Thursday, April 30, 2009
1. Fake Tanning
2. Total Body Fitness Crunch
3. Plan a well-deserved vacation
4. Swimsuit shopping
With Step #1 out of the way (thank you, Dove) and Step #2 being a work in progress, I am now officially entering into step #3. Although it's only the beginning of May and the summer is very young, I have already planned two trips to spend some much needed quality time with family and friends and vacation number three is shortly around the bend.
My first trip begins today...sort of. I am officially taking my last trip down to NC to finish out my graduate school classes and I couldn't be more excited. I have been working on my MBA degree for just under two years and since moving to Virginia, I've made the commute to NC approximately 48 times. This will be number 49 and 50. Whew! Talk about your gas prices and car mileage. So in honor of my final roadtrip, I am also packing for a fabulous three day trip to New York City with my favorite person in the world...JJ.
Our plan is to stretch out one of his work trips to make an exciting getaway experience for my third trip to the big apple and his first. So we're booking our tickets now to take a scenic train ride from Washington DC to New York City this coming Monday. We're of course staying, (where else?)...in Times Square in the heart of it all (yeah, yeah...tourists) to soak up all that NYC has to offer. A visit to Central Park? Possibly a Broadway Show? A trip to Madison Square Garden? We have three blissful days of doing anything we want in the big city...and the best part is, there won't be a cow in sight!
My second trip piggy backs right on top of the New York vaca as I will hop on a plane and head for Atlanta, GA. Waiting for me there? The most entertaining, spirited, and fan-tabulous people you will ever meet...my college best friends. We haven't seen each other since my wedding in August and each year we have had the tradition of meeting up at one of the girl's lakehouses in GA to soak up some sun, gossip about our lives, and relive the days of festering, jestering, and rotting together through our college years. I can't wait! We mix a few margs, play a few cards, and just leave it all behind us on the rooftop dock. Rain or shine we make it work and we ring in the Cinco de Mayo party in our own special way....even though it'll be more of a Ocho de Mayo this year. Watch out! Things always get a little crazy...
There's always a few charades...um...is it JAWS?
Wakeboarding, skiiing, and tubing...(no tubing for me, thanks)
And a little bit of late night nonsense...you know it's going to happen...
So that brings me to trip number three. After a long year of work, JJ is in desperate need of a great vacation to somewhere where teenagers don't exist and restaurants don't have buffet lines. We're hoping to book a great August vacation where we can have some fun, sun, and lots of laughs to celebrate our one year anniversary.
Anyone have any good suggestions?!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
After finally finishing my long-time nightstand read of A Whole New Mind, (see one of my previous posts for more info) I decided to look into some of the exercises in the back of the book to test your right brain skills. One of the websites highlighted in the author's research is from the BBC's Science and Nature webpage. The BBC is one of the world's largest broadcasting companies based out of the UK and has a fun twenty question test you can take for free to see how easily you can detect a fake smile from a genuine smile.
I took the test and got a 19 out of 20 score! To take the test on your own, click here and see how sensitive your BS radar is to catch the next faker around the corner!
And be careful...us spotters may just pick off your fake smile a mile away.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
We had arrived just in time to catch the second song of the opening act. After driving 45 minutes, fifteen dollars and a hand stamp got us into the MRC building (Music Resource Center) in Charlottesville, VA and we were immediately thrown into the swells of the local fans chasing the musical talents of Tift Merritt and friends.
I had never heard of Tift, nor had I ever thought much about her genre of music - which I suppose can be described as a combination of country/jazz/blues/blue grass tunes. I didn't really know what to expect when my friends Tricia and Jaime asked me to tag along to a concert. Hey, for a fifteen dollar ticket price, my expectations were low but I thought why not...something new to do on a Wednesday night. And so we piled in the car and headed for a Jam Session featuring two new artists I never knew existed.
I definitely trusted Tricia's judgement in music and especially in this area as she always knows where the best food, fun, and shopping secrets can be found. And I certainly gained more respect for her taste when I found out on the ride into town that her once college fling was Dierks Bentley...one of my top 15 favorite country artists. I mean, how cool is that?! So when she put on Tift's music for the remainder of the drive, I got excited about this low dollar concert we were going to find in a tiny nook in a town I know very little about.
Tift's opening number was a woman named Shannon Worrell who categorizes herself as folk/pop/country. Did you even know that existed? Regardless, I LOVED both women and just like the rest of the artsy crowd I found myself bobbing my head to the melodies and soft guitar music with a goofy grin on my face. Several times I caught myself thinking my friend Ashley would have been perfect to have along on this adventure...totally her thing! And as any good groupies would do, as soon as Shannon was done playing we walked ourselves to a local pub for a beer during the intermission. It was such a neat night, because I had never done something like this before, and I actually enjoyed every second of it.
