Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Just Keep Moving

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen the ER selfies I posted a week or two ago. If you don't follow me on Twitter, well, I've been in and out of the hospital the past few weeks. The official diagnosis: exacerbation of Crohn's Disease.

The short version of this long story is that a few weeks ago, I started having a sharp stabbing pain in my lower abdomen, just below my ostomy bag. They did a CT scan of the area at the ER and saw what they called a fluid filled sac between the loops of my intestines. They aren't really sure what it is or what caused it, but because my intestine was wrapped around it, they weren't comfortable draining it for fear of damaging my intestines further. They sent me home with pain medicine and an appointment to see a surgeon at the beginning of July. 

As with all the setbacks that come my way, I've been trying to take this latest health issue in stride. When you are living with a chronic illness, you are never truly going to get better. Your options are a) give up or b) adapt and keep moving. I choose option b) for always. In the time since my last ER visit, I have been moving forward the best I could.

On the days I have the energy, I go for short, gentle walks to get myself out of the house and soak up some Vitamin D. 

On the days when I feel drained, I listen to my body and spend the day nursing a giant mug of tea and watching Netflix. Right now, my life isn't going the way I planned, but it is going forward and that is enough. 

Have you ever experienced a major life setback? How did you deal with it?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Not About the Miles

I went for a hike today, and instead of aiming for a certain number of miles, I aimed for a certain destination: the bench at the top of Lunsford Hill in Percy Warner Park. It had been a long time since I hiked in this particular park, and I realized I had been avoiding going there because I was worried that I wouldn't be able to hike as far as I used to before my surgery. At some point, I decided not to focus on my mileage, but to aim, instead, at making it to this bench because the view is worth it. By the end of my hike, I had gone 5.82 miles and climbed 31 floors worth of hills. Was it my longest hike ever? No. Was it one of my best hikes ever? Yes. It's easy to go for a long hike when I'm feeling well and nothing hurts and my Crohn's is in check. The hard thing is starting over after life knocks you flat on your butt. Here's to having the courage to begin again. Anyone want to go on this journey with me?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Long Hunter State Park

I have lived in Tennessee for several years now, but I have failed miserably at exploring outside of Nashville. There are a lot of parks and attractions around the state that I want to see and for some reason I have been putting it off. Today, I decided to drive to Long Hunter State Park on a whim. How's that for spontaneity?

I checked a map before I left so that I wouldn't have to waste my phone's battery on GPS, and of course, I promptly got lost. After I turned the GPS on, I successfully found the park and a nice old man in the park office suggested that I check out the paved Lake Trail since the other trails would probably be muddy.

The Lake Trail at Long Hunter State Park is supposedly 2 miles, but I'm convinced it is longer than that. The sign at the start of the trail said the loop would take about an hour, and it doesn't take an hour to walk 2 miles, even at an ambling pace. I wasn't wearing my Fitbit, but I thought the trail was more like 2.5-3 miles. I did make a few off trail detours to take pictures on the little fishing docks, though, and that added to the distance and time it took me to finish the loop.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. There was plenty to see. The lake is beautiful and so are the resident creatures. I saw two deer and the one above was so close to the trail that I was able to snap a picture without leaving the pavement. I do worry when animals are that used to people, though. There are a lot of hunters in my part of the country and I would hate for one of these practically tame animals to meet the wrong kind of people one day. 

The one complaint I had about the Lake Trail is that it was full of bugs. I guess it's just that time of year again, but I don't remember seeing such a variety of creepy crawlies at any of the parks I usually go to. I kept seeing metallic green winged things and while they weren't particularly interested in me, I was absolutely horrified by them.

I had a good walk and I checked Long Hunter State Park off my list of places to visit in Tennessee. I should take spontaneous day trips more often!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

On the Trail Again

I went hiking this weekend for the first time since my surgery in February. I have been going for short walks around my neighborhood for a couple of weeks now, so I decided it was time to push myself a little. I went to one of my favorite parks and vowed that I would finish the Lake Trail come hell or high water.

The good news is that I finished the Lake Trail loop. The bad news is that the formerly easy Lake Trail was a challenge. I knew that I would lose a lot of my fitness while I recuperated, but knowing it and feeling it are two different things. Nevertheless, my hike was exhilarating.

I had forgotten how much I love the feel of my shoes on mulch and how excited I get when a cooperative animal lets me take its picture. 

I had forgotten how much I love being surrounded by vegetation and the serenity that I have only ever found in the woods.

