Northwest Summer Must-Haves

Last Friday was the first day of summer, and I am psyched! Summer is my favorite season (followed closely by fall), and I am very excited to enjoy some warm weather! So far our Northwest summer weather has been a little neurotic….Friday started off gloomy, Saturday was warm and beautiful, and for the last few days we’ve had intermixed sun, wind, and heavy rainstorms. Happily, the forecast shows that the rain should dry up by the weekend, to be replaced by beautiful, warm sunny days.

Now that it’s summer, a lot of bloggers I follow have been sharing some of their favorite summer items, which got me thinking about my own. Here are some of my go-to must-haves. Feel free to comment and tell me some of yours!

 

Sunscreen!

I’m extremely fair-skinned, and after my dad was diagnosed with skin cancer a few years ago, I am very adamant about protecting my skin from warm summer rays. I steer clear of tanning beds, and when I go out in the sun I protect myself with sunscreen. Because I burn so easily, I’ve tried a LOT of different sunscreen products over the years, and have different brands at home in my bathroom, in my purse, and even in my car. My current favorite is Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Clear Mist Spray, which I picked up for a relatively cheap $7.99 at Target. It’s SPF 30 (the lowest SPF I will use) and because it’s a spray-on sunscreen, it can be applied quickly and without making my hands greasy. Bonus: it smells wonderful!

A Good Book

I’m currently compiling titles for a summer reading list, but to start you off with a good beach (or backyard) read, here’s one from last summer that I just could not put down.

 

Summerland

Summerland, written by Elin Hildebrand, begins as a graduation-night celebration with a bonfire at the beach, as is local Nantucket tradition. But the story quickly shifts as a horrific car crash leaves a teenage girl dead, her brother gravely injured, and her friends and family struggling to cope with what’s happened. As summer progresses, the community struggles to understand the events leading up to the accident and move through the emotional aftermath. While the book sounds as if it would be depressing, it’s more of a beautiful tragedy, and the plot twists kept me hooked til the end. Even though the ending was fantastic, I really didn’t want the story to end, I was so wrapped up in it. I’ll definitely be re-reading it this summer.

 

A Nice Cold Treat

I love ice cream in the summer! To me, nothing tastes better on a hot afternoon than an ice cream cone. I’m always looking for healthier alternatives to my favorite junk foods, and Skinny Cow’s new, limited edition cherry chocolate cones do the trick nicely. They remind me of the Drumsticks my mom and I used to eat together in the summertime, and at only 150 calories and 3 grams of fat, I can enjoy them guilt-free!

 

A Pedicure

Now that warm weather is here, I can wear sandals! To get my feet sandal-ready, I indulge in a pedicure at Best Nails, which is my favorite salon in Marysville (for my So Cal friends, my go-to favorite in Apple Valley was Euphoria Salon). At both places, a pedicure is a relaxing experience – you sit in a massage chair while the tech attends to your toes and then you get a foot and leg massage, which is by far my favorite part. After the massage, they apply polish to your toes in your selected color. I always leave feeling refreshed and relaxed. A classic pedicure will run you $20 ($22 at Euphoria), which to me is well worth it for pretty feet!

The Perfect Tank Top

tank top

 

 

The photo above is not really the best picture of me, but I’m sharing it anyway because in it I’m wearing the black tank top that I practically lived in on nice days last summer. I picked it up at Old Navy because it was cheap and I wanted something to wear when I visited family in California, knowing the weather would be hot. I loved the shirt so much that a couple weekends ago, I decided to go back to Old Navy and see if I could find another one. I was not disappointed…Old Navy’s Perfect Tanks were available in tons of colors and even in stripe patterns. I bought a total of seven, which can be worn on their own or layered (I like to layer a solid colored tank under a striped one). The tanks are normally sold for $8.50 apiece, but the weekend that I went shopping they were fifty percent off! And once the weather cools down, these tanks are great for layering under button-down shirts or hoodies.

 

 

Motivation Monday: Set Mini Goals

Happy Monday! After a busy weekend, I confess that getting myself up, dressed, and out the door this morning was something of a challenge. I had to take it one step at a time: Okay, self, now get in the shower….now go pack your lunch….now go brush your hair. By breaking down my routine into one task at a time, I was able to methodically get through my morning, instead of thinking of all I needed to do and freaking out that I’d never be ready in time.

