Just a quick note –

Last year around this time I wrote about feeling panicky about life changes (career, health, parenthood, etc…). I’m happy to report that a year later, I’m nothing but excited for what’s to come, and I feel ready to embrace whatever life throws at me. Bring it on.

A Strange Development…

So, I’ve always (at least as long as I can remember) gotten the WORST PMS. Irritability, crushing anxiety, loss of energy, acne…you name it, I get it. About a week before my period hits I start noticing EVERY TINY IRRITATION is making me want to throw things, and this feeling of impending doom starts to creep up for no reason whatsoever. I’ve gotten pretty good about recognizing it for what it is over time, so I try to take these feelings with a grain (or really, a huge chunk) of salt, but it’s unpleasant nonetheless.

Well, not to jinx myself or anything, but my chemicals seem to have shifted over the past three or four months. At first I noticed I was having less physical evidence of PMS (my breasts weren’t quite as tender – this was a new development by the way, I had only been introduced to the misery of a week of boob pain within the past year or so – I wasn’t seeing as much hormonal acne, I wasn’t getting quite as much brain fog), but then I noticed that…I wasn’t WILDLY ANGRY? This is pretty easy for me to notice due to my job – I interact with the public, which can be pretty irritating as it is – and I immediately noticed that I wasn’t ready to fly off the handle right before my period hit. And now, here I am 4 days before my next period is due to arrive, and I’m practically elated for no particular reason today. I’m seriously in THE BEST MOOD. No anxiety to speak of, Jeff’s not bugging the crap out of me (bless him for dealing with the PMS monster for the past 10 years), and I feel relatively energetic. I have a few minor symptoms that my lady time (yuck, sorry) is encroaching, but man…I don’t know what this is, but I’m not hating it. (Please no one tell me that this is a symptom of some terrible terminal illness…if it is, I don’t want to know thankyouverymuch.)

BLESS UP!

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A Trader Joe’s Find

Just real quick: if you can find these Verry (is the misspelling really necessary?) Cherry Plums, GET THEM. Buy them all (unless you live in Delaware, in which case keep your dirty paws off them).  They may be the yummiest fruit I’ve ever eaten, and I normally don’t even like plums that much. They’re firm yet juicy, crazy sweet, and it took some serious self restraint not to eat the entire clamshell in one sitting. I think they’re only supposed to be available for two weeks, so RUN DON’T WALK! I’m heading to Trader Joe’s today to buy them out…FIGHT ME, DELAWARE!

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In Defense (?) of a Solo Road Trip

I went to visit my parents this weekend (my mom, having lived in Central PA for the past 15 years, recently moved back to my hometown in Western NY, where my dad still lives). Jeff wasn’t able to/didn’t want to take off work (ever the workaholic), so I embarked on the 6 hour drive on my own. I’m not usually one to drive lengthy distances by myself, but this trip reminded me of what a delight a solo road trip can be.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good car trip with Jeffrey – we’ve perfected the singalong (we have our harmonies down pat at this point), and it’s nice to have someone to chat with. I also love a road trip with friends, of course. But there’s something so refreshing about a nice, long trip with nothing but your thoughts and your music – no one else’s taste to consider. Your own snacks. Your own Podcasts (if that’s what you’re into). Your own route. Your own stops. The possibilities are endless.

For me, this meant a lot of time to think – about everything. Things that don’t matter. Things that do. The past. The present. The future. That sounds kind of deep and serious, but it really wasn’t – sometimes it’s actually fun to just think about whatever comes to mind, uninterrupted. Despite my anxious tendencies, very rarely did a stressful thought pop into my head. Go figure.

This also meant a renewed love for my music. Remember how I’ve said on multiple occasions that I’m in a major music rut? Well, all it took was 12 hours in the car by myself (and a little solo hotel time to boot) to renew my love for a whole plethora of music, plus discover some great new jams. I think this is partially because local driving (where I typically listen to the bulk of my music) is often distracted – only long enough to listen to a few songs at most, and I’m often only half-listening, while thinking about daily tasks. During an otherwise silent 6-hour drive, I’m able to fully immerse myself in the music (and/or sing at the top of my lungs).

On that note: I’m really digging Grizzly Bear’s most recent album (Painted Ruins), and discovered that I prefer the songs with Ed Droste on lead vocals, rather than the ones headed by Daniel Rossen (in case anyone was wondering). Also, I’m surprisingly pretty into Florence and the Machine’s new album…I’m not sure why I’m so surprised since I’ve enjoyed most everything she’s put out in the past, but there you have it. I originally checked it out because she’s coming to Philly in October with Grizzly Bear as her opener, and I REALLY WANT TO SEE GRIZZLY BEAR LIVE, but could take or leave Florence and is it worth the cost of a ticket to basically just see the opener? Okay, now I’m just rambling. But anyway – take a solo road trip if you get the chance. Very enjoyable.

