Thursday, March 28

Where I've been, what I'm doing

Oh my goodness, dear readers, I have not forsaken thee. I apologize, blog, that you have gone a full week without an update. For shame!

Working several part-time and freelance gigs is exhausting. Ensuring I have some income, the bills are paid, the dog is cared for, and all the other nuances of life seem more complicated when I'm not going to ONE workplace for a set period of time... and getting a paycheck directly deposited into my account. Invoicing is another element that freelancers don't get paid for that, alas, must be done!

What has happened in the meantime?

I'm excited about the possibilities in store, even if none of them include a full-time job... yet. I'm working hard at accepting what I have, enjoying each day, figuring out what I really want, and pursuing only what I truly desire. That in itself takes more energy than I have on most days, but the allocation of my talent is my own responsibility and if I waste my time and energy doing things I don't like or wishing for things I don't work for, then I deserve what I get. I want to deserve what I get and earn it in the sense that I brush hands with others trying to earn it.

So here's the past week...

I've started kicking my own butt to get to my running group. Tuesday evenings at the track or designated hill (for the beloved hill repeats) are now a must. I have directed my boyfriend to demand that I go when I waver (because goodness knows that I always feel better after I go).

My eyes are closed, but I think I look pretty darn good for
having run seven miles then climbed 45 floors!
Last Saturday I also made it to the group run downtown. It's kind of an expensive long run for me if I don't have other plans in the city before/after it (it's 20 miles there, 20 back), but I went. I ran about seven miles.

After the run, I did the Fight for Air stair climb downtown. Holy moly, stair climbing is a horse of a different color when it comes to exercise... I definitely don't consider myself a stair athlete!

Last week I completed my first set of fifteen freelance articles for a new client. It was a little tough to complete them so quickly without being repetitive, but I did my very best and they were pleased. :)

In the past few days, I've made a few strategic purchases, both of which I will be reviewing in the next few months. Because I have been tutoring a Korean woman for almost a year now and she recently asked me to begin working with her very young daughter, I decided to get Rosetta Stone in Korean. I have some reservations about the program, considering that my background is in language teaching and I have some strong opinions on how people learn language (otherwise how could I teach?!); however, I decided that with the program's guarantee and my current available time that I had nothing to lose.

I also purchased a full month of the Arbonne Fit Kit detox from Becki at Fighting for Wellness. The kit includes protein shake mixes, chews, drink mixes, and a few other items, which accompany an altered diet in order to help the user determine what foods or food entities might be causing distress. I've had issues with food for quite a while now and I'm at a loss for what else to try. I feel uncomfortable no matter what I eat and I don't seem to have enough energy. I decided that I would try the Arbonne detox to try to narrow down some of my issues. Nonetheless, since my half marathon is coming up in just five weeks, I will wait until after the race to begin the detox. I don't want to change anything right now; it's too close to the race. Even if it's for the better, it could affect my running and I might not recuperate properly.

Finally, I started some seeds for my garden! I don't have all the seeds I want yet, so I don't have a full set. I do, however, have lettuce, lavender, lemon balm, shasta daisies, and broccoli planted in my spare room under a grow lamp. Hooray!

Wednesday, March 20

Box Subscription Madness

The box subscription fad is taking the world by storm.

In January, I won a three-month subscription to RunnerBox ($20/mo. bimonthly), which I love.

I bought a three month trial to Bark Box from Fab ($49, normally $69).

I co-bought another one with my boyfriend (because I'm watching my spending, but we wanted to use the credit before it expired!) to Love with Food from Fab just the other day (I paid $18 because I had a $10 credit; $28, normally $36).

There are box subscriptions to get DIY project ideas and supplies every month.

There are box subscriptions to get shirts every season.
(This is currently a Fab deal--expires 3/26. You can buy three months for $35, normally $20/mo. Use my link, please! Pretty please! I earn credit if you place an order. I'll love you forever. And you will love Fab! I know I do.)

It seems you can get just about anything delivered via box subscription these days. At least, this Pinterest board suggests that you can...

