Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hooked on Haddock

I used to be a notoriously picky eater. I've come a long way since my bowls of Oatmeal Squares for breakfast (now I add a chopped up fresh fruit on top of my cereal and sometimes I even forgo my favorite squares for omelets), my plain turkey and lettuce sandwiches for lunch (now I alternate between turkey & chicken and sometimes I even add salsa, cheese, guacamole, and/or cucumbers!), and my 7-day rotation of various chicken entrees for dinner.

I'm hardly an adventurous eater now by most standards, but I have been making a conscious effort to try new foods (after I officially overdosed on chicken stir-fry at school). My latest, and greatest, gastronomic experiences have revolved around fish.

After trying an everything spiced baked haddock entree at Legal Seafoods, I was sold. There were no lingering fishy flavors, no questionable textures, and no remnants of bones, scales, and eyes as I had feared. It literally tasted like an everything bagel - only without the accompanying guilt of having just consumed a brick in carbohydrates.

We recently grilled fresh haddock from Whole Foods Market in a "blackened seasoning" for fish or chicken that we threw together ourselves, with a little bit of help. It was just as good if not better than the everything bagel-esque culinary adventure at the restaurant. This seasoning also tastes great on tilapia, cod, and mahi mahi (which seem to all sort of taste the same!).

Ready for the Grill: Haddock with Blackened Seasoning and Garden Parsley

While we waited for the fish to cook, we sampled irresistibly tiny American Vintage wine biscuits. We tried the red wine and black pepper version, which immediately shot to the top of my favorite cracker list.

Nutrition Info for American Vintage Wine Biscuits

The Perfect Tide-Me-Over Handmade Crackers

Monday, May 30, 2011

In Good Company

My mom is always cajoling me into doing one thing or trying another, and today was no exception. She managed to get me to attend a book signing (for the surprisingly approachable cookbook Maine Classics at the River Run Bookstore) 60 miles from home and convinced me to try lobster, roasted arctic char, onion rings, baby bok choy, and cauliflower. Not too shabby for a self-declared homebody with a limited palate, I'd say.

I was thrilled to meet Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows Restaurant (which was voted one of America's Top 50 Restaurants by Gourmet Magazine and one of America's 10 most romantic restaurants by Bon Appetit). Hint hint, Boyfriend! Look at the menu and faint at the prices...but look at the pictures of the food and fall in love. I'd love to take a walk through the Arrows garden, which supplies almost all of the produce for the elegant farmhouse restaurant.

The refreshingly down-to-earth duo (who were voted best chefs of the Northeast in 2010) charmed us so much at their event that we opted to stop in Ogunquit at another one of their restaurants for dinner - a posh but unintimidating American Bistro perched on a rocky bluff overlooking the Atlantic coast called MC Perkins Cove Restaurant.

Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, ME - Undeniably Touristy, Unquestionably Picturesque

MC's Restaurant

2nd Floor View   

We lucked out with a last minute reservation at MC's (on Memorial Day weekend no less!) and sat down to enjoy our meal and the sight of crashing waves, the frenzy of swooping birds, and the final flickers of sunlight. Chef Mark popped out from the kitchen to greet us soon after our garden greens salad (which looked too pretty to eat topped with a blueberry vinaigrette and ranch dressing) arrived - and we caught a second glimpse of that unpretentious, infinitely welcoming, and sincerely appreciative air about him.

This is not a restaurant in which you have to feel uncomfortable about dropping your fork or saying that regular water will do just fine. This is also not a restaurant in which the chef politely discourages you from whipping out your camera to visually document all of your courses.

My mom got a steamed whole Maine lobster with onion rings (that were coated with a barely-there and slightly salty breading that even I loved). The lobster was cooked to perfection and tasted even sweeter dipped in melted butter.

Beady Eyes...But Oh So Good

At the waitress's suggestion, I got the proscuitto and herb wrapped roasted arctic char with tarragon sauce. The spicy sauce was the ideal complement to the proscuitto and arctic char (which thankfully had a much lighter taste than the salmon-esque flavor I was hoping to avoid). I also got an enormous bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes that was largely neglected due to my newfound appreciation for onion strings (which we were delighted to find under the "Evil Carbos...choose me" section on the menu).

Proscuitto-Wrapped Roasted Arctic Char with Tarragon Sauce, Pail of Mashed Potatoes 

Mark also surprised us with two little extras from the "Virtuous Vegetables" list: baby bok choy with garlic and saffron cauliflower with golden raisins and onions. Both were "new" vegetables for me - and both were liberally drizzled in olive oil and absolutely delicious.

