Friday, August 31, 2012

a little change of scenery

I think this place could use some brightening up, what'dya think? Hopefully before too long this place will get a fresh coat of paint and be easier to navigate. And best of all, it's my very own design! Can't wait to hear what you guys think!

For now, have a happy Friday and enjoy the long weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

copycraft: faux metal letters diy

I'm aware this is out of focus. Pretend it's artistic.
I think we've all probably seen the whole big letter/words trend popping up in interior design. Even before this was all of over the place I've always gravitated toward projects that involve letters or words. I think it's such an easy way to add personalization to your home. (Some of you from the way back when might remember my DIY cork letters that still remain lovingly in our kitchen.)

Anyway, the other day I was at the mall to pick up my computer from the Apple store (being fixed after  a certain Staffordshire Bull Terrier trampled it on my lap kicking off the z-key and mashing the trackpad... somehow I still found the whole episode "cute." Less cute $90 later...) and since it wasn't ready yet I obviously took that as a divine indication that I should go shopping. (Signs don't get much clearer than that.)

While I was in Anthropologie I was browsing in the housewares section and came across these awesome industrial-looking Zinc Letters.

I was SO close to picking up a J and a C for the house but then thought to myself, I bet I could just make them from those cardboard letters at the craft store.

Apparently the ENTIRE DIY community has thought the exact same thing at one time or another because there are about a bajillion tutorials on the internet. I went with one of the first links I found, mainly because she was inspired by the very same Anthro letters! Small (crafting) world. (You can find that tutorial on The Retropolitan blog here.)

The whole thing is super fast and simple and you only need the following items:

  • Cardboard letters
  • Black craft paint
  • Silver metallic craft paint
  • Paintbrushes
That's right! A project under $10! (I already had the paint.) And one so easy that you can do it while watching an entire episode of Dawson's Creek on Netflix. (I obviously read that somewhere. I don't know that from personal experience...)

So the trick as it turns out is painting the letter black first. It gives it the dark undercoat that you need for the metallic silver to really pop off. What I love about this project (aside from its complete dummy proof steps) is that you can keep applying coats of metallic paint to your desired effect. So you could even go with black letters with kind of a rough metallic edge (like this) or you can go for the more Zinc-look closer to the inspiration letters from Anthro (which is what I opted to do.) 

Not surprisingly there aren't many in-process shots from this project, but you can see the overall effect at the end is pretty spot on.

Am I cardboard? Am I metal? Am I overpriced and from Anthropologie? YOU DON'T KNOW.
I even like that the cardboard letters are kind of ripply and imperfect because the surface picks up the silver differently and makes it kind of rustic. Don't you love it when happy accidents like that happen?

In the original tutorial, Erika from The Retropolitan adds metal brads to give it an even more industrial look and I'm telling you those letters might as well be made from Zinc because the naked eye can't tell the difference. 

Photo credit to The Retropolitan - check it out here! 
Of course I love the font of the Anthropologie letters better than the ones in the small selection at the craft store BUT for all the money saved I think it doesn't really matter. I ended up using the letters as accessories on our DVD shelf, which will be getting a new background coat soon (goodbye red!) Like I said, I think they're just a fun, personal accessory to add to any room. 

Also, after the two letters, I was on a bit of a silver kick so I also painted these wooden letters I picked up at Hobby Lobby, and I plan to include them in a gallery wall project I'm doing in my craft room. Not as crazy about the wooden texture and how it picks up the paint, or the font of the letters, but still a fun little project. 

Now get out there crafters and paint the town silver!

// Do you have an inexpensive DIY version of a fun accessory you've seen somewhere else? //

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

i have a new boyfriend...

....He's 44lbs lighter and 15% less body fat.

90 days ago my boyfriend Jason made a promise to get back in shape and start feeling better. I went along for the ride and we both have completely changed our lifestyles. While my abs aren't coming in quite as quickly as his (ha!) I just have to say how incredibly proud I am of him. He's is the hardest working, most self-disciplined person I've ever met, and it's a good thing because I'm pretty sure I'm the LEAST self-disciplined person he's ever met. But he's certainly helping me get better!