Even though I was breathing a little harder than I used to, I found myself smiling while I made my way around the lake. It will be a while before I am at my old fitness level, but at this point I am just happy to be up and moving at all. I am making progress, and for right now, that is enough.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Summer Workout Clothes

I have been daydreaming about new workout clothes for a minute, but I have been holding off because I couldn't justify the purchase. After my mom got sick and went into the hospital, I didn't have much time for my usual workouts. My schedule during those months consisted of working full time during the week and driving to Kentucky every weekend to spend long days in the ICU with my mom. Don't get me wrong. I am so thankful that I was able to spend that time with her before she passed, but it was so grueling that I just didn't have any energy to spare for fitness. After the funeral, I had to focus on my own health. I had surgery in February and since then, I have been recovering and trying to get my strength back. It has been a couple of months now, and I am finally able to go for short walks again. 

Am I back to 100% yet? Not even close. Most of my walks have been about a mile. I have managed a few 3 mile walks, but I was truly exhausted by the time I got home. It is going to be a fight to get back to where I was before my life imploded, but I'm far too stubborn not to turn it all around.

My baby steps have me feeling optimistic about my fitness future, so I decided to buy some new clothes for the summer workouts I hope I will be doing. I thought I would share some of the items I purchased.

From left to right: ON Active Burnout Tee, ON Active Cap Sleeve Tricot Top,
Women's Hooded Drawstrng Jersey Tank, ON Active 2-in-1 Racerback Tank
I wanted several tops that I could mix and match with dark bottoms. I went with the four above. I'm hoping they will fit loosely and come down long enough to provide some coverage in back. We will see.

ON Active Mesh Panel Compression Capris
ON Active Patterned Compression Capris
I'm not all that picky about workout pants. I did a half marathon in a pair of Walmart running tights and had no problems. This will be the first time I have tried Old Navy's compression pants, but if they fit, I will wear them.

Where do you buy your summer workout clothes?

**I did not receive any compensation for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

This Week's Notable Eats

I'm still not completely healed from round one of surgery, but I am getting a little stronger every day. I have started taking tiny walks around my neighborhood and this week, I went on a not so tiny expedition to my neighborhood grocery store. When I am healthy, the walk to the grocery store is easy--hilly, one mile give or take, and not terribly taxing. Boy did I underestimate how weak I have gotten since having surgery. Even with most of my heavier groceries in a rolling bag, I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got home and it took me nearly two whole days to recover from the exertion. I know that if I want to regain my strength I am going to have to keep pushing myself, but it might take longer to get back to my healthy place than I had thought. 

As tiring as my grocery run was, it was worth it because I bought a new slow cooker. Okay, so I bought the mack daddy of slow cookers and I have been cooking the aforementioned groceries in it all week. 

It's a Ninja Cooking System and before you ask, I don't have cable so I was not seduced by the infomercial. I just liked that it had stovetop, slow cooker, and oven settings and that it got good reviews on Amazon. And so far, it has been worth every penny.

I made shrimp with a sauce made from chicken broth, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, and red pepper flakes.

There was also some couscous with peas because I was trying to use up some of the food in my freezer and cabinets.

It wasn't half bad since the shrimp and peas were frozen. Plus the whole meal was done in 30 minutes.

You can also "steam bake" things in the Ninja since it has an oven function. The steam keeps the baked goods moist and allows you to reduce the amount of fat in the recipe. I tested it by making some blueberry muffins. You don't get the nice brown top you would with an oven, but my muffins were moist and I thought they were good.

Finally, I used the ninja to bake some chicken. It cooked so fast on the oven setting that I almost burned it!

When I wasn't taking baby walks or cooking, I was trying fruit infused water. A relative mentioned that she sipped fruit infused water at work everyday and I decided to try it. I bought some pink oranges during my grocery run and promptly cut one up to make orange infused water. The verdict? I think I'm a fruit infused water convert.

What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes? Do you like fruit infused water?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Makeup Sponge

I'm no Michelle Phan, so I'm not going to start doling out makeup tips, but have y'all heard about the Real Techniques Miracle Sponge? Did the whole internet know about this and not tell me? If you were holding out on me, you might be the worst. On the off chance that there were some folks out there like me who missed the memo, this is the real techniques sponge:

You can use it wet or dry to blend your foundation, concealer, etc. For the past week, I have been using my wet sponge to apply BB Cream and concealer and to blend my blush and bronzer. BB Cream only provides light coverage, so I use it when I want more of a "no makeup" makeup look. Here is a picture of my makeup after applying my makeup with a real techniques sponge:

Since I did not use primer or foundation, I was really happy with the coverage I got by using the real techniques sponge and my light coverage BB Cream. I haven't tried the real techniques sponge with a full coverage foundation yet, but considering how well it did with a tinted moisturizer like BB Cream, I'm guessing the real techniques miracle complexion sponge is going to be my go to applicator for all things liquid makeup. 