Veggie Pails, Gratuitous 

For dessert my mom got the chocolate brioche bread pudding with caramel and house made Bourbon ice cream. We both learned what brioche bread pudding is and probably won't ever order it again (although I'm sure brioche lovers would swoon).

Not My Favorite Dessert, Not My Favorite Picture

Not to worry - we made short work of my chocolate brownie with house made marshmallow and coffee ice cream...which was a dreamy pairing of warm, dense, and dark chocolate decadence under cold spoonfuls of mocha and espresso.

Chocolate and Coffee - What A Marriage

In the end, the so-so brioche was only one tiny blot on an incredible evening and experience. Even if we hadn't already been charmed by the staff and the location, the menu's "Evil Carbos...choose me" and "Virtuous Vegetables" headers would have done the trick. Glowing thumbs up for a casual-yet-chic restaurant with a view and a plethora of seasonal and local options.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wishes and Whims

If you haven't already caught the drift, I love lists. I'm particularly partial to wish lists. Why? Because wishes don't have to be justifiable, practical, or economical. Wishes could be a cousin twice removed of whims (I heard someone use this word at our favorite artisan bread place today and decided that I liked it so much that I would use it myself as soon as the opportunity arose).

1. A sudden or capricious idea; a fancy
2. Arbitrary thought or impulse

For a girl who rarely indulges in arbitrary thoughts or fancies, let alone one who ever entertains impulses (the horror!), doing things on a whim seems quite wicked. I must admit, the idea of spontaneity causes my brain to engage in a sort of simultaneous vigorous head shaking and eager nodding.

The closest that I come to throwing caution to the wind is when I create my wish list. My therapist would probably have something to say about the fact that my idea of spur-of-the-moment fantasies are housed in a list - but hey, baby steps right?

If I see something that catches my eye, I bookmark it in the "Love This" folder - no matter how much it's going to hurt my feet or how much it looks like everything else I own (I really need to stop buying things in neons) or how much grief I'm going to get from Brother #2 for getting hosed out of a good deal.

Every few weeks I rein myself in by deleting items like one-purpose-only kitchen gadgets (like this fully automatic ice cream maker) and outrageously expensive designer clothes that I can't afford on my oh wait I don't even have a summer job budget. But for an intoxicating moment, they were part of my queue. That's about all the excitement I can take.

While I wrestle with the pros and cons of removing that pesky word pending in front of "purchases", here's a look at my current wish list.

Wish List

(1st column, from top to bottom)
1. Zara's Satin Platform Sandals
2. Shopbop's Cady Cuff Shorts
3. Fresh's Vanilla Soap

(2nd column)
1. Shopbop's Bianca Enamel Bow Studs
2. Anthropologie's Refreshing Lemonade Urn
3. Shopbop's Crackle Clutch
4. Net-A-Porter's Time Teller P Watch

(3rd column)
1. CUSP's Cream 3/4SLV Lark Rise LA
2. Blik's Wrought Iron Headboard Wall Decal

(4th column)
1. Lululemon's Run Swifty Racerback
2. William Somona's Breville Panini Press
3. Harry and David's Royal Riviera Pears

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Brother #3's Pizza Recipe

While I may be our designated salad maker, Dad may be our go-to grill guy (although he's holding onto that title by a thread because he gets too distracted by the news), and Mom may be our recipe guru (for maple walnut cake to braised short ribs and everything in between), Brother #3 is our official pizza maker.

I love Brother #3's pizza so much that I refuse to eat almost any other kind of pie. I make only one exception: a perfectly portioned hybrid gourmet pizza from David's. On a recent mother-daughter date I got the meat pizza (which features pepperoni, Italian sausage, hamburger, carmelized onions, Italian herbs, mozzarella & parmesan cheese) and stole a few choice toppings from the "awesome vegetarian" to create a mouth-watering combination.

Tonight, we decided to add a couple of toppings to our standard plain-Jane cheese pizza and the result was pure bliss. The heady aromas of melting cheese, sizzling pizza sauce, and homemade dough were enough to make me swoon...and that was before I took my first bite. Open your pantry, take stock of what you have, run to the grocery store to pick up what you don't, and make this pizza. It never disappoints.