When Tift came on stage, she seemed shy and quiet and was full of smiles and Thank You's for the clapping, whistling fans. She was cute and laid back and just looked like a girl with a guitar who happened to play the piano and harmonica along with her soft, sometimes raspy voice. She was grateful, full of stories from her home in North Carolina, and she worked the crowd walking through the aisles with her guitar, unplugged, belting out her most appropriate tune for the evening - Virginia.
But most of all there was something so inspiring about walking into a room where I had no expectations, surrounded by people who were clearly passionate about these artists. They were chill, happy, and just glad to be in an old, dusty venue with no bells or whistles or flashing lights. It was so unlike any other concert I had ever been to and even when Shannon's mic broke and Tift's keyboard needed some impromptu tape the crowd loved it. Every second of it. And they were so appreciative of not who the person was but for their talent and skill.
So many of the major shows I've been to have always been about the celebrity and how popular they are on the radio or tv. These singers were raw, unedited, and real people. Now, I'm sure they're quite popular to those who follow their music as both have several hundered thousand hits on their MySpace pages, but to me, they were just like any other Average Jane. And they performed like they were.
So here's a challenge. Look up your local dive joints and see what bands are playing. Take a chance and stumble into the bar, church, or warehouse and support the rising stars. It'll probably be worth the fifteen dollars and you'll likely enjoy being in a setting that's uncertain to you and your expectations. And challenge number 2 - download some of Tift and Shannon's music for a new playlist on your iPod. Their slow tunes and soft voices are perfect for the after work subway ride home or for easy listening on Sundays as you drive along with the windows down.
And like any good country singers, there are plenty of songs about life, love and heartache...the only thing I probably should have expected.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I believe people are innately good, but tarnished by life experiences and bad influence.
I belive a puppy's head in your lap can cure any and all bad moods.
And I believe we are all here to fulfill a purpose in this life.
But I also believe that each and every one of us are living a life that has already been planned for us. I believe our daily actions are merely us executing the life we were meant to lead even when we think we actually make decisions that might alter the plan. More simply, I believe in God and that He has already written the course for our lives.
I think one of the most complicated problems we all face is battling the journey to "find our purpose in life." Especially in these days, we all seem to want to find careers that make a difference; that help people other than ourselves and bring meaning to our communities and our own lives. That's why books such as The Purpose Driven Life or The Secret have been so popular to readers worldwide. They aim to help us find our purpose, our plan, or I suppose, our destiny.
My thoughts on this have been revived by the recent stresses in my life about job searching and deciding where it is exactly I should be. Both JJ and I have been used to success all our lives. We were always well liked among our peers, always made the team, and consistently made good grades in school (well, I'll speak for myself). Failure has, fortunately, not coming easy to us and we've enjoyed great benefits throughout our 20 some years from our successes. We're not used to hearing NO or falling in the middle of the pack. We've always known what it feels like to be on the top, and I credit that enjoyment to God's plan.
But as we get older we're sure to face bigger and scarier challenges than simply making the high school team or bringing home the report card full of A's. And we're currently facing one we can't quite conquer with a smile and a little elbow grease. We're job searching. We're soul searching. And we're trying to figure out exactly what it is we should be doing with our lives and careers. It's been difficult to find clarity in finding the right plan for both of us, so we've been consumed lately with making the best decisions for our professional and personal lives.
The more I stress about it and worry about both myself and him, however, the more I hear a voice in my head telling me that what will be has already been decided.
I don't think it's my privilege to choose my course. I firmly believe it's already been chosen for me. Each of our life plans have been chosen for us, by God, who knew exactly what purpose we would serve before we were born. So when I don't get that job I'm sure I can get, or my 'purpose' seems meaningless in my current role, I'm comforted by my beliefs each day that I am living the life I was meant to lead; because God put me here, in this exact moment, for a reason.
So plan we will, because that's what we do. We obsess over the "What's Next" thoughts and the ever overwhelming terror of making life changes. Half of life's lessons, I believe, are taught through the processes of deciding. Where to move? What job to take? Whom to befriend? What school to attend? We call it fate or destiny most often that things work out as they do, but when the time comes to make a decision and you get that "gut-feeling" that your choice is the right one, I believe that's God's nudge guiding us in the right direction. At the end of the day, be confident that your decisions have actually already been decided for you and that the process and agony of deciding can actually be softened by a simple moment of reflection and quiet prayer for patience.
So, the next time your perfect plan falls through the tiniest of cracks...just pause for a moment and listen to God laughing. His plan is sure to unfold soon enough if you're patient enough to wait for it.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Yesterday I had a lot on my mind. Lots of questions swirling and twirling with the nerves of new possibilities on the horizon. So I took a step back and did the one thing I hate (almost as much) as stressful tension. I went running.
