Cultivating Self-Love: Body Recap and April Preview

31 March 2014

Once upon a time, I found my doppleganger amongst a collection of old photographs.

April Fool's!

Actually, the image above is a clue as to April's Cultivating Self-Love theme (hint: it's not about booze or my non-existent drinking problem, though posing with bottles seems to be a pastime of mine).

Have you figured it out yet?

First, before I reveal April's theme, let me recap Month's theme of loving your body:

I introduced March's theme with suggestions for ways to show your body some love.

Next, I talked about 10 things I like about my body.

Then I got a bit more serious and talked about rejecting "fitspo."

And then I went deep when I talked about loving my body through the changes.

And finally, I had my first guest poster and collaborated on a linkup with Alicia of Jaybird.

I had a lot of fun talking about loving your body this month and sharing what that has meant for me. I've treated my body kindly this month by doing a smoothie cleanse, performing bellydance, and getting back into yoga. After 21 years of struggling with my body image (sadly, I have diary entries from when I was 10 talking about wishing I weren't fat), I finally feel like I am at a place where I accept my body as it is, and appreciate all of the wonderful things about it.

And finally, I'll tell you what I'll be focusing on in April: the past. Confession: this is the topic I am the most nervous about. It's what I struggle with most. There are versions of myself in the past that I don't accept, and which make me uncomfortable. There are years in my life that I don't care to revisit. But I think to truly love yourself, you have to love all of it, and that includes showing some love to your past self, especially the unlovable bits. Stay tuned.

Cultivating Self-Love

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Love Your Body Linkup

Today I'm sharing with you a guest post by my blogging buddy, Alicia of Jaybird. This collaboration has been in the works for a while now, so I am very excited to share her voice on my blog today. We have decided to open up our collaboration to the blogging community by creating a Love Your Body linkup, and we encourage our readers to post their own stories and link up with us (see below). While you're at it, you can check out my story over on Alicia's blog.


Of course I want to love my body.

I want to appreciate my body’s potential for strength, endurance and physical accomplishment.

I want to embrace it, no holds barred, and nourish it as best I know how, every single day.

But some days? That’s nearly impossible to do.

Self-love isn’t perfect. Really, is any kind of love perfect? Every relationship has ups and downs, frustrations and joys, disappointments and thrills. Our relationships with our bodies are no different.
Everyone has the occasional case of the nasty some days. Whether the negativity is about your body, your performance at work, your relationship or your home, it feels like it’s seeping in from all sides. These days are especially discouraging when you’re actively trying to be kinder to yourself, to cultivate self-love and to practice compassion.

I have those days, too. Even though I write about loving your body, there are days when I look in the mirror and feel disappointed by the woman I see. I pick apart every single feature, wondering why I can’t ever get rid of acne or stick to a way of eating that I know will eliminate my belly fat. I try to get dressed for work, only to discard all the pants that are too tight and the unflattering dresses in a pile on the floor. I look at the “love your body resolution” sign on my mirror and roll my eyes, knowing that I’m not living up to my own standard of kindness.

I’m sharing these doubts because honesty is important. Imperfection is important. Occasionally bloggers will write a post where they "reveal" a messy home or laundry that sits undone. The comments are inevitably affirming: it validates us to read that even in a world most often illustrated by smiling selfies and Pinterest-perfect organization, no one is perfect.

That applies to self-love, too. I want to peel back the layers of advice and positivity that I've dished out and say, honestly, that I don't love myself perfectly. I have days and weeks when I know I'm not doing right by my body, and I'm directing insults at myself that I'd never aim at someone else. During those weeks, I look to friends and other writers for inspiration and a reminder to keep trying.

Even though they aren't the most pleasant of emotions, self-doubt and discouragement are teachers. Those weeks when I'm not feeling great are often the weeks when I have the most to say about loving my body. The blog posts I write become gentle reminders to myself: be patient, be understanding, pick yourself up and try-try again. They push me to be as generous with my time towards myself (working out, cooking nourishing meals, reading books before bed) as I am towards others. I can take the negativity and channel it towards loving myself better, even if it doesn't happen right away.

The wonderful thing about self-love is that the more I practice, the better I get. So even when there are difficult days, I can call on the positive habits I've cultivated to keep me going. I think of what's made me feel better in the past when I'm feeling down on my body: taking a moment for quiet reflection, asking myself five why's to figure out the root cause of my upset or doing something healthy that I know will make me feel good. I unfurl my yoga mat and practice or stretch for a few minutes. I pull out my favorite cookbook and make a new meal plan, then go get groceries and get cooking. I put on my running shoes, even if I don't feel like it, and I run through the blah until I get to the beautiful.