Mostly Homemade Cheese Pizza with Broccoli and Ground Beef

Ingredient List:

The dough:
1 cup of bread flour
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of water (lukewarm)
1 packet of instant-rise yeast
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
A handful of cornmeal

The sauce:
We used a pint of store-made Whole Foods pizza sauce this time, but of course you can use homemade sauce or substitute for another brand if you have a preference
Liberal sprinkles of Penzeys Spices pizza seasoning

The cheeses:
As much fresh mozzarella cheese as desired
4 slices of muenster cheese

The toppings:
1/2 a pound of 85% lean ground beef
1 large head of broccoli


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the water and the yeast in a large mixing bowl. Then add the sugar and the rest of the ingredients. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes. Let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes (do not skip/rush this part!).

In the meantime, cook the ground beef completely on the stovetop before adding in the broccoli (which will soften and absorb some flavor). Add pepper, garlic salt, and pizza seasoning as desired and let it simmer on low as you return your attention to the dough project.

Sprinkle cornmeal on the baking sheet before stretching the dough into a pizza shape. Fold over 1/2 inch pieces of the perimeter to create the illusion of a crust (it never seems to truly work). Distribute the pizza sauce evenly over the dough before placing the meunster cheese slices on top.

Stretched Pizza Dough with Attractive Blob of Sauce

Even Spreading = Overrated

Shred the mozzarella cheese and apply liberally.

Shredded Fresh Mozzarella
(Insert Boyfriend's Cringe at My Distinctly Non-Italian Pronunciation)


Remove ground beef and broccoli from stovetop and decorate the top of the pizza!

Ready for the Oven

Cook for around 20 minutes (times may vary - look for a lightly browned crust)

Ready to Cut and Eat!

Note: We discovered that using fresh mozzarella cheese made the pizza more "watery" than usual. If you prefer crispy pizza, try a blend of cheeses like cheddar, provolone, asiago, romano, and parmesan.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Simply Scrumptious Salads

Around here, summer's arrival is marked by increasingly frequent trips to the garden to snip fresh produce and herbs to spice up our cooking. Although it's still a little early to truly begin harvesting much of anything, Mom's garden has already sprouted handfuls of flavor to add to our nightly salads.

Family Sized Salad on Crate and Barrel's To-Go Folding Side Table

For some reason, I love making salads. Even though it can be terribly time-consuming (last night I was glued to the cutting board for 45+ minutes), I get the same sort of satisfaction from filling a big wooden bowl with neatly chopped colors that I do from folding and putting away a pile of laundry. Or from running around the vaccuum a few times. Or from writing down things that I've already done on my to-do list just so I can cross them out. Or from re-arranging my desk. Ah, I'm working on it. 

Last night's salad* featured the following:

Iceburg Lettuce
Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
Romaine Hearts

Red Pepper
Organic Carrots

Salted Almonds + Cashews (delicious toasted if you have the time!)
Dried Cranberries
Crispy Wonton Wrappers (stir-fried in olive oil & crushed into small crouton-esque pieces)

Lemon Thyme

With Zoom!

*Although this salad was quite tasty, my favorite salads incorporate spinach lettuce, carmelized walnuts (try them - they taste like candy!), lightly drizzled parmesan peppercorn dressing, and homemade croutons (try stir-frying the ends of an old loaf of bread in olive oil with pepper & garlic salt).

Often we leave our big family-style salad dry so everyone can choose their own dressings (and add contested ingredients like pieces of hard boiled eggs, bacon bits, olives, etc.)...and so Brother #3 can mix in pasta with sauce and top it off with Thousand Island dressing to his heart's content. It probably comes as no surprise but I get very unhappy when the different parts of my meal touch!

Brother #3's Colorful & Chaotic Plate** 

**Please excuse the suspiciously slimy looking bacon-cheddar-jalapeno hamburger, the glare from the granite countertop, and the reflection off of the fork and spoon. Brother #2 - hurry home so you can teach me how to camouflage my status as an amateur photographer!

Last night I sliced up some leftover grilled BBQ chicken and sprinkled Emeril's BAM IT! salad seasoning on my individual salad. The pre-mixed spice (of garlic, salt, sesame, poppy seed, parmesan cheese, paprika, celery seed, and black pepper) served as a delicious and healthy alternative to a salad spritzer or dressing - although I did wake up this morning with a particularly brutal case of garlic breath.

My Salad (Terrible Lighting Thrown in for Free)
A Medley of Flavor and Crunch from Emeril

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Snippets of Sunshine

At long last, my camera has arrived! I love my new toy - even though it's smarter than I am.