It wasn't easy, but I hope this is proof that ANYONE can make a drastic improvement in their health in just 3 short months. You can read all about the ins and outs of his transformation on his blog post about it here. All it takes is hard work and a commitment to see it through.

Now feel free to feast your eyes on this new GQ model I get to fall asleep next to every night... (You think I'm scared of plastering those abs ALL OVER THE INTERNET? I'm not.)

And just for some perspective, let's see where we started, shall we?

Could not be more proud of you, Jason! (Or more excited that I get to selfishly benefit from your months of hard work... my boyfriend's a HAWTIE!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

the birthday surprise of my dreams

Girls out there, you know when you go to an awesome rom-com with your girlfriends (for the sake of the hypothetical, let's just say it's starring Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds... what can I say, I'm a visual gal) and the guy in the movie - though tragically flawed at first of course - eventually comes around and plans some amazingly sweet gesture to whisk the lovely heroine off her feet? Yeah, that doesn't happen in real life.

Or so I thought.

I, too, was one of the girls in the audience of those movies left wistfully fantasizing of the day my dream guy would do the same for me. (Yes, I'm aware, I'm a huge cheeseball. It's one of my many charms - just accept it.) And of course, my more logical sensibilities would inevitably come over me, reminding me that things like that - grand romantic gestures - happen only in the movies. Expecting any man to stack up to a fictional character in creativity would only lead to disappointment, right?


... kind of.

Sometimes, apparently, just when you think life is predictably more mundane than a rom-com, it winks playfully at you and reminds you to dream big and revel in the fantasy of grand gestures. Which is exactly what happened when my very own Ryan Reynolds Gosling planned an enormously crafty and impressively deceptive surprise birthday trip for me to New York City.

Umm... yeah. That happened. In real life.

It took me about a week to fully accept that I didn't dream the whole thing (Some of you might be laughing, but I sleep LIKE A LOG and have some intensely realistic dreams so that's not an entirely ridiculous notion.) But due to popular demand (popular meaning my mother) and for sake of posterity, I thought I'd let the whole charade unfold again here on the blog in case any of you ladies out there want hope that there are real, in-the-flesh, non-fictional gentlemen out there (even ones that are kind of romantically... "moderate" let's say) that are fully capable of ginormous, wonderful surprises.

Let us begin with how completely and totally oblivious I was.

For several weeks leading up to my birthday, Jason only mentioned the day a handful of times and it was usually something like "What do you want to do?" or "Where do you want to eat?" successfully making me think there had been little to no planning involved. I also had planned a get together with several of my sorority sisters and close friends coming into town for a big dinner and girls' night out on Friday night (my birthday being on a Thursday.) I specifically asked Jason if it was okay to plan something on Friday night, you know, secretly hoping he might say something like "Tell your friends you can't - you'll be in Paris!" (pronounced "pair-EE" in that little scenario, in case you were wondering...) but completely expecting for him to say "Go for it!" which he did. So in the days leading up to my Thursday birthday, I thought things would be fantastical, but standard... a couple family dinners, maybe a fun lunch away from the office on my actual birthday, and a friend celebration on the weekend. That in itself is more than I could ever want or ask for. But Jason clearly had more up his sleeve.

Wednesday night I had plans with my Dad. We went out to dinner just the two of us while I left Jason at home working. After a lovely meal, I returned home with NO expectation whatsoever of starting my celebration a few hours early. But as I approached our front door, it quickly became obvious that the birthday festivities were beginning. This is what I came home to:

Hard to tell, but that little dot is a candle (nice touch, right?) and that card says Carol on it. FOR MOI??! (That's what the caption would say if a picture of my reaction had been captured in that moment...)

And here's what it said....

And yes, that chipped nail polish is as atrocious-looking as you think it is. (Whatever, it kind of speaks to my sensibility. It says, I care about my appearance enough to paint my nails, but I'm easy going enough that I don't need a manicure 24/7... One of the MANY genius rationalizations I tell myself. Feel free to use it.
More importantly though, it was a freaking SCAVENGER HUNT, ya'll! I forget that some of you readers out there don't know everything about me, but I LOVE scavenger hunts. And Jason knows this so he has pretty much mastered the art of the scavenger hunt for special occasions. (Seriously though, his clues are the bomb.)

