Monday, May 7, 2018

Clean Eating: Breakfast Edition

I thought I would start a series where I chat about my meals and what my typical day to day looks like when I'm in the zone and things are going well.  I got inspired to do this because I've seen a lot of crabbing about weight loss and calorie counting specifically.  I am honestly shocked at the amount of people who perceive calorie counting as something only miserable people with an eating disorder do.  While I understand that like anything in life, calorie counting can be abused, I've honestly found it very freeing and it's given me the best relationship I've ever had with food.  Counting calories is what allows me to fit in ALL of the types of things I love such as cheese, peanut butter, avocado, butter, etc but to keep the amounts reasonable.  I've picked up on a lot of patterns with my eating and have been able to make observations about eating certain things and how it impacts my energy/hunger levels that I don't know that I ever would have connected before.  I think people hear "calorie restriction" and start clutching their pearls, when really what we're (or at least I'm) saying is that we're restricting from eating 5,000+ calories a day!  I think back to when I used to bemoan that I simply "couldn't" lose weight, and if I mentally tally my day to day food back then, I know I was at minimum eating 4,000 to 5,000 a day without question, and doing barely any exercise.  I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, I just don't want people to be like I was in my 20's when I was willfully ignorant.

Anyway, sorry to get off on that little rant, I just kind of want to stick up for calorie counting since I read some stuff this week that made me PO'd!  I also want to show that you can eat really varied, vibrant meals while counting calories that certainly are not in the same realm of starving.  Oh and cheap!  My meals are typically pretty inexpensive, so I wanted to show you that yes, you can have healthy but affordable meals.

Right now in an order to really set good habits for myself and give myself the fuel I need to do my workouts, my focus has been on clean eating.  Just to recap, my view of clean eating is focusing on eating fresh, homemade food with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits.  Doesn't have to be organic, doesn't have to be gluten/dairy free, doesn't have to be a previously unknown superfood grown by monks on a south facing mountain top in the Andes, it just has to be wholesome food that isn't heavily processed or packaged.  I've got some minor stuff in there like canned coconut milk and peanut butter that I suppose you could argue is packed/processed, but eh.  Again, I don't have some big stressful playbook that I go by here.  Lean proteins, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and oils.  Pretty standard stuff.  Oh and my biggest rule?  To make meals I ENJOY eating!  There's no reason that clean eating has to mean bland, gross meals that make you sad.

I am not a huge breakfast person really, but find that the breakfast I do eat ends up setting the tone for the day.  It's probably my "lightest" meal of the day calorie wise, I try to get at least 250 calories, but may go as high as 450.  It really just depends on what workout I know I have coming up that day and my hunger levels.  Through food tracking (and just personal taste), I've discovered that having a savory breakfast with lots of vegetables tends to set me up for the most success and feeling of satisfaction.  Given those perimeters, typically my breakfasts during the week switch between egg dishes or oatmeal/oat bran.  Both are cheap but can be easily dressed up by changing the vegetables/fruit I use in them, so it's hard to get bored.

One of my favorite things I've been eating lately are microwave scrambles.  I love eggs and eat them so much that I'm surprised I haven't turned into one, but don't want to deal with making eggs during the week.  Then Budget Bytes posted this microwave scramble tutorial and totally changed my life!    Since then I've been alternating scrambles with oatmeal during the week, which prevents me from getting burned out on oatmeal.  They are so EASY to throw together to bring to work, and I also love how versatile these scrambles can be since you're really just using what you like and have on hand.  My scrambles are a bit bigger than Beth's because I take this opportunity to fit in a ton of vegetables (it's not out of the norm for me to use a whole bell pepper and 2 big fistfuls of spinach), and I usually use 3 eggs.  I also don't use the butter she has in her recipe, just because I find that it doesn't need it.  I typically add in heavier fatty components such as avocado on my really heavy lifting days, since I find that it helps me stay full and I won't be famished by the time I get home and do my workout.  If I include cheese, I keep it to a couple of tablespoons.

3 egg scramble with salsa, avocado, peppers, mushroom and cheese (450 calories)
That huge scramble was on a lower body lifting and HIIT day, which is why I upped my calories!

2 egg scramble with mushrooms, potatoes, onions and spinach (316 calories)

I typically pair my scrambles with a piece of fruit on the side, and that's my breakfast for the morning.  Those scrambles leave me really full and satisfied until lunch and have been a game changer when it comes to upping my veggie consumption for the day!

My other ride or die breakfast is oatmeal, and I alternate between steel cut oats and regular rolled oats.  Oatmeal is another great breakfast option because it's cheap as hell, easily portable and you really can dress it up with all kinds of spices and toppings to keep the variety factor going.  I find that oatmeal is the most satisfying to me when it has a little bit of a fat component, so long as you don't overdo it.  Peanut butter is a pretty standard topping for me, although I keep it to no more than a tablespoon typically.  Flax seeds are another good fat choice, and the toasted ones from Trader Joe's are especially tasty.  My new thing I've been rocking lately though is to drizzle oatmeal with a bit of canned coconut milk, the kind that you really have to stir the crap out of to get the coconut cream to mix into the water.  Besides the fact that it tastes really nice, it really ups the luxury factor on an otherwise boring breakfast.

Steel cut oats with a banana, peanut butter, honey, flax seeds and cinnamon (384 calories)

Steel cut oats with berries, honey and a drizzle of canned coconut milk (294 calories)

You'll note in the captions that those bowls of oatmeal had honey (sometimes I use maple syrup too), but I keep that to a scant 1/2 teaspoon.  To be honest, it grosses me out to have overly sweet oatmeal, so if I use sweetener at all, that's about it.  That plus the fruit make it sweet enough, especially if I use banana.

I don't have pictures of this, but I also really love oat bran and frequently eat it for breakfast, especially on rest/low impact days when I don't need as many calories.  It's low calorie and fast to make, but it's also incredibly filling.  Again it's not the most exciting thing in the world, but I find the texture very comforting, especially when my stomach is feeling wacky.  It reminds me of Cream of Wheat, which I used to love but gives me insane heartburn for whatever reason.  I even had oat bran in a pinch as a snack the other night when I was feeling hungry, and it almost immediately silenced my stomach and made me feel so full!  I don't get super fancy with it like I do oatmeal, I typically just season it with a pinch of salt and have fruit on the side.

And as a Southern girl, I do love my grits too.  They are very low calorie and have the same comfort factor to me as oat bran.  I love to sprinkle them with a tiny bit of cheese, or scramble a couple of eggs to have on the side.  Again, it's a good basic option on rest/low impact days.

So I know I said in the beginning that my version of clean eating doesn't exclude dairy, but you'll observe from these pictures that I don't eat a ton of dairy in the morning.  I just find that not only does it seem to wreck havoc with my stomach, but I suspect dairy is pissing off my skin too since I've noticed it's less red since I reduced the amount I eat.  It also comes down to that satisfaction factor, and yogurt/cottage cheese don't seem to keep me full as long.  If dairy doesn't give you issues, then Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit also make very inexpensive and low calorie breakfasts that you can easily take on the go!

I hope you liked getting a peek behind the curtain so to speak at my breakfasts.  I'll also be doing a post on my lunches and dinners!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Latourell Falls Wildflower Hike Recap

This is the first time in a long time I've had a fitness type "event" to recap, so I'm really excited!  Sunday we did the wildflower hike at Latourell Falls in the Gorge, and this was also the first guided hike we signed up for through Friends of the Columbia Gorge, so I was definitely really eager to see what the experience would be like.  Spoiler alert, it was awesome!

