Friday, July 7, 2017

Sixth Tiara Check-In!

Hey, sunshine - how's that tiara sparkling? That's right - we're now about halfway through summer and it's time for another tiara check-in!

This week - wow! Some GREAT stuff happened (including a "girls' day" with my beloved teen goddaughter) along with some not-so-great stuff to even it all out. You don't wear a tiara only on the good days, you know. If you've earned one, you wear it and stand even taller and straighter on the days that are punctuated by bouts of ick. (FryDaddy spent a large chunk of this week down with the Creeping Crud, which is always bad, but in the summer seems even worse. He's on the mend, though.)

It was blazing hot so I didn't exercise as I had intended and I didn't get around to trying to make my own crepes either, but my garden provided a few cucumbers this week and the tomatoes are (finally!) starting to ripen. I also was gifted with cucumbers at my weekly WW meeting. (I'm down another .8 of a pound and closing in on my second goal, which was to lose 5% of my starting weight.)

Now, we'll have to see what happens on that front this next week - vacation is coming up and we're heading to the wild West where goats and elk roam the Wasatch Mountains and meals delectable enough to make Julia Child slap her momma are routinely prepared - much of it from the back garden and beehives! Alas - we arrive in between rodeo weeks, so I still don't get to see "mutton busting" but lazy days on the reservoir, a fancy high tea, some high altitude hiking and possibly a pedicure involving a belt sander are on the tentative schedule.

The video is from Texas, because - Texas.

I have learned a new French phrase for this "French Friday" - "il faut oser!" or "You have to dare!"

Excellent advice, I say! Therefore, my goals for this next week are simple - enjoy, recharge, and luxuriate in the company of those who love me!

May your week bring you joy!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fifth Tiara Check-In!

By now, you should be expecting a regular "French Friday" (see what I did there?) tiara post as I check in with you and report on my own progress on this summer tiara-deserving journey.

As is usual, some things are great, while others are challenges. Let's look at the challenges first. I had a hard time working in exercise the way I had planned this week. Late June in North Carolina tends to be hot and humid (not kidding, we're talking about "fog-up-your-glasses-by-stepping-outside" humid) and it was the end of my summer school teaching responsibilities, so I didn't use the inside walking track the way I could have. So that's something to keep working toward.

On the other hand, I lost weight again this week and I'm now officially down seven pounds. Maybe that doesn't sound like much, but think of it like this: that's the weight of a bag of sugar and a pineapple. Or a baby wolf. For fans of the nearly-forgotten movie 1941, that's a joke. But seriously - a six-week-old wolf cub weighs about seven pounds. So do about 12-and-a-half stoats, but the idea of losing 12-and-a-half stoats is just - weird.

I tried my hand at making mousse au chocolat since our last check-in. It's actually really easy, although I didn't quite master the trick of beating the egg whites enough to be super light and fluffy. So the end product was a little more like regular ol' 'Merican pudding, but was still super-tasty. Fresh orange zest, cherie. That's the secret! (Shhh. Just try it, don't tell anybody. Then it wouldn't be a secret, would it?)

This next week, I hope to try three things:

  1. Try to move a little each and every day - walk the dog, try a local trail, or maybe even walk around before the July Fourth fireworks. 
  2. Try my hand at at least one new recipe. I've been doing more of that, and my slow-cooker tikka masala wasn't half bad. I'm thinking of trying crêpes this week.
  3. Look back on one nice thing I did every day to treat myself like company.
Shoulders back, We Who Sparkle! Keep that tiara straight until next week!

And here's an extremely odd video of a stoat hunting a much larger rabbit. The stoat is utilizing the often-dismissed "freak out" tactic that uses dance moves as hunting strategy. Just think about that.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fourth Tiara Check-In!

How's the tilt of that tiara this week? Hard to believe, but, yes - it's time for another weekly check-in on our summer journey to increased fabulousness.

This week had a couple of grimy spots (the end of shepherding students through two whirlwind five-week summer courses can do that) and, combined with a few days of steady overcast-and-rainy days, made me feel a bit droopy and less than fabulous, I must admit. I put up with that for one day, but on the second, I was reminded that timid women do not have unicorn hair, so I needed to buck up and Get With It!