I won't bore you all with every single card in the hunt, but I will tell you there were six different cards. SIX! All with a different tone/message and another clue. I ran around the whole house and as the hunt went on I began to gather through deductive reasoning (and by deductive reasoning I actually mean just reading) that we were going on a trip of some sort. I was told to pack a bathing suit, a "nice dress" and that we were going somewhere that Justin Bieber loves. Needless to say my head was spinning with conjectures.

If you look closely you can see all the different names on each of the cards...

Yeah. That's a bobble head. My boyfriend has a bobble head of himself.  Creepy? Nahhhhh....

The card scavenger hunt culminated in this clever little "boarding pass" to "destination unknown." Okay, this is the point where I have to say, could it be any cuter? There's a freaking BAR CODE. That's called attention to detail, people (Although, no, it doesn't scan. I asked.)

At that point I was thinking, okay, we're going on a trip somewhere. The card said wake up at 5am ready to hit the road. It also said bring your bathing suit, so maybe it's somewhere beachy, but it can't be too far away because we have to drive there. Key West? Destin? Jekyll Island? That was pretty much as far as I'd let my imagination go. (Except of course when three minutes before I finally fell asleep he casually mentioned I should throw my passport in my purse... then the ideas were flying! Damn red herring... I couldn't fall asleep for the longest time!)

5 am came and I zipped out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning. (Come to think of it, that's actually exactly how it felt. To experience that unmistakable, child-like feeling of anticipation and excitement again as a 24-year-old is a gift in itself.) I paid very close attention to which way we were going as we headed off into the darkness of early morning. At that point I still thought it was highly unlikely we'd fly anywhere, especially because Jason didn't seem in any hurry to rush me out the door (apparently he was just playing it incredibly cool.) Until we got off at the exit for the airport. At that point the possibilities seemed limitless. I had no idea where we were going, but the fact that we were flying there seemed amazing to me. I'll never forget that feeling as we walked through the airport, like I was living in a "choose your own adventure" book and the story was dependent upon which gate we were going to walk up to.

Jason wouldn't even let me see my own boarding pass - he checked in and went through all of security holding it for me.

Jason printing our boarding passes as I'm exiled from the check-in kiosk...
Unfortunately the Jacksonville airport only has about 12 gates so I didn't get all the fun of approaching a bunch of gates and then passing them. Instead, we approached the first gate in the terminal and Jason started to slow down. I feel like when I glanced over to see the destination everything kind of went in slow motion (wait... no... that was because I got up at 5am... I literally was moving in slow motion.) When I finally saw the gate marquee, I swear I literally almost cried, a) because I'm an emotional basket-case of a woman and b) because for months I had this longing nostalgia for New York. I lived there for a summer years ago and something lately had been calling me back. The fact that we were just hours away from a whole NYC adventure was more than I could take.

Disclaimer: this is actually not my real reaction. In the first photo taken I'm not only on the verge of tears but I'm struggling to keep my eyes open - again, it's 6am at that point - so in the photo I kind of looked like I had a lazy eye. I vetoed posting that on Instagram so this is take #2. 
After the initial excitement though, I started to get a little worried. "Wait, we're coming back tomorrow morning then?" I couldn't figure out how we were going to do this trip AND still keep my plans with my girlfriends. "I took care of it," he said. That sneaky little thing called my friends after I made plans and had them move it to Saturday. They had been in on it the whole time! The amount of expert deception in my immediate circle of friendship is impressive, I must say.

The whole flight there was a blur (convenient since I HATE flying with a passion), and the second we touched down around 9am I was in full-on happy tourist mode. I wanted to take pictures of everything.

Like this irrelevant photo of me waiting for our car to pick us up. Or this photo (one of several) of  random buildings out the window. (Whatever, I thought it looked SOOOO "New York."
First we had to stop at our hotel to drop off our luggage. Jason told me in the car that our room wouldn't be ready until about 2pm so we could "go to a Starbucks or something to work." The funny thing about an epic surprise of this magnitude is that you start to think everything the orchestrator tells you is a lie. When he said that I rolled my eyes at him and said "yeah, Starbucks, okay..."