I've unearthed the on/off button, played with the zoom function, discovered the slideshow setting, and located the tiny trash bin for "erase" - not bad for a technologically challenged girl like me! There is also a twisting dial that specifies different settings (pets, landscapes, portrait, auto, etc.) for optimal photography, but I'm quite delighted with the "easy" option that offers "worry free shooting even for beginners".

With a bit of help from Brother #3 and a quick glance at the manual, I've even managed to set the time and date! When I get tired of not understanding 75% of my camera's functions I suppose I'll consult the manual again...but for now the trial/error method seems to be much more my speed.

Here's a quick look at a few of my first snapshots:

Lilacs from Mom's Garden
After what felt like weeks of rain, bright beams of sunlight finally broke through the enormous cloud over Maine that had been stubbornly stationary for far too long. The passing glimpses of blue sky and sun provided sweet relief for us and spurred a blossoming frenzy in the yard.

Red's Eats in Wiscasset, ME

The line coming out of Red's Eats (a tiny lobster shack in the quaint and coastal town of Wiscasset) is as much a part of the town's landscape as the understated yacht club, the adorable boutique In the Clover, and the post office are. It's not uncommon to wait for over an hour for one of Red's infamous lobster rolls (voted best in Maine several years running) - each one offers a full pound of lobster on a toasted split-top bun and an array of condiments to choose from.

Although Red's has become a hot spot for tourists, locals swear by Sprague's Lobster - a relatively unadorned shack located across the street from Red's. Rumor has it that Sprague's rarely has a line, offers ample waterview seating on their private boardwalk, and sells lobster that is comparable to Red's (often at a lower price).

A Boat of Flowers at Red's Eats

An Overflowing Garlic House

Easy Reads

Pink Jack Rogers Jelly Sandal

The Latest InStyle - A Grocery Store Gift from Mom!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Walking the Line

I've always walked the line between being very conscientious (read: healthy and smart) to being downright obsessive (read: unhealthy and unrealistic) about what I eat.

To address and extinguish the thought that may be in your head right now: No, I haven't ever been diagnosed with an eating disorder (although I have met with a therapist and a nutritionist about "disordered eating"). I always seem to be parked a short distance from Anorexia Athletica's entrance, fiddling with my keys, too scared to get out and go in. I've followed all the signs time and time again, but luckily I always seem to land in front of the biggest one of all: a can't-miss-me red octagon with simple and authoritative white letters that read STOP.

One of the scariest parts about getting sucked down that road, for me, was feeling like I had lost the ability to trust myself. I couldn't depend on who I thought I saw in the mirror any more than I could trust what my scale, my friends, and my family said. Now I understand that even though my inner critic may overwhelm the other voices in my life from time to time (and push me towards trouble), I trust myself to just sit at that stop sign until I'm ready to ask for help.

Last February, I did ask for help. I wasn't just teetering on the edge of becoming too thin; I had actually already lost my footing (and a few too many pounds). Now I'm able to see that so much of my battle with food is driven by my tendency for compulsive behavior (ummm trying to get through a semester's syllabus in a weekend, anyone?) and by my penchant for perfection.

I noticed that my once skin-tight jeggings felt "stretched out" even when they were fresh out of the dryer. I saw a picture of myself and was astounded to see my collarbone off in its own zip code. I looked back over my workout tracking and saw descriptions like "excellent", "success!", and "PR" switch to "dead tired", "leg fatigue", "knee pain", "exhausted", "no energy", and "failure". Brother #3 came for a visit and lectured me about eating more.

The Tights Jean by AG

I think that part of healthy eating/living is a balancing act between calories burned and calories consumed. If you've figured the rest of out it, I'm eager to hear your thoughts! Once I realized I was losing strength and wasn't gaining any points in the looks department by going without, I dove (in typical Hannah fashion) into my new assignment: gain weight.

I had a hard time watching the scale go up (because honestly, who is happy about gaining weight) but I was driven by how awful I felt running. The weight slowly came back on, as I added little snacks throughout the day, spread pesto and cheese on my sandwiches, poured granola into my yogurt, munched on crackers drizzled with salsa, and chomped on dark chocolate after dinner. I stopped feeling hungry and for awhile (besides occasional bouts of guilt), I felt much better.