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Some Updates

I always seem to mention various plans/life things and then leave them hanging, never to return. I figured I’d try to remedy that with a few updates, this time specifically relating to this post I wrote back in March…

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Reading:

I finally climbed back on the old book wagon! This seems to happen during the summer, since that’s when we do most of our traveling, plus pool days. I recently finished The Woman in the Window (so good) followed by Sharp Objects (not as good, but I wanted to get through it before watching the HBO series). I also read a novel called The Kiss Quotient, which is outside of my norm in that it’s not a thriller and is more “chick lit” ish. I actually really enjoyed it though, and I think my next book will be another light, more humorous read (although I’m itching to start I’ll be Gone in the Dark).

Work:

Still kind of in a rut here – the opportunities I mentioned in my last post actually ended up being one opportunity that fell through. That’s okay – it’s been a pretty laid back summer, which has been nice, but I’m itching for a new challenge.

Listening:

Still in a major rut. Someone help? I’m so, SO sick of all my usual music, and Spotify seems to just recommend the same 15 songs I’ve been listening to for the past 2 years. I’m going on a mini solo road trip to visit my family next weekend, and I’m not loving the playlist I’ve created for myself…fingers crossed that I come across at least a little something new before then!

Wearing:

As predicted, I’m loving light, flowy skirts for work and ripped denim shorts with simple t’s and tanks on the weekend. Of course, I’m already itching for fall (I already snagged this cashmere sweater in camel during a killer sale), but nothing beats the ability to slip into my trusty Birkenstocks and be out the door in 2 seconds flat.

Watching:

We’re deep into our weird summer viewing habits. As always, we’re loving So You Think You Can Dance and have been watching the aforementioned Sharp Objects, but we’ve also been re-watching the Joe Schmo Show (I told you it was weird) and The West Wing, inspired by Bradley Whitford’s appearance in The Handmaid’s Tale (which I’m super bummed is over).

Sleep/Mental Health:

Every single summer I’m reminded of/shocked by the wild difference in the way I feel in the warmer months compared to the winter months. I know I get Seasonal Affective Disorder. This isn’t something I forget about, but I also deal with low-level depression and varying degrees of anxiety year round, so I tend to forget just how much better I feel during the summer and fall through the holidays. I’ve been naturally waking up earlier without having to do anything to consciously adjust my schedule (although I’d still like to wake up even earlier on the weekends, but my kinda late work schedule makes that difficult since I prefer to wake up shortly before leaving for work), and I just feel more energetic and clearheaded, despite working out less.

Home projects:

We still haven’t dug into anything inside, but we finally had some real landscaping done outside, and it’s a major breath of fresh air. We had landscaping done last year as well, but the company we chose (recommended by…the company themselves on Nextdoor) did a pretty crappy job and it ended up looking just as bad as it had started within a month. This year we used a different company, and while it cost more than double what we paid last year, it was 1000% worth it and looks infinitely better. We got rid of all the weeds/plants lining our driveway and replaced the mulch with grass seed, and had all the hostas and various other overgrown plants removed in the back and replaced with fresh mulch. I’ve also been trying to make our porch look decent (we’ll need to completely rebuild it down the road), and have been making an effort to do a little yard work every evening (the leaves in our yard are out of control, and we have a ton of mature trees that are beautiful, but drop huge chunks of bark constantly and make a big mess) to keep things looking nice. Fingers crossed!

Drinking:

Lots of coffee with Nutpods still! I’ve also been digging Startbuck’s new cold foam drinks, particularly the (apologies if I butcher the name) Salted Cream Cold Foam Cold Brew (phew). And I’ve been enjoying a spiked seltzer every here and there – so refreshing on a hot day! I bought some Smirnoff brand spiked seltzers in Cape Cod to stock our hotel room’s fridge and kinda expected them to suck (being Smirnoff brand – I chose them because the variety pack included a rose flavor that sounded intriguing), but they were surprisingly tasty! I especially enjoy the watermelon flavor…and I normally hate watermelon flavored things.

Writing:

Uh…basically not at all (obviously).