Boutique food samples, hosiery, "mantry" (man's pantry) items, undergarments, stationery, healthy snacks, eco-friendly baby gear, hot cocoa and cookies (I particularly like the name Knoshbox), kids books, cigar of the month, cheese of the month, bacon of the month, loose leaf teas, paleo snacks, "art in a box," kids clothing, items for pregnant ladies, fashion accessories, gluten-free foods, cosmetics, and fitness beverage mixes.

Among others.

When did this happen? How did I not notice that I had three, three-month box subscriptions until my first Bark Box showed up today?

In a matter of seconds, I opened the Bark Box, saw a green bone-shaped squeaky toy, squeaked it, and my dog was hopping up and down because she knew it was for her.

A lively game of fetch ensued in the living room. Surely many more good things will come from these boxes I've gotten.

Friday, March 15

Made in the USA!

I was already really proud to be part of the Oiselle Running team, but as items from their spring collection have slowly trickled out my pride in this organization has grown exponentially.

Nearly EVERY piece in the spring collection boasts "Made in the USA." This is phenomenal, considering that most sports apparel companies manufacture at least the synthetic materials overseas.

Generally speaking, the cotton items are easier to find state-side, and Oiselle cotton and cotton-blend items were made in the USA consistently (one of the reasons I really wanted to represent this brand!). However, the synthetic poly-blend, nylon, polyester, and spandex items were usually made in China, Malaysia, etc.

Not anymore. It seems that Oiselle is pushing hard to make more items in their line in the United States. Many of the new items using synthetic materials--most surprisingly, the new line of sports bras--are made in the USA!

Oiselle is breaking down barriers, in my humble opinion, by offering women the choice of apparel made in our country. At a time when jobs are disappearing (mine included), it's exciting to know that people who enjoy the same freedoms as I do are on the other end of the product line.

Kudos, Oiselle. :)

Thursday, March 7

Adventures in nutrition: Spinach smoothies 101

I told a few friends on Facebook that I was blending spinach into my smoothies, and they wanted details... So here we are! Details!

My stomach is yelling at me for a bad lunch choice, so I'm not running tonight... Instead, I'll blog one of my favorite spinach drinks for you. :)

My very best friend bought me the little blender you see pictured below for Christmas. The cup disconnects from the blender base and is a handy travel mug of sorts, even though it has yet to venture much farther than my living room... It's small, easy to clean, and blends up a storm when I command it. I've been able to crush ice, frozen fruits and veggies, and every other softer entity (yogurt, fruits, etc.), so it's really a great little addition to my kitchen. It's certainly prompted me to be more creative... because until a few months ago I definitely wouldn't have considered drinking spinach.

Begin with a clean blender and all of your supplies!

I start with about 1/4 cup of water in the blender with any drink. Otherwise things tend to get stuck down by the blades and don't move.

I bought a gigantic bag of spinach and I've only eaten it in liquid form... :) What's nice about that is if the spinach gets a little limp, it doesn't matter at all. If it's clean and edible, it blends.

It's quite reasonable to ask "How much?" when puréeing spinach the first time.

I had no clue. I just grabbed some and pushed it into the cup.

I've found that roughly 3/4 cup (or one hearty fistful) works really well in this size blender. If your blender is larger and you want to blend more, I say go for it! My blender cup measures up to 14 oz. on the side... but clearly there is room to go well over that. I could probably jam more spinach in there... But I'll leave that for another day.

Today's smoothie was made with the fistful of spinach in the photo on the left. (Also, enjoy my snazzy nail polish. Haha!)

Again, to help with visuals, here (to the left) is that spinach, along with the water, in my blender.

And here (to the right) is what that looks like all blended up!

Not really appetizing, I know. But it will be!

For today's smoothie, I'm putting a too-ripe banana to use. I am one of those folks who prefers her bananas to have some green on the peel... If it gets too ripe, I can't eat it straight. It's a compulsion. I have to find something else to do with it. Banana split, on cereal, in yogurt, or in a smoothie.

