lot of them.  The only thing we have more of than knick-knacks is drinking glasses.  Naren suggested we have a party to use all those glasses, but I don’t think we know enough people.

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This cabinet was an ugly wardrobe in my childhood bedroom. My mom’s dad turned it into a beautiful china cabinet when I was in high school.

We also have a lot of snapshots and smaller pictures.  In our apartment they were spread out throughout the house because I printed them as we bought frames for specific spots, but now we have different spots.  So I just put them all across the mantle, which is graced with a gigantic mirror.  I’m not sure I like it, but it does take the mirror down a notch, and I manage to not catch my reflection every time I enter the living room.

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That’s only half the mirror!

We have little treasures collected while traveling…

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The yellow box is from Fragonard (perfumery) in Paris, the plaid can had rock candy in it from Edinburgh, and the train is from the Henry Ford Museum in MI.

Slightly useful items we can’t quite give up, but don’t really want anyone to know we have…

That's a head massager I got at a Favorite Things Party and a Jagermeister lanyard Naren got at his bachelor party.

That’s a head massager I got at a Favorite Things Party and a Jagermeister lanyard Naren got at his bachelor party.

Things left over from college…

Naren's tassel from Wayne State and a wall hanging from my semester abroad.

Naren’s tassel from Wayne State and a wall hanging from my semester abroad.

Gifts from friends…

The little picture is a moving sand souvenir from Naren's friend Mansi and the flamingo is from my friend Karla (he lived on my desk for years at the bank and has seen many moves.  This time he lost a leg!)

The little picture is a moving sand souvenir from Naren’s friend Mansi and the flamingo is from my friend Karla (he lived on my desk for years at the bank and has seen many moves. This time he lost a leg!)

Naren and I both traveled and made great friendships and strong family bonds before we met.  We managed to collect a lot of things independently of each other.  Some of these things are beautiful or useful or tug at our heart strings, but most of them are not ours.  Most of them are either mine or his, mostly mine, and though we’re attached to them, they’re not a representation of who we are together.  Maybe it’s time to box up some of these things and leave them in the basement until we have the strength to give them up, so we have space in our home and our hearts for new things that are our things.

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We have a big basement that’s going to be put to use.

New Year, New… Me!

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Instead of resolutions this year, I’m making a couple of important commitments to myself. For the coming year I’m going to write on my blog at least 3 times a week. The posts may not all be long and probably won’t all be food-centric, but I started the blog as a writing exercise, and I want to give writing more of my time in 2014. Another commitment I’m making this year is to make healthy decisions.

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This morning we made the healthy decision to take a walk. It was great to get outside, but man is it cold! Naren and I are dog-sitting for our favorite Schnauzer, Garth, who enjoyed our walk so much that he’s napping. We’re looking for a dog to adopt, so Garth is great practice. Having a dog is another healthy choice; it’s hard to ignore an active pooch who needs to run!

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Over the last week, we’ve moved into a new house, still renting, but it’s starting to feel like home. As we unpack our boxes and shuffle things from one room to another, I’m struck by how much stuff we have. I’ve been struggling a lot with how much we accumulate and how much we throw away, and packing it all up to move (along with the resulting back pain) really makes me wonder how much of this we really need. I’m thinking about doing some serious streamlining.

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Of course if we’re going to streamline or downsize, I’m going to have to get rid of some kitchen stuff, and, well, that’s a lot easier said than done! Thank goodness we have a basement, or we’d be overflowing! Cooking in a kitchen-in-transition is not an easy feat, but we really wanted to start the new year with a home-cooked meal, so Naren’s making poha.

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Poha is a flattened rice. It’s soaked briefly then sauteed with onions and Indian spices. It’s really easy, but I can’t share the recipe because it’s one of the few things I don’t cook. Just kidding, I can’t find the camera to document the process, but Naren is our poha maker, and I want to keep it that way! It’s a great breakfast dish, but also fantastic for a quick, light meal anytime. I promise to have the hubby make this again, and I’ll take notes next time!

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In the mean time, I hope you’ll come with me on my healthy journey in 2014. Happy New Year to you and yours!