Saturday, November 23, 2013

Weekend Adventures: How We've Replaced the Word Week-End with Week-Continues

I would argue that the word weekend has become even more abused than the word tomorrow. Just as tomorrow has become synonymous with the day that never comes, the word week-end might as well be changed to week-continues. Saturday and Sunday have simply become extended versions of the work-week.

Throughout the week, we dream about our sacred “free time” over the weekend, yet quickly shift our mind to the tasks that need to be added to  next weekend's “to do” list.  Does anything resonate with you from this sample work week?

It’s Monday morning, you have just arrived at work, where you begin drowning yourself in coffee. Suddenly, a co-worker pops into your office to tell you about the “AMAZING” barre workout she tried over the weekend. She is so sore and like “oh my gawd, can barely walk,” and naturally insists that you have to try it with her next weekend. You get out your pen and paper and start your weekend “to-do”  list, writing down the first task.
1. Barre Class with Tina (Saturday, 10:30am)

 Suddenly it is Tuesday night and you are just getting home late from work. You scavenge your fridge for some leftover pizza  and inhale it like a raccoon in a trash can. Your phone starts to ring and its your best friend, you answer while remaining still managing to remain hunched over the pizza box. After describing to her what you are eating and throwing yourself a pity party because of it, your friend  tells you about the most “life changing" book she has ever read. She is so excited to “be  all peaceful now” and although you know she has probably only read the cover and lit a candle on her journey to peace, you write the trip down on your list.
                                    2. Read Eat Pray Love (look into trips around the world)

 With the blink of an eye, it has become Wednesday afternoon and you are catching up your email. After watching  "Guess What Day It Is?" commercial with the camel, you get around to reading your mom’s email. She wants to know if you can come over for brunch on Sunday in order to catch up. Your mom also  mentions how ridiculous it is  that you have yet to see the puppies (aka her new kids) in their new coats she bought for them  at Costco.  And so this task gets added to the list, along with “book hair appointment” because you know that if you don’t get your roots done before you see her, she will let you know just how “dirty” your hair looks.

3. Brunch with mom (don't wear a plaid coat)
4. Book appointment with hairdresser

Thursday, your brother calls to remind you that you volunteered to help him with his move this weekend. 
                                                              5. Help brother move

On Friday, your "check engine" light comes on during your morning commute.  Since you need a new inspection sticker anyway, you ask Siri: “ is Jiffy Lube open on the weekends?” After 6 attempts at getting Siri to understand you, and reading some useless information on “jiffy pop popcorn,” you give up and write it down on your list. 
       6. Go to Jiffy Lube..(oh yeah 
gas tank is on E)
7. Get Gas

And so Friday night has become a time in which you review the ever daunting weekend “to do” list we formed for ourselves over the week. Somehow in all of life’s madness, Saturdays and Sundays have been swept under the rug, losing the magical and sacred meaning they once stood for. Come Sunday night, you find yourself sitting with a big knot in your stomach. A knot that is there to remind you just how little you got done prior to the "work week" starting again. It’s time to stop this madness. 

We need to do more things for ourselves so that we can be more productive, healthy, alert, and ready for the week to come. After all, you are a better spouse, son/daughter, friend, and parent when you put aside time for yourself. (If you need more proof about the benefits of taking time for yourself, read this article from the Boston Globe). 

So do something nourishing for yourself this weekend. Wouldn't it be great if on Sunday nights you replaced that knot in your stomach with a feeling of calmness? I want you to be able to sit on your couch come Sunday night, cupping a warm mug of hot chocolate bundled up in blankets, smiling, as you think to yourself “Bring it on Monday, I got this."

Weekend Adventures posts will be your guide for tips/ideas/inspiration to make your weekend  an actual week-END again. Below is  your daily dose of inspiration. 

*Picture courtesy of the beautiful Jessica Dehart of her son Kaleb

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Favorites: J Lye

One of my favorites as of late is the incredibly gifted Julien Paul. Julien goes by the artist name J. Lye and comes from the Boston area and is a graduate of Boston University.

 I discovered J. Lye thanks to the beautiful & talented Ashley Sofia, who was last week's Friday Favorite. Julien sang on the track "If We Really Try"with Ashley and they filmed the music video here in Boston.

"If We Really Try" is one of my all time favorite songs. There is just something so easy-going and pure about the song that you find yourself naturally moving along to it, only after coming to realize that you have been continuously hitting replay. 

My ears definitely perked up the first time I heard Julien rap. As his first verse begins, you can feel his words unfold into a story so crisp and controlled, while he still manages to spit some serious game. Since then, I have been listening to J. Lye’s other songs from his YouTube Channel and loving everything I've found.

