Monday, April 30, 2012

A Break-Up?

I was kind of upset to discover this morning that Kashi cold cereals are not as "natural" as they have claimed to be. I found out about the so-called scandal through Brittany's blog. I don't buy Kashi products for their organic-ness or their "natural" qualities. I buy them because the ones I choose are low-cal, low-fat, tasty, and filling. I certainly don't buy them for their low price -- $4 for one box of cereal is a budget-killer! Kashi offers a wide variety of cold and hot cereals, oatmeal, granola bars, etc. If you've been reading my little corner of the blog world long enough, you know I have a big soft spot in my heart (and my stomach) for Kashi.

Allow me to clarify the "I was kind of upset" part a bit. I'm not an organic food person. Not that I don't enjoy pesticide-free eats and more natural substitutes (e.g. I'm a big fan of Truvia, but not a big fan of its expense)... I just don't have a budget that allows me to eat completely organically. I could claim that I don't have the time or the shopping resources to allow me to eat more organically, but that would be a blatant lie. I do frequently buy organic tomatoes, cucumbers, and protein smoothies because that is what my local Kroger provides. Other than that, I aim for more directly calculable health benefits (e.g. low-fat, high-protein, low-carb, high-nutrient, lean options).

There are several diets with which I would like to experiment: organic, raw, Paleolithic, and vegan. After you've drastically altered your diet once (i.e. becoming a vegetarian as an 8th-grader, and then gradually assuming pescetarianism) it shouldn't be but so hard to navigate again.

So should Kashi and I break up? I'm less concerned about Kashi's infidelity with gene-infused grains than I am with how long Kashi and I have been together. If you're a Kashi-lover at heart, let me know how you're dealing with the company's misleading marketing. Sometimes, it's all about the wording.

P.S. Today marks the last official day of my first year of graduate school! I'm all smiles :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Neighbor Probs

Let me get your opinion...
I live in an apartment, meaning that everyone here is in pretty close quarters. The neighbors to my north have either recently acquired a dog, or they have recently begun crate-training it during the day. This poor dog spends at least 8 hours a day either whining/howling, or rapidly digging at the floor/crate. Both activities are quite loud; being that I'm a grad student, I'm home for most of the day and out in the early evening. I feel very badly for the dog, because I remember how miserable my family's puppy was when we crate-trained him (though we never left him alone all day, locked in...). I also feel for his owners, who are probably only vaguely aware of his behavior. I'm sure that all that digging and scratching has to have left some sort of indication, but the dog doesn't howl or dig when his owners are home.

About a week ago, I couldn't stand it anymore. I had tried to be patient -- for about 3 weeks. The dog was waking me up while it was still dark outside, I was having trouble concentrating and getting work done during the day, and I was being kept awake at night by the dog's owners finally deciding to exercise him (by apparently running stomping laps around their apartment). I didn't feel comfortable addressing my neighbors directly, partly because I don't actually know who they are. I spoke to the office staff and they were very receptive. They pitied the dog just as much as the next guy, but they were of the mindset that the owners need to know what he does when they're not around and how it affects their neighbors. They assured me that my "report" would be anonymous; I reminded them that I'll likely be living here for another two years, and I don't want to cause trouble.

I sincerely hope that my imagination was mocking me, but I swear that from the day I spoke to the staff, the noise level has grown more intense and more frequent. I imagined that upstairs, they knew it was me who had told on them, and that they were being as obnoxious as possible so I'd just pack up and move out. Realistically, I reminded myself that I'm probably just as anonymous to them as they are to me, and that the office staff may not even have spoken to them. I'm really, truly not the report-the-neighbors-for-every-little-thing type of person; I just miss my beauty sleep and the calm that used to accompany daytime here in my building.

I determined that I could wait it out until I'm back for my first summer course session at the end of May to see if it's gotten any better. My class will run 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., so the point may be moot. Plus, I'll have had three weeks' respite from the poor thing.

So now I ask you:
What would you have done if you were in my shoes? If you are a dog owner, how would you feel if someone filed a "complaint" about your pet? Would you be resentful or relieved to know? Would you have preferred that the complainant confront you personally?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Time to Give It the AXE

To be one hundred percent honest, I am aware that it seems like all I do is drink, talk about drinking, or plan when I'll next be drinking. There's no shame in enjoying a few adult beverages every now and then. I truly consider myself blessed to have been able to spend an extra year in limbo between undergraduate life and adulthood to spend with Ian and his AXE brothers, Caroline, and my ADPi sisters. By no means will adulthood entail full sobriety or maturity, but it will entail a lot fewer parties.
My responsibly consumed schooner is to the left; a friend's is to the right, which explains this:
...and this:
The weekend began around 4:30 yesterday, when Caroline and I arrived and walked over to a celebration the Chemistry and Biology departments were having for a retiring professor. (In case you haven't gathered, Ian is pre-med, and thus, all about the sciences.)
These gentlemen and Caroline and I dined at Macado's. I ordered my usual Build-Your-Own sandwich and I elected to add turkey, which I found rather bland. I may need to experiment with turkey before I add it to my repertoire.
Dinner segued into a trip to Kroger for thirst-quenchers, which was how the motorized shopping cart came to be. Kroger led to one last night of hilarious conversations, laughing that turned into hiccups, silly pranks, and my way of saying good-bye to Ian's brothers, who will be graduating in two weeks (many of them don't live in Virginia). I'm not big on good-byes; I prefer "see you later" and creating memorable "lasts."
This morning, Caroline and Ian and I braved the elements and enjoyed brunch in the dining hall before heading back to our respective schools to study. I must say, it was a great evening with great friends and great memories.

Even though it was time to give H-SC weekend wonder the axe, I feel confident and satisfied that we went out with a bang ;) Perhaps now my blog will adopt a more serious (read: less juvenile) tone... nah!

P.S. What were you up to yesterday? Do you still enjoy a few adult beverage-inspired nights of camaraderie and revelry every now and again?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Nifty, Nifty, I Ran Fifty!