Latourell Falls is located in the Columbia River Gorge one of the very first of many waterfalls you'll hit as you drive down I-84 and I am ashamed to say that I've lived here about 16 years and have never once been to it.  I guess if the wildfire did anything, it's forced people to check out areas of the Gorge that they may not have before, I know that's definitely been the case for me.  Latourell is on the Historic Highway that runs parallel to 84, which I hadn't driven since last summer before the fire.  It was good to drive it again, it's honestly a bit of an engineering marvel, but I was really sad at points at how many scorched trees are there.  It's just a hard thing to witness.  There were also quite a few rocks in the road, which was a bit nerve wracking since rock slides are a major concern now that many of the trees are gone.  (In fact, there was one near where we were on Monday!)  We ended up getting there pretty early because we were worried about the parking situation, which can get gnarly around some of the waterfalls.  It gave us a good opportunity to get in some warm up stretches, and also check out the overlook for the lower falls!

After that, both of the hike leaders arrived, as did the rest of the group we were with.  A state park ranger led our hike (since I didn't ask her permission to have her name/photo shared, she will be referred to as M), and she was so awesome!  I am kind of dorky like this because I get oddly anxious about silly things, but having a ranger be there suddenly calmed down any remaining nerves I had.  It just felt very official and like we were in great hands, and we were!  There was also a really great volunteer who I'll call S who was walking at the back of the pack.  They were really awesome about making sure everyone was being safe and that everyone was always accounted for.  I am terrible at guessing crowd numbers, but I think we had about 10 people on our hike besides us?  We ended up being the youngest people besides M and S, but that's fine with me because we're kind of old souls anyway.  Everyone was just kind of quiet and about business on the hike, which I appreciated.

The forecast had rain, but M joked that she was holding the rain back until the hike was over, and wouldn't you know, it didn't rain a single drop the whole hike!  I mean it's Oregon, I was fully prepared to get rained on, but having the hike be dry was such a blessing.  The sun even popped out at several different points, and it just honestly made the hike magical.

We started off towards the upper falls, and M had given us these cute wildflower "bingo" cards where we could win prizes if we identified flowers in a certain order.  The cards were mainly helpful for identification.  I'm pretty good at identifying typical garden type flowers, but I definitely am hopeless in the native plants department.

One of the first things M pointed out to us was wood sorrel, which is edible.  I've passed this plant a million times out in parks and never realized that you could eat it!  Eric didn't try any but I was brave and took a stab at it.  I actually really liked it, it was immensely sour and a lot like lemon, but I'm very much about sour foods.

Yummy Sorrel!
We reached the upper falls, which were just absolutely gorgeous.  We were blown away by how close you could get to them.  They were running pretty strong, but we've had a lot of rain and snowfall this year.  The mist that was coming up felt very refreshing!

We continued on uphill and got several breathtaking views of the Gorge.  I have to admit, I've been in an Portland funk lately, just basically wondering if this city is still a good fit for me since there have been some immense changes to the city since I've moved that leave me kind of cold.  But we reached a view point that made me fall in love with Oregon again, hard.

The far away side is Washington, I'm standing in Oregon, and the mighty Columbia River is in the middle!

I realized it's just the city I'm mad at, and I can leave it and come look at this beauty anytime I want.  Maybe we could even retire out this way someday.  Regardless, I'd be pretty silly to leave this.

And I of course need to point out the star of the show, the wildflowers!  Since the spring has been pretty dark and wet they weren't in full bloom yet, but there were definitely plenty of pretty, delicate little flowers to be found.  I only captured a few of them since I was trying to balance taking photos with putting my phone away and just experiencing the sights around me.

Top Left to Right:  Bleeding Heart and Salmonberry
Bottom Left to Right:  Corydalis, Larkspur, False Solomon's Seal (?)
We also encountered quite a bit of stinging nettle, which I thankfully have never been stung by because I hear it's quite painful.  I have eaten it a few times before and it's very delicious.  I might have to bring some clippers next time and harvest some!

The entire hike was a little over two miles, and while I wouldn't classify it as difficult on any level, there were definitely a few points that made me thankful that I'd started back into strength training and have really been pushing my limits on what I'm lifting for my lower body exercises.  There were just a few uphills where I really had to pay attention to my footing and having lower body and core strength definitely helped.  (I was not sore the day after either, score!)

The hike ended earlier than we anticipated and we were still pretty pumped, so we did a little extra loop down to the lower falls, which again we were surprised at how close you could get to them.

Please excuse my fat thumb that messed up an otherwise amazing shot.  :(

After that we went and had lunch at Thunder Island Brewing, which is a bit of a drive up 84 but totally worth it.  They have a patio right next to the Columbia River, and it's so relaxing to sit out there, have a beer and watch the river.  

We had packed very light lunches and snacks for the hike in anticipation of maybe splitting an appetizer at Thunder Island, but we ended up just splitting a half of a PB sandwich and clementine on the hike, just kind of on the go.  That was enough to tide us over, and since the hike got over early we were able to have a proper lunch at Thunder Island so score!  They have really great food!

Then we ended the afternoon with an absolute must, a twist cone at the East Wind Drive In.  Best soft serve ice cream ever!

This was seriously the most fantastic, positive experience, and it made me so pumped and less nervous for the hike I'm doing with them in July.  I just felt really safe, immediately comfortable and welcome the whole time.  It's funny though, I felt the same way I did when I first started running and didn't know anything, like I didn't know what the hell you were supposed to wear or what kind of shoes to get.  I was definitely eyeing M, S and all of the people on our hike to see the types of gear they had.  Working out at home means I can wear whatever, so I don't have a ton of compression wear or workout gear anymore.  I also workout barefoot because I just feel steadier when I lift that way, so even my running shoes are ancient.  I'm definitely going to have to start getting some proper pieces of clothing and shoes.  My zero drop New Balances were fine for a smaller 2 mile trail but are definitely not going to hack Cape Horn.

If you live here, I cannot encourage you enough to check out Friends of the Columbia Gorge's site not only for their guided hikes, but simply for the wealth of information they have on ALL the hikes on both the Oregon and Washington side of the Gorge.  They are really kind, knowledgeable, and their love for the Gorge is so evident.  If you plan on visiting Oregon and are interested in hiking, it's a great resource as well!  They are doing fantastic work along with the Trailkeepers of Oregon, so definitely give them some love and support.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Post Vacation

So we've been back from Cleveland for a bit, and things are on an upswing right now for the first time in awhile.  I'm sure you guys could tell from my posts, but before we went to Cleveland, I was still in the midst of a major downswing, and was feeling very uninspired and lost.  I didn't realize how bad the fog was until we were in another city and out of our routine.  It was nice to be in a different city, trying new restaurants, experiencing museums I haven't seen before and meeting new people as well.  I felt like my brain and body was awake for the first time in awhile, and I quietly resolved to bring that energy and momentum back here to Oregon.

The first and obvious thing this trip did for me was to give me new energy, passion and perspective on my Rock Hall project.  Sometimes it's hard to do this project in a vacuum with only Eric to talk to about it, and frankly I have an uphill battle with this artist and know it, so it's hard sometimes to continue being excited.  I'd hit a couple of snags with it where I felt like I failed and I'd failed the artist I was championing, and it really threw me into such a state that I wasn't sure I was even going to continue doing it.  But being in the middle of the Rock Hall excitement with our friends who get it, sharing stories/opinions about our experiences and also pairing that with reading a newer biography on my artist gave me new life.  It struck me how this person's friends and family are still deeply affected by and still love this person (who unfortunately passed away some time ago), so it gave me the push and reason I needed to keep going.  One of my biggest hangups was feeling like no one cared that I was doing this, but there are definitely people that care, and I need to keep going for them.  I definitely have more fire in the belly about it than before, and since we've gotten back I've been faithful about posting on my Twitter/Facebook again and creating a new vision for my project.  It's nice to have something creative to work on!