Then I spiraled the other way (notice the pattern: it's either one extreme or the other) and started overeating. For the first time in my life, I'd eat until I was full and then a little bit more. I denied myself sweets and placated myself with large quantities of everything else. I felt so awful about how much I was eating and so ashamed that I couldn't seem to make myself stop that I started working out like crazy. That did nothing to combat how many extra calories were coming in and only pushed me closer towards injury. My jeans started to pinch and the scale crept up to a number that I'd never seen before.

A month later and I'm almost back to my weight from winter break (although I'm admittedly at the lower end of the "normal" weight for my height - but I'm in the "healthy" range nonetheless!) and I'm trying to find a way to stay here. I don't want to feel deprived (like I can't ever have anything fun) and I also don't want to feel overindulgent. I want to keep feeling great when I run and strong when I lift...and I don't want to give up my Oat Squares!

My Favorite Breakfast: Oat Squares, Assorted Fruit, 1% Milk

I'm doing well with controlling my portion sizes and trying new foods (like haddock and mahi mahi!) these days, but I'm still rigidly avoiding re-introducing "extras" (chips, crackers, candy, ice cream, cookies, etc.) into my diet. I know it's because I'm afraid of gaining the weight back. I want to be able to say my body is good enough just the way it is. I'm so envious of people that truly do have that kind of self-confidence, and I hope that I keep getting closer and closer to feeling that way.

Portion Control, Made Fun with Purple Measuring Cups

I don't think that I'm "out of the woods" just yet. I know that my close friends and family still worry about me - but I have picked up some new techniques to use when I feel myself hurtling towards the big STOP sign...and one of the most effective ways for me to cope is to write. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pretty in Pink

Another one of the upsides to coming home from college: being able to raid Mom's jewelry box again!

My mom and I both love jewelry, although she isn't wild about bracelets and as I've mentioned before I'm not crazy about rings. Of course her collection is much more expansive than mine (and is overflowing with unique pieces from faraway places like Egypt and Greece), so it's a special treat to be able to shop from the top of her dresser while I'm home again. Her boxes and baskets of treasures lie next to my grandmother's collection of old perfume bottles.

Some of Grandma's Old Perfume Bottles

I often start picking out my outfits by laying out earrings, necklaces, and bracelets first. Then I start rummaging through my closet to find tops and bottoms to complement the accessories that I've pulled. It seems to be sort of a backwards approach (to start something as small as earrings and end with something as large as pants), but it works for me. It's also an effective way to make sure I don't forget about the baubles stuffed way in the back of my jewelry box.

Since I've already hinted that most of the time I live in my running clothes, I can't lie and tell you that I wear beautifully delicate chandelier earrings, long gold pendants, brightly colored semi precious stones, clusters of freshwater pearls, engraved silver cuffs, and heaps of bangles day in and day out.

On a day to day basis, these classy and simple silver studs (thank you Boyfriend!) are my absolute go-to. I may or may not have a pair and a half of them now because I may or may not have lost one earring sophomore year (oops, sorry Boyfriend!). We laugh about how unphotogenic these earrings are - but I promise they are gorgeous in person and inspire many compliments!

I like seeing this box!

Somerset Knot Earrings, from Tiffany & Co.

While we have fistfuls of turquoise and silver jewelry, both my mom and I seem to be seriously lacking pink earrings. This is a problematic because we both wear quite a bit of pink - everything from dusky roses to hot, hot pinks (I warned you about my obsession with neons!). We're always on the look out for pink earrings (of any type) but we haven't been able to find the perfect pair. I'm not even very happy with the ones that I've pulled for the [sloppy] collage below. Do you have any ideas? Help us remedy our lack of pink and round out our combined collection!

Unsatisfactory Pink Earrings Collage

(Top row, from left to right)
2. Anthropologie's Accordion Drops

(Bottom row, from left to right)
5. Urban Outfitter's Urban Renewal Ciao Baby Earring

Monday, May 23, 2011

Owning Up, Again

Yesterday my mom lured me out the door with promises of rainy afternoon manicures and pedicures...and dragged me into Talbots on the way. I thought I would give the store a quick perusal and deem it to be "cute but not for me." As much as it pains me to say this, I was wrong about Talbots (see my offhand condemnation here) and moreover, Mom often does know best.

I positively loved some of their shoes. Impossibly detailed ankle-wrap heels, delicately feminin and simple flats, gladiator wedges with touches of metallic, espadrilles in a rainbow of pastels, intricately twisted rope T-strap sandals...

I ended up walking away with two pairs that do a wonderful job of accomodating and concealing my square foot bed (discussed here). 