From the imperfect, I draw inspiration. From negativity, I learn a lesson. From this community, I draw support. It's an ongoing education, this journey to cultivate self-love, but I can't imagine a better field of study.

Alicia writes Jaybird, a blog focused on self-improvement sans sleaze. She believes in cooking with joy, eating with gusto and moving often (ideally to super catchy pop music). Jaybird is a place to find community, inspiration and the occasional chocolatey dessert recipe. She'd love to say hi: you can find her on TwitterInstagramFacebook and Pinterest!

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Fabulous Fridays: March 28

28 March 2014

TGIF guys! This week Friday could not get here fast enough, even though the week has sped along. Can I just stay in and binge-watch Scandal all weekend?

Work has been crazy busy, and same with my after-work life.I'm gonna cut to the chase because my tummy is not happy right now and I seriously want to relax.

Things that made this week fabulous:

I did the Dr. Oz 3-day smoothie cleanse. Here is where I get TMI (don't say I didn't warn you- skip ahead if you must). I'd been having constipation issues for the past several weeks, which is not normal for me, and I'd had enough. Part of me is paranoid about my colon health because of my family history of colon cancer, so I'd like to keep things flowing if you know what I mean. I'd heard this cleanse could help with such issues, so I gave it a shot. I was miserable the first two days- I was tired, craved coffee and real food, but by day 3 I felt I could finish strong. Monday I felt completely refreshed and I have had no tummy issues since. I've also gotten back into eating smoothies, so that's a bonus.

We celebrated Fox's birthday with the family on Sunday, and we had a blast at the park playing frisbee in the sunshine. Too bad it was still cold and windy.

I've gotten back into online dating. I've gotten so many messages that I just delete some right away if the guy looks douchey. Nerd alert: I've been considering creating a douche scale to map some of the weirdos I come across. Case in point: a guy who declares in his profile that he is on an Arthurian Quest. No joke. Either way, it's been a good boost to my ego.

I got serious about yoga again. One of my 2-year goals is to complete yoga teacher training, so in order to prepare, I'm back at a yoga studio that I really love. It feels like home. Today before class, some of us even reminisced about the greatness of Louis Sachar.

I finished reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and I cried my eyes out. Some of it rang a little to true in regards to my last breakup, but it was such a great read. I finished it in a little over a week, which means I devoured it (I'm a slower reader). Also, Moyes herself replied when I tweeted her (r maybe it was an assistant, but still).

I had a suh-weet dinner with my dad at Gracie's this week. Gorgonzola cheesecake? Check. Pickled vegetable salad? Bomb. Ravioli? Heck yes. But the clincher? Crispy bread pudding. Hoo mama.

Finally, on Monday, Alicia and I are hosting a Love Your Body linkup! I hope that you will join us- see details here.

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Cultivating Self-Love: Loving Your Body Through the Changes

24 March 2014
Cultivating Self-Love

How do you react when you notice changes, be they minor or significant, in your body? Does a new wrinkle make you panic? Stretchmarks make you lose your mind? Or, how do you feel when something just won't work the way it used to, like a bum knee or your circulation?

Today I'm going to talk to you about loving your body through the changes, something that I have experienced personally, and which I think all women can relate to given the seasons that our bodies are designed to encounter. I'd like to inspire a revolution of embracing change.

First, lets talk about the cosmetic changes- changes that are visible, but that do not cause any harm to your body. Changes that are strictly aesthetic.

Ah, to be a carefree kid again. Don't mind the hat.
I'm not sure when they first appeared, but I've had stretch marks for far longer than I lived without them. I was one of those lucky girls who hit puberty a little bit earlier than her peers (and thank god I was a grade ahead age-wise, or the changes would have been noticed even more by my classmates than they already were). At age ten, I remember the day that a girl (who had been a good friend in fourth grade) snapped my bra strap while we were sitting in class. I was humiliated, not only because someone had done something mean (and loud) that drew attention to me (and my bra), but also because I felt ashamed of my budding breasts (a shame, mind you, that lingered well into my early twenties). Within two years, my body grew- my hips filled out, my breasts grew, and the rest of me became a bit overweight. Sadly, I was not blessed in the gene pool with elastic skin, so stretch marks formed over most of my body: the backs of my calves, my inner thighs, most of my stomach, my hips, my breasts, and the wing-bits of my arms. Puberty was not kind to me, and I've been left with reminders of that ever since.