I also came back with a fresh attitude towards my eating habits, which have been fair to poor the last few months.  While we did some good eating in Cleveland certainly, being there actually put me in a more mindful state towards my health than I had been.  Eric and I were pretty good about splitting meals so that portions were reasonable and trying to make the best choices possible.  We kept breakfast very small and low key every day, usually just opting for cereal and fruit.  Lunches for me were also modest.  We had drinks, but would limit it to 1-2 beers (except for our Rock Hall Watcher dinner).  We also walked a TON.  Our hotel was a few blocks from the Rock Hall, so we just walked instead of cabbing or Lyfting, we were doing lots of walking around the museums and just in general were active and on the go the entire time.  I even managed a low impact Fitness Blender workout on the first day we were there!  By the end of the trip, my pants were actually fitting more comfortably than when we arrived, which really gave me the push I needed to keep the momentum rolling.

Since I've gotten back, I've thrown myself into making sure that I'm eating clean as possible.  I know "clean eating" is a touchy subject and there are a million definitions of it for people to argue over.  For me personally, it's just about making sure that I'm eating fresh, wholesome foods, that I'm making homemade meals a majority of the time and not relying on processed packaged foods or eating out.  I don't stress about everything being paleo, organic, gluten free, vegan/vegetarian or any of that, I just mainly focus on exactly what foods I'm filling up on.  It's just more about being sensible and focusing on nutrition.  Yesterday morning was a good example, I made scrambled eggs for breakfast.  While I could have paired them with an English muffin, I decided the better choice was a cup of sauteed mushrooms and a half cup of bell pepper.  There's nothing wrong with English muffins or any bread, but I know it's better for me to fill up on vegetables instead, plus I was taking into account that I was making BBQ bean sliders for dinner, which involved bread.  I just generally try not to have a huge calorie hit thing like that 2 meals in a row.  Anyway what I'm saying is, I'm just trying to be much more mindful.  I am logging calories again just for observation more than anything, and my focus on vegetables and fruits definitely allows me to eat more food, and who doesn't love eating more? 

And finally, fitness.  Being so active in Cleveland woke me the hell up y'all.  I didn't realize how little I was moving here at home until I was in a situation where we barely stopped moving, and you know what, it felt really good.  I felt like my blood was pumping, my brain was awake and just generally felt more alive.  I've carried back that spirit of just simply getting up and moving around back here to Oregon.  The weather is getting better, so it's easier to take our usual walks, so I average a mile or two a day of walking here.  I started a second round of Fitness Blender's newest strength training program, FB Strong, and have been putting full effort into it.  I've still got annoying pockets of fat that have built up from being a slug since December (belly and thighs as always), but they are slowly shrinking with a healthier diet and lifting.  The batteries in my scale broke, and I honestly DGAF about replacing it right away.  I know I'm doing what I need to do.

I had a crazy moment this week, one of my goals for 2018 was to be able to comfortably deadlift 70 pounds by the end of the year.  Right now I am able to do one set of 60 pounds, and even though it's a struggle, I can tell that with some persistence it won't be long before I can do two full sets.  Anyway I had a moment when I was struggling to pull up the weights that I've lost about 60 pounds from my original weight, and I was pulling up that very amount right in that moment.  It felt difficult.  It was uncomfortable.  And it made me freaked out and suffocated because I realized I used to just have that weight on me all the time.  Setting those weights down when my set was done was a relief, and it was a reminder to never, ever get in a place again where I have weight on me that I can't simply just set down.

Anyway, I'm just feeling really good and focusing on all of the life giving things in my world, and being grateful.  I've got an amazing husband who loves me and we have so many adventures together.  Our dog, who we love despite the fact she's an asshole, is incredibly healthy and doing well at 10 years old.  My project is going well.  The weather is shaping up.  I was able to plant a bunch of flowers and vegetables in our backyard.  We've got long awaited/wanted home improvement projects in the works.  Life is getting much better.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cleveland Trip Part 4: Brunch in The Flats

Home stretch people!  Thanks for hanging in there.

On Sunday we met up with our friend Maria down in the Flats of Cleveland for brunch.  We've known Maria for about 5 years now, and met her through a Facebook group for greyhound owners back when we first adopted Molly.  She is really awesome, funny and has the same taste in music, so we've just bonded really well over the years.  We met her in person for the first time back in 2015 and it was a blast, so of course we wanted to make time to see her again.  Eric and I joked that every time we come to Cleveland, we jump in the car with someone we only internet know.  But seriously.

I didn't know much about The Flats, but it sounds like the typical, it was the hip happening place "back in the day", then fell into disrepair, and now is back on the upswing.  Eric researched some places and settled on this place called Collision Bend Brewing because of their nice looking brunch.

They seated us in this closed in patio right next to the Cuyahoga River and it was so relaxing!  Again, a brunch place like this in Portland with any kind of cool view would be impossible to get into on a Sunday, but we got right in there and it was also super mellow.  I was obsessed with those smoke stacks when we were there, they look just like the ones on the Pink Floyd Animals album!  The blue bridge (sorry locals, I didn't catch the name) was really cool too.

I normally opt for savory breakfasts, but their baked French toast sounded so amazing that decided on that, and it was definitely the right choice.  The custard part of it wasn't too sweet, and it also had Nutella and berries in it.  It was so delicious!  Their Bloody Mary's were also very tasty.

We had a great time catching up with Maria, who was then kind enough to drive us over to the West Side Market to check it out.  I really was dumb and not on my picture game Sunday, I regrettably barely have any photos from the market.  It was this amazing indoor market similar to Pike Place with stands ranging from spices to meat to cheese to baked goods.  I honestly could have walked around there for hours.  If I lived in Cleveland, I'd be there every week shopping!  Maria bought me a kolache cookie to try, but sadly it was a bit shoulder shrugging.  For whatever reason the baker had them super refrigerated, so I don't think they were as good as they could have been.  Eric bought these fruit filled Russian tea cakes that were pretty amazing though!

If you're a foodie and in Cleveland, definitely take the time to stop and walk through the West Side Market!

After that we went to a bar called Town hall to have one last cocktail.

 I have to admit, I was feeling a bit crispy by this point.  On top of the whirlwind trip and the ceremony, I had another case of insomnia on Saturday night, even after the ceremony.  Super frustrating but yeah, the trip started catching up with me.  The bar was super loud (one of the Cavs playoff games was going on) so I was definitely anxious to kind of power down back in the hotel room.  We finished up our drinks, got back to our hotel and just chilled awhile.

The weather was really rotten again that night, and instead of going out to eat, we decided to get Chinese and have it delivered to our hotel room.  I know that doesn't sound exciting, but it sadly was pretty novel for us, because we live in an area where the delivery options are pretty limited and also quite expensive.  Being able to get cheap Chinese food delivered to our hotel room was kind of mind blowing!  Also, for whatever reason we don't have the big NYC style egg rolls here in Oregon, just the little tiny spring rolls.  I'm not sure why that is, but he and I both really miss the big ones, and this place had them!

It was honestly the perfect way to end a very busy trip, just staying cozy and dry in our hotel room, eating delicious Chinese food and watching "Step Brothers", ha ha.