Today's post is going to be short and sweet. Hallelujah, right?
This incredible accomplishment occurred yesterday:
There it is, folks. Straight from the Excel spreadsheet. That grand 50 miles I've striven to achieve (in one month) since December. I am all about the goal. I literally still cannot believe I achieved it, that I achieved it in a 30-day month, and that I had 4 days to spare! Granted, I accounted for 12.74 of those miles with 3 days of elliptical workouts. I know that one month not too long from now, I'll accumulate 50 miles without including elliptical miles, but yesterday morning felt pretty swell :)

I'm ready to get home home to my local Y to start participating in all the classes they offer. I have the first three weeks of May available (as in, no lit reviews, no exams, no readings, no practice sessions, no schoolwork pulling me in a thousand different directions) to try out new and different stuff before it's back here to my apartment complex gym. You can bet I'll be hitting the treadmill and the weight machines, but I'm oh-so-ready to expand my fitness horizons.

I've missed swimming like nobody's business since I aged out of my neighborhood competition team. Is there a better total-body workout? I also really want to try beginner Pilates, Hatha yoga, and Zumba! Fortunately for me, my parents and Caroline are ready-made workout buddies for me. Updates to come next week on fitness classes!

Enjoy your Friday, blends :) I'm off to HSC for one last hoo-rah before Ian graduates and fratting is a thing of the past. Ta ta!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Celebratory Quiz

Today is a momentous day for Girl Emerging -- today marks 100 posts!!
Though I should probably impart some words of wisdom or some pithy health factoid, I'm going to share with you a bit more about me in quiz form, borrowed from Parita:

Coke or Pepsi? Neither! I don't do soda hardly ever anymore. Given the rare opportunity, regular Coke is a huge weakness of mine!

Lemonade or Fruit Punch? Mmm freshly-made or -squeezed lemonade any day.

Caramel Apple or Cotton Candy? Cotton candy, hands down. Reminds me of the State Fair of VA.

Butterfinger or Snicker's? Oooh, this is a toughie... I'll have to say Butterfinger. Especially in a Blizzard ;)

Pudding or Jell-O? I've never been much of a pudding person, but I could eat my weight in Jell-O!

Turkey or Chicken? From 2003 until the beginning of 2012, I was strictly a pescetarian with mostly vegetarian tendencies. Pre-2003, I preferred chicken over turkey; I always liked the dark turkey meat at Thanksgiving but light chicken meat. I suppose now my preference is chicken, though I don't know whether I've had turkey since the dietary switch.

American or Provolone Cheese? Neither -- Swiss for me! Gouda, if I'm in the mood for something a little more smokey and flavorful.

Cookies or Crackers? I could answer this question with a paragraph or two, but I think the short answer is cookies.

Pretzels or Chips? Chips, chips, chips!

Mexican food or Japanese food? Ohhh my, Mexican.

Chinese food or Italian food? I literally cannot choose between the two of these. Seriously. I mean, how many times have I mentioned how much I love P.F. Chang's and Olive Garden? Though both are very Americanized...

Pie or Cake? Generally, cake takes the cake.

Ice Cream or Cookies? I scream, you scream, I scream again for ice cream!

Pasta or Pizza? Hmmm... I think I have to go with pizza.

Soda or Juice? Another toughie... though I don't drink soda hardly ever anymore, I still love it. But, I do have a soft spot for fresh pineapple and orange juices.

Chocolate Bars or Chocolate Truffles? The fancier and more decadent, the better!

Apples or Bananas? Bananas are wayyy more versatile. Though they absolutely must still be 50% green.

Salad or Soup? Salad, all day, every day. I eat salad 4+ days a week, topped with lots and lots of veggies!

Cauliflower or Broccoli? Never in my life have I cared for cauliflower. I've always thought of it as "white broccoli," but I'm still not a fan.

Onion Rings or French Fries? Yet another toss-up. I suppose if I could only have one for the rest of my life, I'd choose... both. Okay, I guess fries.

Blizzard or McFlurry? DQ tends to have better toppings than Mickey D's, so I suppose that sways my vote. Honestly, though, the ice cream at McDonald's is better. I'd take Cake Batter froyo from Sweet Frog over either of these any old day ;)

Fried or Poached Eggs? I'm not sure if I've ever had poached eggs before... but I know I love a good fried egg. Don't forget the sauteed onions!

Crepes or Pancakes? I haven't had too many opportunities to try crepes, but they sure are tasty. In my experience, they also tend to be more moist (my apologies to those who despise this word) than pancakes. Crepes for me!

Hashbrowns or Roasted Potatoes? Hashbrowns on top of hashbrowns. How wrong is it if I admit McDonald's are my favorite? A heart attack would be so worth it.

Oatmeal or Cereal? Hands down, my vote is for cereal. I've been on a Kashi kick for months, and there's no end in sight!

Now that you know a bit more about me as a foodie, I hope you'll respond to some of these questions and let me know your preferences :) Enjoy your Thursday!

P.S. A bit of irony for you -- after yesterday's post, it somehow happened that I played all 7 of my WWF tiles in one maneuver three separate times yesterday alone! That's a feat to be reckoned with, if you ask me ;)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Draw Scramble with Friends