We have the incredible luxury of living on about 100 acres of beautiful land filled with rolling hills, mountain views, golf course fairways, and wooded land. Rivers and creeks wind through the woods and an 8 mile running trail surrounds our home. Often I go for walks on the trail to enjoy the scenery, but there are a few times where the only thing I want to do is jog deep into the woods, find tiny foot paths, and hide myself in the trees by the water. It's perfectly quiet. It's still. And there's not a trace of another person for what feels like miles. There's not one particular spot I go to...I just sort of...go. And when it feels like the right time; I stop.
On this day, I found a new part of the trail I'd never been to and I saw what looked like a deer path leading to the creek. I followed it for just a short way and found a fallen tree with a perfect perch. And I sat.
There is something very fulfilling and rare about just sitting alone in complete solitude without the sounds of voices, cars, televisions, iPod music, and commotion. If you allow yourself, you hear and see things you've never noticed before; and it's beautiful. The ripples of water, the sun dancing on leaves, buzzing flies, and branches swaying. And that's all I did for as long as it felt right to sit.
I soaked in the quiet.
And I loved it.
I let my mind go wherever it wanted and I didn't force a single thought. I tried very hard not to move and I let the afternoon lead me. And eventually, it felt right to leave. It may have been that the hawks were starting to circle above me or that I had reached the mental clarity I was seeking, but I picked up a rock, skipped it down the creek just like Grandpa taught me, and I rejoined the trail to finish my run. I have no idea how long I sat or what I really even thought about but it felt great - as though balance had been restored.
I know everyone isn't as lucky as us to have the kind of nature at their fingertips that we have here, but everyone can find solitude somewhere, you just have to find it. I dare you to find a place that's so quiet you can hear everything. I dare you to let your thoughts run wild without any agenda or plan. And I encourage you to do it often. You may be very surprised how fit you feel when you're done...and I guarantee you won't get a cramp.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Amidst these financial choices to attend the wedding lies the decision of what the perfect wedding gift might be for the happy couple. So often we want to give them something that they will cherish, love, and remember us by long after the wedding is over. To many of us, our gift feels like an extension of our love. It's a symbol of the relationship we share with the bride and/or groom, and is often something special they wouldn't normally get for themselves otherwise. But after spending hundreds just to get to the ceremony...who has hundreds left to spend on this memorable gift? But, I'm also not trying to be the one to wrap up the toilet brush, know what I mean?
Enter the perfect wedding gift. It's personal, creative, and inexpensive to give and will surely be the one your blushing bride and strapping groom will remember forever.
A personalized wedding plate.
Now, I'm not talking about a silver tray that's engraved (although those are lovely options). I'm talking about a hand-painted creation by your's truly. I realized the memorable feeling and heart felt sentiment that one of these creations carries when I recevied my own hand-painted wedding plate from a good friend for my wedding. It was a simple design - just my wedding colors and a cake with a message describing her wedding wishes for us with the date of our big day on the front. It came with a wall-hanging rack and now hangs in my kitchen above the stove in a place where I see it everyday and am reminded each morning about my special wedding day. It brings a smile to my face, and everytime someone asks where I got it...I know exactly who to give the credit to...my friend, Anne.
And so, as one of my very best friends is about to walk the aisle this July I took it upon myself to paint her my own creation of a wedding plate for her 4th of July wedding. I even came up with my own saying to make it that much more special for the soon-to-be Love family...
"The Day Our Love Became the Love's, July 4, 2009"
Her bridal shower was this past weekend and I thought it was the perfect chance to give her the plate. And boy, was it a hit. She was so excited to have it and it was passed around the room with several girls saying, "Oh, I want one!" Now, I'm no professional artist but that's almost where the appeal comes from...it's an original...it shows mistakes...and it's the thought and time that went into it that means the most to the bride. You can't buy it in the store and you can't find another one just like it. It's all their own...forever.
My other two married friends loved my plate so much they asked me to make one for them, too. Of course, I am happy to do it and what's better now, is that they can give me input on exactly what they might want so I can make an even more personal plate for them this time around.
So if you have a friend, sibling, cousin, or just someone you care about who's getting married this year, consider taking some time to paint them your own creation. Find a ceramic or pottery studio in your area that allows walk-ins, block off about 2.5 hours in your day, and think of a creative design. It takes about a week for them to glaze and fire your plate and it's usually ready in about a week...so plan ahead. A typical dinner plate size will run between $15-$20 and includes the paint, glaze, firing, and plate itself. The studio workers are also usually so welcoming and helpful and the possibilities are endless.