Anyway, that was our trip.  It definitely was a really wonderful break and helped changed my perspective and outlook on things.  I am eager to write about what's been going on since we got back!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cleveland Trip Part 3: Induction Ceremony

Okay, we're in the home stretch here.  Sorry for the delay!  I'm going to try to hurry up with the next 2 recaps so I can talk about present day again!

So I have to admit, Saturday didn't start off on the best note for me.  My insomnia decided to rear its head Friday night when I went to bed, and I didn't get to sleep until about 3:30/4 am on Saturday morning, then was up at 7 am.  That...sucked.  Like majorly.  I was freaking out because we had a busy day ahead of us, including the ceremony, which was likely going to clock in at anywhere from 4.5 to 6 hours.  We'd wanted to go to a different museum that morning, something like the Science museum that's there by the Rock Hall, but decided to just dial it back a notch.  We had a small bit of the breakfast downstairs, took our time getting ready, then decided to gear up to have lunch at around noon.  We spontaneously texted our friend N to see if he wanted to meet us for lunch since it was going to be the last opportunity to see him.  Thankfully he was done with his own Rock Hall museum walkaround and was able to meet up, so we just all went to Masthead Brewing again.

We had a nice time chatting about our favorite exhibits at the museum, speculating about what we thought would happen at the ceremony that night and just assorted Rock Hall nerd stuff that I won't bore you with.  After that Eric and I went back to the hotel and I pretty much went back to bed in order to get some semblance of rest before the ceremony.  In the midst of our nap, the weather decided to take a complete dump and started POURING!  It was crazy.

The Cleveland ceremonies are held at Public Hall, which is a really pretty venue if you've never been.  It's a bit small considering the event, but is a really nice place regardless.

We ended up freaking out when we saw where our seats were, which were in a VIP section pretty damn close to the stage!  I guess some fancy VIP person thought they'd be happier making cash off the tickets than going to the ceremony.  Whatever the case, we were pretty pumped because we had a great view of the room, and hilariously, the teleprompter.

Just in case you weren't sure or wanted a refresher on this year's class, it was the following artists:

  • Bon Jovi
  • The Cars
  • Dire Straits
  • The Moody Blues
  • Nina Simone
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe

I will be honest, I wasn't completely jazzed about this year's class apart from Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  I can't stand the Dire Straits, The Moody Blues don't do much for me, Bon Jovi is complicated for me.  I was neutral about The Cars.  My "decades" are primarily 50s/60s and then jump to 90's.  I enjoy music from the 80's, but it's not the decade I'm passionate about.  But, the ceremonies always have something to love, so I just rolled with it all.

So to back up to Bon Jovi...I have very complicated feelings surrounding them, probably far more complicated than any one person should allow an 80's hair metal bad to hold over them, but here we are.  I was HUGELY into them when I was young, then my interest waned for the most part after the Keep The Faith album.  I was kind of mildly surprised they were inducted frankly.  They are too big of a band to ignore, it's not that I don't think they should be inducted, but I do think they should have waited.  There are pretty fundamental rock "building blocks" bands who have not been inducted who are far more deserving to be in the front of the line frankly.  And straight up, Jon Bon Jovi has acted like a spoiled asshole throwing a tantrum for YEARS about them not being in.  While we were here they visited the museum, and Jon gave a speech that ended with, "It's about f**king time."  Um first of all, you are standing next to the Moody Blues, who I don't like but are important to music.  They have been together and touring for 50 years and are just now getting in so, let's maybe calm down.  Secondly, I've seen many a "tough" artist get up there and express a heart melting amount of humility and gratitude over being inducted, so what's up with the chip on your shoulder?  Entitlement is not a good look Jon, for real.

So the ceremony was over 4 hours long and it's going to air on HBO on May 5th, so I will just condense some personal highlights/observations for me so this post doesn't yammer on for 5 years.

Ceremony Highlights

The ceremony opened with The Killers playing Tom Petty's "American Girl" and it was AMAZING.  They did a great job with it and it was a very heartfelt moment!

Bon Jovi's induction was rough.  Howard Stern did the inducting, and I know it's his thing, but he was very crass and insulting and just gave this uncomfortable speech.  It was seriously the most entitled crap of how it was the most unjust thing ever that Bon Jovi hadn't been inducted until now and was just a whole casserole of nonsense.  I have a pretty low brow sense of humor, I love things like South Park and Family Guy, and I most definitely have a foul mouth.  It's not like I'm a prude.  But I also have a sense of time and place and audience and yeah, Howard didn't do much for me.  Then the band got up, did their speeches (Jon gave a 20 minute speech that was basically his entire Wikipedia page and life story, WTF) and played.  Their set unfortunately sounded pretty terrible.

So I was tepid about The Cars getting in but holy SHIT their set was amazing.  They sounded fantastic and were a ton of fun.  I knew Eric was super excited to see them play, so I was happy for him in general, but even I was pretty blown away about how great they were.  Brandon Flowers inducted them and gave a very sweet and heartfelt speech that I really enjoyed.

The Sister Rosetta Tharpe set was seriously one of the best moments of the night.  Now, a lot of people are not aware of Sister Rosetta, but she is incredibly important to rock and roll, and I highly encourage you to check her music out.  She was the first black woman to play electric guitar (in the 30's and 40's no less!) and influenced Elvis, Johnny Cash and Little Richard, among many others.  She was simply amazing.  Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes inducted her and also played one of her songs, and it was so sassy and joyful.  Felicia Collins also took a song and was pretty incredible.

Biggest highlight of the night...the Nina Simone set.  Mary J. Blige, who I love dearly, inducted her.  Nina's brother got up and accepted the award on her behalf, and gave a really inspiring speech (and also threw some delightful shade at Bon Jovi). Andra Day and in a surprise move, Lauryn Hill performed on her behalf.  They announced Lauryn Hill at the last minute and I seriously about peed myself when they announced it, because I love her.

Andra Day though, my god.  You guys need to 100% watch this video I'm about to link, because she not only has one of the most amazing, otherworldly voices, but her performance was very sexy in the most classy, sultry way.   I was just totally entranced by her.  That wail she did at the end as she falls to her knees took everyone's breath away!  I hope they don't cut this on the HBO broadcast, because it was hands down one of the most powerful performances of the night.

And Lauryn Hill, total swoon.  First of all, she looked absolutely, positively gorgeous in this big insanely poofy dress.  It was definitely like a queen taking the stage.

The first part of her set was a bit rough, it seemed like she was having issues with her monitors, but it quickly smoothed out.  Her performance of "Feeling Good" was exquisite.

Okay, that's it for the ceremony.  The next recap will be meeting up with a friend in the Flats, and then I promise I'm done!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Cleveland Trip Part 2: Rock Hall Watcher Meetup

Friday was...intense.  It was all in a good way, but it was definitely an action packed day.  First of all, it was our original planned day to go to the museum, but since we spontaneously covered a lot of it Thursday, we needed less time there, plus we were going to decide whether to pull the trigger on going for ceremony tickets, and we were meeting for the first time in person a group of people we affectionately refer to as the "Rock Hall Watchers".

The first part of our day was the museum, so after hitting up the hotel breakfast (shout out to Hampton Inn and the free breakfasts!), we headed out to the museum to cover the remaining two floors we missed the night before.  I could post a million pictures obviously, but just selected a handful.  One of the things we had the most fun playing around with were these voting booths where you could name an artist you wanted nominated, then they show a leader board with a vote tally.