I think of this process as making mini goals, and I apply it to my life a lot. That’s why I decided to make Mini Goals my focus for this Motivation Monday.  By breaking down a large goal into smaller, more manageable steps, I find that I am able to achieve what I want with a lot less anxiety, whether I’m trying to accomplish fitness goals or other things in life.

Back in 2006, I gained a lot of weight after taking on a job with long hours. So in 2007 I decided to lose the weight, setting myself a goal of dropping 35 pounds. Obviously, this was a long-term goal, not something I was going to accomplish overnight. But as I plunged forward, I found that I would get discouraged by how slow my progress was. That’s when I decided to focus on monthly goals, and told myself that I wanted to lose five pounds per month. Just having a short-term goal helped me to achieve success regularly, and really motivated me to keep working. Through this one-month-at-a-time system, I stayed on target and met my long term goal.

While my Motivation Monday posts are usually workout-specific, this mini goal approach can be applied to a lot of different goals. For instance, I don’t focus so much on graduating from college right now…at the pace I’m setting, that moment is still years away. Instead, I just focus one semester at a time. Cheesy as it sounds, this change in focus has really helped me do better in school, without feeling overwhelmed at just how much further I have to go before I’m done.

Do you have a goal you’re trying to reach? Try breaking it up into mini goals for a new approach!

The Inner Monologue

I wrote this post awhile back, but when I wrote it I didn’t intend to publish it or share it. It was just for me, to express relief over finally finding a new level of self-acceptance that I didn’t even know that I was looking for. I decided to share it now not just because I’m in a much better place, but because I think it could be a benefit to others that may stumble across my blog. 

Internal monologue, also known as interior monologue, inner voice, internal speech, or stream of consciousness is thinking in words. It also refers to the semi-constant internal monologue one has with oneself at a conscious or semi-conscious level.

Wikipedia

I don’t know why, but I never really considered my thought process to be an inner monologue, although of course it is just that. My thought process is a stream of narration from an inner voice, one that internally comments on everything I see and hear. And I have to admit, the narrator of my inner monologue is something of a critical bitch. She seldom has anything nice to say to me about anything. “See that girl?” she hisses in my ear. “That girl is prettier than you, and smarter, and more successful. You will never be that good.”

For years, this has been my reality. My day to day life was fraught with harsh self-criticisms that at some point, I lost all perspective on. They were so ingrained in my psyche that I didn’t even consciously examine them, just accepted them for truth and fought a never-ending battle to try to change them. Never mind that no matter who I became, they never DID change. It was a constant cycle of me working my ass off to be successful enough, smart enough, thin enough….GOOD enough. But because the dialogue never changed, it didn’t matter how much I as a person changed – the criticisms were still there. And frankly, that’s an exhausting existence.

After becoming aware of the concept of the inner monologue, I then had the consciousness that I could change mine. The next morning when I was getting ready for work, my Inner Narrator began her typical running commentary on how I didn’t look good, my clothes didn’t fit right, and I would be worse than all the rest today, so why bother trying in the first place. For the very first time, I had a shocking revelation: no one has EVER said things like that to me. For the first time, I could actually see that I didn’t have negative ideas about myself because other people had planted them in my head. I had them because I had repeatedly said those things internally about myself. 

Recognizing that you have an unhealthy internal monologue is one thing. Changing that unhealthy internal monologue is an entirely different undertaking, and not nearly as easy as the realization of its existance. I’m retraining my mind after years of detrimental thoughts. When that Inner Narrator hisses at me, “You look really fat today,” I am learning to roll my eyes at her and say, “No, I don’t. Shut up. I’m just fine today.” The whole process reminds me of a part of the movie ‘The Help’, when kindly maid Aibileen is telling her charge Mae Mobley You is kind, you is smart, you is important, and teaching the child to repeat it back about herself. The idea behind that exercise was to instill in the little girl a sense of self-worth, and to help her develop a positive inner monologue. Perhaps we all ought to recite these things to ourselves.

Does the Inner Narrator still get to me? Sometimes, yes, absolutely she does. She’s got a knack for sensing insecurities and preying on them. The important thing is learning to dismiss negative thoughts and to ultimately replace them with positive ones. I will say that since I’ve embarked on this change in thought process, I’ve noticed a change in my internal monologue. I’m steering it to a more positive place, one where Inner Narrator and I will ultimately be able to coexist peacefully.