One of my favorites, "City on my Back" might as well be Boston's anthem. I dare you to listen to it, without finding the need to turn it up and cruise with your windows down. I definitely find myself going harder on the elliptical when I hear "I got a city on my back, I'll never let it fall. We riding to the top and Ima never let it stall. Put the city on my cap. Boston on the map. I bring it to the light every single time I rap…” The lyrics can’t help but make you want to put on a Boston jersey and maybe even rap a little, as evidenced in my Tweet that I sent out while listening to this song the other night...

While I've decided to remain "Creatively" Lu for now, Julien is quickly making waves on the Boston music scene and beyond. This past summer, J. Lye was featured in Tosser Magazine as "One of the Top 50 People to Keep on Your Radar." His most recent accomplishment is winning a video contest in which KarmaLoopTV shot a music video for his song "Where'd You Go" f. Lisa Bello. And let me tell you, the track is out of control.

 "Where'd You Go" takes you on a trip down memory lane of lost love, which I think is  something everyone can relate to in one way or another. I guarantee you will be singing along to the chorus, and at the very least melting over Julien's smile in the video. 

Julien is an incredible rapper with an incredible soul and in just the few minutes I spent getting to know him, you can tell he is the real deal. So take a listen for yourself because believe me no one will be asking J. Lye where he went. His music is definitely here to stay.

*Reach out to J. Lye via his  websiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thrifty Thursdays: Dollar Store Gifts

I whipped this project up on account of the many gifts my family so deserved this past month. 3 of my cousins that are sisters were “preggers” and so I made them each nursery signs, while another one of my cousin's celebrated her birthday and relaunched her style blog with a new name. 

I am an only child and so my 6 cousins have always been like siblings to me. However, they all live in Indiana and since I’m in Boston, I’m not able to see them as much as I would like. Growing up as an only child, my day to day life was not very chaotic or noisy. There was no need to fight for the bathroom, the TV remote, the last breadstick, and whatever else that is believed to be the “picturesque” notion of having siblings.

 I remember growing up and envying all of the baby showers, weddings, and other family events that my friends carted off to each weekend. Luckily, I got to experience that "big family" feeling every Winter break when I went to visit my mom’s side of the family, the Vetters. Each Christmas Eve, I, along with my other 20+ family members fill the first two pews of seats at our family's church in Anderson, IN. After services, we always pile into my “Mamaw’s” (that’s "Indianian" for Grandmother) house where I secretly relish having to eat the buffet style dinner on a TV tray and fight over sleeping arrangements with my cousins.

*My parents and I, the smallest family of the Vetter clan

My summer breaks also consisted of traveling to Indiana, where our family reunions were just as large and in charge. Each reunion, the whole Vetter family travels to 1 of the 5 state national parks in Indiana, where we have to book 9 motel rooms to fit everyone! 

Every year, my aunt hands out a brand spanking new family t-shirt that has some sort of theme. Our names can always be found on the back of the shirt listed in a  theme such as the rock star concert line-up on our shirt above. Regardless of the theme, however, my  "Mamaw” serves as our matriarch, and we pay tribute to my Papaw.

 With over 20 people wearing neon, and lots of very entertaining personalities, we certainly make an entrance everywhere we go. When walking through the town stores, people stop us to ask about our shirts since we are the "strangest looking baseball team" they've ever seen. Our typical reply is that we are “here to rep Team Vetter" and if my cousin Stephanie is around you may here a "HOLLA, HOLLA" right after. I greatly cherish the summers spent with my family each year, a time in which I get to "play" for a very large team. I know this is one of the many reasons as to why the Midwest always feels like coming home. 

*Top Picture: Girl Cousins 
(3 to the right are the mamas!)
Bottom Picture:  All of the Cousins. 
 (man, are we good at pyramids)

My cousins and I range in age from 20-34. 3 of the girls, who are sisters, all became pregnant this year. These are the first babies in our family! While I haven't been able to attend the baby showers, I wanted to make each little lovebug a nursery sign for their room.  Since I love "wise words" so much, I chose a personalized quote for each.

My cousin Stephanie, the oldest of the cousin clan, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Remington Ashley last week. I chose the quote; “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart” from Winnie the Pooh, for the little diva, shown on your right.

My cousin Cassie, the middle sister, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl last night named Estella and I am happy to report that the mom and baby are doing great! For this little lovebug, I chose the quote; “Though she but little, she is fierce” –William Shakespare.

And finally, my cousin Sammy, the youngest of the 3 sisters, is due in April and just found out that she is having a boy! For Sammy’s future little one, I chose the  quote; “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, but for now just be my little man.”