My solution (yours may be different, of course - you're your own Queen) was a "pantry spa" treatment. I know that not all problems can be solved by a hot bath, but it often helps me. So - take two tablespoons of plain yogurt, a little lemon juice, a Vitamin E capsule and mix well. Now run a hot bath. Add about a cup of plain (read: cheap) white rice in a clean knee-high stocking to the running water - just tie it to the faucet - and a tablespoon or so or oil (sesame is great if you have it; otherwise, olive will do nicely). A bar of seaweed soap completes the "sushi bath" experience.  (I've been gathering this stuff for months. If you don't have these specific items, improvise. Then add a few things to your next grocery list.) Light candles if that's your thing. Likewise, play music to soothe your jangled nerves, if that's how you roll. Use a bath pillow or a rolled-up hand towel as a pillow for your tired head. Gently smooth your homemade face mask on and lean back in the steaming water. Stay as long as you want to. Once out, drink a large glass of water, apply lotion liberally, and curl up with a bad book. Clean up the bathroom later.

Yes, you do have time to do this. Whatever is bugging you will still be there later - and if it's not, well, so much the better! Remember - we'd have no trouble being kind to a stressed-out friend and it's high time to treat ourselves as well as we'd treat a friend.

The week also had some good spots, of course. I tried dry-brushing for the first time - definitely stimulating! I haven't made crepes yet, nor chocolate mousse, but I'm hoping to try one or the other over the weekend. I broke the five-pound loss barrier (yay!) this week, which was worth celebrating, and I'm set up to get back into my daily French lessons, which had fallen by the wayside in the last few weeks.

So this next week for me is about adding in mild exercise. I really want to work my way up to that 10K by the end of the year so even though it's hot and humid here in the Carolinas, I need to move more than I've been doing.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Third Tiara Check-In!

How’s that tiara looking this week?  Yes, it’s time for our weekly check in on our fabulousness progress!

Personally, I had a week that threatened to topple my tiara and in the past, it probably would have. But now I have all of you to remind me that I deserve my sparkly crown and that there’s no need to wait for someone else to give me the approval to wear it and glisten.

And grimy days happen to all of us.*

So – what have you done this week to be magnificent to yourself? I’m trying to work on my pledge to “treat myself like company” by actively making plans to do something out of the ordinary every single day. One day it was something as simple as using the “fancy” high-end samples of skin care products that I’ve accumulated. (I have a sad tendency to hoard those like Smaug instead of using them with joy.) Another day it was picking basil leaves from my small herb garden to make a delicious insalata caprese of basil, fresh tomato (not from the garden yet, alas!), and mozzarella with a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar. And another day it was making popcorn on the stove instead of just having the chemical stuff in the microwave.

Maybe for you it was wearing your diamond stud earrings or that bracelet of your grandmother’s that you usually “save” for special occasions, forgetting that Tuesday can be a “special occasion” if you declare it so to be. Maybe you treated yourself to a bubble bath, or a facial, or having your nails done. Maybe you took yourself off for a hike, or carved out a half-hour to try a guided meditation, or went to the local library to flip through magazines you don’t usually read.

My point is this – it doesn’t matter what you do for yourself as much as you realize that you’re worth treating gently and respectfully.

It certainly isn’t about being “perfect.” (I swear, perfectionism ought to have an entry in the DSM-V as a disease of the mind!) I’m working hard to eat more food that’s less processed, but I don’t always get it “right.” So what? I lost another pound this week and wasn’t hungry to the point of eating the tablecloth.

In fact, food is going to be my focus for this next week. I picked up an inexpensive crepe pan and, although I’ve never made a crepe in my life, I’m going to try it this week. I want to try several new recipes this week – some sweet, some savory. I’ve been reading French Kids Eat Everything and it has a number of recipes that the author swears aren’t difficult, although they certainly sound fancy! I guess it’s time to find out if mousse au chocolat is that complicated or if I’ve just bought into the hype.