My Recent Battles

Over the last few weeks, for the most part I’ve tried to keep my blog posts to the fluffy, upbeat variety. There’s nothing wrong with that type of writing, but a lot of my reasoning behind it was that I was dealing with some not-so-fun stuff and have been feeling pretty wrung out. Now that I’ve seemingly come through to the other side of my recent difficulties, I feel like I can be open about what I’ve experienced and what I’ve taken away from it.

“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”  -Unknown

Ever have a situation that starts unremarkably enough, but then snowballs? That was what happened with my oldest cat, Angel. One morning I was playing with her, and noticed a strange-looking growth coming out of her paw pad, curving upward toward her claw. I’d never seen anything like it, and although I wasn’t terribly concerned, I did want to get it checked out. I did some research on the Internets and was fairly confident that she had what’s called a Horned Paw Pad. According to what I read, if that was all the growth was then it could be trimmed with kitty nail clippers to keep it from bothering her. But since I didn’t know for sure, I made an appointment to have her seen by the vet.

The vet confirmed my suspicions: Angel’s growth was a horned paw pad. She demonstrated for me how to keep it trimmed, and that should have been that. But as she looked over my kitty, she also noticed that Angel was showing signs of gum disease, and may need to have as many as two teeth extracted. So we made an appointment for Angel to have pre-op blood work followed by a dental cleaning (cats are put under anesthetic for dental procedures). The blood work was recommended due to Angel’s age (she’s eleven), and even though it was optional, I agreed to have it done, just because of the slim chance that something could go wrong in surgery. So this led to a second trip to the vet to have her blood drawn, and then the main event, the morning of her surgery. The plan for the morning was simple: I’d drop Angel off and go to work, and then pick her up in the evening. But in my life, things seldom go as planned, and this was no exception. The vet explained to me that Angel’s blood work had revealed a slight abnormality in her kidney function, which was cause for enough concern to hold my kitty overnight after her surgery to administer post-op fluids and monitor her, as well as to run more tests. Although I wasn’t really happy not to have my girl overnight, I agreed, and I managed to make it out to my car and drive to work without crying or getting too upset. I’m trying to learn not to freak out until I have a reason to, and at that point, I didn’t know anything. I arranged to take the next day off from work so that I could pick up Angel and stay home with her since she was going to be pretty unhappy post-surgery.

Angel’s vet stay had mixed results: happily, she went through surgery well, and more tests revealed that her kidney function may just be slightly lower than is considered “normal” in cats. She’ll have another test in a few months just to make sure her levels are staying, well, level. On the gum disease front, the news wasn’t as good: she ended up having a total of seven teeth extracted. All things considered, she did great, and she’s now fully recovered and her normal happy self. Missing some of her teeth doesn’t seem to daunt her whatsoever.

 

Angel

 

I would do anything for this girl. 

Here’s the thing about trips to the vet: they’re expensive. I knew when I adopted cats that there was a chance that over time they’d have medical issues, and I’ll gladly pay whatever I need to in order to keep my babies happy and healthy. I will never begrudge one of my pets the cost of their vet bills. But it IS costly, and without another thought to it I charged all of Angel’s medical treatments to my credit card with the plan of paying off the balance when I got my paycheck. So imagine my shock when I checked my bank account and realized that my paycheck was $1200 short of what it should have been. Again, no reason to panic until I know what’s going on, and I absolutely assumed that my missing money was an annoying payroll error that I could have corrected.

Never assume. Never, never, never.

My shortened paycheck was actually my company’s way of notifying me that a portion of my pay was going to be calculated differently, which, long story short, translates into my being paid $1200 less per month. I was upset about the change and outraged that no one had the courtesy to notify me or my boss that this was going to happen. All I could think about was the balance on my credit card for vet bills that I had slated that $1200 for and now wouldn’t be getting.

Ultimately the higher-ups did agree that it was a lousy way to handle things, and I am being paid on my normal scale until July, when the new pay rate kicks in. If there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s that I have had a huge wake-up call to pay more attention to how much I’m spending and to budget my money better. I’ve made a lot of financial changes to my life, some that bum me out (like not getting my nails done). But I know this will help me to be better off in the long run. Overnight, my priorities when it came to spending changed dramatically.