Is anyone else, like, mildly to moderately obsessed with Draw Something, Scramble, or Words with Friends? Do you find yourself texting people or messaging them through the game, Play me back! I'm guilty of all of this... When real friends aren't available or don't play me back quickly enough, I have the computer hook me up with cyber friends so I'm never left without an opponent. Addicted much?
I've been wracking my brain to think of something I could challenge myself to stop doing or to do more of when it hit me yesterday afternoon as I was attempting to study -- duh! Put down the cell phone, dust the cobwebs off the textbooks, and get to studying! Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I do need to take fewer game breaks these days. With just 5(!) days left in the semester, it's decidedly crunch time. Due to extensive preplanning, crunch time this semester does not mean cram time. In any event, I need to focus my creative energies on getting through the next week, taking 2 final exams, and submitting a well-done videotape... not trying to score above 1600 in Scramble or use all my tiles in one WWF maneuver.
Thus, my self-challenge is to reward myself for every hour of productive work with 10 minutes of cell phone gaming. If I get sidetracked and take longer than an hour to complete productive work, it'll take me that much longer to earn a Scramble break. I won't be able to challenge myself for a week, because my semester is unexpectedly ending Monday evening after my last exam, as opposed to Tuesday evening after my last class. Hey, you don't hear me complaining! The challenge isn't much of a challenge... more like a productivity booster. You know, there's nothing wrong with applying classic psychology to daily life :)

In other (fitness-related) news...
I have discovered that I love the stationary bike! I used to feel like it was a huge waste of my time, because my legs were pedaling so fast that it didn't feel like a workout. It just felt as if the bike was propelling my legs without expending any effort on my part. I decided to give it another go on Monday because I was "resting" my knee, so I set myself up for 10 minutes of Fat Burn. That went by in no time, but I still felt like I was getting exercise. Yesterday, I ran 4 miles, which is my greatest PDR accomplishment to date, and which I nearly thought would kill me. Needless to say, my knee was quite sore last night. I knew I needed to take another respite from running, so I hopped on the bike for 25 minutes of Fat Burn this morning. I coupled that with some free weights while on the exercise ball. Rational A.K. knows I need probably 3-4 days of alternating heat and ice with no running whatsoever. Competitive A.K. wants to complete those last 3.07 miles within the next four days so I can finally accomplish my goal of 50 miles in one month. This is the closest I've ever come, so knee pain be damned!
I'll let you in on a little secret... I typically include miles worked out on the elliptical as part of my monthly "running" accomplishment. Elliptical miles account for 12.74 of the 46.93 miles this month thus far. The elliptical places far less stress and pressure on my back and my joints, plus it gets my heart pumpin' and my bod sweatin'.
So, here's to productivity, accomplishing my goal(s), and capping off the semester the right way! Happy Hump Day, blends!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

For Granted

I had a post all ready to go for today, and then something happened during class this evening that made me go errrrrt! *Change direction entirely*
Friday evening, Ian and I were enjoying the ridiculous hilarity of Jonah Hill in The Sitter.We kept hearing sirens blare by, but that's nothing unusual in this neck of the woods. My apartment complex is off of a main road, so seeing fire trucks and hearing ambulances wailing is part of my daily life. Admittedly, I've grown accustomed to those sorts of noise bursts and I take the emergency of which they're part for granted. We didn't think much of it, though Ian did comment that there seemed to be an awful lot of sirens this particular night. I didn't think any more about it until today.

I received an email this afternoon alerting me that the (one) main road leading into and out of my apartment complex would be closed for several hours this Saturday due to the accident that had occurred last Saturday (technically Saturday, though I thought of it as the wee hours of Friday evening). The apartment complex staff apologized profusely for the inconvenience, but explained that understandably, they needed to cooperate with police requests. The email ticked me off a bit because I'll need access to and from my apartment, but I wasn't too perturbed. There wasn't anything anyone could do about it, so I would work around whatever reason they were closing the road.

Cue It's a Small World After All. In class this evening, I found out that a young man who had just dropped off a friend at an apartment in my complex was killed by a drunk driver cresting a blind spot on that main road, directly across from my complex. I had heard the sirens, I had read the email, but I didn't make the connection until class. Nearly everyone in my class was affected differently; one of my classmates vicariously knew the young man, one of my classmates was in a bad car accident several months ago and is still putting the pieces of her life back together, one of them recently experienced the very traumatic death of her son's friend, one of them lives half a mile away from me and had also heard the sirens late that night, one was caring for the late young man's girlfriend in her fragile emotional state, and others were relating stories of losses they had experienced or how they would feel if their innocent child were killed suddenly. I immediately felt guilty for having been irritated by that email, and the story hit me literally close to home.

I was profoundly struck by how short life really is (the young man was 26), how small this world really is, how everything happens for a reason, and how everything can change in an instant. I don't think I could have thrown any more cliches in there. Cliche, but so very true. It was amazing to me how every person in that room was able to relate to the death of this young man, and yet not one of us knew him personally. I elected not to publish his name, but my most heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to those who survive him and who have bravely made it through the past 4 days without him.

This tragedy is not the least of which incidents encourage me to live every day as if it were on purpose, and to not take a single moment of my existence for granted. I thank God for each and every day He gives me, whether it's full of enough shit to stink a pig out of the barn, or whether it's beautiful and blessed and smiles all-around, "for life is short but sweet for certain."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Meat and My M.I.L.

Ian and my parents and I always joke that I'm so fortunate to have such a generous and creative "future M.I.L." who is willing to create vegetarian and pescetarian dishes specifically for me, even though her three main men are carnivores. Yesterday, as we were meeting Ian's parents for lunch, I was playing tug-of-war in my head: When do I tell her? How do I tell her? Will she be disappointed? Will she be relieved? I needed to find the perfect time and way to tell her that I've been experimenting with meat. I knew she would be understanding, because that's just who she is. My parents have been more than accommodating of my dietary changes over the years; I figured her reaction couldn't be but so different.

She handed me the prime opportunity to tell her as we were discussing OBX next month. She suggested that Ian and I take one night at the beach and prepare dinner for everyone (Bonnie, Jimmy, Ian's bro Tyler, Tyler's lady Liz, and possibly the family's friend Keith). I had already suggested to Ian that we do this, (1) as we're in our 20s and more than capable of preparing meals, and (2) as a gesture of gratitude for such a nice vacation. We (Ian and I) tentatively discussed this idea last summer, but the meal calendar had already been calculated, and our restaurant nights were planned. Bonnie told us that Tyler and Liz had already okayed the meal-prep plan, and I was gung-ho about it. Tyler, however, has worked in the restaurant industry as a chef, and he has experience preparing meals for groups. Ian and I are challenged in that respect, but it's a challenge I'm more than willing to accept! I don't have a clue yet what we'll make, but we have 34 days to figure out logistics. Bonnie will even grocery shop for whatever ingredients we need!

