Happy 2018

Happy New Year, friends – I hope your holidays were joyful, restful, and restorative.

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I just went to look back at my “resolutions” post from last year, and found that…well, there wasn’t one. So that makes my job easier today – no goals from last year to review progress (or lack thereof) on. Last year was a weird one…it felt very eventful, but I don’t feel like anything of much substance occurred in my personal life. Or maybe it just feels that way, since the previous few years were chock-full of milestones (engagement, wedding, new job, first trip abroad, etc. etc.) So, instead of reflecting on the past year, I’ll just move right along to what I’d like to accomplish in 2018.

I’m actually setting resolutions this year, which isn’t something I generally do. But this January, I’m feeling a little mentally cluttered and unfulfilled, and I know there are specific things I can do to remedy this…so I’m going to do my best to. I do want to note that I’m only going to include more personal types of resolutions – so, for example, I’m not going to include, say, re-doing our porch, even though that is one of my goals. These resolutions will be more about keeping myself happy, healthy, and sane, rather than little things I’d like to fix with my home (which will need to also involve Jeff).

So, without further adieu, here are my resolutions for 2018:

  1. Bring less stuff into my home/live with less/use what I have. Over the past few years, I’ve slowly developed a pretty hardcore online shopping addiction. It started somewhat out of necessity – I was truly lacking a lot of practical things that I needed – but devolved into buying all the things, just because they were on sale and/or pretty. Not only is this financially unwise, it’s created a lot of clutter in my life, and it’s starting to make me a little crazy. This was really hammered home after Christmas this year – Jeff and I went all out on gifts for each other (we figure it might be our last Christmas without any little ones to buy for), and while nice, it ended up feeling a bit self-indulgent, and I’m feeling overwhelmed with stuff. So, I’ve decided that this year, I’m only going to buy things that I really, truly need, and instead of shopping sales like a fiending crackhead, I’m going to invest in quality items that will last me years. This applies to not only clothes and accessories, but also home decor – I tend to buy lots of small scale things because they’re more inexpensive or seem like “great deals” in the moment, but buying a ton of tiny things just makes my house look cluttered and cheap. Instead of buying every little pretty thing I see, I’ll wait to purchase larger scale items that I really love and will complement the rest of my decor.
  2. Purge unwanted items. On a related note, it’s time to go through my storage, weed out things that I no longer need or use, and donate them (or throw away anything that’s not fit to donate). At this point, we’ve been living in our house for over 4 years, and there are still tons of things I’ve held onto since we were in our apartment “in case I need them someday.” At this point in my life, I’m lucky enough to be able to let things go, and if I really need them in the future, I’ll be able to replace them with upgraded versions that I’ll actually use. Examples include, but aren’t limited to: old, plastic picture frames from the dollar store, cheap square glass candle holders, undersized, mismatched throw blankets, cheap, outdated “placeholder” decor, damaged Ikea furniture, and the list goes on. Along with the purge will come a reorganization – somewhere along the way, I started throwing things anywhere they’d be out of sight, and I no longer have a dedicated place for everything. This is going to change in the coming months.
  3. Get our finances in order. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that the old Raum finances are kind of all over the place. We’re comfortable in the overall sense and aren’t struggling by any means, but we also don’t have a budget (at all – zip, zero, zilch), overuse credit cards, and never know exactly how much money we have at any given time (due to said overuse of credit cards). We could also definitely be saving more efficiently. I’d like to prioritize paying off any outstanding credit card debt and go back to paying cash for most things (only putting large purchases on credit cards for cash back/points, and paying the balance off right away), and working to combine our finances – with Jeff now making double my income, it no longer makes sense to keep everything separate (plus, we haven’t really functioned as though our finances were separate for years).
  4. Exercise consistently for stress relief. I’ve set fitness goals in the past, but this is different, and possibly my most important resolution: I NEED to exercise consistently (meaning at least 4-5 days every week) to manage my anxiety and keep my mental health in check. This isn’t about training for a marathon, or losing weight, or even being in shape (although that is important to me), this is purely for the purposes of mental health. This means, at the very least, moderate cardio – it has to be in addition to any strength training or core classes I take, and it has to be non negotiable. At this point I can confidently say that the vast majority of my anxiety and depression stems from periods of being sedentary, and I can’t deny it any longer – I need to stay active for my mental health. My end goal is to get over the hump where running is painful to the point where it becomes enjoyable, and then maintain it – I’ve been able to get there in the past, but I always trick myself into thinking I can let it slide for a bit and then I fall into a vicious cycle of not wanting to start up again. No more.
  5. Prioritize my health. It’s not that I’m NOT healthy, per se (I rarely get sick, knock on wood); this is more about maintaining my health with preventative care. I’m famously terrified of anything medical and NEVER go to the doctor, and if we’re going to start a family, this needs to end. I increased my medical coverage for the year, so now is the time to take advantage and start actually getting routine health screenings.
  6. Take care of my stuff. Just like I need to prioritize maintaining my own health, I need to start prioritizing maintaining my material possessions. I’m terrible about letting the condition of my things deteriorate until I simply re-buy it (for example, I bought outdoor furniture covers for our brand new patio furniture this year, but have yet to put it on after countless rainstorms and a handful of snow storms), but I’m 33 freaking years old and I need to cut that shit out. No more being wasteful – I’m going to start putting the work in this year.
  7. Be kinder to myself. As is everyone, I’m my own worst critic (can you tell? Ha!) – this fuels my social anxiety, since I feel like everyone is judging me just as hard as I’m judging myself (even though I know this isn’t logical or true). I need to start accepting myself for who I am and learning to recognize the awesome parts of myself as well as embrace my flaws. I also really want to get to a point where I feel comfortable sharing my true self with others, rather than trying to force myself to be a different version of myself depending on who I’m around. I know this is always everyone’s resolution, but man…self love can be tough, can’t it?