Wanting:

Honestly, not much – I’m pretty satisfied at the moment. I’m looking forward to fall, but I’m not wishing summer away by any means, and we have another mini vacation coming up in August for our anniversary (it’s a super dorky one, too – stay tuned!) Just trying to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine while it lasts.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel tips from a bad traveler

Oh, hello! Yes: I am, in fact, still alive (and well)! And we just got back from our trip to Cape Cod.

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It was wonderful, but I’ve realized something over the past couple of years: we’re (the Raums: Jeff & I) not good travelers. Despite exhaustive planning (on my end) and good intentions (on both of our ends), we generally don’t know what the hell we’re doing when we vacation. It seems easy – relax. Do whatever you want. Eat all the delicious food. Swim. Repeat. But, for whatever reason, I always feel a bit…lost. And end up worn out and exhausted, instead of refreshed.

So, in interest of making myself a better traveler and helping those who may feel the same way (hopefully you don’t, but you never know), here are some tips that I’ve learned the hard way – a kind of “what not to do” travel guide.

1. Don’t overestimate how much you can eat.

This one is really as simple as this: for the love of god, remember you’re a human! Listen. As Jeff solemnly stated the other night while dining at the Lobster Pot – not as an insult – “You [I] can EAT.” He speaks the truth – I really CAN put it away. But I tend to plan my trips almost SOLELY based on food, and end up committing myself to eat more food than is humanly possible to consume in a day. And that’s without factoring in drinks, and we all know that liquid FILLS YOU UP. This ends up making me feel bloated and sluggish, which makes walking around less than pleasant. Definitely do some research and figure out your must-haves, but if you’re used to eating three meals a day and maybe one or two snacks (which is the case with me recently), remember that you’re going to feel like garbage if you attempt to eat literally NON-STOP every single day. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get to every single restaurant you’ve read about. You can always go back another time if you want.

2. Maybe eat a vegetable; DEFINITELY drink some (lots of) water.

On a related note, if you typically eat relatively healthfully in real life, your body’s going to be peeved if you attempt to eat nothing but butter, cheese, bread and ice cream on vacation. I’m all for indulging on vacation and would never dream of trying to follow any sort of healthy eating plan while traveling for pleasure, but maybe eat a salad here and there, or maybe a piece of broccoli. And DO NOT forget to drink water, especially if you’re drinking a lot (of alcohol). Dehydration will ruin a vacation faster than you can say “Ugh, why do I feel like a bucket of discarded fingernails and fish heads?” I tried to get ahead of this this time by buying some yogurt to keep in our mini-fridge and eat for breakfast, but mostly failed. Oh well…next time!

3. Don’t feel guilty about downtime.

I know that it’s easy to feel like you should fill every minute of vacation time with fun and out-of-the-norm experiences, but some of our favorite vacation memories have been watching garbage TV in our hotel room (we are who we are). If you’re constantly going going going, you’re GOING to end up completely exhausted by the third day of vacation. If your vacation is three days long, fine…but if you’re going somewhere for, say, a week, you’re going to need to relax at some point. Whether that’s lounging with a good book or sleeping through dinner and waking up at 10:30 PM to watch Craig Ferguson on the “American Channel” in Mexico while eating room service cheeseburgers (true story, and one of my most treasured memories), enjoy your downtime and don’t feel like you’re “wasting your vacation.” We spent more late evenings than not this past trip watching Shark Tank in bed, and frankly, it was glorious.

4. Don’t try to be a sun goddess if you’re not one.

I’m constantly torn between wanting to bask in the sun (the amount of sun exposure I get DRASTICALLY affects my mood and general disposition) and protect my poor, mid-thirties skin from sun exposure. And I DO slather on high-octane sunscreen before hitting the pool or beach (or anywhere else I’ll be getting more than a couple minutes of sun), I wear SPF on my face every single day without fail, and I try to remember to bring a few hats when I travel somewhere warm. But then I get there, and I forget just how BRUTAL the sun can be. I’ll lay on the beach or by the pool for 10 minutes and start thinking “Holy shit, the sun is ACTIVELY TRYING TO HURT ME!! This actually HURTS MY BODY!!” I don’t know how people lounge on the beach ALL DAY, but if I spend more than a few hours in the sun, I’m BEAT for the rest of the day – even if I’ve been in the shade.

