Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

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This year is a little less lighthearted than normal, with everything that’s going on in the world. That said, I’m doing my best to proceed as normal and to enjoy my fortunate life with the people I love. That’s all we really can do. Life must go on.

Speaking of life – it’s been crazy around here in the weeks leading up to the holiday. My dad and brother are spending Thanksgiving with us, so we finally made some progress on our guest room so that they’d each have their own designated space to stay. We finally got the room painted and the bed set up with new linens, and put a nightstand and a lamp in there. We were going to get the room carpeted (we had an appointment and everything), but ended up cancelling last minute due to the company we were using not really following through and us not being able to reschedule at the last second. So, we decided to re-finish the hardwood floors ourselves instead. Jeff wanted to do it last weekend, but I was nervous that something would go wrong and leave the room totally out of commission for the holiday, so we held off. I did order a rug for the room and it arrived earlier this week, so we just laid it over the huge, gross rug that’s already in there for the time being. The room isn’t perfect yet, but it’s livable, and I really like the way it’s coming together. I’ll put up pictures once the floors have been refinished. Between trying to get the guest room finished, visiting guests at work for Jeff, and wedding planning (I finally bought my dress (!!), and we had our cake tasting Monday evening), life has been non-stop.

This is my third year hosting Thanksgiving, and I’ve developed a nice little rhythm and schedule. I try to take most of Thanksgiving week off, so that I can get everything done at a relaxed pace. I made my pies and finished grocery shopping yesterday, and I’ll prep most of my food today. My dad and brother will arrive at some point this evening, and I have the house mostly good to go for their arrival. Jeff and I have established a tradition of ordering hoagies from a local shop on Thanksgiving eve, since I’m always cooking and don’t have time to worry about dinner, and it’s become one of the things I most look forward to. I’ll set the table tonight, so all I’ll really have to do tomorrow is roast the turkey, cook a couple veggies and the rolls, and heat everything up.

I’ve made some little tweaks to the menu each year, and while I can’t say I’ve settled on the perfect menu just yet, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got. Here’s this year’s finalized menu, if you’re curious:

Simple Roast Turkey – New York Times (This is seriously such an easy recipe, and it’s far and away the best turkey I’ve ever had. Highly recommended, especially if you’re intimidated about making a turkey for the first time.)

Green Bean Casserole – Smitten Kitchen

Whipped Sweet Potatoes – Tyler Florence

Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Mashed Potatoes (I literally make 10 pounds of potatoes. For 5 people.)

Turkey Gravy – Sam Sifton

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Martha’s Macaroni and Cheese – Martha Stewart, by way of Smitten Kitchen

Parker House Rolls

Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole – Smitten Kitchen (do you notice a theme here?)

Roasted Cauliflower

Cornbread Stuffing – Michael Symon (I don’t really like stuffing – I KNOW, I know. So I try a new recipe every year, and this will by my first attempt at cornbread stuffing. This recipe looks really tasty!)

Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie – Smitten Kitchen

Pecan Pie  – Smitten Kitchen

French Silk Pie – Cup of Jo

Do you guys think that’s enough food for FIVE FREAKING PEOPLE? I’m a real sicko. I also grabbed a couple little things to set out as appetizers – dinner was usually kind of rushed previously, but it should be more laid back this year. I’m happily going to push the meal back a couple of hours, make some festive cocktails (sparkling wine with cranberry juice? Yes, please!), and set out some hummus & crackers and let everyone munch away.

I hope everyone has a happy, relaxing, delicious holiday weekend. I also took off Black Friday for the first time in years, so I’m excited about that as well (although I’m DEFINITELY not going to go out shopping – I’m just excited to relax at home with my family and probably do some online shopping). Cheers!

What I ACTUALLY do to stay in shape

Can I be straight up with you for a second? I’ve said a lot of sarcastic things about diet and exercise (most notably this and this). And I am not, by any means, saying this to imply that I have a killer bod or that I’m in amazing shape IN ANY WAY (I’d say I am extremely average, shape-wise). However, I’ve been consistently, slowly losing weight for the past 8 months or so, and I generally feel pretty great these days. I’ve lost a total of about 20 pounds so far, and I’m proud of myself. I’m not going to now, and will never, post “progress pics” (nor do I have progress pics”), but I thought it might be genuinely helpful to share what’s actually worked for me: a normal, lazy woman who loves to eat all kinds of food and and drink beer. I’ll never do some kind of intense workout plan like Beach Body or Crossfit, and I honestly don’t feel the need to be that cut or jacked. I don’t think that fad diet plans work, at least over the long-term, and to be frank, I feel like I’ve gained better, faster results doing what little I’ve been doing than a lot of people I know who follow very specific, rigid plans.