And there you have it…I have a lot to work on in 2018, but I’m excited for a fresh start. Cheers to what’s ahead!

Instant Happiness

I swore that this week, I was going to start waking up early and hitting the gym before work. To the surprise of exactly no one, I haven’t succeeded in dragging myself out of bed in time to work out yet, but I did pull it together enough to suck it up and run to the gym for a quick workout during lunch today. And, you guys…it was like magic. Prior to leaving, I had been struggling to keep my eyes open and even felt like I had a cold coming on, but once I got moving, I felt like a totally new person. I’m still a tad bit sniffly (these things miraculously cleared up a cold in literally ONE DAY last week, so I’m going to whip them out when I get home), but I’m wide awake and in a fantastic mood now. I always forget how much simply moving my body can affect my mood and physical well-being until I do it, and after I’m always like, “duh!!”

A couple other things that can snap me out of a “blah” mood almost instantly:

– Listening to music

– Drinking a nice cup of hot tea or coffee

– Watching one of my “happy” shows (Sex and the City and The Kitchen are frequent go-tos, but I have a long list)

– A hug from Jeffrey

– Chatting on the phone with my mom

– Taking a long, hot shower and then wrapping up in my comfiest jammies

Pretty standard stuff, but exercise is generally the most effective – the hardest part is just getting myself to get up and get moving (that whole “objects at rest wish to stay at rest” deal is legit). Here’s to hoping I can keep it up throughout the winter to ward off the seasonal slump…

greensneaks

 

 

Happy Friday!

And a great one it is! Today is my last day of work until next Friday, and I’m pumped to kick off the holiday season. This weekend will be spent mostly preparing for the holiday rush – deep cleaning and shopping and such – and I also hope to enjoy bit of relaxation before the craziness sets in.

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A couple friends & I went to Joe Biden’s book tour in Philly this week, and celebrated with cereal-flavored ice cream and cocktails.

I’ve also decided that instead of ditching the gym from Thanksgiving until Christmas like I usually do (which would be impossible, since I haven’t gone to the gym in months…oops), I’m going to make an attempt to head off the 15 pounds of cookies (and eggnog, and wine…) I’ll consume over the next 2 months by hitting the gym THROUGHOUT the holiday season. Maybe I’ll also try to get a few hikes/outdoor runs in before it gets too frigid. I figure this might set me up for success throughout the rest of the year, and maybe chase the seasonal depression monster away. Wish me luck (I’ll need it)!

Lentil Pasta (plus a recipe!)