I admit, in the aftermath of all this, I’ve been pretty down (hence the reason for fluff blog posts….not that I think those are bad). But I’m slowly finding the good in my new reality. Like in the mornings when Angel comes into the bathroom to “help” me get ready for work, when she meows and chatters at me, when she hogs my pillow at night, I’m just so grateful to see her healthy and back to her old self again. My family and friends have rallied around me and supported me, even when I’m sure I’ve sounded like a broken record complaining about things, and the love I’ve felt is overwhelming. No one seems to care if I don’t have the money to pick up the tab for lunch or go out anymore. In fact, one of the best days I’ve had lately was last Sunday, when Paul and I just stayed home and lounged in the backyard and had a lazy afternoon together. And I know there are people out there who have it much, much worse than me, like the sweet girl I work with who just lost her sister in a car accident. Compared to her, I have it easy, and no doubt she’d give anything to trade places with me.

“You never know how truly blessed you are in life until you see someone who has it worse than you.”  -Unknown

So I’ll take the good with the bad, and I am grateful that my loved ones are happy and (once again) healthy. I know that a time will come with my beloved kitties when the story isn’t going to end happily ever after, and I’m just thankful that this time, it did.

“Let’s not allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget. Remember ‘Life is too short to be little’” –– Dale Carnegie

Motivation Monday: Read All About It

“Surround yourself with people who will make you better,” my mom would tell me when I was a teenager. It’s great advice, and I’ve tried to remember this and apply it to different aspects of my life. Expanding on the theory that I will be a better person when surrounded by great people, I also believe that I will find motivation in surrounding myself with people that have accomplished goals that I too wish to accomplish. This can of course be done by meeting people that I find inspirational, but it is also accomplished by reading about those I admire.

Over the years I’ve collected a series of magazines with articles that I find inspirational about weight loss. In addition to articles about celebrities who have lost weight and gotten fit, I also enjoy the articles People Magazine puts out about regular people who achieve fitness goals. The reason that I read these articles is that they inspire me: I see people who overcome struggles with not knowing how to eat or what exercises to do, and find new happiness and success. Especially in recent years, I’ve found a lot of comfort in the fact that the people featured are less diet-oriented and more focused on making a lifestyle change. When I read these types of stories, I feel myself more driven to follow their lead.

Since those articles can be hit-and-miss, I started subscribing to Self. The magazine’s monthly articles feature ways to eat, work out, and stay healthy, both physically and mentally. I usually like to read the latest issue while relaxing in a bubble bath. It’s become sort of a ritual of mine, renewing my resolve while rejuvenating me. My favorite part is that Self isn’t focused on pushing women to diet themselves into stick-thin “perfection”: the articles are geared toward being healthy, not just thin. And I dig that.

In the past, I have tried to find the key to unlock the magical door of lifelong thinness through books about the latest and greatest fad diet. Atkins, South Beach, the 17 Day Diet…you name them, I’ve read about them. The thing they all have in common? They’re diets. And ‘diet’ to me is a dirty word, a cycle of temporary success followed ultimately by failure and the pursuit of the next best thing. I’d come to believe that there was no such thing as a book about eating that was going to have a positive message. Luckily, Biggest Loser coach Bob Harper proved me wrong by writing The Skinny Rules, a book with some good common-sense guidelines to eating right – for life. The thing I really liked about this book is that Bob’s advice can be followed for life. It’s not overly restrictive, like diet plans, and it’s meant to be incorporated into healthy, everyday living. His “skinny rules” are easy to follow without making crazy changes to diet or routine. What’s not to love?

All of these examples of written success stories both motivate and inspire me. What do you like to read to get workout and fitness ideas?

Fun Favorites

Happy Wednesday! So far I am having a fabulous week. The sun is shining, the weather is warming up nicely, and I’m in a great mood.

I thought it might be fun to do a post featuring some of my current must-have favorite items. Please try these out, and definitely feel free to let me know of anything you recommend as well!

 

Tasting

raspberry cupcake vanilla gum-1

 

Raspberry Vanilla Cupcake Gum

I found this new flavor of Extra Dessert Gum on a trip to Target recently, and I’m hooked! My friends know my love of all things gum, and this was an instant favorite that’s left me stalking checkout counters for more packs of it ever since. Although I had been sad as Extra started phasing out my former favorite, the Strawberry Shortcake flavor, this new raspberry vanilla cupcake treat is dessert in the form of a five-calorie gum stick.