As a disclaimer: I’m not going to claim to know a lot about the science of fitness, and it’s extremely possible that I’ve just been lucky, or that my specific body type just reacts better to the way I’ve been doing things than others’ might (or that I have some kind of terrible disease that’s causing me to slowly waste away). If you’ve found something that works for you (even some crazy fad nonsense), by all means, keep doing it. I just know that I’ve personally thought it was frustrating seeing all these cuckoo for cocoa puffs fitness regimens and lifestyles and feeling hopeless and not knowing where to start. I just want other women to know that it’s possible to get into decent shape while maintaining a normal, low-key lifestyle.

So, here’s what’s been working for me over the past several months:

Walking: Aaaand I sound like my Grandmother. Seriously though, I attribute a good chunk of my weight loss to simply taking more steps during the day. I take my dog on a long walk every day the weather permits (we walk for a minimum of 40 minutes each day), I park comically far from whatever store I’m going to, I purposely walk around excessively while running errands.

My Fitness Pal: I think this app is 80% of the reason I’ve continued to keep the weight that I’ve lost off, and gradually lose more. I log everything I eat, every day. I’ve read so many times that keeping a food diary is essential to weight loss and I was always skeptical, but it honestly makes a huge difference to see what you eat every day in writing…especially since the app tracks your actual calorie intake measured against your daily steps and activity level. I’ve been slipping a little lately and not logging things that I count as “little things” (a starburst, a cup of coffee, a bite of ice cream), and it makes me feel more guilty than I’d prefer to admit. I’ve decided to give myself a little leeway over the holiday, but once January hits I’m full steam ahead strict until the wedding. I’ve been about a million times more mindful of what I eat since I started using this app. Highly, highly recommended.

Eating what I want in moderation: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…if you’re going to be successful at maintaining any sort of healthy lifestyle, you have to be realistic and kind to yourself. Yeah, I log everything I eat, and seeing the calorie count staring me in the face makes it a lot harder to eat a 2 pound bacon cheeseburger. But, I still basically eat what I want to eat – I just try to be reasonable about it. “Everything in moderation” is a super cliche thing to say, but it’s so, so true. I try to eat healthfully the majority of the time, but if I’m out having fun, I eat what I want. Maybe I only eat HALF of the two pound bacon cheeseburger (MAYBE). Either way, I don’t feel (very) guilty about it. Life is to live.

Not eating until I’m sick: Speaking of maybe only eating half that cheeseburger…I’ve come to realize that it’s not necessary to eat an entire huge portion of everything that’s given to you. I realized that I’m usually satisfied with half to three quarters of what I’m served at restaurants. Home girl loves to eat, so at first it kind of killed me to not scarf down everything in front of me, but once I realized that if I eat slowly and enjoy my food, I can stop when I’m full and feel good about it. It makes me feel less bloated and uncomfortable, and it makes me feel better about letting myself indulge occasionally in less healthy foods. That said, there are days when all you need is to eat a whole pizza by yourself. And that’s okay.

Limiting meat intake: I’m not a vegetarian by any means, but I don’t eat a lot of meat. I eat a ton of fish/seafood, and I eat some kind of poultry or red meat maybe once or twice a week. This isn’t really something that I’ve done on purpose; I just happen to like a lot of naturally meat-free foods. I think it helps, though.

Moving around: This sounds ridiculous, but I just try to move more in general. I’ll dance in the shower, or do little exercises while watching TV or listening to podcasts. I’ll walk to the grocery store if I only need a few things instead of driving. I get really bored while doing traditional exercise or going to the gym, so I try to fit in activity in other ways. I do still go to the gym, but I don’t spend a ton of time there and I’ll go weeks or months without going at all…so if I use the gym as my end-all be-all, I usually end up failing pretty quickly. Come January I’m going to sign up for a personal trainer (my work offers them for free with our gym membership), but that’s a wedding-specific situation.

Cooking: Cooking what you eat instead of eating prepared or restaurant food is just healthier most of the time. You know exactly what you’re eating and how much, so there are no surprises. Cooking is therapeutic to me, and I enjoy making the majority of our meals. We order takeout once a week on average and go out to eat a few times a month, but I try to cook as much as possible.

Weighing myself on a regular schedule: I weigh myself every Tuesday morning before I leave for work. I think that consistency is key here – weighing myself at the same time of day on a regular schedule prevents me from seeing fluctuations caused by water gain or loss, and it prevents a lot of frustration. As a result, my weight is pretty consistent each time I weigh myself – I usually lose between a half pound and a pound a week. Sometimes I maintain the same weight or gain a little bit, but the consistency over several months has kept me from freaking out when that happens.

That’s about it. I do run a little and I dabble in various plyometric exercises (by “dabble,” I mean I follow a workout I found online a few times a month), but I’m not very consistent in my “workout” schedule at all. I eat ice cream more days than not, I love cheese, and I watch a lot of TV. I’m hesitating to post this because it’s probably dumb. But I like to see real, honest advice from real people who have full-time jobs and a life. If this was awful and annoying and you hated it, please let me know and I’ll never ever post anything like it again (it’s likely that I won’t anyway, haha).