I was pretty pleased about Def Leppard, and I was also happy for Janet Jackson (I am friendly with the person running her campaign, so I was tweeting him updates!)  I gotta say though, 80 people voted for Blink-182??  Just to put this in perspective, we're talking about bands who shaped and molded music/culture, and 80 people think Blink-182 is in that conversation.  I don't mean to be mean, but yeah.  Also, they're not even eligible yet so we can all slow our roll on that.

One of the newest and the most impressive things they've done was the new theater they built called the Connor Theater.  It currently shows a film about the Rock Hall inductions that was directed by the late, great Jonathan Demme, and it was by far the highlight of the museum.  I don't want to give too much away, but it was so incredible.  It's hard to describe, but it was this immersive experience with a lot of lights, the seats kind of vibrated to give you the feeling of being at a rock concert, and of course they picked the most emotionally charged and joyful induction moments to display.

You remember that Prince/Tom Petty moment I was telling you about?  Well, they play a big chunk of that moment during this film, and true to form I started crying in the middle of the damn movie.  Thankfully I was not the only one, Eric told me later that it made him very emotional and upset, and our friends who saw it later said that it was a total gut punch.  Basically, I'm trying to justify being a big old softie baby!

When you exited the theater, they had a lot of cool memorabilia and murals along the walls, including this very dramatic one of Tupac, who I really love.  I like that they had these great photos with part of the induction speeches on them. 

The other big exhibit on the very top floor was about the 50 year anniversary of Rolling Stone magazine.  I had mixed feelings about it.  I do love the magazine, but Jann Wenner who runs it (and was up until recently involved with the Rock Hall) is a gross jerk to say the least.  But I guess you can't punish the magazine for it, and it really has been a cultural touchstone for many years.  Anyway, the coolest part was this room with these amazing lit up Rolling Stone covers.

After the museum we headed out to lunch at this neat little brewery called Noble Beast Brewing.  We each got a very small 10 ounce beer, I chose a Smoked Kellerbier, and really enjoyed it!  In the name of restraint I chose a grilled chicken, apple and arugula salad for lunch and REALLY enjoyed it too.  It was very fresh and flavorful.  Once again, Cleveland was nailing it with food and beer.

After that we went back to the hotel to determine what we were going to do about ceremony tickets, and whether we were going to pull the trigger to get them, or simply enjoy being in Cleveland.  Long story short, playing chicken paid off, and ticket prices had dropped literally about $800 since that morning and were almost at face value, so we just took the plunge and got them.  We scored some "restricted view" tickets that were close to the stage, but we were at peace with just being in the room.

So, this brings us to the Rock Hall Watchers.

Both Eric and I have hobby projects related to the Rock Hall, mine being a campaign to get a certain artist inducted.  I have mentioned my project vaguely before, and will likely continue to keep the specifics vague.  It's not to try to be mysterious or coy, I promise.  Besides the fact that I want to keep people's focus on the artist and not me, there are just several reasons why I don't want to be "out", mainly because there are some crazies out there.  Thankfully in my two years of doing this my positive interactions have far outweighed the bad, but there were definitely a few situations in the beginning that scared the shit out of me enough to want to stay anonymous.  But overall, it's been a blast, I've met some cool people associated with the artist and my campaign has gotten popularish as time has gone on.  It's definitely been crazy.

I have to brag on Eric over his Rock Hall project, which he graciously gave me the green light to share and is far more interesting than mine!  He writes a blog with Rock Hall analysis and a lot of great think pieces called  Again if you love music, I highly encourage you to check out his blog, he is an amazing writer (he used to be an music editor!) and really writes the best in depth pieces.  I'm so proud of him, because he's really become one of the main blogger voices out in the Rock Hall world, which leads me to talk about the Rock Hall Watchers!  Believe it or not, we are not the only fiercely nerdy people who care far too much about the Rock Hall, in fact there is a whole group of us that fall into 3 categories:  bloggers (like Eric), people with an induction campaign (like me), and just general commenters.  I'm touched at how much the induction campaigns all support each other, mainly because we each know just how much work goes into advocating for someone, and we all kind of prop each other up.  The bloggers are also very supportive of us too, and we've really bonded with this crazy little community out there on Twitter over the last 5 years or so.  When discussions around 2018 started coming up, we decided to see if anyone wanted to meet up for dinner on Friday night.  The main "one ring to rule them all" blogger guy who everyone looks up to, and who we've talked to the most, agreed immediately.  (I will henceforth refer to him as N, because he wants to keep his privacy.)  Long story short, we assembled a handful of people who wanted to all go to dinner and meet in person for the first time. 

In the midst of us getting Rock Hall tickets, N started texting us to ask if we would like to check out the Cleveland Museum of Art.  We were surprised and didn't expect to see him until the dinner that night, also keep in mind we had not met him in person yet, but we decided what the hell.  So before we knew it, we jumped into a car with a guy we had been talking to for roughly 5 years, but had never met.  To be honest, we didn't even know what he looked like until about a week beforehand.  Like I said, this trip was crazy and we are crazy.  It was very weird on some levels, but on other levels, when you meet someone you talk to that much and is such a part of your life, there is a comfort level with them that's hard to explain.  He ended up being a really lovely, smart guy, and I think the 3 of us pretty instantly bonded from the moment we actually met.

Going into this trip we didn't expect to squeeze in something like the art museum, but I am SO glad we did.  It is an absolutely beautiful museum, and HUGE!  We had a great time walking around and looking at all the beautiful art pieces, they had a much more impressive curation than Portland's.  I'd like to go back, because I feel like we barely even covered a quarter of what they offered!  After walking around the museum the three of us all grabbed coffees and walked around the campus, just to kind of get to know each other and talk about our various projects.  The weather was beautiful that day too, so I really enjoyed just walking around.  We finally all parted ways so that we could get cleaned up and get ready for the official Rock Hall Watcher dinner.

For dinner we went to the Tremont neighborhood and hit up the Tremont Tap House.  (Spoiler alert, yes we seemed to exclusively eat at breweries, lol.  We didn't plan it that way, it just kind of happened!)  We showed up and then N wasn't far behind, so the three of us had a great opportunity to chat a lot more regarding our projects, what music is important to us and just basically Rock Hall related stuff.  N and Eric bonded forever over their love of Queensryche, which was equally adorable and amusing, so I'm glad that poor Eric has someone to share that with!  The rest of our party showed up, another blogger named M and several of her friends.  I think we ended up having 8 or 9 people there?  A couple of people were no shows, which was a bummer, but is just kind of how these things go.  M was just as cool, and we ended up almost closing down the place we all stayed so long and talked.  I am usually very nervous in large groups like that, but I was pretty instantly comfortable with everyone, plus we all have this common love of music and the Rock Hall.  There was never a lag in the conversation, and we were all laughing a ton.  I really enjoyed everyone's company!

This was the one misstep foodwise we had all weekend.  The food was just okay (although I tried perogies for the first time, and they were delicious).  Tremont's food wasn't mindblowing sadly, Eric and I split a very mediocre mushroom pizza, although their beers were really good.  It was fine though, we had such a good time that the food hardly mattered.  It wasn't bad, just kind of underwhelming.  I should have tried something like their tacos, which did look amazing.

Anyway that was basically the end of our very long, very tiring but awesome Friday!  Stay tuned for part 3, which will be about the actual induction ceremony!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cleveland Trip Part 1: Hello Cleveland!

I am currently recuperating from our Cleveland trip, which was a marvelous, emotionally restorative and physically exhausting trip!  There is so much to cover that I'm going to have to break up everything by day, but the trip was so wonderful that I really did want to recap everything we did and saw.