As it turns out, the room actually wasn't ready. But the hotel was gorgeous! We stayed at a place called The Benjamin at 50th and Lexington. (I know what you're thinking, and yes, the amount of times that I used the phrase "It's all about The Benjamin, baby!" over those two days was borderline embarrassing.) The location was perfect because we were right in Midtown at the center of everything. The hotel had a really cool mix of vintage and modern style. I also loved that it was kind of dark and romantic.

Can we just imagine for a moment how long the torso would have to be on the human that fits in that chair  perfectly? 
And don't even get me started on the service. The people were so nice. They were in on the whole surprise so they really made me feel special the whole time we stayed there. They kept tweeting at me as we made our way around the city - it was so cool that they were keeping up with the whole trip.

While we waited for our room to be ready, the unbelievably attentive doorman Jonathan recommended a great breakfast place on the same block as our hotel. I had forgotten how ridiculously fast the service is in New York! Man, they were pumpin' out some breakfast. After that we did actually go to Starbucks to work for a few hours. I guess our sponsor for the week would not have been very happy if all we did was play around in New York for two days ignoring the internet. I really didn't mind though. Working at a Starbucks in New York is like people-watching heaven. The amount of awkward business conversations and hilarious gossip I overheard, coupled with the abundant bold fashion statements that kept walking by was enough to keep me entertained.

We headed back to the hotel around 2pm to get ready for Jason's live video show and to settle into the room. I have to also mention for The Benjamin's sake that our room was enormous as far as New York hotel rooms go. We had a suite with a separate living room/mini kitchen and a large bedroom.

Love this shot from the window of our room. Such fun shapes! 
After hanging out and doing the show, Jason told me he had two more surprises planned for the day. Gahhh more surprises?! I started trying to get clues out of him asking him what to wear (casual), should I bring my camera (no), etc. and so I thought maybe the surprise was a massage in the hotel spa. Good guess, right? Wrong. We started walking a few blocks and pretty soon we came upon Rockefeller Plaza.

Cool! I thought. I've never been to Top of the Rock or anything so that's a fun touristy NYC thing to cross off the list. What a great surprise! Wrong again. He said it wasn't that.

Then I saw the sign for NBC studios and thought, Oh maybe we're stopping by The TODAY Show. (They did a piece on Jason last year and I know he stays in contact with some of the producers.) Still wrong.

So at that point I was all out of ideas until we walked inside 30 Rock and up to the front desk where Jason asked the woman nonchalantly, "Excuse me, where do we pick up our VIP passes to Jimmy Fallon?"

STOP. Just stop! I thought. Life, you can go ahead and pause it right there. If this is a dream I will NEVER forgive you!

And that was the second time I almost cried like a doofus. Complete and utter shock. Fallon is one of my favorite late night hosts and we had... eh hem, I'm sorry... VIP passes? I was ecstatic. Like, this ecstatic:

Forehead-wrinkles, crooked-glasses ecstatic!!! Kind of freaking out. 
And the show of course didn't disappoint. Jason and I had the first two seats in the front row which provided a complete unobstructed view of Jimmy and everything going on. The Roots were amazing and probably one of my favorite parts (I may or may not have gotten down with my bad self during their sets at the commercial breaks.) I laughed so hard the entire show that my cheeks were burning by the end.

Also, after they wrapped taping, Jimmy ran up through the audience giving people high fives, to which I obviously held out my hand. And for all of you that will never be able to experience that momentary bliss, I would just like to let you know that Mr. Fallon's hands are abnormally soft. Like, the softest hands I've ever felt. Is that a celebrity thing? Do they just have access to really, really great hand moisturizer? I don't know, but either way, now when you watch Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, you can think to yourself, "I know for a FACT that that man has incredibly soft hands." You're welcome.

Oh, I also managed to get the comedian Seth who warms up the crowd at the beginning of the show (hysterical by the way) to heckle Jason. You know when comedians ask standard questions to the audience like "Who came from far away to be here tonight" just waiting for someone to volunteer as tribute to be made fun of for a little while? Yeah... I was feeling feisty so I kind of yelled out "Florida!" hoping I'd get him to pick on Jason. Plan worked like a charm. You really can't take me anywhere.