Later during the meal, I circled back around to OBX and slyly mentioned that I've been experimenting with various non-vegetarian foods. I'm still not really eating red meat, and I have no intention of eating "real" hot dogs or hamburgers in the foreseeable future. I wanted her to know that, because we typically grill out at least one night on vacation. Her reaction was less surprised than I had anticipated, but curious and very receptive. Whew! What a relief :) Oh, did I mention that I had been munching on the Calypso Spinach Salad (with grilled chicken) during the entire meal? Ian knew that I had been debating about when and how to tell her, but she didn't say a word. Ian even requested that the spicy chili that came with our appetizer arrive on the side.
I don't know why I was nervous to begin with. Yes, Bonnie has gone out of her way to accommodate my vegetarianism for two-and-a-half years, so I didn't want her to feel as though her efforts had been for naught. I should have known, after all this time, that she would support me no matter my decisions about meat.
Now that that (surprisingly brief) conversation is out of the way, all I need to worry about is what Ian and I will prepare for the group next month!

P.S. Is your family supportive of your dietary decisions? Does your family understand your food choices and your reasoning?

Sunday, April 22, 2012


The weekend splendor continued, as Ian and I splurged on homemade pancakes yesterday morning:
I couldn't believe how well they turned out, and that the first one wasn't a shapeless disaster!
Then, of course, I dragged him to the gym. I was determined to run a quick 5K, as I had taken Friday off to "rest" (i.e. to clean my apartment).
Why yes, we were part of a Black Ops mission.
Plus, I knew we'd be eating O.G. and I'd feel better about a calorie-fest if I'd worked off some earlier. I try not to fall into a pattern of working out and then pretending that I "compensated" for an indulgent thousand-calorie meal. I know it's a myth that everything evens out, so I try not to let myself buy into it. It's just so hard to pass up my favorite restaurant when we have a gift card!

Post-gym, it was time for A.K. Delivers Another Grocery Store Produce Lesson to Ian Before He Can No Longer Rely on a Dining Hall. He'll be moving to Richmond in August, and he'll no longer be able to rely on whatever the dining hall is serving for 2-3 meals per day. Neither of us wants to see him resort to frozen Lean Cuisines, pizzas, or MREs...
I don't mean to make Ian sound as if he's a Neanderthal who can't do anything for himself. Promise! I just like translating everything I've learned through a great deal of experimentation, a bit of research, and a tremendous amount of blog-reading into relatable language and simplicity. He hasn't had any experience, ever much experience cooking nutritious meals for himself, and he's looking to practice before it becomes a necessity.
I decided to give Luna bars a try; I've seen so many bloggers raving about them. Ian loved Chocolate Dipped Coconut, but I haven't given any of mine a try yet.
After a brief late-afternoon nap, it was time to venture out into the monsoon for Olive Garden. In all honesty, O.G. and P.F. Chang's are two of the only places I'll wait complaint-free for 45 minutes for a table.
I decided to try one of the promotion options, the Parmesan Crusted Shrimp. I feel like it's lose-lose; if I select my usual (Shrimp and Crab Tortelli Romana) I'm disappointed that I didn't try something new. If I try something new, I'll wish I'd ordered my usual. Obviously, I have a hard life.
Of course, we ate about 4 bowls of salad.
Leftovers are almost my favorite part.
Between a gift card and a coupon, we paid just $9 for a delicious meal, including tip -- you can't beat that!

This afternoon, Ian's parents treated us to a late lunch at O'Charley's. Eating out Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is absolutely unheard of in my world, the primary reason being that I'm flat broke. Well... that's not entirely true. But you know how when that tax refund comes, you just don't want to touch it until you have to because it feels like a gift from the unknown? That's just my two cents.

I hope your weekend has been fantastic! Mine has been very relaxing :) What were you up to this weekend? Are you heading into the end of the semester?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Twins For a Day

Jennifer and Kristin (L to R) are twins.
Fraternally- and sarcastically-speaking. They're near polar opposites, but they do share their special day, April 19. Can't you tell by their designating "another year of fabulous" sashes?
The celebration was weekend-long. Actually, I've been reminded of their impending b-day since the mid-end of March ;)
Thursday evening, we celebrated on their actual birthday with appetizers and drinks at Applebee's.
Geez! I look like a ghost next to the Tanning Bed Twins.
Oh, and of course I relished a treat from Georgetown Cupcakes, courtesy of Travis:
Last night, we celebrated at a legendary local martini bar and restaurant, Robin Alexander. 'Twas a wee bit pricey, but really really fun! I was glad Ian and Travis were able to join us, though they weren't as interested in martinis as they were in finding "the game" and the perfect craft beer. We were all guilty of sampling quite a bit.
 We all munched on the incredible spinach and artichoke dip, which came with a variety of dippers, and some of the best pico de gallo I've ever tasted.
I ordered the Tuscan Chicken with the Vegetable of the Day (a summer medley of zucchini, squash, broccoli, and red bell pepper), and I sampled Kristin's sweet potato fries. Mmmm!
 Nothing like having your eyes closed in a heinously awkward group photo...

Unfortunately, Jennifer's main squeeze, Logan, wasn't able to join us, but we helped make her night special with martinis like Cake Batter and the Fun Dip. Due to budgetary restraints, I carefully selected one martini: Pear It Up. It was so-so. We will be returning, and I'll sample others from their extensive selection. The whole restaurant had a very Richmond feel about it. Maybe that's why I felt so at home :)

I hope your Friday was fabulous, too!