Wanna know the best part? I bought my sponge on Amazon, but they are available for $5.99 at Target. These little sponges are by no means a beauty splurge, but they will help you look like a million bucks!

What are your must have beauty products? Let me know in the comments!

I bought my real techniques miracle complexion sponge with my own money, but as always, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Adventures in Artisan Soap Making

About six months ago, I made my first batch of homemade soap. After a family friend let us try some of her homemade soap, I decided that I wanted to try to make my own. And then I was on a mission. I watched youtube videos, tried to read everything the internet had to say about homemade soap, and I finally ordered a book for beginner soap makers.  After a lot of reading and research, I settled on a recipe, gathered all the ingredients and equipment I needed, and mixed up a batch of oatmeal, milk, and honey soap with sweet orange oil to add fragrance. After cutting and curing the soap for four weeks, I took a bar into the shower and came out a new woman. Okay, so maybe it wasn't as dramatic as that, but I showered with soap that I made with my own hands with ingredients I chose personally, a soap that lathered beautifully, smelled delicious, and made my skin look and feel healthy and nourished. It was an amazing feeling, and six months later I'm still making soap. I've come a long way since my first batch. These days, I'm trying my hand at artisan soaps that are functional, good for my skin and pretty. I thought I would share some of my more recent creations.

Soap with pink sugar fragrance oil in a mold
I had a sample of a girly fragrance oil called Pink Sugar from Nature's Garden Candles that I wanted to try, and I was determined to learn how to pipe the tops of my soap with a pastry bag and tip. At first, raw soap is soft and ranges in consistency from liquid to thick mashed potatoes depending on what you used in your recipe. When you are done mixing it up, you put the raw soap into a mold and give it time to harden. This could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Once the soap has hardened, you un-mold it and cut it into bars.

If you have used colorants in your soap, cutting the bars is like opening a present. You can use multiple colors in a bath and use the colors to create swirls and other patterns. With this soap, I was going for a simple dark gray and pale pink swirl with a light gray piped top and purple heart embeds. I was really happy when I cut the bars and saw how the swirl pattern came out. 

Another of my recent projects was a child/toddler soap for my cousins' children. I found a fragrance oil that I thought would be great in a children's soap. I used a gentle blend of oils and left the base of the soap uncolored. I pressed teddy bear shaped soap embeds in the top of the base soap while it was still soft and left it in a mold to harden overnight. The picture above was taken after I cut the soap and put it on a rack to cure.

Finally, I made a coffee soap with a Snickerdoodle Latte fragrance oil. There is a line of real coffee grounds between the two layers of soap. They should be great for exfoliation and caffeine is supposedly good for cellulite. I also dusted the top layer of soap with cinnamon so that the soap would look like a cup of coffee with foam on top. 

Have you ever tried homemade skincare products? What did you think?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

5 Bike Friendly European Cities I Want to Visit

Ever since I got Genevieve (my bike) I have started paying more attention to which cities around the world are bike friendly. I fell in love with Europe when I studied abroad in Ireland for six months in college, and I am always looking for opportunities to  go abroad. I worked in London the summer before law school, took international law classes in Venice the summer after 1L year, and I have also visited France and Scotland. My biggest regret about those trips is that I wasn't as physically active then as I am now, and as a result I missed out on some great running, cycling, and hiking opportunities. I mean...

Me somewhere in Ireland Circa 2008
Me in front of the Eiffel Tower, circa 2008
Me at The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, circa 2008
No wonder Europeans are so fit--it's easy to stay active when you can roll out of bed and go for a run with a view of the Eiffel Tower! But that's a little off topic. Let's talk about a few bike-friendly places in Europe I would love to go for a ride.

1. Norway
A quick google search pulls up a really helpful website with information about cycling in Norway. They have a list of their top 10 cycling routes and some tips on getting from point A to point B on a bike safely. Also, can we have a conversation about the fact that Norway has bike escalators for really steep hills? Let me say that again: NORWAY HAS BIKE ESCALATORS!!!! Here is a video of how it works:

Maybe I'm weird, but this thing would be near the top of my must-visit attractions in Norway list.

2. Berlin, Germany
I have wanted to visit Germany for years, and I would probably want to visit Berlin no matter what, but it certainly doesn't hurt that there is at least one company that offers bike tours.