Post Fallon. (Apparently my natural instinct to convey excitement is to open my mouth in photos. I wonder where I get that from....)
A quick jaunt (yeah, I used the word jaunt) back to the hotel to change for dinner, and lookey lookey what was waiting for us.

The question is, how did The Benjamin know that I like to get ready for dinner while downing a glass of champagne? Well played, you cheeky hotel. Well played. 
Remember that "nice dress" I was supposed to pack? This dinner surprise is apparently where that came in. (Well I assume it wasn't the right time for the bathing suit.) Anyway, for being completely unaware of where we were going or what we were doing when I stuffed my suitcase, I think we cleaned up pretty well.

So where did we go? Jason made reservations at the restaurant that was actually right around the corner from our hotel called The National. (As it turns out, The National is actually the concept of Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, the winner of "The Next Iron Chef, Super Chefs" and a regular judge on one of our favorite shows "Chopped." We had no idea until we got back from our trip. Such a cool bonus!)

That tag-looking little guy is their business card and I absolutely adore the design!
As we walked through the front door, the restaurant was filled to the brim with sounds of laughter. There were countless glasses of wine on every table and atop each was a single lit candlestick. Immediately when we walked in there was this feeling of upscale comfort. And our meal proved to be just that. As you can imagine, some of the rules in our diet were begging to be broken in honor of my birthday. And break them we did.

Shrimp, scallops, ribs, pork chops, chicken, risotto... we seriously managed to taste EVERYTHING. Not to mention I had the best cheese grits I have ever had in my life. I would have those things every single day if I could. And of course Jason made sure the restaurant knew about the surprise (I think the entire island of Manhattan was in on it at this point) so they gave us a few complimentary appetizers (the scallops were the most buttery delicious scallops I've ever had) and this amazing little concoction...

It took all my inner strength not to start shoveling the contents of this cute little vessel into my mouth... 
When it was all said and done, wine was had, tipsy photos were taken...

... and we were so full I'm surprised I didn't pass out amid the one and a half minute walk back to our room. Day one in NYC a success! (Aren't you exhausted just reading the whole thing? Well pull yourself together, we still have one full day left!!)

On Friday, we got up, did an hour of cardio to work off some of the gazillion calories we had the night before (worth every bit), grabbed breakfast at Alice's Tea Cup (yep, it's just about as emasculating as it sounds) and immediately went to Times Square to grab a cheesy tourist photo. (It was mainly so Jason could grab a photo for our weekly sponsor at the time, Pepperidge Farm, but it's kind of a fun one just to have. Listen, I'm not above cheesy tourist photos.)

Yellow cab, outstretched arm, bustling fellow tourists. Classic. 
A few more hours of Starbucks action (hey, we still have to pay the bills) and Jason mentioned he had one final surprise up his sleeve for lunch. I figured it was just a nice spot he'd picked out in a cool part of the city. Little did I know he had made plans for us to have lunch with two of our Manhattanite friends, Clay and Julia (feel free to follow them on Twitter here and here, and check out their killer productivity tips on their site WorkHacks - they're a couple of smart cookies.)

After that we only had a couple short hours before dinner, and we wanted to do something that required walking around and exploring a bit. (Not gonna lie, being strapped for time and having to plan an itinerary in NYC is a little bit anxiety-inducing, but luckily I was up for the challenge.)

One of my favorite areas of the city when I lived in New York was The High Line. It's basically an area of old raised train tracks that was converted into a mile-long park on the West Side from the Meatpacking District to Chelsea. Maybe it's because you can see the water, or because the buildings aren't quite so high, but I just love that area of the city. It's neighborhoody and artsy. Anyway, I wanted to take Jason there because he had never been and I knew there would be some great views he could photograph. Turned the tables on that little sucker. Who's thoughtful now? Yeah, that's right.

Here are some of my favorite shots:

Love the color of the buildings and the warmth of the neighborhood down there. 