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It’s the small things.

Jeff and I have been together for a pretty long time. Romance is great and all, and sometimes I get a little envious when I see someone (usually in a newer relationship) posting all of the grand romantic gestures that their significant other seemingly comes up with every three days on social media. That said, there’s a reason Jeffrey and I have been going strong for over 7 years…I think the most successful relationships are the ones where small gestures that may seem meaningless to outside parties are appreciated just as much (if not more) than large, sweeping, dramatic gestures. Our new trash can (that we’ve desperately needed for well over a year, and kept forgetting to replace) arrived in the mail today, and I was reminded of the little things that Jeff does every day that make me realize what a lucky gal I am. Things such as:

  • Rinsing the dishes and loading the dishwasher every night after I’ve cooked dinner.
  • Putting the fitted sheet and duvet cover back on after I wash our bedding, because he knows how much I hate doing those things.
  • Buying huge quantities of the nice paper towels (Viva or bust!) and toilet paper – I hate lugging huge packages around, so I only buy the small packages.
  • Leaving me the last bite of whatever treat we have laying around (for example: a couple of weeks ago, Jeff bought some pumpkin donuts. I’m a nibbler, and rarely sit down and eat a full donut, unless they’re the REALLY GOOD ones – I just take little nibbles throughout the day. One morning, I woke up to discover that Jeff had left me about a quarter of the last donut, so I could have a little bite before leaving for work.)
  • Picking me up a Pellegrino each time he stops at Wawa on his way home.
  • Buying the practical things for our house that slip my mind – that garbage can, for example. By the way – garbage cans are SO EXPENSIVE! Who wants to drop $150 on something as boring as a garbage can?? Not cool. Thanks, Jeffrey!
  • Texting me each night before he leaves work to see if I need him to pick anything up on his way home.
  • Leaving 10 minutes before me each morning, and starting my car/turning my seat warmer on.
  • Thanking me for dinner every night. It seems small and kind of silly, but knowing that he appreciates what I do (even the things that I generally enjoy doing) makes all the difference.
  • Putting the new shower curtain liner on – another thing I hate to do.
  • Sometimes on rainy, gray days, he leaves the TV on for Grooby on Animal Planet, so that “he doesn’t get bummed out.” Adorable!
  • Fixing whatever technical mess my mom’s gotten herself into every time we visit her.

That’s just a small example of the ways my fella reminds me that I got one of the good ones on a daily basis, and I can’t wait to seal the deal in less than a year!

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Cut it the hell out.

I’ve been putting a concentrated effort into being a more positive, less judgmental person. Not in a blech, icky way, but I do tend to lay the snark on way thick at times and I tend to jump to conclusions, so I’ve been trying to be more open-minded and such. That said, some days it’s harder than others to bite the old tongue. Some things I’ve been thinking lately (this is my safe space, okay?):

  • Would everyone please shut up about “leggings aren’t pants”? Leggings ARE, in fact, pants. VERY literally so. I think, friends, that we’re perhaps confusing leggings with tights. Tights are not pants. They’re…underpinnings? They’re meant to be worn under other articles of clothing. They’re sheer. Leggings are not sheer. They’re NOT meant to be worn under other articles of clothing (except maybe a long shirt). Leggings are pants. They’re pants. They just are. Don’t wear them to, like, court or anything, (what I’m saying is, they’re VERY casual) but they’re pants. Quit it.
  • I have zero tolerance, at this juncture in life, for people who scoff at others for being “weird.” I’ve actually begun to use this as a qualifier for who I consider to be a garbage person with low intellect. Weird people are the only people who matter. The only people who AREN’T weird, at least a little bit, are people who are chickenshit and are terrified to be anything other than painfully boring. You’re Angela from American Beauty. Gross. Get outta here.
  • Shut the hell up about “cheat days.” It’s been scientifically proven (by me) that every time you use the term “cheat day,” you actually GAIN half a pound. Look it up. It’s right here. I just said it. It’s true. In all seriousness though, NOBODY cares that you’re eating a donut. Talking about it makes you excruciatingly boring. Stop.
  • It is not okay, once you’ve reached the age where you consider yourself an adult, to say that “you don’t care about politics,” and then complain about the state of pretty much anything (usually in an extremely uneducated manor). That’s lazy. I understand not caring for politicians, but at least know the difference. You’re not making a statement by saying you don’t care about something. I know you think you are, but you’re not.
  • Is anyone actually inspired by any of this ridiculously generic, “inspirational” drek that everyone feels is necessary to constantly spout on social media? Stop saying “rise and grind,” please. Life is not as hard as you’re making it out to be. You live in the suburbs and work in an office. Also, post pictures on Instagram. I don’t even care what pictures you post. Food? Cool. Selfies? Chill. Whatever. Just freaking post pictures. That’s what Instagram is for. If I wanted to see 48 thousand memes a day, I’d google that shit.