Longtime readers may know, but both Eric and I are very passionate about music, and are especially obsessed with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  We've always mildly kept tabs on the Rock Hall inductions, but the hobby became a full fledged obsession after we went to our first in person Rock Hall induction ceremony in 2012 in Cleveland.  After that we swore we'd try to come back to Cleveland whenever the ceremonies are held there (every 2 years), and we've held to that!  We went to Cleveland in 2015 and then went to this year's ceremony.

A lot of people like to bag on Cleveland, but honestly we really like the city and always have the best time when we go back there.  I don't really understand the snark about it!  There are a lot of cool neighborhoods, laid back bars, amazing museums and history there, so we like it and the Cleveland haters can suck it basically!

This trip is probably the most crazy concert stunt we've pulled to date because for the first time ever, we flew to Cleveland without ceremony tickets in our possession.  We actually got shut out of all of the membership presales AND the public on sale to the ceremony due to the absolutely insane Bon Jovi fans.  To put this into perspective, I got tickets to our 2012 ceremony (with Donovan, GnR, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys) in about 10 minutes flat, and the 2015 ceremony (where Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr sang together) in 15 or so minutes.  Somehow, because people are strange, Bon Jovi managed to cause an almost immediate sellout over a reunion of the two living Beatles.  I don't know whether to be in awe or cry.  ANYWAY, we'd already booked flights and a hotel for Cleveland since we had never had an issue getting tickets and didn't anticipate or dream we'd get shut out being that we've been members of the Rock Hall since 2012.  Once we did, we decided to take a gamble and fly to Cleveland without ceremony tickets and play chicken with Stub Hub sellers to see if they'd drop ticket prices before the ceremony.  It was a huge gamble given the number of Bon Jovi fans lusting for the tickets, and given the fact that the Stub Hub sellers had $100 tickets listed for $8,000.  Yes again, this was all due to Bon Jovi.  We had a lot of other stuff going on and friends we were meeting, some related to our Rock Hall projects, so we figured even if we didn't get into the ceremony we could just explore Cleveland and be grateful to be on vacation together at the very least.

I won't bore you with our flight details other than it was early as hell, everything was on time, and I made these bomb ass breakfast boxes to take with us on our flight.  I highly recommend taking a nice homemade meal on the plane with you, it was good to start the trip off on a healthy note.  I just included a ham and cheese sandwich on an English muffin, a banana, a clementine and grapes.  Those Fitpacker cases are pretty awesome (you can find them on Amazon), easy to stash in your carry on and kept our bananas from getting squashed!

Who needs a plane snack box?!
We landed around 2 in the afternoon Cleveland time, and by the time we got to our hotel, freshened up and put away our things, we were definitely ready for a bit of dinner!  Eric did quite a bit of research on some of the up and coming breweries near the hotel, so we struck out to Masthead Brewing for a really early dinner.

So here's the thing I really appreciate about Cleveland.  You can walk into any cool, hip place and just sit your ass down with no waiting.  The traffic is also immensely easier to deal with.  With Portland, it's like planning D-Day sometimes to determine the right time to get to a restaurant before it gets insane.  Masthead was a REALLY cool place, I wish I'd taken pictures of the inside of it, because it was this giant space with tons of natural light and was very relaxing.  If that place were in Portland, it would be blown out with an hour waiting time and packed to the gills with hipsters and toddlers.  But with Masthead we walked right in, saddled up to the bar and got our food ordered.

Mushroom pizza at Masthead Brewing
We were so hungry that we each got one of their pizzas, though we probably should have just split one, plus we shared their goat cheese and pistachio stuffed dates, which were absolutely heavenly.  I got their mushroom pizza, and Eric got the pesto pizza.  Both were really delicious, and I was beyond impressed with their beer too.  If you find yourself in Cleveland, we definitely recommend Masthead, I was pretty impressed with the food.  We had a great time just relaxing and talking, and of course, eating.

Eric pointed out that we were really close to the Rock Hall museum and that the Moody Blues were doing an interview there that night that we could likely catch, plus the museum was going to be open until 9 pm.  Now I have to say, I'm not exactly in love with the Moody Blues, but I was high on pizza, beer and vacation excitement, so I agreed we should walk down and see if we could get into the museum.  We definitely needed to walk after that meal!  The weather was also gorgeous on both Thursday (the day we got there) and Friday.  We were practically dancing down the street, we'd forgotten what it felt like to walk around when it is sunny and warm!  It was probably about 70 degrees with a soft breeze blowing, it was heavenly!

So if you are a music lover, you 100% need to put the Rock Hall museum on your bucketlist, you cannot leave this Earth without experiencing it.  It's one of the most incredibly well curated museums I've ever been to, and you can tell that an immense amount of love and care is taken with every exhibit.  As just a spoiler alert, the museum is so big that it took us two trips to cover everything in it, that's how much there is to see.  It's truly one of our favorite places, we both just get instantly giddy and excited walking through the doors!  This year they had added this fantastic art piece outside that said "Long Live Rock" that we took roughly a million pictures with.

Pardon my plane hair that was in the midst of freaking out over the humidity!

Since we're members we get in free, which worked out really well for us this trip.  We were able to get in, but the Moody Blues event was pretty blown out, so we decided to just cover half of the museum that night, then cover the remaining exhibits the next day.  Again, there are so many exhibits that if you ever go to the Rock Hall, you're really going to want to plan to either spend at least 4 hours there, or to split your visits into 2 trips, which is what we ended up doing.  We covered pretty much the lower two levels of the museum, which is no small feat.  They had done a lot of exhibit change ups since we were there last, so it was like a brand new place!  It's hard to pick a favorite part, but they had a really great section on Hendrix, plus a really nice exhibit on music by region (Detroit, Los Angeles, London, etc) and their impact to music.  Oh and it was crazy, they had this huge section of Michael Jackson memorabilia with THE glove!  That was definitely new.

One of the things that touched me the most oddly was that they had a case of Prince memorabilia next to a case with one of Tom Petty's jackets.  Besides the fact that they are two of my favorite musicians and they are terribly missed, to me it was especially poignant because there is this great induction ceremony moment between them when they inducted George Harrison.  I posted the video to it below, but basically Prince burns the building down into rubble with one of the most incredible guitar solos that EVER existed, and there is just this sweet moment where he and Petty are just grinning at one another and clearly having the best time playing.  I cannot watch it without getting emotional, which I know sounds silly, but it really is a very powerful and awe inspiring performance.  (Also, keep this video in your mind for my Day 2 recap, because it comes around again.)  Anyway, I am not sure if they planned having the two cases together, but it felt very special.

We were at the museum from about 6:15 to almost 9 pm when suddenly the long day of travel hit us, so we headed back to our hotel to get some rest before the very much anticipated busy Friday we had ahead of us.  I'll end here on that note!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

March, Out Like a Lamb

Lord almighty, so much time has already passed!  March was a really interesting month for me, most of it very positive.  I kind of broke things up by topic like I did in my last post, for some reason it's easier for me to keep things straight!

Old Friends

So this month was great on the level of me getting out and about more.  For January and most of February I was in full hiding mode, but I put myself out there in March and was a bit more social.