Lastly, my cousin Kristin recently had a birthday and so I made her a sign for her newly re-titled style blog, Polish and Pepper

As you can see there are lots of exciting things happening right now for everyone and so I decided to make personalized gifts to mark each new "premiere" in the Vetter family.  Without further ado, here is the Dollar Store sign-making tutorial: 

1. Supplies Needed: Degree Certificate Frame, Premium Photo Paper (regular computer paper is fine, I just like the look of the glossy finish), printed out photos/quotes from Pinterest ( I also use Google images), gift wrapping supplies (Find wrapping paper and gift bag prints that you enjoy), and mini hot glue gun (spray adhesive works well too). All supplies can be found at the dollar store.
2. Print photos out on glossy paper & experiment with placement onto the sample piece of paper that came with your frame, until you're happy. 
3. Adhere the photos to the sample piece of picture with your glue gun or spray adhesive.
4. Let pictures dry completely. Place picture back in frame, and display for the world to see! 

And there you have it, a creative, quick & easy, low-cost, personalized gift for all those loved ones on your holiday gift list. Now for a dose of your daily inspiration...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesdays: Beauty can be Found Right in Your Backyard

Courtesy of the beautiful: Miss Kelsey J. Andrade
 Location: Seekonk, Ma

And now for your daily dose of inspiration...

Make It Mondays: Pumpkin, Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookies

As much as we would all love to find the time to cook a well-rounded, hearty breakfast each morning; and better yet, sit down and eat it with a glass of fresh-pressed orange juice and the morning paper (ok... trashy tabloid), this just isn't in our cards for the day.

Your weekday morning routine is much like the second half of a basketball game. Your team is behind and you need to get in a few more baskets before the buzzer goes off. However, sometimes the buzzer sounds and you have to get to work even before you could get the "necessities" done. The clock runs out before you can blow-dry your hair and so its ponytail Monday. Or maybe around lunchtime, you make the observation that you are currently wearing two different colored and black really did look the same in your dim-lit closet at 6 o'clock this morning. Or possibly at your morning meeting, you will go to brush a piece of hair away from your face and as your fingertips skim your ears, you find that you aren't wearing any earrings. Suddenly you feel naked, especially when this is paired with your Monday ponytail.  And finally, halfway through the day you start beating yourself up because you didn't start your “new” morning workout routine. A routine that you had commited to doing each weekday morning over  dessert (espresso martinis) on Saturday night.

And while maybe you did find time to squeeze in  5 squats while brushing your teeth this morning, you certainly didn't have the time to turn your skillet on, chop veggies, scramble eggs, make whole grain toast, and hand press oranges into juice. Therefore, when the buzzer sounds and it’s time to catch the train or get on with your morning commute, you blindly graze your counters for something of sustenance to grab. Its possible that during your desperate search, you were able to score a lonely apple at the bottom of your refrigerator drawer and a non-expired yogurt (with maybe even a spoon!). Often times, though, you find yourself ordering breakfast during your daily, morning coffee stop at Dunkins. And finally, the worst of times, you skip breakfast completely; leaving anyone in your tracks to come across your "hangry" side (hungry and angry sure dont mix well).

These pumpkin, chocolate chip breakfast cookies are easy for on-the-go breakfasts, while also being nutritious and satisfying. There’s just something so “fall-like” and comforting about starting your day with a little chocolate and pumpkin. Below you will find the recipe and here is a printer-friendly version.

Freezer Tip: I often double the recipe and freeze a batch (You never want to see me "hangry"). You can put two cookies in each zip lock bag, freeze them, and take a bag out for breakfast each morning. Pop the cookies in the microwave for under a minute and you’re good to go!  I love microwaving the cookies, even on the next day when they are still fresh, in order to get that “ooey-gooey chocolateness” thing happening with the cookie again. 

Substitutions: For the “nut butter,” I used almond, but you can use any kind or completely leave out!  For the flour I used almond, but once again you can use anything from whole-wheat, flaxseed meal, coconut flour, all purpose...whatever you got. Not a coconut fan? Leave the coconut flakes out? Not a fan of chocolate for breakfast? Use cranberries instead of chocolate chips. Use what you have and  what you like!

I hope you enjoy the pumpkin, chocolate chip breakfast cookie recipe. I know you will love the smell of pumpkin filling up your house. So grab a can of pumpkin on your way home from work and bake these cookies tonight while watching the Voice, paying bills, or whatever it is you need to do to prepare yourself for your next round of beating the buzzer in the morning.

And remember we can only control what's happening in the now. Often times when we start the day in a rush, we never fully settle down. We make foolish mistakes at work, don't fully listen to our loved ones, and just have sort of an anxious feeling that lingers with us. So take a second once you get to your destination today, whether its at work, a class, dinner name it and take a long,deep breath and steer your mind back to the present moment.  I leave you with your daily dose of inspiration for the day. 
Make it a great Monday!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thankful Tuesdays: A Lesson on Expanding Your Limits

Today I am very thankful for some great advice I received over the weekend. The lesson I learned is something that I think can resonate with all of us. And so I encourage you to pass it on!