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Call" Me Crazy

I may or may not have a "need" to have a new cell phone every summer...
Yes, you read that correctly. Every. Summer.
In May of 2008 (the summer after frosh year at LU), I picked up my first Palm -- to the tune of $400 -- to replace my ages-old Kyocera. After sophomore year, I had had enough of the Palm (and honestly, I loved it but it broke on its own and actually required replacing), and I decided I needed my first HTC. Well, that phone sucked pretty badly in my opinion. What did I switch for it? Another Palm! Awesome decision. [Naht!] After a year of that, it was a trusty old Samsung for me in July of 2011. I'd had at least one Samsung before, so I thought I was making a self-reliant, cost-efficient decision. I'm here to tell you that the phone I have now is a hunk o' junk. From the first two weeks I owned the thing, I learned about all of the things it didn't do as opposed to all of the world-changing miracles it promised. I mean, what kind of phone made in 2011 doesn't have an indicator light to let you know you have a text?!
I can't say the Verizon reps didn't warn me... They tried pushing me toward the Droid, the iPhone, and other "4G" gizmos, but I wouldn't have it any other way. They didn't warn me about the lack of an indicator light, to which they claimed to be oblivious and innocent. I chose a 3G phone because it was worlds cheaper than the 4G devices they pushed. Purchasing my Samshit, as I lovingly refer to it, was, at the very (very) least, an inexpensive purchase -- the only smart thing about this "smart" phone.

This summer, for the 5th consecutive summer, I'll be replacing my cell with a new toy (not exactly eco-friendly, am I?). However, for the first summer in memory, I have no clue which toy I want. Before you all scream, the iPHONE!!, does anyone have suggestions? Here are my standards:
- Must have an indicator light
- Must be 4G
- Must not be a Palm
- Must be offered via Verizon

Help me out here. I'm not necessarily looking to save money this summer. I'm looking to get rid of a phone that freezes up almost on a daily basis, that glitches like nobody's business, and that doesn't notify me of jack. Please and thanks!

P.S. What kind of cell do you currently have? Do you love it or hate it? Would you buy it again if given the opportunity?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mr. Skinner

I swear I haven't dropped off into an abyss! I'm still kickin', I'm just ultra busy and ultra stressed. It's April, a.k.a. Hell Month, and there are only 12 days left in the semester. Ahhhh!!

Being the nerd and bookworm that I proudly am, I was reading my textbook Tuesday afternoon in preparation for Techniques class that evening. This week's section was all about token economies, positive versus negative reinforcement, punishment, and behavior contracts based upon the work of B.F. Skinner -- LU psychology classes, anyone? The information was also very reminiscent of the reward systems I have been taught to use for the past two summers as a TA at the Faison School for Autism. Token economies have wide application, though, and as I was reading, I was thinking about how I could apply this sort of system to my own life and habits. The system has one primary downfall: because it relies on extrinsic motivation for rewards, sometimes intrinsic motivation to complete desired behaviors or discontinue undesired behaviors is diminished.

As you may well know, I love a good challenge! I thought, wouldn't it be cool if I applied a token economy to my life, completing desired behavior and rewarding myself for it? In this way, intrinsic motivation to complete selected behaviors probably wouldn't be diminished because I'm naturally intrinsically motivated to check things off of to-do lists, document information, and create organizational charts. If this isn't grade-A nerd status, I don't know what is!

Long process short, I have decided to monitor and track one specific behavior using a system of positive reinforcement, which is intended to increase a desired behavior. In my case, the desired behavior is, as of yet, undecided, but I will reward myself with something I love -- dessert. For every ____ times that I engage in _____, I will reward myself with one small dessert item, such as a piece of chocolate or a cookie. This is considered fixed-ratio reinforcement, because I am rewarding myself every time after a specified number of completed behaviors. Still following me?
For every time that I don't _____, I won't reward myself with a dessert item, but I also won't "punish" myself or remove anything.
I'll be monitoring my ____ behavior for one week (beginning once I decide on a behavior), and I'll be periodically posting updates. At the very least, I hope that this challenge will be informative. For example, I learned that I don't consume nearly as much water as I thought I did before I self-administered my H2O Challenge.
As soon as I decide what the desired behavior is that I wish to increase, I'll post an update to this challenge. Due to the end-of-semester craziness ensuing right now, the challenge may even have to wait. Just something to ponder in the meantime...

Here's the disclaimer that I feel obligated to provide: I do not need to monitor my behavior, and I promise I am not a crazed lunatic looking for yet another excuse to create an Excel spreadsheet or a chart (or am I?). I'm simply looking to challenge myself to be more cognizant of a specific behavior, while simultaneously watching how much bad-for-me food I shovel into my mouth. You feel me? Well, tough ta-tas.

P.S. Have you ever experimented with or used behavior tracking or reinforcement schedules? I love the good ol' token economy system! It makes education and reinforcement that much more exciting when I'm teaching (and learning) at Faison. I absolutely cannot wait to return for my third summer!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Run About It, Read About It

Interestingly enough, I ran across an article last night via Twitter about common mistakes runners make. I thought maybe these mistakes could help explain my knee pain.
It would appear that I'm making two out of three of these mistakes.

The third mistake, which I am proud to say I am not making due to my need to change my footwear up, is overusing the same old pair of sneakers.
Not a problem!
The article recommended that runners change their sneakers out every 200-350 miles (or about every 4-6 months, depending on how much you run). This isn't a problem for me, since I have yet to make my 50-mile monthly goal, and I keep my new sneaks almost solely for gym use.

On a related note...
As I mentioned yesterday, I took a planned day off from running this morning... but I was still itchin' for a cardio workout. I couldn't resist the elliptical, and that 45 minutes felt gooood! Well, not so much on the knee. The soreness occurs immediately following a workout, though it doesn't hurt while I'm exercising. Tomorrow, I'm definitely taking the hint and making it either a rest day or strictly an upper-body strength training day. I know I need to be smart about treating my body, but I can't help but be excited that I have fewer than 20 miles left to accomplish in the month, and 14 more days!