Now, go out and be the original friend who gives the best gift ever! It's sure to be a party favorite and will leave a lasting impact for years!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
And with all this rain comes the gloom and doom of bad moods, cabin fever, lack of motivation, and the desire to finish the carton of ice cream in the fridge to weather the storms outside. It also means no outdoor activities, no walks with the dog, no desire to run errands, and the thought of staying dry sounds more appealing than puddle jumping. But exercise gives us endorphins...and endorphins make us happy, at least they do according to Elle Woods in Legally Blonde the movie. So I'm on an endorphin hunt today and my task is to use nothing but my home to build some energy, burn some calories, and ignore the rain outside my window.
It was really pretty easy to create - just get inventive with what you have and you'll have a total body workout in your home. So pull those blinds, throw on a tank top and turn your home into your gym! Below is my DIY April Showers Workout for today:
*To start, turn on your favorite tunes to get in the mood to move! I chose a random shuffle on my iPod through a Bose speaker system.
Warm-Up - 4 minutes
Running in place - 30 sec
High knees - 30 sec
Jumping Jacks - 30 sec
Air Jump Rope - 30 sec
Stretch on completion
Butts and Thighs
Step-Ups - find a piece of furnite that will support you to stand on it that is about 2 feet tall. (I used my dining table bench seat). To begin, step up on the surface with your right leg and bring your left leg to a ninety degree angle in front of your body. Step down with both feet on the ground and alternate legs. Repeat for 10 reps on each leg.
Walking Lunges - find a space that's long enough to allow you to walk at least 5 lunges at a time. Alternate legs as you walk to make a ninety degree bend in your lead step and let your opposite knee barely touch the ground before rising. Repeat for 10 reps per leg.
Stairs - find a set of stairs that will allow you to climb about 20 stairs at a time. At a pace you can handle, climb the stairs 3 times to keep your heart rate high.
*Repeat all three exercises 3 times.
Wall Push-Ups - think of a standing push-up position. Stand one arms length away from a wall with hands spread about shoulder's length apart. Feet should be spread shoulder's distance. On a 1-2-3 count pace bend your arms to mimic a push-up against the wall (aka: the wall is now the floor). Do 25 reps - and remember, the slower the push-up pace the better the workout.
Side Plank Yoga Pose - As pictured below, position your body into a one arm side plank hold and keep the hold for 15 seconds. Switch arms and repeat for 15 seconds. Rotate for two-three sets per arm. A strong core and tight abs are critical to the success of this pose.
Photo taken from CookingLight website, taken by Jeff Von Hoene, Gin Miller.
Bicep Curls - Using household products weighing in at about 3-5 pounds, perform bicep curls at 15 reps per arm, repeating three times per arm.
*Suggested items to use: wine bottles, 2-liters, 12 inch pillar candles, tea kettle filled with water, a heavy book or 3-5 pound hand weights.
Repeat all arm exercises three times.
Mixing up your three favorite crunch style sit-ups, do 25 reps of each style repeated three times. The key here is to mix it up and work various stomach muscles...not just the common crunch. Try suitcase sit-ups, bicycle knees, side-to-side crunches touching the floor, and even flip over and do some superman flies.
And just like that...your home has become your gym and the endorphins are flowing!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
When it comes down to it, a crunch or sit-up is really just the repetitive contraction of the stomach muscles to create tension and work the muscle group. A much easier variation of the sit-up is to just remember to crunch your muscles several times a day for a set-period of time - no matter where you are. Walking. Sitting. Lying down. Whatever your position may be, just remind yourself to sit and squeeze your stomach muscle over and over until you feel the burn. For the best result, take a deep breath with a loose stomach, then squeeze on the exhale breath and hold it until you breath in again.
So you're at work all day. Write a post-it note on your computer screen that says SQUEEZE, and each time you see the note, clench your stomach muscles repeatedly until you feel the burn. POOF! You just did about 25-50 crunches while multi-tasking at work. Remember to hold each squeeze for a few seconds to really work the action. As long as you don't show an ugly grunt on your face, no one will even know! (Remember to sit-up straight!)
Other great SQUEEZE opportunities:
1. While you walk the dog. Tell yourself to squeeze every other step. You'll have 100 crunches in no time.
2. While you brush your teeth. You do this twice a day (hopefully) for about two minutes. Why not squeeze while you stand there and get another 100 in for the day? Added bonus...stand on one leg while you do it and work that quad with a slightly bent knee.
3. Cooking dinner. Burn off those calories before you eat the meal and work up an appetite!
There are lots of times throughout the day when you can mix in a few crunches...all you have to do is SQUEEZE!
*Thanks for the reminder, Mel!