I don't really know what happened here. I think I told Jas I wanted a photo of both of us but we couldn't find anyone to take it so we just backed up to a bush as if to say "Hey, we're at the High Line. There are plants here." and then called it a day.

Gorgeous street art/mural/whatever. I admit, it kind of captures my complete joy over the whole two-day adventure.  So beautiful. 
After our many photo ops at The High Line, with a little time to spare before dinner we decided that we both wanted to see the 9/11 Memorial. 9/11 is a day that both of us remember well, and it especially affected Jason's family, who was living in New York and Washington, D.C. at the time.

The memorial pools were so beautiful. The sound of the water gives off this feeling of constant motion and gives the whole thing such a powerful feeling. My favorite thing about it is how they organized all the names of those remembered by relation to one another. It means so much more than simply arranging them alphabetically. Now, not to make this whole post take a somber turn, but when you see the titles for the fire stations and police with names underneath, you can't help but be overcome with emotion. I think about all the emergency responders that lost their lives, and it just makes me feel so grateful. Those people weren't simply in the wrong place at the wrong time like so many in the towers - they willingly welcomed danger rather than fled to safety because people needed help and that's what they swore to do. All these years later it still gives me shivers, and I think seeing the memorial in person where everything happened helps you feel gratitude in a completely different way. 

The new One World Trade Center at its completion it will be the tallest building in America. Isn't it beautiful? 
Now I just want to say that Jason isn't always an emotional guy. In fact, as guys go, he's pretty great at keeping feelings to himself. So while we were walking around the site, he kept fairly quiet as we both just took it all in. However, as we were walking out of the plaza hand in hand, we passed a donation box. We were almost out, talking to each other, when he stopped dead in his tracks. He reached into his pocket and handed me a bill, nodding toward the box. Not sure what it was about that small gesture but it just warmed my heart. Even though he doesn't always wear his heart on his sleeve like his sappy counterpart, it's little things like that that remind me just how big it really is.

Thanks to our afternoon of trekking around lower Manhattan, we had worked up a pretty nice appetite at that point. For our last night in the city, we made reservations at a gourmet Mexican restaurant called Taloache (tah-lo-ah-chay) at the recommendation of our favorite Jacksonville restauranteurs, TacoLu's Don and Debbie. I'm going to be 100% honest here, at first I wasn't crazy about Mexican for our last meal. I just wasn't feeling it. But then Jason mentioned it was Don and Debbie's favorite place in the city and I knew there was no way it would disappoint. Which it did not.

You guys, almost two full weeks later and I can still taste how delicious this meal was. It was unlike any Mexican food I've ever had - cactus fries and fried avocado slices and sweet plantains (oh LORD the sweet plantains.)

We started off with cocktails (obviously) and it was hard to choose among their list of exotic margaritas. I ended up selecting something that included hibiscus flower IN the margarita and it was deceptively strong (whoops!) After that I decided I couldn't leave without at least tasting their sangria. Some girls just have principles, ya know?

Hello, gorgeous. 
On to the noms! We ordered a trio of ceviche as an appetizer. Fun fact: Jason and I both kind of hate fish with a passion unless it's sushi, but LOVE ceviche. And these three were the most delicious I've ever had (I'm using that phrase a lot, huh? Well, it's true. Then again it could be the fact I hadn't had a carb in like three months leading up to this so my system was probably so shocked to taste flavors.) Anyway, yes, ceviche. Unreal. Peanut butter chile sauce, watermelon... it was nuts.

My picture kind of makes it look all goupy but I promise it was so fresh. 
The rest of the meal just got better and better, and we even tried roasted brussel sprouts!!

Jas still thought they were gross. I thought they were yummy!
And of course, in true Jason fashion, he somehow got chummy with the manager and let him know it was my birthday celebration, furthering our already uncomfortable level of fullness with some churros for dessert (a favorite of his) and this tasty little sampler of their desserts:

So why can't I have this every night AND still fit into my jeans? Life's not fair!
Again we found ourselves on the verge of wheeling each other back to the hotel, but there's no better way to end a trip of a lifetime than with a meal of a lifetime. The next morning we got up, Jason played a quick game of basketball with some buddies and then we were headed back to Florida.