Have a phenomenal Monday, and take advantage of this beautiful weather!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Running Pains

This is going to sound really weird... but I'm (kind of) excited to have my first running pains. Not that I haven't felt like a "real" runner for the past 11 weeks as I've been training for the Susan G. Komen 5K, but this sort of makes being a "runner" seem more real to me.

Let me back up a bit. On Friday, I decided to challenge myself and run a 5K, even though my training schedule called for 3 miles. Afterward, I felt great, but my left knee was pretty sore, particularly when I stepped with that leg. Saturday, as I was hungover, traveling, and busy, I took the day off from exercise. The schedule called for 4 miles, and this was the second Saturday in a row that I skipped that 4-miler. I'm just not ready for that distance yet. Three miles doesn't exactly feel easy, per se, but I've come to be able to run it comfortably, increasing my speed and decreasing my time with each run. I've run more than 3 miles several times, when my schedule called for 40- or 45-minute runs. Four miles is still a (not-so-distant) future goal.

This morning, my training schedule called for the day off, but I'm used to transposing scheduled runs by now. I decided to challenge myself again, with a 3.5-mile run in 45 minutes. I didn't have any soreness, so I didn't think this challenge would be a problem. Wrong! I completed 3.5 miles in 44 minutes, 47 seconds. As soon as I hopped off the treadmill, my left knee was instantly in pain. Hence:
I don't know whether I should be heating or icing, or alternating heat and ice. The only methods I have of heating are in a bath or with a dryer-warmed towel. Fellow runners, can you help me out??
I do know that I should probably take a rest day tomorrow, or at least a brief hiatus from running. A friend recommended this as well, and she said that's what she does when she experiences soreness from running.
I'm thankful that I don't experience (or haven't yet experienced) persistent pain, shin splints, or torn or strained muscles. Infrequent soreness serves as a reminder that I'm pushing my body's limits without exceeding them.

If you have tips on treating soreness with quick at-home remedies, I'd be greatly appreciative! Have a very happy Sunday! :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Endless Summer

This weekend has been pretty different from my usual exploits at Hampden-Sydney. Oh, well, with the exception of my token hangover.
I arrived Friday at 3:45 and hung out with Ian and a steady stream of visitors until Caroline arrived. After running a few errands and grabbing T-Bell for dinner, it was time for the slip-and-slide. Of course, no frattivity such as this is complete without a trip to the hospital for stitches, so that put a bit of a damper on things... for about 5 minutes. Unfortunately, the slip-and-slide lubed with dish soap was a wrap, but the camaraderie of Pledge Party was just beginning.
Tom's themed attire was less "endless summer" and more "female volleyball player"
Obviously, my attire wasn't theme-oriented, as I had planned...
This is the infamous professor, Dr. Herbert J. Sipe, Jr.

I don't know about you, but I much prefer bottled beer to canned beer, even though it's twice as expensive. I tried the new Bud Light Platinum, but I was a bit disappointed with how watered down it tasted. Luckily, I had Miller Lite to balance out the flavor.
The entire night was fantastic. Tom and I went 2-0 in beer pong, some of my ADPi sisters wandered in for a bit, I caught up with old friends and new friends, I mixed and mingled all night, and it was an incredible last frat "party" for Ian and me.

This morning, I was up and at 'em at the horrendous hour of 9:00. I needed to shower, get ready, and grab a small breakfast before heading back to school for Kristin's 31 party at 1:00. I wish I'd snapped photos of the delicious libations she prepared -- mini BBQ sandwiches, fresh fruit salad, a fresh veggie tray, cupcakes, sangria, pretzel snacks, tomato and bacon pastries, homemade cookies, and more -- but I was ravenous! I had never been to a 31 party before, but I definitely enjoyed myself. I especially loved her party favors:
A well-deserved nap was on the agenda, and for two glorious hours, I did nothing else. I made myself a late dinner when I finally arose, and I'm currently enjoying a cup of decaf and a movie. Normally, I'd be lonely and bored at my apartment on a Saturday night, but I'm zapped. I decided to call it an early night, watch a little TV, and lounge around here for the evening. I'm perfectly happy with the idea of a quiet evening, sleeping in tomorrow (with no alarm), and grocery shopping and working at my leisure.

I hope your weekend has been wonderful thus far :) What have you been up to? Do you generally prefer quieter or rowdier weekend activities, or a combo?

Friday, April 13, 2012

I Pledge to Party

Pledge Party.
To me, that's a weird phrase. It sounds as though one is pledging to party.
Well, if that's the case, then I'm on board. Tonight is AXE's (Ian's fraternity) Pledge Party event for the newly initiated brothers. Typically, Pledge Party occurs the night before the initiation ceremony, but the fraternity's social circumstances were different this semester. Thus, Pledge Party is occurring post-initiation; the pledges are no longer pledges. That doesn't mean the party will be any less grand! There is usually a band or a DJ. Tonight there will also be cookout food, which means fast-food or some red meat alternative for me. The theme this semester is Endless Summer, and this tankini top and sundress are what I plan to wear:
Plus my LMFAO shades, as I call them, with my HSC "bro-kies"
I'm not ballsy or showy enough (read: idiotic enough) to wear just a bikini top and some skimpy bottoms. I prefer a more modest adherence to the theme, nevermind the fact that it'll be 50 degrees and windy tonight. Tonight's more realistic theme is debauchery.
I'm just looking forward to socializing and spending QT with Ian, Caroline, Lauren & Co., and Ian's bros. I hope to have lots of great pics for you tomorrow, as I rejoin my grad school girls for a 31 merchandise party at Kristin's!

Man, I'm going to miss these opportunities to act as an undergrad again... Before you know it, I'll have taken up knitting and cat-collecting...