Have you guys tried red lentil pasta? I was a bit skeptical at first, but after hearing several rave reviews, I snagged a box of this from Amazon (I was having a hell of a time finding anything other than chickpea pasta at the store – which I also snagged and have yet to try – but it turns out Trader Joe’s sells red lentil pasta for something like 2 bucks a bag, so Amazon proved to be unnecessary). Red lentil pasta is just that – pasta made from 100% red lentils. Nothing else. The calories are relatively similar to traditional pasta (about 200 calories per 2 oz serving), but the noodles are packed with protein and are gluten-free. I’m by no means a gluten hater, but let’s be real – traditional pasta isn’t exactly health food.

The texture of these noodles is pretty close, if not totally spot-on – they’re a tiny bit denser than your typical pasta, but if I didn’t know they were different prior to eating them, I’m not 100% sure I’d be able to tell. I also haven’t noticed any “off” flavors or aftertaste at all – it just tastes like pasta to me. If you’re a picky eater and you’re worried about flavor, I’d recommend using them in a more flavorful sauce or dish – since they’re pretty neutral, they don’t add much additional flavor to your recipe.

Speaking of flavorful recipes, I figured I’d use this opportunity to share one of my favorite, crazy simple weeknight dinners. It’s delicious, takes under half an hour to throw together, and it can be customized in infinite ways, depending on what you like/have in your fridge. Plus, it’s healthy to boot! Win-win-win (win).

Veggie-Packed Pasta Bake

I used the lentil pasta here, but you can also use traditional pasta (I love penne for this), spaghetti squash, or veggie noodles – you do you. I’m also not above using jarred sauce as a shortcut – as I’ve mentioned before, I’m obsessed with Rao’s (especially the arrabiata sauce), but your favorite sauce (or homemade, if you’re feeling ambitious) will work just as well. For veggies, I used onion, mushrooms, spinach and roasted broccoli this time, but whatever you have in your fridge is fine. If you can dream it, you can eat it.
Ingredients

8 oz pasta (of your choice – if using spiralized noodles, I’d say 3 or so medium sized zucchinis or equivalent would do, or 1 spaghetti squash, roasted and scraped)

1 jar pasta sauce

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz button or cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 head broccoli, chopped

1 bag baby spinach

Shredded mozzarella cheese

Grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 425F. Place broccoli on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper; toss to coat. Roast in pre-heated oven for around 20 minutes, or until charred.

In the meantime, cook pasta including to package instructions. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high until hot, add onions and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes or until soft. Add mushrooms and season with salt & pepper; cook about 5 minutes or until mushrooms have started to release their moisture. Add spinach to pan and stir until wilted; add sauce and stir until heated through. Add broccoli and pasta; stir until combined.

If your pan is oven-safe, sprinkle pasta/sauce/veggie mixture with shredded mozzarella and grated parm (if your pan isn’t oven safe, transfer to an oven-safe dish before adding cheese). Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and has started to brown.

pastabake

 

What in god’s name is going on with my skin?

How does my skin know when summer’s over?

Why is my skin FLAWLESS all summer long, and then the second the leaves start to turn, I look like a pox has been thrust upon me by some type of evil witch?

At first, I figured it had something to do with the temperature – that was the only thing that made sense, but I always had a nagging doubt in the back of mind mind, because I actively moisturize all year round and my skin isn’t any drier or less dry in the winter than it is in the summer. BUT, this year the acne came back before the temperature changed AT ALL. What IS that? I always thought it was strictly hormonal (and it probably is, judging by the type/location of said acne), but then, like…why was my skin perfect all summer? Was I not a woman this summer? Did my hormones take a summer vacation?

Diet? I think not…my diet isn’t the best (nor is it the worst), but either way, it’s relatively consistent. No changes there.

When I say my skin was perfect this summer, I assure you that I am not exaggerating. Nary a blemish to be found. Acne scars disappeared as if by magic. I’m a lifelong faithful foundation wearer, and I considered many days going completely makeup-free (and some days I did just that)!! While my skin usually clears up incrementally during the summer months, this year it was better than it’s been since I was (miraculously) a totally fresh-faced teen. I experienced a brief glimmer of hope that this would be the year – that somehow, 32 and a half was the magical age at which acne would cease to kiss my face and from this moment on I’d have clear skin forevermore. But no. Practically the second October hit, my skin went back to normal. And normal sucks.