The whole trip was such a whirlwind. Of course I would have loved to try and see so many of my friends that live in New York, but our trip was so short that we kind of made a pact to just enjoy it with each other.

Words can't even express how grateful I am that Jason took the time to plan this whole thing out. I also have to thank Kelly, Jason's sweet sweet mother, who paid for my plane ticket as a birthday gift and helped make it possible, and of course my friends that kept the secret and rearranged our plans to accomodate the trip. My family, his family, my friends - everyone spoiled me for the week and there were so many times I was left thinking to myself, what in the world did I do to deserve so much love?

There are certain times in life when people and experiences just completely surprise you and you feel as though you're living in a dream. My advice - soak up every moment and vow to do the same for someone else one day. That's what I hope to do at least.

And to you Jason, my very own Ryan Reynolds Gosling, thank you for having a heart as big as Montana (is that a saying? No? Montana's big, right?) I never in a million years expected such an extravagant birthday, but I know you know that. Which is why you did it anyway. Thanks for showing me how much you care, and for giving me so many memories I'll get to enjoy forever. I love you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

my birthday gift to myself

If any of you follow me on Instagram (@ckelso), you're probably acutely aware at this point that last week was my birthday. I was uploading an annoying amount of birthday event documentation, only because I'm TERRIBLE at remembering to take pictures and I wanted to make sure I'd have some permanent memories to look back on one of the best birthdays I've ever had.

From those not so subtle clues you may have also figured out that my unbelievable boyfriend managed to pull off a large-scale birthday surprise by taking me to New York City for two days. I have a long and detailed post in the works for all those interested in that story, but for now I wanted to share a quick little birthday surprise I received on Monday.

You may remember my previous fitness posts about my frustrations to drop pounds despite my major lifestyle changes, or my small victories with the scale a few weeks ago. Let me be the first to say that being fit is not about the number on the scale. It's really not. It's about feeling strong and being proud in knowing that you're working for the body you're creating.

But I'm also a girl. And girls look at the scale. We just do. I mentioned previously that there was a certain weight bracket that I had yet to break into - actually one I had never even SEEN on myself before. So yesterday morning, I woke up, walked over the scale in our bathroom, and.......

Please ignore the blue nail polish and the desperate need for a pedicure. That's kind of my signature look.
I was so excited I made Jason run and get my phone to take a photo. I didn't want to get off just in case it was a fluke. But then I woke up this morning, climbed up there again, and the same thing!

Again, I know it's lame to hold on to every pound like that but I'm just so happy and proud to see a number on the scale I've never even seen before because it's validation of the months of hard work I'm putting in.

The best part is actually that trying on clothes is actually fun again (albeit dangerous though because now I can easily drop some heavy cash on shopping. Isn't fall right around the corner? I think I need some cool weather staples, don't you think....)

Anyway, this is my birthday gift to myself. I feel like I'm starting off 24 on the right poorly-manicured foot. Look out for that NYC post soon, and thank you to everyone who made this birthday one for the record books. I love you all!

Monday, August 13, 2012

fear of failure

[Image source]
...or worse, fear of failure leads to doing nothing.

Be fearless, my friends. Do one thing to chase your dreams this week, no matter how scary it might be. Make yourself feel uncomfortable. That lack of comfort is just the overwhelming possibility of greatness.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 10, 2012

3 alternatives to high-calorie cravings

Trying get healthy can be a REAL bummer. I mean, I don't get to indulge in all my favorite food vices: juicy cheeseburgers with heaping mounds of hot salt n' peppered french fries, big fluffy pancakes dripping in syrup, or hot fresh-outta-the-oven cookies. BIG BUMMER.

And while I'm all for keeping to a consistent diet low in fat, sugar and carbs, I also believe that life is short and I don't want to feel like I'm depriving myself. So my solution is alternatives. Things that give me the same feeling of indulgence that some of my favorite cravings do but with less of the bad stuff.

Please note: In no way shape or form am I saying that the items below are "good for you." If you had them every day and didn't exercise, you'd gain weight. Easily. BUT, they are good alternatives - the lesser of two evils if you will - if you have an intense craving. Especially for sweets which will break the bank on sugar and fat content if you're not careful. [End disclaimer.]