One of my other old coworkers texted me asking if we wanted to come to their house to watch the Oscars.  Truthfully my first instinct was to say no, because that's been my instinct towards everything for months, but then I reminded myself that I've got to stop hiding.  I've just got to get back out there and be around the people who care about me, and who I care about.  So I said yes, and we had the most marvelous time!  I hadn't seen him in almost a year, and hadn't seen his wife in like THREE years I think, so it was really great to catch up with them.  I felt a lot lighter and happier afterwards, so thanks A for inviting us over!  I also got a lot of clamor to resurrect my annual Oscar party, which I haven't held in a few years.  Maybe, we'll see.  ;)

Later in the month I put out an invite to a bunch of my old coworkers to meet up at a local pub, just basically whoever could make it.  We ended up having 8-10 people show up, some who I hadn't seen in years and we had SO much fun!!  It was so great catching up with everyone, having some laughs, sharing memories of the "old days" at work and that kind of thing.  (We had a rock star of a server too, she took great care of us despite the bar being insanely busy!) 

Gorge Hikes

And for the first time in awhile, I've got some stuff going on on the fitness front! I am sure you guys remember me talking about the devastating Eagle Creek fire and how it destroyed much of the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge last August.  I donated to the Friends of the Columbia River Gorge in order to help with recovery efforts, which automatically made me a member.  A few weeks ago I got a catalog from them with updates on the trails, plus a list of the upcoming guided hikes (most of these will be on the Washington side, which wasn't damaged) they had scheduled.  I was intrigued, so while Eric went up to call his mom to chat, I decided to pour a glass of champagne and browse the hikes they were offering.  Such a mistake.  Or maybe not.

Every hike honestly sounded like heaven, and the more I was reading (and drinking), the more pumped up I got about it.  I've overthought everything so much in the last year that I decided, screw it.  I'm going to sign Eric and I up for one of the easy hikes, so I choose a two miler at Latourelle Falls (Oregon side, but the fire didn't get quite that far) on April 29th.  It's pretty cool, because it's specifically to look at the wildflowers that will be blooming and of course the waterfall itself is gorgeous too.  But...I kept browsing.  And I saw a guided hike in July for the Cape Horn Loop, which is an 8 mile hike on the Washington side of the Gorge that's supposed to be pretty phenomenal.  It's on a Friday.  I'd have to take a PTO day.  I'd have to go by myself.  I kept agonizing.  And I kept looking at it.  And after glass #2 of champagne, I signed up for it.

This is so out of my comfort zone in every way, yet it's something I'm really excited about.  I've really wanted to do a longer hike for awhile, but didn't want to do it by myself, so having it be in a group will be nice since it feels a bit safer.  I knew something this long (and I think it's also a more strenuous hike) wouldn't be Eric's cup of tea, so I just decided to take this plunge and take a me day.  I am very nervous about meeting strangers and also driving by myself to Washington, but also so happy to have this experience. means I need to get my shit together physically because it's a freaking 8 mile hike in July!  My running days are behind me, but I have to admit, it's nice to have an event to work towards and train for.  I miss the process, but not the running part.  Anyway, I've been pretty good with my workouts this month and have gotten back into lifting.  I definitely could and will do better, especially when it comes to diet, I just wanted to ramp back into a routine slowly.

Molly Turned 10!!

I can't believe this, but our sweet girl Molly turned TEN at the end of March.  As always we had a little "party" for her.  I ordered a peanut butter cupcake mix especially for dogs off of Amazon, (for the record, the Puppy Cake Wheat Free mix.  And that's a non-affiliate link!)  We took our annual party hat selfie, which as you can tell by my death grip on her chin, she totally loves.

What she did actually really love was her cupcakes.  She lives for anything peanut butter, and they also came with a packet of yogurt icing that she also seemed to really like.  She went completely crazy, I swear that dog knows when something is for her.  I put a cupcake on a plate for her and she jumped up to knock it out of my hand!  She's not exactly Miss Manners in the kitchen or around food as it is, but she's usually never THAT brazen about trying to take things.  Needless to say, she loved them.  We only kept a few of the cupcakes and gave the rest to coworkers for their dogs.


We ended March by going to see Hamilton, which was AMAZING.  Let me tell you though, getting tickets was an absolute ordeal.  We expected it obviously, but I'd never quite had a ticket buying experience like that.  I sat for over an hour on Ticketmaster and was about to give up, when by some miracle I was able to nab two tickets on a Saturday night no less.  We were so stoked!

We ended up having a beautiful, warmish day that Saturday, so I was able to wear a dress and blind everyone with my white legs!  I was pretty excited about it, we never really get to dress up since our work place is super casual.  And yes, sadly what I'm wearing counts for "dressing up" on the West coast.  I honestly would be down for going fancier, but we borderline looked like we were going to accept a Kennedy Center Honor by Portland standards.

The outside of the Keller Auditorium where Hamilton was showing looked absolutely amazing.  We stopped to take pictures, and I had to be super dorky and do the trademark Hamilton fist in the air.  Other people were doing it too, so I felt less goofy about it, though honestly who cares anyway!

And here's a gratuitous picture of my very handsome husband.  I loved his outfit, he actually looked much sharper than me!  It's hard to tell from the pic, but he has on this really amazing grey suit jacket that I love on him. 

The show itself is everything it's hyped to be and more, we absolutely loved it.  I assume most people have seen clips at the very least, so you kind of know the gist, but it's definitely one of the most unique musicals I've ever seen.  I love history, and seeing it presented in such a fresh, modern way is pretty amazing! 

The Rest

Overall, March was a pretty good month on the emotional front.  I did have a bit of struggle through the middle and some low points, (our weather is still really getting to me) but it's definitely ended on a high note.  April has been kind of up and down so far, but I feel like that's my new normal anymore.

I actually did want to get this March update out to you guys, because we're actually about to leave for Cleveland for a few days to go to the Rock Hall induction ceremony!  I definitely need this trip, Eric and I are both a bit burned out with work and need a change of scenery.  I mostly wanted to be able to do a full report on it when I get back.  And I swear, my focus and updates will turn back to food and fitness!

I hope you all are doing well!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

What I'm Loving Lately

So, my life isn't all gloom, doom and a sludgy feelings casserole, and since my last few posts have been kind of a one way ticket to Bummerville, I wanted to share some things lately that make me happy and are generally positive from a healthwise standpoint.  Just as a disclaimer, all of the sites/products I'm about to share are of my own free will, I wasn't paid to write about them!

K-Beauty/Asian Beauty Products

I actually started getting into this back in November when I was really hyper focused on self care, but I finally decided to stop hiding behind the "I'm so cool and not girly that I don't need skincare" facade and just admit that I'm a liar.  I love skincare and beauty stuff.  Totally love it.  I don't care if it makes me seem vain, it's my little thing that I do every day that makes me feel good.  I do a majority of my fussing at night when we're watching TV, and I love every second of it!

I got into Asian Beauty specifically starting around December, and I'm officially hooked, never to return.  Most of the products I use are Korean, but I have a few Japanese products thrown in too, and I can honestly say that the hype is justified!  I wish I'd taken before and current pictures to show you the difference, but my skin has a night and day difference from before.  A lot of my smaller lines are just about gone, my skin doesn't look dull, I don't get hormonal acne anymore and my rosacea is so much calmer.  Last year I did a challenge in April to go a whole month without makeup, which honestly was stressful to me because I am so self conscious about the redness in my face.  There is a picture of how my face typically looks in this post.  This is what my skin looks like today (sorry for the crappy bathroom lighting):

The picture doesn't do it justice.  There are some days I get up and my red patches are down to nothing, but most days that's about as red as my face gets.  It's a huge improvement!  On the weekends I think nothing of going without makeup, and when I do wear makeup, it's just literally a pea sized amount of BB cream just to even out my skin tone.  I don't even wear powder anymore.  The BB cream I use is also an Asian one and is miles above any Western product I've ever tried.  To be honest though, I'm less interested in makeup and am happy at being able to get away with less of it!