5. Don’t force yourself (or your partner) to do things you don’t enjoy “for the gram.”

On a related note – don’t do things you don’t enjoy because it feels like you “should.” For example: Jeff and I aren’t really beach people. Jeff doesn’t like sitting in the sun, and doesn’t really enjoy the ocean (unless it’s SUPER CLEAR, bath-like, tropical water). I really don’t enjoy sand, and lugging everything onto and off of the beach just isn’t my idea of a good time (the juice is NOT worth the squeeze for me, generally). I can get into the beach for a while with a big group of friends, or if I’m at a resort or hotel with private beach access with chairs and umbrellas, but if it’s just me and Jeff and we’re schlepping all of our stuff to just sit there for a few hours and then drag a ton of sand into our car when we’re done, I’m not really into it – I’d rather hang by the pool or elsewhere and read or whatever else I’d being doing at the beach. This has been hard for me to admit to myself because I was a MAJOR beach baby growing up (but on Lake Erie, which is much more low key than the ocean), and people in Delaware are ALL ABOUT salt life. I’m definitely in the minority around here, but it’s just how it is. I like the beach ATMOSPHERE – I love an ocean view, and I’m all for a trip down south to wander the boardwalk or eat some seafood, but the beach itself just doesn’t do much for me. That said, I always feel pressure to do at least one “beach day” when vacationing somewhere beachy – we did it in Cape Cod, and we did it in Spain. While I can’t say I necessarily regret it, the beach experiences definitely weren’t my highlights of either trip (not counting the untouched beach we boated to in Spain – that sort of thing is a definite exception to this rule). In the future, I’ll definitely prioritize a hotel or rental with a sweet pool setup over beach access, because it’s what we prefer and that’s okay.

6. Don’t buy crap you don’t want just because you “need a souvenir.”

I mean, this is pretty obvious. I personally haven’t done this in years, but I definitely fell victim to the “souvenir trap” before I started traveling more regularly. Pretty much anywhere with any tourist population is going to have 15 million crappy souvenir stores…and I’m not going to lie, I have always and will always go into them and look around, because it’s fun. But the stuff in those stores is usually poorly made, overpriced, and garish looking, and it’s not something you’d ever buy anywhere else. If you want to bring something home, try going off the beaten path to a locally owned store selling things that are genuinely cool and unique – stuff you’ll actually use and/or display when you get home. We typically still buy some kind of ridiculous souvenir because our parents genuinely like those kinds of things (and our friends get a kick out of them), and I decided a while back that I was going to start collecting magnets when traveling (after noticing that I didn’t have enough magnets for my fridge, and the ones I did have were a random assortment of local advertisements and other ugly crap), but other than that I try to find more unique shops and support them instead if I feel like shopping.

7. Be good to your body.

I’ve kind of already covered this, but for me, this means exercise. I’ve never once successfully exercised while on vacation despite ALWAYS packing running shoes and a sports bra, but I honestly think it would make me feel better to go on a short run before starting my day. Not only would it make me feel slightly better about eating all the everything for the rest of the day, but it would provide some peaceful alone time and a chance to see a different side of our travel destination. I’m always a little worried I’ll inadvertently overdo it and end up sore, and have used it as an excuse to skip working out altogether, but a 1 mile run (or even a brisk walk or short hike) isn’t going to hurt me in reality. I’m committed to giving it a go on our next trip.

8. Research rainy day activities in advance (and be realistic about it!).

Almost every trip I’ve been on has included at least one rainy day, and I almost always end up stumped as to what to do. When we went to Savannah, it rained almost the whole time we were there. I knew it was going to in advance (I’m an obsessive weather checker), and I had researched a bunch of things to do, but the things I “decided on” were mostly things we definitely weren’t actually going to do: visit museums (we’re not museum people), travel out of town to do a brewery tour (we weren’t renting a car), shopping (I’m not going to drag Jeff around various shops all day, and I’m not realistically going to spend an entire afternoon on vacation shopping). It rained all day one of the days when we were in Cape Cod, and we ended up spending most of the day chilling in our hotel room reading, then driving to the next town to get Duff Goldman’s favorite lobster rolls. It was actually a pretty great day, and I’m glad we saved our mini-excursion for a day when walking wasn’t in the cards.

The last thing is less advice and more of a crowdsourcing attempt: how do you guys ward off spending guilt when you’re traveling? Is this just a me thing? These days I always budget for travel and even have a separate “Vacation” savings account, so I have plenty of money set aside to spend while traveling. It’s not like I’m using credit cards and going into debt, or spending money that was earmarked for something else, but I always feel cringe-y about the amount of money we spend on vacation. Is this just how I am as a result of being broke for so many years? The only way I can think of to prevent this is to only to all-inclusive resorts…don’t get me wrong, I love an all-inclusive vacation, but they’re pretty limiting and I definitely want to travel to places other than the Caribbean. Christ, that sounded gross…this is absolutely a “check your privilege” situation, but nonetheless – I guess it is what it is. Any tips would be much appreciated (or, y’know…feel free to tell me to kick rocks). Cape Cod recap to follow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plastic Paranoia

Being the neurotic and anxiety laden person I am, I’ve begun to really start thinking about the amount of plastic we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and the negative effects it has on our health. While I’ve come to accept that some plastic exposure is just going to happen (I’m not about to start eliminating every type of food or beverage in a plastic container), I figure I should at least do what I can to limit my family’s exposure to harmful plastics.