P.S. Do you still enjoy "fratting" when you get the chance? Do you ever visit your alma mater (HSC is my pseudo alma mater) to shake things up with old friends?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Worried Worry Wart

One thing you've probably gathered (from many of my posts) is that I'm a worrier. I worry about the future, the past, the present... hell, I worry about worrying. I'm just a person who is concerned about everything.
One of my concerns right now is how I will exercise when I'm in OBX next month (T-minus 44 days!). As Colleen so graciously reminded me when I blogged about this dilemma pre-Mexico, vacation is about taking a vacation from your norm and your routine. If exercise fits into your schedule, congrats to you; if not, enjoy your vacation without feeling pressured to exercise. Since I have really dived into working out, eating right, and taking care of my body, exercising on vacation is a priority to me.

Ian doesn't exactly share my concern, but he understands it. In February, he called the neighborhood association of the house we'll be staying in, and they told him that for $50 per week, we could have an all-access pass to their clubhouse and fitness facilities. Well, our house has its own pool, hot tub, and billiards room, so that hefty $50 would be spent on a treadmill. Plus, as I pointed out to Ian, if we bought the all-access pass, we'd feel obligated to work out (or waste our money), as opposed to fitting exercise into our schedule naturally.

We considered the possibility of running, which is free and which can be done any time, but neither of us was keen to run several miles in the blazing NC heat. Even in the a.m. when the sun isn't so beastly hot, we'd have to set an alarm in order to beat the sun. That isn't ideal, as we both love to sleep in. We'll definitely consider running at dusk, though.
I also know, after having been to OBX twice before with Ian's family, that I hardly ever don't always make the healthiest food selections, particularly on restaurant nights. If you've ever been to Jimmy's Seafood Buffet or Captain George's, you know that you cannot pass up the hundreds of fresh seafood delicacies. I tend to snack a lot, drink too much carbonation and not enough water, and eat too few veggies and fruits. My eating habits are vastly different this year, so I'm relying on my self-control to assist me in making better choices.
I don't think swimming will be much of an option; the ocean is always frigid down there, and the pool at our house is of a nice size but too small for doing laps.
(You can see that I've given this a great deal of ill-consumed time and thought...)

Which brings me to my point -- I'm working on devising an at-home workout I can complete if I so feel the need to sweat it out while on vacay. I don't own any free weights or exercise equipment (e.g. jump rope, stretch bands), so I'm looking for free and simple exercises.
For a cardio boost, I'm thinking jumping jacks. In terms of strength-building, I can rely on Ian to be my sit-ups partner, and I can do push-ups. Even if he isn't in the mood for exercise, I know he won't mind helping me out. We also love to walk on the beach to collect shells and at night, which is great exercise because of the resistance the sand offers. And, of course, there's always planks to challenge myself.
I am well aware that this post makes me sound like a huge hulking meathead, but I'm okay with that. I also realize that this isn't a very sophisticated workout plan, so I'm all for suggestions, tips, comments, etc. Thanks!

Have a fantastic Thursday, blends :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Calling All Members of the BTC

Gentlemen, avert your eyes.
The meek, squeamish, or easily embarrassed should click away.
I'm about to talk about boobs.
If you're a self-proclaimed member of the BTC, you know that running can sometimes be a less-than-pleasant or even a downright painful affair. I use regular old sports bras from Target, but I've been thinking for some time that a more form-fitting and supportive sports bra might help.
As you can see from the pink one, it may be time for some new running flair anyway...
The girls aren't a problem when I'm lifting weights or usually even when I'm pumping out an elliptical workout; it's pretty much just when I run that I experience soreness. Generally, the first few minutes are rough, and then I settle into my rhythm and I forget about discomfort. But later -- ouch!

If you have suggestions of locations or brand names of sports bras for more well-endowed ladies, I'd be greatly appreciative. I'm not looking to order something online; I want to try it on and ensure that it's comfortable before I buy it. I'll be on the lookout in about 3 weeks when I'm home for a brief stint in May.

P.S. Are you a member of the BTC?! If so, how has "membership" altered your exercise?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Falling Down on the Job

Okay, okay, I admit it.
I've been the worst accountability buddy.
One of my gym buddies, Lauren, has been my long-distance accountability buddy for months, and yet we've actually checked in with each other only a handful of times. She was much better about asking me whether I'd gone to the gym and motivating me to feel better before I began 5K training than I was for her. After I began my training program, I was pretty darn self-motivated, so I stopped checking in with Lauren and she stopped checking in with me. What I really need her to say now is, Don't eat those curly fries! Really? Another scoop of ice cream?! But while we were still agreed-upon long-distance gym buddies, I should have made more of an effort. She's too cute for me not to!
My other accountability buddy, Bekah, and I go to school together, though we never run into each other because she's an undergrad and we "live" on opposite sides of campus. She was much better about texting or tweeting me to see if I'd already run. I hardly ever remembered to text her, and when I did, it usually read something like, Yeah, I ran Monday and Wednesday and did weights on Tuesday. Oops, forgot to text you (again)!
It appears that not only do I not take many photos with my accountability buddies, but that all we do is drink beer!
I think the good news buried under the guilt here is that my friends and I are able to hold ourselves accountable for going to the gym and fitting exercise in our schedules where we can. Bekah recently began using the same 5K training plan I'm using, which definitely excited me! She's tried to get me involved in numerous actual 5K events -- as opposed to treadmill marathons -- and so has Lauren, but my timing and scheduling this semester have not yet allowed for it.
I think both of them would tell me not to worry about feeling like I fell down on the job (because they're both very motivated and forgiving women), but I'm one of those people who always honors without fail likes to honor commitments I've made.
However, 32 days from today, my dad and Caroline and I will be running in the Susan G. Komen 5K event in Richmond (my first race ever!). They'll be my new short-term accountability buddies :)

Have a marvelous Monday, and don't be too hard on yourself today!