Onward, We Who Sparkle!

I like thinking this is me!
*Then again, just after I posted this, I went to the grocery to pick up a few things. (We're eating a LOT more produce these days, so I'm becoming a bit more French about shopping for perishables often.) Just as I walked in, a little girl whispered something to her mother, pointed at me, then looked down shyly. I smiled and said hello and the three of us proceeded to have quite a nice conversation. She was fascinated by my hair, which she said looked like a "galaxy unicorn." I really liked that. The mother was a fan of Meet Me at the Movies and I convinced her to take the girl to Wonder Woman this weekend, so it was an excellent exchange of ideas all around, I think.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Second Tiara Check In!

Yep, time for another tiara check in! Keeping your shoulders straight? Your head high? If so, good! If not, take a moment to adjust. We're all worthy of our tiaras and if you don't have one, make a pledge RIGHT NOW to get one in the next week and wear it at least once. Heaven knows, if you wait for the wider world to recognize your awesomeness and crown you, you're likely to be waiting quite a long time. So do it yourself! Make sure to give yourself a title, too - something suitable to celebrate your brains, cleverness, moxie, grit, whimsy, and/or style. Empress, Queen, Princess, Duchess, Marchioness, Countess, Viscountess, Baroness, Lady - pick whichever title best suits you on any given day. Today, for example, I am styling myself as the "Lady Glad" after the sparkling white, 5-foot-tall gladiolus blooming in my front yard.

See, back in the day, the Victorians assigned meanings to many flowers, so getting a bouquet was sort of like getting a coded letter. (And some of them could be quite nasty, once your deciphered them!) While most flowers have more than one meaning - there wasn't a Bureau of Blooms, after all - one meaning of gladioli was "integrity and recovery." Since today marks 15 years of me being in full-time recovery, seeing a blooming glad in my front yard just made my heart sing.

It was a tumultuous week here at the Nest. I needed to do a hard thing and I wound up having to do it alone, which is when the doubt-demons can come out in droves. But, with careful consideration of what is right and true, along with the encouragement of some people whose good opinion of me is quite important, I did it. And it turned out just fine - possibly better than fine; we'll have to see about that part. My decision and actions did not come without a cost, but it'll be all right. Lady Glad is made of strong stuff and she comes from a long line of righteous gadflies.

Add to that the fact that I also lost another two pounds, completed the "final final" review of the book manuscript AND went back to "rainbow-unicorn-galaxy" hair for the summer, and it's a tiara day, baby! (The explanation of the turquoise nature of the hair can be found here, by the way.)

Rock on!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Tiara Check In!

As I wrote about a week ago, I'm spending this summer deserving that tiara I wore on International Tiara Day. I thought it would be a good idea to regularly check in and see how we're all doing with our goals. I'm really, really trying to make 2017 a Year of Personal Jubilee. While I'm not tying myself to the Jewish or Christian traditions regarding the idea of Jubilee, I'm seeking to create a year of celebration and forgiveness, and I'm including forgiving myself for a number of lapses within this. Therefore, the time is just right for making these changes which are aimed at leading to a more celebratory life with room to do more good in the word.

And if you need to readjust your own goals as you move through the summer, do it with gladness! It's not about getting everything "right," it's about creating a calmer, more joyful, life.

So - looking back at Week One.

This week had challenges (don't they all?) as my long-suffering work laptop collapsed in its traces like an overworked mule. Since I'm teaching two fully-online summer classes, that sent me into panic mode which is where I tend to make really dumb decisions. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and I'm working with a new-to-me laptop that is *almost* properly formatted. I did, however, manage to not copy iTunes from the old laptop and connected my faithful iPod to the new one which then -- automatically synced and wiped out my music. I'm exploring ways to retrieve the thousands of songs I had added from my CD collection and of particular interest to me is regaining my playlists. Suggestions - with painfully obvious directions, perhaps involving a flannel board - are welcomed.

Well, success is rarely total.

There is much to celebrate as FryDaddy and I completed the labor-intensive process to refinance our house and pay off credit card debt. Thanks to the fine folks at Fifth Third Bank (hi, Switchblade!), we are now several large steps closer to secure financial footing. 