Below I've outlined three of my biggest cravings/food weaknesses and the alternative solution I've come up with for each. Maybe it's something that will be helpful to some of you out there!

[Starbucks photo source]
// Craving: Starbucks //

I'll be honest, my Starbucks craving comes with its own set of psychological factors too - wanting to get out of the house, the artificial sense of motivation, the feeling of having that green-logod cup in my hand - but at the very base level is a need for that sweet caffeine. My normal order before all of this would have been an Iced Grande Hazelnut Latte. I could easily go three or four times in one week. For a while I downsized to a Tall (like that was going to make a huge difference...) and even changed to soy milk but the more I thought about it, there's really no way around avoiding the sweetness and unnecessary calories (unless your one of those I-enjoy-bitter-disgusting-black-coffee aliens. I don't trust you people.)

// Alternative: Iced Hazelnut Coffee w/ Vanilla Protein Powder & Almond Milk //

(or as I like to refer to it to our home barista [myself], it's an Iced Hazelnut Vanilla Almond Latte. What? You can take the girl out of the Starbucks but you can't take the Starbucks out of the girl.)

In the morning now I whip up a quick cup of Hazelnut flavored coffee in our Tassimo (love that it's so fast) and I add a scoop and half of my vanilla protein powder. It kind of acts as a sweetener and thickens it up slightly like a non-dairy creamer. Now I'm a big Latte fan and love the milky-ness of my old Sbux latte order. But by adding almond milk I get no dairy and it's easier on the stomach (and the thighs.) I mix it all up in a big glass and add ice! I have a nice kick of caffeine and some protein in the morning. Perfecto!

{shoutout to Madalyn for making me try the protein powder in coffe thing! It's my new go-to!}

[Ice cream image source]
// Craving: Ice Cream (slash really any dessert or anything sweet.) //

I miss cookies. I miss cupcakes. I miss brownies. I miss ice cream. I miss cheesecake. I miss it all! I have a KILLER sweet tooth, but when I'm craving something sweet and decadent, this tides me over.

// Alternative: Peanut Butter Banana Protein Smoothie //

Now like I said, don't go swigging these down twice a day or anything, but for one of my "snack"meals I will blend one of these up and it's the same satisfaction as a milkshake. One whole banana, 2-3 scoops protein powder, one small spoonful of peanut butter (I get the low sodium natural peanut butter and you don't have to use a ton because it goes a long way) ice and almond milk or water. Blend until perfectly icy and thick. If I'm feeling like I need a little extra indulgence, I add a few dark chocolate chips.

Better for you than a bowl of ice cream or the entire tin of brownies (which I could EASILY clear in one sitting.)

[Popcorn image source]
// Craving: Movie snacks - popcorn, Diet Coke, M&Ms //

As most of you know, Jason and I are movie addicts. We probably average seeing a movie a week or so in the theaters. It's a bit much but it's totally our thing and we love it. Even crazier is that when we used to go to the movies, we would get a large popcorn, Diet Coke and pack of M&Ms to share. Like.... I don't even want to know how many calories that is. Bad news bears. But obviously now that we can't do that anymore, when snacking during a movie is engrained in your routine, you can't help but feel like something's missing when it's not there. What's a movie lover to do?

// Alternative: Almonds, Grapes, Water, TicTacs //

I know that list above sounds awful compared to salty popcorn and sweet candy, but I've found that key here is about bringing things that give you that same "snacking" feeling. Natural, unsalted almonds are great because you can kind of eat a few at a time and same with grapes. The almonds bring the savory taste and the grapes bring the sweet. Also we make sure we bring two big Camelbaks of ice cold water because just sipping on water can be good for food cravings. Lastly, Jason has this theory about TicTacs. He calls it "dessert." We all know they're pretty flavorless little mints but again there's something about being able to eat like five at a time that tides you over a bit. Who knows.

Anyway, there you have it. These are completely unscientific things we've integrated into our lives but it helps me feeling like I'm not completely depriving myself.

// Do you have any healthy alternatives you've come up with that replace some of your cravings? //