When I add fruit to my smoothie, I do it in chunks. For the banana, I added half first, blended, then added the other half. In between, I added a little splash of orange juice. Why? I like orange juice.

Personally, I like to add my *taste* fruit/veg (the things I want to *taste* over the spinach and other base ingredients) before I add yogurt, ice, or anything else to thicken the mix. That way, I can see the consistency and freestyle a little more or less, depending on the circumstances.

Okay, so this probably sounds too complex for a smoothie, but bear with me. It's for your good! (No, seriously... it is. These smoothies are good for you!)

Next up is yogurt! Today I have low-fat vanilla yogurt. (I bought this at Aldi's. For those of you who shop there and aren't sure about their yogurt: both plain and vanilla are delicious and worth the bargain price.)

I always freestyle this part, sooo if I had to estimate how much I use, I would say about 1/4 cup of yogurt. This changes if you're using ice, though; I would most likely swap out the ice for the yogurt, to be honest. I don't like to pack the darn thing too tight... I'm not adding ice today.

But I AM adding chia seeds! These are so small you barely notice them (like blending flaxseed, which I also use from time to time), but they add so much nutrition and you don't really need to use a lot! (If you're still stuck on Chia Pets, read this.)

Seriously, I paid like $8 for this bag of seeds (photo to the right; Bob's Red Mill) and for the amount of nutrition I get from each 1-2 tablespoons I add to my smoothies, it's like I bought a bag of gold!

Okay, so everything is all blended together! VoilĂ : spinach smoothie.

1/4 cup water
3/4 cup spinach
1 banana (blended in two halves)
1 splash (ha!) orange juice
1/4 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons chia seeds

Does it taste like spinach? No. It tastes like banana. :)

Last week, I made one with frozen strawberries. It was green and tasted like strawberries. It screws with your head a little--it's like ordering a Sprite and when you take a sip it's just the seltzer water. It catches you off guard at first... But it is delicious. I promise you won't regret blending your spinach!

I have a difficult time with food sometimes, like not having an appetite, which I am working on (especially since I need to fuel properly in order to run; I did see a dietician a few weeks ago). But getting things into a drinkable form makes food seem more do-able sometimes. Actually, usually once I blend up some veggies and drink it down, I want something else... so it helps me in a couple of ways, I think. :)

Have you tried blending anything that's a little unorthodox? Spinach? Other veggies? Tell me!

Wednesday, March 6

Adventures with Injinji Toe Socks (review)

Photo 1: No-show sock, Injinji.
I was completely skeptical about toe socks for running. I mean, toe socks were something of a fad when I was in middle school--knee high, rainbow striped toe socks were at every slumber party, bar none. But the concept intrigued me.

Injinji, The Original Performance Toe Sock (words I had never imagined butted against one another), lists many benefits to a toe sock for sportswear:
The advantages of toesocks are so plentiful once you experience them, you may not want to wear any other sock again. The 5 toe sleeve design and superior fiber construction provides:- Proper Toe Alignment (makes for healthier happy feet)- Superior Moisture Management (drier and less smelly feet)- Better posture, better balance (you get full use of your toes!)- Blister and hotspot prevention (relieve some of that foot pain)- Tactile Feel (enabling natural feel and movement in ANY shoe)
I jumped on the opportunity to buy my first few pairs when Injinji tweeted about launching their new website just a few weeks ago. I bought a midweight three pack--one pair of crew socks and two pairs of "no-show" socks--to take them for a spin. *5/17/13 edit: Injinji now sells Run 2.0 socks (read my review of Run 2.0 here). The version reviewed in this blog is the original run sock (now in the sale section).

Before I even received my socks, though, I was impressed with the quality of the customer service. I placed my order, my card was charged, and I was waiting patiently... So I contact them after about ten business days. They admitted to having some difficulty with the automated shipping system and upgraded me to free two-day shipping! I got my socks by the end of the week. How sweet!