 

Listening

Imagine DragonsImagine Dragons: Night Visions

Have you ever heard a song that you instantly liked so much that you just had to download it and listen to it on Repeat until you’d memorized every single lyric, stroke of a guitar, beat of a drum? Well, I get that way periodically, and the song It’s Time by Imagine Dragons definitely sent me into manic repeat listening mode. The sound of the song speaks to me and instantly lifts my spirits, and when I hear the lyrics “I’m just the same as I was/ Now don’t you understand/ That I’m never changing who I am”, something resonates with my soul. I previewed a couple of the other songs and ended up buying the entire album, which I wholeheartedly recommend. There’s not a single song on it that I don’t like, and the album as a whole just gives me a happy vibe.

 

Reading

 

Here I Go Again

 

‘Here I Go Again’ – Jen Lancaster

I actually read ‘Here I Go Again‘ a few months ago, but it’s been one of the best things I’ve read lately (and, also, Jen’s latest memoir came out this week, so I thought it’d be a good time to give her a shout out!). Jen Lancaster is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I absolutely devoured her second novel, in which former high school mean girl Lissy Ryder finds a way to return to her past and right her wrongs after her seemingly perfect life crumbles around her. As she struggles to rewrite history, Lissy learns that everything truly does happen for a reason.

 

Munching

Plantain Chips

 

Trader Joe’s Roasted Plantain Chips

Craving the deliciousness of potato chips without the fat and calories? Look no farther than Trader Joe’s Roasted Plantain Chips. I am seriously in love with these all-natural, low-calorie delectables. From the taste, you’ll think your splurging on a bag of junk food, but you can actually have 20 chips for only 140 calories and 6 grams of fat!

 

Writing

Kate and I

 

So much awesome, I’m surprised one photo can contain it!

Currently I’m in cahoots with the very fabulous Kate over at All Things Kate  on a collaborative blog post. If you haven’t already, go take a look at her blog and see some of the great things she’s been up to recently, including making it into 425 Magazine as the Best Blogger of 2013, attending the 2013 Lucky Fabb Conference, and of course showcasing some of spring’s best looks with her classic and yet ever-trendy fashion sense.

 

What are some of your current favorites?

Motivation Monday: The Buddy System

Happy Monday all! For this week’s Motivation Monday tip, I’d like to offer a piece of advice that has been tested and proven effective (by me, anyway). Do you ever have days where, despite knowing that your workout will make you feel great and help you achieve your goals, you simply don’t feel like doing it? You’re not alone: I think everyone has felt this way before, no matter how much they enjoy their workout normally.

So, how do you bypass the couch and get yourself through a workout that you’re not that psyched to do?

One great way to ensure that you’ll keep your workout plans is to exercise with a friend. It’s one thing to bail on the gym, but it’s a whole other thing altogether to bail on a buddy. If I’m feeling like I don’t have the energy to work out, I know that all I have to do is tell my Zumba buddies that I think I’m going to skip and go straight home, and I will be met with cajoling messages telling me that I should go.

Zumbalove2

Me (far right) with a few of my Zumba pals. I could never bail on these ladies.

I apply the same strategy to events, like when I sign up to run a 5K or do a walk for charity. Although I loathe getting up early, I know I’ll really enjoy myself once I get to the race. So I have found some great runner friends to sign up with, and that way we can all go together. While I might just roll over and go back to sleep if I have no one to answer to, you better believe I’ll be up with my alarm if I know a friend will be in my driveway in thirty minutes!

5k with Bethany

 

My pal Bethany and I ran the St. Valentine’s Day Dash together and had a blast!

You’re not always going to be able to make plans with friends to work out, of course. In those situations, there are other ways to make yourself accountable to someone else. For example,  I don’t know anyone who can work out with me at my gym right now, so as an alternative, I schedule regular meetings with my trainer, Jay, to check my weight and measurements and to give me new workout routines to try out. These regular follow-ups keep me accountable and going back, because I don’t want to show up after a month of skipping to the gym, having to explain myself!

How do you get yourself going when you just don’t feel like going to the gym?