P.S. Have you and a friend ever been accountability gym or exercise buddies? If so, how long did you maintain it? If not, is it something you're willing to try?
P.P.S. Today is the last day of my H2O Challenge. Thus far, I've only managed to drink 48 oz. of water in a day once. I don't think today's going to be a different story. It looks like 24 oz. of water plus 2 cups of coffee per diem is my norm. At least now I know!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Recharging My Batteries

 I don't think it would be possible for me to forget how it feels to be at home with my family. But sometimes, in the midst of a hectic semester, wedged between lit reviews and group presentations, and stuck under Post-It notes reminding me about practice sessions and extra credit opportunities, I forget how refreshing and relieving it can be to spend a weekend at home recharging my batteries. It's amazing how just one of my mom's homemade dinners, or one of my dad's freshly cut fruit bowls left in the fridge, or one of my sister's insanely inappropriate jokes, can really turn things around.

I have never experienced more stress in my life than I have as a graduate student. This is, of course, one of the reasons I'm considering seeing a counselor this summer, but I'm also considering this because it's part of my journey toward becoming a counselor myself. It would be a mistake for me as a counselor-in-training to assume that I don't have "baggage" or unresolved issues from the past affecting me, whether or not I'm conscious of it. That being said, my family is my primary support system, and being at home really helps me clear my head and be more level-headed in my decisions. I can't even put into words the magnificence of sleeping in (sort of), watching TV guilt-free, eating home-cooked meals, relaxing outside, laughing and joking with Ian and my fam, and celebrating Easter with my favorite people. Sometimes, a girl just needs to unwind. That's exactly what I did. I drove back to my apartment, went grocery shopping, and went to class this afternoon -- all with a smile.

P.S. How was your Easter weekend, whether or not you celebrate the religious holiday? What did you do? Did you watch the Masters to see Bubba Watson's glorious win?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Feaster Weekend Recap

What a magnificent Easter weekend it has been!
Saturday, I slept in until the grand hour of 9:30... I had set an alarm for 10, but after a certain time, my parents don't believe in any standard of being "quiet" in the a.m. So, outside we went. For as long as I can remember, Caroline and I have loved swinging with Mom in the porch swing. Dad had a prior engagement (a.k.a. golf), so we lazed around for a few hours before Ian arrived at 2:30. Momma sent this with him since I wasn't there to open my second-family Easter basket:
He insisted right away that we watch some movie called Space Cowboys... It was okay, but between allergies, my wake-up call, and a mid-afternoon Woodchuck, I semi-napped my way through the adventures of Tommy Lee Jones.
Dinner was truly a feast -- grilled chicken, shrimp, and smoked sausage; fresh corn on the cob; salad with all the fixings; mashed potatoes; fresh squash; and homemade lemonade.
After dinner, it was decidedly a Sweet Frog kind of night. Actually, my parents had planned on a froyo trip specifically because Ian was visiting.
Our family is really big on reading, so a trip to Sweet Frog is usually tied in to visiting Barnes & Noble, or as my parents refer to it, "bee and en."
Go the F**k to Sleep, anyone?
I was super stoked to find that Ellen Hopkins had released a new book, Perfect. Her other books, Crank, Glass, Burned, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, and Impulse are some of my favorite psychology-inspired reads, particularly Identical. I'll definitely be saving Perfect for OBX '12 with my second family next month!
Then it was time for Woodchuck and a date with Justin Timberlake. Ian wanted to Redbox In Time, which I would rate a 9 for creativity, but a 5 for plot and emotion factor. Maybe I just didn't quite get it. Whatever. Justin Timberlake is easy on the eyes, whether or not I get what he's doing to save the world.

Easter Sunday always means early risin', but I don't mind. I love an excuse for new shoes and a new dress.
Please pardon the awkward position of Ian's hands... Contrary to whatever pose he was trying to strike, I am not expecting.
After having experienced it for the first time, I highly recommend the brunch buffet the Strawberry Street Cafe in Richmond offers. The sausage gravy--which I have discovered is a meat food I like--was out of this world!
We rode down to Shockoe Bottom after lunch to see Ian's new apartment.
Around 4:15, he had to depart for school to be at work by 6:00. I decided to stay another night, so I'll be heading back in the morning, well-rested and well-fed ;)

Happy Easter, one and all! I hope the Easter Bunny was good to you (he still visits our house, though my sister and I are 19 and 23), and that your day was filled with food, fun, and family!

P.S. What is one of your Easter traditions? We always take lots of pictures in our new Easter dresses, and eat brunch somewhere new or different.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

ONEderful Achievement

Ladies and gentlemen, I have very, very, very exciting news!!!
For the first time in longer than I care to admit, I'm back in the ONEderful weight range! This is an extremely proud time for me, because the results of my fitness efforts are paying off. I have literally been running my ass off. And it shows!
I happened to step on my sister's bathroom scale last night (before indulging in 9 p.m. Arby's, I might add), not expecting to see such a beautiful number.
If you had asked me 3 or 4 months ago whether I'd be willing to display my weight on a blog for the world to see, I'd have laughed in your face. Yeah, right. I've found that the more I blog and the more pride I have in what I'm doing for myself, the more brash (read: ballsy) I become. At the risk of full disclosure, I'll add that this means that I've lost approximately 20 pounds since I began running. As if I didn't believe in the value of running already, this visual reinforcement is just icing on the healthy cake! However, this doesn't mean that I'll be investing in my own scale anytime soon, but it's nice to check in every once in awhile.
Now I can be that much more confident tomorrow, wearing my fancy new gladiators and my new Easter dress:
Side note: I've noticed recently via all the pictures of my feet that my feet look really weird in photos! So, pardon my apparent cankles and my stubby toes...

P.S. Day four of the H2O Challenge consisted of 24 oz. of water and 2 cups of coffee. Mind you, when I say I'm drinking 2 cups of coffee, one is my caffeine boost for the day after my workout, and the other is usually around 10 p.m. (decaf) when I'm winding down and I want a little sweet treat. Day five (Friday) consisted of 24 oz. of water, a medium-sized sweet tea from Subway, a cup of coffee, and a Bartles & James marg (gross!). If you count the tea, I finally accomplished my 48 ounce goal!