Photo 2: No-show sock, Injinji; note heel slip at back.
I've taken the time since then to wear them, run in them, wash them, and see how I like the fit (since these are no ordinary socks). My overall impression is that I think my feet benefit from the feeling of having all my toes free to work individually as I run. These socks did not give me the "slip" feeling that I sometimes get with other socks, where your toes are all grouped together like a mitten.

And that's what I kept thinking--why shouldn't my toes all be separate and available to move about individually? My fingers are. Sure, I depend on my fingers quite a bit more than my toes, but as a runner, my toes are pretty important to my feet.

Photo 3: Injinji toe sock
I did noticed a little bit of pilling in my first and second washes of the socks. (I wash all my running clothes--shorts, tops, undergarments, socks, jackets, etc.--in a cold, gentle cycle and dry per the garment's instructions.) But pilling is probably common for high-friction materials like socks. At least, I've noticed it happening with my other (non-compression) running socks.

Other points of interest:

  • You do need to take a bit of time to fit your toes into the toes of the sock. It's not like a dress fitting, though, so it's not going to add to your pre-run time (trust me). 
  • I noticed that I needed to cut my toenails a little shorter to be comfortable. Ultimately that's not a huge deal, but I thought I'd mention it.
  • Make sure you follow their sizing guide correctly. Originally I thought I was a size large (because as a lady who has always worn a size 10 or 11, I thought I'd for sure be a large). However, I'm glad I checked with someone on Injinji's Twitter account who let me know that I am, in fact, a size medium!
  • The "no-show" socks also have a heel slip to protect against rubbing. (See photo #2.) Somehow I managed to not get a picture of the crew sock (pink), but it doesn't require the heel slip because it hits higher above the shoe to prevent rubbing.

All in all, I feel very positively about Injinji as a company and about their socks. The toe socks are a solid addition to my rotation of running gear now and, in time, I'd like to add more as I wear out my other socks. I like the way they feel in my shoes when I'm running. And, no (thank goodness!), they don't give me foot cramps! And the way Injinji responded to my concern about not receiving my shipment in a timely manner shows me that they care about their customers and that they want to do their best.

If you haven't given Injinji a shot yet, I recommend you do so!

Monday, March 4

The "Keeping On"

Feeling things fall apart--the literal crumble in your hands as you try to hold together the thing you've worked so hard to create or sustain--pushes aside all other physical sensations, leaving only the effects of gravity to deal with as the bits of your prized work fall, settle...

And what to do then? Pick up the pieces? Some are too small to be seen. It's impossible to recreate what was.

But I'm not sure I want to recreate that anymore.

It's been tough going since first losing my job almost three weeks ago. Lots of job searching, crying, anxiety, budgeting... fear. Fear of The Unknown.

Now what's interesting is that all of us face The Unknown in measured amounts each day, like it or not. We can only plan so much of our days. The Unknown is always there, despite our best intentions and sometimes *in spite* of our best intentions.

So The Unknown has slammed into my semi-planned life like a steel wrecking ball and I'm dealing with the aftermath of this unplanned demolition. Initially it's very easy for people on the outside looking in to say "everything happens for a reason," "keep on keeping on," and "the only way to go now is up," and other tropes bearing similar messages of silver linings that are just beyond the vista of a person who has just been shaken at her core.

Silver linings aren't easily accessible when The Unknown is still a tempest brewing overhead.

Taking the time in these past few weeks to assess the damage, take action on what I can, and consider my next steps has forced me to reexamine my wants and needs.

I'm not trying to pick up the pieces. I don't need to. I'm taking an anthropological look at my own history to learn about myself and the way I was living my life. I'm looking at the pieces of my former life--my work, what I did, how I felt about it, and if there's something I could do better. This isn't the solution to my joblessness or whatever, but it's a method to (hopefully) help myself come out on the other side of this with a healthier and happier life... I'm seeing things about my pace, my schedule, my commute, my sleep, my eating, my exercising, and my personal time that could change for the better. And now is the opportunity to make those kinds of changes. I may not be able--and it may not be necessary--to make changes to every element I've identified as a candidate for change.

But this is the keeping on.