I know what you’re thinking – “Go to a dermatologist, ya turkey!” but you guys…I’m JUST NOW working up the courage to go to a normal doctor for the first time in my adult life (other than emergencies)…you’ll need to give me a moment to incorporate specialty medical professionals into my situation. So…I don’t know. I’d ask what miracle products everyone uses, but I’m skeptical regarding their effectiveness for my particular situation (as am I weary of being offered various MLM products) – I’ve tried most types of treatments, and nothing topical will cure this if it’s hormonal anyway. Birth control isn’t an option because of the whole possibly making a baby situation, so…I guess this is just my skin. Cool. Wish for a miracle for me? (Not really – don’t waste your miracle wishing on my dumb skin which is mostly fine save for some relatively mild annoying monthly acne. Use it for something cooler.) Okay bye.

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Gyro Bowls

In my attempt for us to eat healthier, I decided to whip up a spin on one of my favorite foods – the gyro. But instead of pita filled with (delicious) greasy lamb, I decided to go the bowl route, and sub out the lamb for turkey meatballs (I have a bit of a love affair with turkey meatballs).

gyro

If I do say so myself, it turned out pretty darn tasty…I almost actually prefer the meatballs to lamb, and I barely missed the bread at all! And you guys – I LOVE me some bread, especially pita or naan! I riffed off of this recipe, with the following tweaks:

-Instead of beef, I used turkey (duh)…I also cranked up the broiler for the last couple minutes in the oven to add some color

-Instead of couscous, I used red quinoa…after the quinoa was cooked, I stirred in the juice of one lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, a handful of sliced kalamata olives, and plenty of salt and black pepper.

-I swapped out the parsley in the tomato cucumber relish for cilantro. Not quite as authentic perhaps (let’s be real, any “authenticity” in this dish is pretty much out the window), but I’m a cilantro freak. I also added a bit of lemon juice.

That’s about it! Super easy, healthy and yummy…I can’t wait to polish the leftovers off for lunch! I’m going to try to post more recipes here…mostly because I always forget which recipes we really enjoy, so I’ll be able to use this as somewhat of a reference. Stay tuned!

 

Working on my fitness

I have a confession to make: I recently joined a weight-loss competition (cue monkey-hiding-face emoji). This isn’t something I’d normally do AT ALL, but I’ve really let myself go since the wedding – I’ve been lazy and sluggish and way too indulgent with my diet. While I’ve been pretty good about going to the gym, I’m also way too likely to make an excuse NOT to go. So when this networking group I’m part of came up with this challenge, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to get my butt back into gear.

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Here are some steps I’m taking to make sure I stay on track (besides just “eating healthier”):

*I’m committing myself to wake up a bit early and do some light stretching, core exercises, and weight lifting before work.

*I’m also committing myself to do 50 squats before bed each night.

*I’m committing myself to go to the gym at least 3 days during the week, in addition to at least one day during the weekend (preferably both).

*I’m going to get back to weighing myself weekly on a consistent schedule – in this case, Friday mornings. Although I know the number on the scale doesn’t mean a whole lot, this at least keeps me accountable and prevents me from slowly slipping back into bad habits.

*No more drinking on weeknights – it’s too easy for one glass of wine to turn into half a bottle. I’ll make exceptions if there’s a social event happening, but at home, weeknights will be dry.

*I’m going to start taking advantage of the many classes included with my Y membership – my main issue with the gym is that I get bored SUPER easily. Classes will be a good way to shake things up…in the past I’ve been too intimidated to try something new, but I’m going to just break the seal and do it.

*I’m going to stay hydrated – I’m really bad about remembering to drink enough water, but I’m going to make sure to drink at least three 24oz bottles of water during the day.

*I’m going to start taking the stairs, instead of the elevator – in my old office building, my desk was located on the 12th floor, which made taking the stairs on any sort of regular basis a bit much. In our new building, though, my desk is on the 4th floor (which is actually the 6th floor, since my building has lobby and mezzanine levels). Since I go downstairs multiple times every day to grab breakfast, lunch, and sometimes coffee, this is a good opportunity to get in some extra steps. This also applies to the parking garage, where I typically park on the 5th level.

Welp, here’s to fresh starts…wish me luck!