Basically, I’d just like everyone to stop being robots. I don’t know if it’s the appropriation of social media or a certain age group or what, but I’m so bored with everyone acting the same. Speak your individual minds. I’ve seen little sparks of brilliance in most people I talk to on a regular basis, but so many people just seem so terrified to like what they like and act naturally. The world would be so much cooler if everyone would just be themselves!

Okay, I promised I wouldn’t be “crazy rant Jessi” on here, but I don’t think I got toooooooo deep. I’ll stop while I’m ahead. Back to your regularly scheduled programming. 🙂

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Life Lately

Things have been crazy around the old Genco-Raum household (side note: it’s crazy to think about how we’ll soon just be the “Raum household,” and I’m having a tough time deciding whether to hang on to my “Genco” for a bit longer and addressing our Christmas cards as “Genco/Raum”, or if I want to drop the formality and just go with “Raum”…or, perhaps I should just go with “Jessi & Jeff.”). This is a change for us, as we tend to be pretty low-key. Between wedding planning, a sudden influx in social outings, and a promotion for Jeff, things around here have been non-stop. Here’s what’s up:

Stressing About: Choosing my wedding dress! It’s a fun stress, of course, but it’s such a hard decision! I knew from the get-go that I’d love everything I tried (within the style I was looking for, anyway), and it’s proven to be true. I’m down to three finalists, but that final decision is proving to be a killer. I also have to forcibly stop myself from continuing to shop…I think I’m a little addicted to trying on dresses. It’s just so FUN, and for someone who doesn’t tend to put myself in the spotlight a lot, I’m kinda soaking up the attention.

Loving: Afternoon tea time. I’ve never been much of a hot tea drinker (I tend to drink hot tea for about a one-week period right when the weather turns cooler in the fall), but I’ve settled into a daily routine of afternoon tea at work. I’ve found that I get antsy right around 1:30 every day, and stopping to sip a nice, hot cup of tea helps me focus (I’m a purist and just drink plain old english breakfast tea…no sugar, no milk, no nothin’). Plus, my office is always FREEZING, so the extra warmth is definitely welcome.

Looking For: A haircut that I don’t hate. I have an appointment for a cut on Thursday, and my hair is at that awkward “not long, not short” length. I want to chop it with every inch of my being, but I’m forcing myself to grow it out for the wedding. I’m going to wear it up so it doesn’t technically need to be very long, but my hair is stupid fine (as in thin, not as in “girl, you look STUPID fine!”) and I can use all the bulk I can get. So, I need to find a haircut that I can tolerate at this length. I’m also pretty lazy with my hair, and I feel like I have to rock the messy wave look for my hair to look even kind of presentable at this length, which takes a lot more effort than I’m willing to exert on a daily basis. Wish me luck!

Excited For: Our wedding cake tasting! We’re going next Friday, and who wouldn’t want to taste six different kinds of delicious layer cake?? I thought that it was way early to be doing a cake tasting, but apparently not, according to our baker. Twist my arm!

Obsessed With: Nick Kroll. Jeff and I just recently watched the entire series of The League (I know, I know…we can’t keep up with everything), and subsequently started watching Kroll Show, and I’m hooked. Jeff wanted to surprise me with tickets to the off-broadway production of “Oh, Hello” (we’re both also in love with John Mulaney, and saw him when he was in town this summer), but the tickets sold out pretty much immediately.

Listening To: San Fermin. They’re the perfect mix of theatrical and chill background music, with my required little bit of quirk thrown in. They’re coming to Wilmington in December, and I’m determined to see them (I’m trying to see more live music, and I also have my mind set on seeing Punch Brothers when they also come to Wilmington in December, less than a week apart from San Fermin).

Shopping For: Christmas gifts! It’s that time of year, and I’m actually a little behind, at least for me. I don’t think there’s much that I enjoy more in the world than buying gifts.

Eating: Soup. I can’t get enough soup this time of year. Jeff’s not a huge fan (he doesn’t think of soup as a full meal), but I can always whip up a couple of grilled cheeses and he’s a happy camper. Plus, a huge batch of soup will cover my lunches for pretty much the whole week. This is on the menu for tonight.

Soaking Up: Every last bit of this gorgeous autumn. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been out and about more than usual, but the colors have been just about literally taking my breath away this year. I’m taking every chance I can get to be outside, whether it’s taking Groobs for nice long walks or volunteering at work, working on low income housing downstate (the country around here is a sight to behold right now). I’ve even been walking to the grocery store in favor of driving.

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