3. Munich, Germany
You can visit this website for more information about biking in Munich. Some of the highlights for me were the cool bike rental service called Call A Bike, the information about bike tours, and the helpful cycling maps. And there's also the part where you would be visiting Germany, which is not ugly. Behold:
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
I have wanted to go for a bike ride in Copenhagen ever since I saw the youtube video below:

5. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Cycling is so common in Amsterdam that the New York Times wrote an article with the title "The Dutch Prize Their Pedal Power, but a Sea of Bikes Swamps Their Capital." You can find it here. No offense to the New York Times, but with so much obesity in America, shouldn't we as a nation be doing everything we can to get more people using active transportation? Anyway, the main reason I would love to bike in Amsterdam is because the city is full of protected bike lanes. Protected bike lanes are completely separated from car traffic by a raised divider, trees, poles, etc. You can see Amsterdam's protected bike lanes in action in the video below.

Cool, huh? Nashville is trying to improve its bike infrastructure, but I can't even imagine riding in a city where cyclists are so well taken care of. Maybe if more U.S. cities had cycling infrastructure like this, more people would ride bikes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

100 Books in 2015

I have always loved reading. There were a few summers as a kid when my goal was to read a book a day until school started, and I remember spending a lot of happy hours blazing through books. Sadly, I don't have summer breaks anymore, but I still like to make time everyday to read. Most of the time that means listening to audiobooks while I go about my workouts or make my way to work, but I am happy to say that despite being a busy adult, I still finish a respectable number of books. 

I have had a Goodreads profile for a while now (think social media for book lovers. Let's be friends!) and I recently discovered that you can challenge yourself to read a certain number of books in 2015. I was feeling ambitious when I set my goal, but I decided to aim for 100 books in 2015. 

If you're good at math, you know that I would need to read approximately 8 books per month to hit my goal. That breaks down to about two per week. I'll never hit my goal if I go down the Song of Ice and Fire rabbit hole, but if I stick to mostly average length books, I think I can reach my goal--or at least have fun getting close. So far in 2015, I have read some really awesome books and I thought some of my fellow book lovers might like a quick review of some of the books I have finished recently.

Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen was just ok. It's about Charlotte Silver, a girl whose parents have their own ghost hunting tv show. She tries to hide her parents' job from her friends when the family moves to a new town for a case, but things get complicated when a ghost takes a special interest in her. For me, the plot was only mildly interesting as was the main character. There are so many amazing young adult novels that have come out in the past few years, that this one just didn't measure up.

I thought The Night Circus was spectacular. As children, Celia and Marco are trained by their respective mentors to battle each other in a high stakes competition that will determine which of them is the more talented illusionist. Their battle takes place within the confines of Le Cirque des Reves, an extraordinary circus that appears out of nowhere and is only open at night. At its heart, The Night Circus is a story of true love, intrigue, and, of course, magic.

I will preface this by saying that Molly Harper could kick puppies and bite babies and I would still puffy heart love her books. That said, I thought Rhythm and Bluegrass was a fun and lightweight read. It's the second book in Harper's Bluegrass series. If you are looking for a cute, occasionally humorous romance novel, Rhythm and Bluegrass might be for you. I will note that while this book is the second in a series, it could easily stand alone.

Echo Burning is book 5 in the Jack Reacher series. I have read a few of the Jack Reacher books, but I haven't been reading them in order. I was able to follow and enjoy this book even though I haven't read the first four books in the series. I thought Echo Burning was a little uncharacteristic of this series because it was a little light on action sequences. Most of the Jack Reacher books are thriller thrillers, but this one was more of a psychological thriller where Reacher decides to help Carmen, a Mexican-American woman who was allegedly being abused by her rich, white, Texas rancher husband, Sloop Greer.  At the beginning of the novel, Sloop is in jail for failing to pay his taxes or some similar federal charge. Now, the Texas rancher is about to get out of jail and Carmen is terrified that the cycle of abuse is going to start all over again. Carmen can't leave Sloop because he would never let her take their daughter, Ellie, and she can't go to the police because the local sheriff is an old friend of Sloop's. In the days before Sloop comes home, Carmen goes out looking for someone to help her and she finds Jack Reacher. Throughout the novel, Lee Child builds suspense by calling Carmen's credibility into question. You might be disappointed if you are looking for a traditional thriller, but as a psychological thriller, I think Echo Burning is pretty good. 

Those are a few of the books I have read recently. Do you have any reading goals for 2015? Have you read any good books lately?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bloglovin' Blog Hop

Host and Co-Hosts:


Your March Sponsor!

I love Bloglovin'! It is such a clean, easy way to follow blogs you love and directly comment on blog posts, while still remaining on your stream on the Bloglovin' site. If you haven't used it lately, you should. They have really made a nice interface.  

So, why not grow our following then! Here are the rules:

1. Enter your link below DIRECTLY to your Bloglovin' profile; you will need to manually upload a photo.
2. Follow your host, co-host, and sponsor.
3. Visit 2-3 other bloggers in the linky and say  "hi".
4. Share and tweet this hop!    

Feel free to grab a button and place it on your blog!