In other news, my first attempt at "sun tea" brewed on the office windowsill was a smashing success. Next time, I'll try it with green tea.

I'm also drinking more water and eating better food, now that I'm tracking my eating habits. You see, I bit the bullet and joined Weight Watchers the day after my last post (I tell you this in the spirit of accountability) and, while I only lost a pound in my first week, I lost a pound in my first week. I'm using both the online tools and the old-fashioned meetings and, while I'm very new at this, I really like the encouraging attitude and spirit of camaraderie I find there.

All in all, pretty darned good, I'd say.

I'm trying very hard to "treat myself like company" at least once a day - that, and continuing the bullet journal habit, will be my Week 2 focus as I build on this foundation.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tiara Challenge!

Over the years I've written this blog, I've often used it as a means to keep myself accountable for a number of challenges; often, those have been based on becoming more "adult" (read as "responsible") in a particular area such as eating, exercising, or financial habits. 

Self-care in all its permutations is an area that I see all of these discrete areas coming together. Let me explain and keep in mind that this is a lengthy challenge. After you read this, if it sounds interesting to you, please join me!

Today (May 24) happens to be Queen Victoria's birthday and, about ten years ago, a few fine folks who worked in the bridal industry (shudder - "bridal industry" - that's an awful term) got together and made up the holiday of "International Tiara Day." I discovered this just a day ahead of the event, which wasn't much time to get things together, but I got myself a sparkly tiara and, with a deep breath and maybe a few misgivings, I gave it a try. 

So what happened? A few people at work thought I was deeply eccentric, but that's not so bad. I found myself actually standing straighter (which would probably delight my mother) and walking a bit more deliberately. Also, if you ever want to follow Emerson's advice to "scatter joy," wearing a tiara will quite possibly do the trick. Everyone smiles at you. A few people stop in their tracks. It's just silly and we are in dire need of some silly these days.

Which brings us to the "Tiara Challenge." Following the INCREDIBLY FANTASTICALLY COOL AND HOLY WOW IT WAS GREAT beach trip, FryDaddy and I completed a major financial adulting goal and want to keep that momentum going. While my life is not ruled by the scale, my clothes do not fit in a way that proclaims my fabulousness to the world at large. I want to gain strength and stamina enough to "jobble" (remember, that's jogging crossed with wobbling) a mile without stopping and I really want to complete a 10K by the end of this year. (It's fine by me if I walk the whole thing.) In addition, I want to treat myself like company instead of like the hobo begging at the back door. So - I'm going to do it!

How? I'm still working the details, but . . .
  • From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I plan on pulling together all the bits and pieces that I've picked up over the past few years and crafting a life that puts family at the center. 
  • Summer, with its bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit (some hopefully from my own garden!), is the perfect time to try new recipes and dump the junk food. Also, quit rewarding myself with food.
  • Water infused with cucumber, berries, or herbs is going to be on my desk or the kitchen counter, but I'm also going to give "sun tea" a whirl using my office windowsill.
  • I plan on mild exercise to start with, and working my way up to jobbling three times a week and walking the other days. 
  • Keeping a bullet journal (I started my version last fall) makes me take a few minutes to reflect on my day and detach from it at the same time instead of carrying around a load of worry and turmoil. 
  • I'm going to organize all the samples of skin care stuff I've got a try to use one every single day, quite possibly while wearing my sparkly tiara. File this under "use the good stuff."
  • "Window shop" with good magazines and catalogs while also ruthlessly winnowing out my closet. The goal there is to leave me only with things that actually fit that I love (and a few sentimental favorites, of course) while also knowing what I'd like to keep my eyes open for to fill in the gaps.
It won't all happen at once and I'll make mistakes. No matter. I want to be, as the French would say (and I'm learning to), "une femme d'un certain âge" who retains a sense of style, playfulness, and curiosity, yet still has a badass streak. To do that, I need to do a few things.

And I'm starting today.

Who's with me? Aside from Princess Margaret here, who knew how to rock a tiara.