Although most decent quality plastic containers are now BPA-free, I’ve read lots of credible articles claiming that BPA-free plastic can still produce negative, potentially cancer-causing effects. With that in mind, I’ve decided to make some changes in my home:mwga-17-a17_2

I already don’t typically drink bottled water – I typically use filtered water from our fridge, or the water machine at work. But I’ve now swapped our plastic Nalgene sports water bottles with aluminum S’well bottles for both myself and Jeffrey (that one was a no-brainer – S’well bottles may be a bit heavier and a tiny bit less convenient than plastic bottles, but they keep water cold FOREVER).

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I’ll be replacing our mismatched plastic Tupperwear with a set of glass containers. This one hurts a bit, because they’ll take up more room…but it’s for the best, and I won’t have to deal with the ugly, stained, half-melted (I put them in the dishwasher knowing full-well I’m really not supposed to) mess of containers I currently have. This set comes with a good variety of sizes and gets high ratings on Amazon.

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No more plastic cups…I can’t get rid of ours (Jeff refuses to drink out of a real glass unless we’re having a dinner party or something), but I’ve stopped drinking out of the plastic cups we stole from the movie theater (yep) in favor of using a real glass (we have this set). I actually originally did this less for the health concerns and more because the plastic cups were starting to pick up a funky dishwasher detergent taste…yum.

So, it’s not much, and I could be doing a lot more, but these few changes make me feel a little better about what I’m putting into my body. If anyone has any other (realistic) ideas of ways to reduce plastic exposure, send ’em my way!

 

A Summer Getaway

I’ve been trying to plan our summer vacation(s), and I’m having a bit of trouble deciding where to go.

My original plan was to do a quick Jersey shore trip (probably a long weekend) in early summer, and then a longer trip for our 2nd wedding anniversary in late August. I was thinking Maine for our August trip – it’s beautiful, we’d have city (Portland) and beach (Kennebunkport or Boothbay) options, plus lobster rolls! But when I started planning, I found that it was next to impossible to find a rental or hotel in coastal Maine in late August that was both available and didn’t cost $500/night. I thought about switching the trips – Jersey in August and Maine in June – but Maine isn’t very warm in June.

So, I’ve pretty much scrapped the Maine idea. I’m trying to keep things on the budget-friendly side, so I’d like to go somewhere within driving distance (plus we love a road trip, and haven’t taken a real one in a while). I’ve considered a bunch of options (Hilton Head, the Outer Banks, etc.), but I keep coming back to New England – while southern beach towns are relatively similar to our beaches around here, New England has such a unique feel. Right now, I’m thinking Cape Cod in late June – it’ll be right before the main season so we’ll hopefully dodge the crowds a bit, but by the end of June it should be warm enough to swim. I’m thinking we’ll do Monday – Thursday in Provincetown, check out on Friday and take a quick detour to overnight in Boston, then head home Saturday. I’m waiting for Jeff’s approval, but I’m already dreaming of lobster rolls, clam chowdah, lazy afternoons on the beach, and evenings by the fire pit. (And maybe a drag show or two – when in Rome!)

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Provincetown sits at the very tip of the cape.

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Race Point Beach

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Retro Harbor Hotel on the bay

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Lobster rolls on the deck of The Canteen

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Biking through town

A Secret Tip to Make Time Fly

Or maybe not so secret…

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Get up and walk around! I know there’s tons of articles and studies discussing the importance of moving during the workday (especially if you work in an office), but I had always kind of brushed them off. Well, a few weeks ago I jumped on the FitBit train, and I’ve been getting up and walking at least 250 steps each hour since (I’m a slave to those goals).

Of course, it’s a healthy habit…but I’ve noticed that an entirely unintended side effect is that it makes my day pass so much faster. Whereas before it’d feel like hours for 5 minutes to go by, now I’m shocked when my FitBit buzzes and tells me to get up and move – it usually feels like I just made my last round a few minutes ago!

That’s it – just a quick, simple tip to make the day drag a bit less. Give it a try!