So what's the deal?  Basically Asian skincare is the polar opposite of Western skincare, and it hyper focuses on moisturizing the face as opposed to stripping it and harshly exfoliating it.  This has been pretty life changing for me since I have combination skin that leans really dry, especially on my cheeks and around my mouth.  My skin constantly felt tight and miserable.  Even if you have oily and acne prone skin, moisture is the key to healing it, not harsh astringent products. That's really all there is to it, combined with the fact that Asian products tend to have much more advanced technology in their products.  I could write a whole post on it alone, but if you'd like to read a lot more in depth, The Klog and the Asian Beauty subreddit are way more informative than I could ever be!

If you are into beauty, you may have read at lot about the "Korean 10 Step Method" that takes an hour or more to do, and honestly that's all a bit overblown.  (Nothing wrong if you like spending that much time on it though!) I probably use more like 5-6 products once I found what worked for me, and my morning routine takes maybe 15 minutes, while my night one takes up 20 to 35 depending on if I'm doing a sheet mask or not.  (I am obsessed with my sheet masks, I do one almost every night and they make my face feel super moisturized and look a lot brighter!)

The thing that has made the most difference for me and are my holy grail items are my toners and snail mucin, which is exactly what you think it is.  Asian toners are very different than Western ones, and are bouncy and a little more thick than what you think of as a traditional toner.  The Klairs toner there on the left, and the Hada Lobo there on the right have been life changing for me.  I do the "7 Skin Method" with the two of them every single day, and my skin absolutely loves it.  The middle product is the Cosrx Advanced 96 Snail Mucin, and yes, it's snail slime.  Before you recoil, think about it logically...snails constantly get micro-tears on their delicate skin by nature of crawling around, which is why they create mucin in order to protect and heal themselves.  It does the same exact thing for human skin, and is wonderful for healing and treating acne, as well as reducing redness.  I was very skeptical and grossed out at first too, but now I can't live without it!  It's made HUGE difference in the redness in my face and instantly calms my skin down when it feels irritated.

Anyway, it's all been nice because it's a little selfish thing I can do every night that makes me feel better about myself!  As with most skincare, there's a wide range of prices, but everything I've gotten has been between $20 and $10!

Imperfect Produce

A coworker tipped me off to this company back in the fall and raved about it so much that I had to see what the fuss was over.  It's a genius idea on every level, the company takes fruit and vegetables that are too "ugly" for the store, and boxes it up and sells it at 30% - 50% less than store prices.  Each week you get an email where you choose what you want in your box, and they deliver it right to your door in the evenings.  You never even talk to a person, they just send you a text 5 minutes before they deliver, then right after they deliver so you know it's there.

I absolutely love it.  Among the many things my curmudgeonly ass hates, I hate food waste, I hate skyrocketing food costs, and I hate grocery shopping so this really kind of solves all of those issues!  This has been super awesome for us on every level, and has really helped with meal planning.  We got a delivery last night, so I took a picture for you guys so you can see the types of things they offer:

I have to say, I've been getting the boxes since November and have yet to get anything "ugly".  Honestly, the produce looks better than most of the stuff you'd get in a store, even better in some ways because it hasn't been pawed all over 100 times.  This week was oranges, grapefruit, scallions, asparagus, fennel, broccoli, celery, carrots, potatoes and romanesco cauliflower.  Oh and coffee!  The last few weeks they've been offering the most amazing coffee beans, and I'm hooked!  We get a medium sized box, but you can add or subtract as many items as you want.  A medium box typically will run you about $15 to $18, which is really a steal when you see that amount of food I got above.  You can also easily skip weeks, and the delivery plans are pretty flexible.  You can go all organic or all conventional, you can get all fruit, all vegetables or a mix.  There's a lot of options!

Sadly they don't deliver nationwide, and are currently only available in the following areas:  Bay Area in California; Los Angeles, CA; Orange County, CA; Portland, OR Metro Area; Seattle, WA Metro Area (includes Tacoma); and Chicago, IL Metro Area.  If you happen to live in any of those areas and would like to sign up for a box and try it out, I do have a referral code.  Full disclosure, it would give me a $10 credit, but you would get a $10 credit as well!

As always I am likely late to the party on discovering, but I am totally hooked!  If you've ever felt that you had to choose between meals being affordable or healthy, those days are over, because this site manages to have recipes that are both!  I discovered it when a coworker (the same one who recommended Imperfect Produce) started sending me links to recipes she'd made and I was very intrigued, so I chose a couple of recipes to make.  I was immediately in love!  The recipes are all simple, wholesome, CHEAP and really rely on pantry staples.  In fact, I can usually go into my pantry even when it's low and still be able to make many of the recipes on Budget Bytes.  It's worked out really well paired with my Imperfect Produce deliveries, because I can just base what I'm making the next week on what I get from that week's box.  With very few exceptions, these are all readily available ingredients that anyone would have access to.  I love Cooking Light magazine to death, but I really feel they've kind of gotten snooty with some of their recipes.  I'm lucky enough to live in an area that's super food obsessed and also has a lot of amazing ethnic shops (I literally have a Halal grocery store, a Hispanic grocery store, and TWO Asian grocery stores within walking distance of my house), but a lot of the country doesn't have that.  I'm a supporter of cooking being simple and approachable, which these recipes definitely are.  I like that Budget Bytes focuses more on typical ingredients that anyone could find and will use multiple times.

I also like that there is a nice balance of meat dishes with vegan and vegetarian recipes, since I like to incorporate all 3 into my lifestyle.  For the most part, these meals would fit nicely into a clean eating plan since they contain grains, vegetables, fruit and lean meats.

The site has honestly been a godsend during this weird thing I've been going through.  Not only is it getting me out of a food rut and me making the same meals all the time (a lot of my problem I think is burnout/routine), but the recipes are so simple and basic that it's made it very easy for me to make something even when I feel very overwhelmed or in a depressive state.  As someone who loves to cook, even when I'm feeling super low I always feel a little better about life and more accomplished when I make a home cooked meal as opposed to ordering takeout.  It's sometimes those little victories when you can say, "at least I made a nice dinner for the family" that help you get through the day!  I feel like the slow cooker meals especially are very easy to throw together and make a ton of leftovers that are easy to freeze just so I have stockpile of lunches and dinners waiting in the freezer for us when I'm really feeling yucky!

Cutting The Cord

We finally did it.  We got rid of cable, and we honestly couldn't be happier.  A lot of our "what can we change about next year" chats involved reducing stresses/things we don't use, and we realized that we simply really didn't utilize cable very much.  We were spending a lot of time watching things on Netflix, or just reruns of Family Guy, which again you could just get on Netflix.  We cut the cord back in January and haven't looked back!  We have Netflix, Amazon Prime, a Firestick and a digital antenna, and we really haven't missed dropping cable at all.  I think we were both surprised at how little it affected us, but it's definitely saved a chunk of money


This kind of ties in with the K-Beauty stuff, but when I was looking for product reviews I stumbled across this really cute Youtube channel from Emily.  She does reviews of K-Beauty products, but also has a lot of fashion and makeup videos that are a lot of fun.  She's definitely been inspiring me to refresh my wardrobe a bit (when it stops raining every damn day and being 40 degrees, my God)!  If you are into fashion and beauty stuff, check her out! 

Anyway, if you guys have any questions about the stuff I mentioned, fire away!