Faux-leather Side-bow Flip Flops and Leather Cinched-bow Espadrilles

The flip flops (dressed up with a sweet little bow) will serve as a daily go-to this summer, and I'm sure my legs will appreciate the teensy tiny heel after being run ragged all morning. The espadrilles, in a cheerful and sunny yellow, are just plain fun. I generally avoid anything with ankle straps because I worry about chopping my "long legs" in half, but this one is skinny enough that it highlights my small ankles and doesn't make me look too stumpy. I think they'll be adorable with cropped white denim jeans and any number of printed tops.

Afterwards, we did go for that mother/daughter manicure and pedicure (another one of the perks of coming home!). I settled on a gorgeous purply pink called "Bermuda Shorts" for my toes and suffered through the technician's lecture about my foot care (which amounts to approximately none, with 50 miles a week on top).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Identity Theft?

I am a runner.

Four simple words cut into five syllables and an easily diagrammed sentence, yet so many of us are afraid to say them aloud. I've struggled with my "runner's identity" ever since I started running regularly 8 years ago. Feeling like a fraud whenever I think about myself as a runner is a constant game of mental tug of war, and I don't always come out on the winning side.

I put "runner" in italics because it's packed with meaning. I used to see it as an elusive, exclusive, and elite club of people - men and women that appreciate running in all of its forms and in all types of weather, that race regularly, that train with a team, that run a certain (read: ridiculous) number of miles a week, that subscribe to Runner's World, that follow all of the professional greats, that log all their splits, and that have climbing personal bests.

Runner's World Magazine

Part of me argues that:
-I love to run more than I hate it
-I run outside at least five days a week (whether it's downpouring, sleeting, hailing, or snowing)
-It's actually in fact harder to train alone than it is to train with a team
-I run as far as my legs allow every week
-I have a signed poster of Kara Goucher on my wall (thanks, Brother #2!)
...and that this is enough to qualify me as a runner.

Kara Goucher, who took the time to mail me a free poster
in time for Christmas signed "Always Believe"
My contrary side argues that real runners:
-Run to train for something (namely that race that I've been putting off since my half-marathon a year and a half ago)
-Squeeze in an afternoon run on strength training days
-Always run with a watch
-Rotate shoes every other day
-Schedule designated long-run and speed work days
-Can run faster than a 6 minute mile
...and that I am, at best, a hobby-jogger.

After months of conscious effort, the first voice is slowly starting to drown out the pessimistic one. People (in their top-of-the-line racing shoes and gifted marathon apparel) who make you feel like you should move back 10 rows from the starting line aren't anything but snobs.

You're a runner the second that you buy your first pair of running shoes (or dig into the depths of your closet to find and dust them off) and take your first step in them. Whether that first stride is going to propel you into a halting 1 mile jog-walk, a short cruise to get the morning paper, a 200 meter dash, or a 10 mile run, you are a runner the moment that you decide you are

So I like to run, not race. I'd rather run long and slow than short and fast. I'm not on the cross country team at school. I haven't run a marathon. I look forward to my lifting days because I don't have to run. I hate two-a-days (mainly because it's an enormous pain to do my hair twice). I get completely psyched out looking at people's shoes on race day. I am a mental mess 99% of the time. I'll never catch up to Brother #2.

So what? I'm still a runner - and eventually my self-confidence will build up enough so that when some disdainful and leggy college hotshot looks down on me, it won't rattle me at all.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Art of Relaxation

...escapes me.

It's been two weeks without a to-do list of any kind (okay fine - of the written variety). You have to understand my lists are a natural extension of my left hand. I feel naked without them. I'm not a big ring wearer* (why call attention to funny fingers, right?), but I'd imagine it would be similiar to how you'd feel after taking off a ring that had occupied previously undisturbed real estate on your index finger for years.

*I'd make an exception for any ring Diana Heimann
creates for The Left Bank Gallery

I'm so jealous of my friends who have landed (paid or unpaid) internships and are beginning to feel their way through training and friendship making. I'm even envious of my friends who are returning to barely above minimum wage jobs that they held throughout high school. I'm resentful of anyone with a Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, purpose.


I miss the structure and brief stints of well-deserved vacation that come inherently with the onset of the school year and then by working summers. Even worse, I'm appalled by how quickly the days fill up with no obligations. By the time I've written the day's blog, worked out, and showered, it's lunchtime. Once I've run through a handful of errands around town, thrown in a load of laundry, and indulged my inner neatfreak, it's time to think about making a dinner like this one (and of course bedtime rolls around shortly after that).