Last Saturday, I attended a Tech conference where I took classes on branding, SEO, Social Media, and more. I drank in each class like an unquenchable thirst for marketing knowledge. It felt so great to be in a classroom, really focused, and really invested in the subject matter. I began to grow excited about all of the potential for my blog and career, in general. But as the day wore on, that old familiar feeling of “fear” began to strike. By lunchtime, I felt a drain in my energy and a loss of focus as I began to wonder, “Why did I deserve to be at this conference?” After all, I wasn’t some important person with a well-known brand name like Skinnygirl. I started to let my fears limit me. However, that same day I had the good fortune of talking to one of the speakers after her course on branding. As I began to tell her all my blog ideas and grow more and more excited, she really helped me to stop and joyfully resonate that “there was something there.” But since it felt wrong to just feel joy, I also shared with her my fears of not succeeding. I had so many fears of taking a nontraditional career path, a path far different than the one my father and I had discussed and always planned for. And so she suggested that I read “The Big Leap” for some guidance.

 The next day, I downloaded the book on my Kindle and began reading with determination, and of course a little bit of apprehension. Within the introduction pages, I greatly resonated with the concept on limits:“If I argue for my limitations, I get to keep them.” This felt like an Aha! Moment for me. While this notion is so simple, it is also so profound. When I say I can’t do something, of course I can’t, and when I say I can, of course I can. Therefore, what I am grateful for on this Thankful Tuesday is all of the times in which I really astounded myself by saying “I can.” I am grateful for how far I've come today:  

When I was a sophomore in college, one night over dinner, I declared to my parents that I was going to run a half marathon. My parents gently pointed out that I  could not run a mile and so maybe I should try a 5K in the springtime. However, I felt determined and unwavering in running a half. The next day, I went out and bought the “Beginner’s Guide to Half Marathon Training” and a new calendar. I went home and looked for half marathon races and found one 13 weeks away. And so I wrote in my calendar, each training day up until Sunday May 24th, the big circled/starred Race day. As I looked at all of the training that was ahead, I felt a huge amount of fear slowly start to creep in, “But I’m overweight, how will I not get winded?," "I am a full time student, how will I find the time?”And although those fears haunted me and I felt a huge pit in my stomach, I pushed past my limits and immediately registered/ paid for the race.

The next day, I set out to the gym and eyed the treadmill very apprehensively. I started my warm-up with a brisk walking pace and watched as the 5 minute warm-up went by way too fast, my hands felt heavy as I went to hit the up arrow to turn my walk into a jog. I thought to myself, here goes nothing, and so I began to run, envisioning the finish line. And I know what you may be thinking, how could you picture the finish line when it was day 1, mile 1 of your first workout? I envisioned the finished line because I was subconsciously pushing past my upper limit. After jogging a mile, I hit the stop button and there flashing before my eyes was: Distance: 1:00 miles. I had taken my first step on my journey to health.

As the weeks wore on, I felt that there was some sort of motivation missing. I knew that towards the end of each run, I wanted to up the speed and push a little harder but felt like I was running out endurance and could not do that. I realized that I needed some sort of “distraction” for longer workouts. And so I decided to start taking spin classes.

I loved the dark room, loud music, and ability to zone out for the hour. However, I recognized that all of the spinning instructors seemed “super human” like they were merely sitting on the couch watching TV. How did it come so easy to them? There were times when I wanted them to say things like “Good Job", "Just a little longer", "You can do this” and create that bike route visualization I so craved. I wanted to be able to envision the “heavy tires stuck in the mud” during the hills section of the spin class. And so it was roughly 3 months after my first spin class, that I decided to become a spin instructor.

And while my journey to health is a lot longer than you have time to read today and I will continue to share candid lessons and stories in the months to come, I will quickly summarize what happened next. I ran the half marathon that Memorial Day and got to run the last block to the finish line with my dad who had never showed more pride nor a bigger beaming smile than he had that day, completed a 3 hour spinathon 2 weeks later for American Red Cross, and received my spinning instructor certification over Thanksgiving break that same year. I also lost 45lbs lbs. and went on to get my personal training certification the following Thanksgiving break.

I share my story in order to inspire you to look at your fears a little differently. The next time you feel that large paralyzing sense of fear sweep over your body,  understand that this is a sign that there is exciting things to come. That fear is there to show you that you are very close to reaching your “glass ceiling” that you have built for yourself. That “glass ceiling” represents the bar you set for where you think your limits should lie. The glass ceiling is your "cut off" point for the amount you currently “allow” yourself to be happy, successful, etc. Once you meet that “max” load, that feeling of fear is there to greet you as a reminder that you should be careful not to exceed those limits. And so my advice to you is, don’t be careful. Take charge and sit in the front row of your life, you got this!