It's a daily scramble to come up with things to do - anything to do besides relax. Sitting on the couch, even for 15 minutes, makes me feel lazy. After 30 minutes, I feel positively stir-crazy. I used to be able to read for hours at a time and blast through a dozen books a week - now I can hardly sit still for long enough to finish a chapter. I'm completely at loose ends...until a little voice whispers happily: but now you can stress about the blog!

In the absence of "real" things to worry about, I find myself stressing about everything I can possibly dress up with a little bit of panic and tie off with knot of apprenhension. Here's an exerpt from the crazy closed feedback loop that is my brain: 

How am I going to keep up with the blog while I'm in Connecticut visiting the-boy-with-the-most-patience-in-the-world? 
What am I going to eat while I'm there?
Which workouts am I going to do?
Should I take my normally planned off day this week or would it be smarter to put it off so I can "rest" while I'm there?
How am I ever going to figure out my new camera?
When am I going to return my library books? 
How can I be spending this much money with no income coming in?
Why can't I sleep past 6am?
Why am I bone-tired by nightfall after days that are virtually filled with nothing important?

I wish that voice had an on/off switch. People keep telling me there is pleasure to be found in just being, not doing, but so far...no such luck. Maybe I need to read Eat, Pray, Love again.

"Some days are meant to be counted, others are meant to be weighed." -Elizabeth Gilbert       

Friday, May 20, 2011

Girly Yet Grown-up Garlands

I originally saw this post about Confetti System on one of my favorite blogs: Cupcakes and Cashmere. Emily added some grown-up sparkle and shimmer to one of her office walls by hanging up Confetti System's neutral tassel garland (which consists of a pretty array of silvers, grays, coppers, and creams).

However, after checking out the company website, I fell in love with their brighter multi-colored version which features splashes of peach and tangerine, rose and fuschia, and seafoam and turquoise draped in between strands of silver and gold.

Multi-color Garland from Confetti System

This particular piece of wall decor (which would be called a show piece! around here) is perfect for a soon-to-be college grad like me because:

1. It's slightly reminiscent of the tutus I loved during my ballerina years (okay fine - it's more like weeks...I quit when I didn't like the costume for the spring recital), but the point is that it's more ladylike than childlike

2. It's sparkly (I went through a MAJOR sparkle phase which my mom made no attempt to harness and which is arguably ongoing - but with a little more taste I'd hope)

3. It exudes femininity (which is needed to counteract my running collages and darker framed prints)

4. It's a light and wispy decoration, but it takes up a substantial amount of wall space

5. It's expensive enough not to fall apart in a year and versatile enough to find a new home in my first apartment after college

6. As Emily pointed out, it's cheaper than a good painting

7. There are SIX reasons to justify buying it, which is one over the required five to scoot it out of the emotional, hasty, and impulsive shopping category*

*My purchases used to fall into this category more often not...two mistakes that come to mind: the yellow and white Nike Shox I just had to have that never quite fit and the fluffy Ralph Lauren bathrobe I swore I needed for my freshman year of college (that remained suspended in my closet with its tags attached once I discovered that everyone else was just using towels to cover up on the way to the shower).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gems from Garnet Hill

Whenever I come home from college, I know I can count on my parents to have left a stack of magazines and newspaper articles on my desk. While I admit I'm always slightly exasperated to find my perfectly arranged desk disrupted by their accumulated thoughtfulness, I always look forward to browsing through their picks.

Light Reading from Mom and Dad

From my dad, there's always an article or two from the paper about what on earth to do with a liberal arts major. From my mom, there's always a few of the most recent Real Simple magazines, a few editions of the Saturday cooking-style-fashion-design-decorating section of the Wall Street Journal, and several dogeared clothing selections from various catalogs awaiting my approval. When I came home for the summer, one of those catalogs was from Garnet Hill.

Now I'll be the first to admit I wrinkled my nose up. I had always thought of Garnet Hill as a somewhat "mature" brand, sort of on par with Talbots. However, after leafing through the lookbook, I was astounded to find that I had folded back several favorite pages of my own. Here's a look at my circled items:

My Garnet Hill-Inspired Wish List

(First row, from left to right)
1. Sienna T-Strap Sandals
2. Sonyarenee Posh Beaded Earrings
3. Kevia Textured Stacking Rings

(Second row, from left to right)
4. Admirals Jacket
5. Tosha Top by Velvet
6. Essential Summer Dress

At some point during my college career Garnet Hill must have seriously revamped their style and expanded their target audience. I'll be keeping them in mind this summer and into this fall as I help decorate our little house on the pond back at school!

Garnet Hill's Weathered Wall Frames

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Running Brights

People who claim to hate running on general principle should try three things before they dismiss the sport altogether:

1. Invest in some snazzy new gear. Of course you're not going to look forward to running if your workout wardrobe consists of reversible soccer shorts sans drawstring from your freshman year of high school and one of your dad's ratty college t-shirts. It's worth splurging a bit to get yourself up and moving. For me, nothing gets me excited and out the door like neon apparel*:

Running Brights from Running Warehouse
You can even get really carried away and buy bright shoes to match (we will save the accessories discussion for another day). I love matching separates. It's sort of become an issue. This morning I spent twenty minutes looking for the baby blue hair elastic that coordinates with my favorite shorts and I've been known to scrounge up enough laundry to justify doing a wash just so I can wear my speed yellow socks with their close relative: the Brooks Women's Infiniti Nightlife Short II (if you want to introduce some color into your collection but are a little apprenhensive about glowing like a traffic cone right off the bat, these shorts would be a great way to start).

Asics Gel Nimbus 13 Women's Shoes & Newton's Distance U Women's Shoes
*As an added bonus, running in bright and reflective gear wakes up the idiotic drivers too busy yakking on their cell phones or refereeing their children to see you on the side of the road.

2. Get off of the treadmill and join the world of the living running on the roads (or the trails, if you're lucky enough to have some nearby).

Loathing the treadmill doesn't automatically mean that you despise running. You won't ever catch me on one of those moving sidewalks that doubles as a horrendously inaccurate calorie-counter, but I do love running (at least, most of the time). Yes, running at the gym affords you some luxuries...namely an enormous umbrella over your head when it's raining and nearby access to a water fountain...but there's much to be said about running outside.

In order to really give this a try, you must promise to leave your iPod at home (I used to be an offender myself but I was a quick convert after my first music-free run). You'll be amazed at where your mind goes when it has the peace and quiet to wander. If you can overlook the occasional escaped dog, the inevitable roadkill, and the sporadic pebble in your shoes, you just might find that you like seeing the top of a hill, the twist down a curvy road that awaits on the other side, the ramshackle bridge over a bubbling brook, the discovery of an enviable garden, the momentary snapshot of a hawk in pursuit, the glimpse of an old sports car tucked away from the road, and the last street sign that will lead you home. 

Brother #2
(He doesn't always run in neons but it's excusable because he wins everything)

The miles truly do go by much faster when you aren't watching 3.1 change to 3.2 on a tiny screen (that is probably marinating in the person's sweat who used the machine before you).

3. Flip through The Quotable Runner (Great Moments of Wisdom, Inspiration, Wrongheadedness, and Humor) by Mark Will-Weber.

Christmas Gift from Brother #3

When even highlighter-esque gear can't brighten up an undeniably gloomy day and when the prospect of running along a scenic route pales in comparison to the thought of spending a morning baking this, Mark Will-Weber's collection of quotes can be counted on to get me going (or at least laughing).

Some of the sayings I return to again and again:
  1. "When I first started running, I was so embarassed, I'd walk when cars passed me. I'd pretend I was looking at the flowers." -Joan Benoit Samuelson
  2.  "Everyone is an athlete. The only difference is that some of us are in training, and some are not" and "The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank." -Dr. George Sheehan (oof - I guess that's my cue to start racing again)
  3. "If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon." -Emil Zapotek
  4. "My feeling is that any day I am too busy to run is a day that I am too busy." -John Bryant
  5. "I'll be running until I'm a little old lady." -Claudine Schneider
  6. "They are beautiful because they run and they run because they are beautiful." -Dr. Ernest van Aaken
  7. "Avoid any diet that discourages the use of hot fudge" and "Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos." -Don Kardong (this is my kind of guy)
  8. "Somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win." -Tom Fleming
  9. "In running, it doesn't matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, 'I have finished.' There is alot of satifisfaction in that."-Fred Lebrow
  10. "If someone says, 'Hey, I ran 100 miles this week. How far did you run?' ignore him! What the hell difference does it make?...The magic is in the man, not the 100 miles." -Bill Bowerman