At my skinniest, and in great shape underneath it all.
Another change my body has encountered, the results of which I was entirely unprepared for, was significant weight loss. What people seem to not tell you is that some people may lose the way, but their skin does not shrink to fit the newly toned body. Loose skin means that shapewear is required for any tight-fitting dresses, and that pants will forever be a frustration, thanks to a perma-muffin-top. I have a weird pooch above my belly button that will never go away, unless I opt for plastic surgery, but I never will because I've already had a laparoscopic surgery in that region and that was all the surgery experience I need. When you lose weight, you kind of expect to end up with a tight, toned body and perky breasts- no one ever tells you that your body will look lived-in.

Hello eye-crinkles.
Lately, though, the change I've noticed the most is the lines that have appeared on my face. Crinkles that show up every time I laugh or smile or squint in the sun. Lines around my mouth, like parentheses (as though my face know my tendency to over-use parentheses). Lines that can tell you just which faces I make the most often. These are the newest changes, and therefore the hardest changes, for me to accept about my body.

And as for the changes in function?

Developing a knee injury while training for my first (and most likely only) half-marathon forced me to think about how I treat my body, even if what I am doing is for my own good. I used to love goal-setting and goal-getting, and running a half-marathon was going to be an easy way to fulfill that need of mine. I trained for months to walk/run those 13.1 miles, and up until race day, my body seemed ready. Unfortunately, mile 3 saw my knee tugging at me, and I was forced to hobble/joggle the remaining 10 miles. I was incredibly stubborn and refused to seek help- I wanted my medal, dammit! A stint of personal training showed me that weak glutes and hips had led to a tightened IT band, which is what cause my pain. It's an issue I still deal with, one that requires strength-training, and which means that I still don't run much further than 3 miles.

My foot at its least attractive and most painful.
My other major change occurred when I was a month shy of 25 years old. While at my first real belly dance class, I looked down at my toes, which felt funny, and noticed they were white. Not pale-white from lack of sunshine, but white-white from lack of blood flow. My sister was in that class with me and I had her looks at my toes. How weird! A few more episodes and a Web MD search later, I determined I must have Raynaud's. My dad telling me that my grandmother and cousin both had/have it, and I was sold. A doctor's diagnosis (my toes had actually turned purple in his office), and it was official. I have Raynaud's- the primary kind. This means that even the slightest cool breeze (cool being anything lower than the current temperature) can cause the blood to stop circulating to my hands and feet. This then gives me a pins-and-needles feeling, sometimes numbness, and usually followed by burning when the blood returns. I've had lots of minor episodes, a few really bad ones (which even running my extremities under warm water didn't fix), and I am pretty much constantly trying to keep warm. This is by far the most difficult change I have faced, and while I know it doesn't compare to what some people go through, it's been hard for me. I used to be someone who overheated easily, and I still sweat more than I think is average. But going from being someone who could sit outside on cold pavement in January, to one who feels that anything below 75 is cold, is rough. 

So, how have I loved my body through these changes?

As for the aesthetic stuff, I've reminded myself that physical beauty is not eternal. We all go through changes, and no one is immune. And change can be beautiful in itself. Those stretch marks are quite fascinating if you think about it- they now form pale, iridescent stripes along and around my body. They tell a story, one of change and triumph, and if I think of them as hugs, it's like they're hugging the bits of my body that need the extra love. As for extra flesh- that's another storyteller, victorious and strong in its own way. And wrinkles? They're evidence of lots of smiles and laughs, of enjoying this life I've been given.

And the functional changes? While they've been tougher to love, I have come to accept them and work with them. A bum knee means no more training for long runs, but instead doing physical activities that feel good to my body. It also means making sure that strength-training is a part of my life. And the Raynaud's- I keep fingerless gloves on me at all times, and prepare for any situation in which I may find myself cold. That means taking a blanket and warm, fuzzy socks to the movie theater, and wearing thick, warm boots most of the year (October through June in a bad year, through April in a good year). It means choosing function over fashion, most of the time. And keeping Little Hotties on hand at all times, in case of emergency.

Change is a part of life, and our bodies are great examples of that. Instead of fearing or rejecting change, I suggest we embrace the change and learn how we can love the changes our bodies experience. It's not easy starting a revolution.

What changes have you learned to accept in your body? How does change affect how you feel about yourself? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Hey friends! Would you like to join in the conversation about loving your body? Next Monday, March 31, I will be joining Alicia of Jaybird for a Love Your Body linkup! Since January, Alicia has created a series on her blog called Love Your Body Resolution, and she has posted some inspiring stories there. I am very excited to feature her here on my blog next week, and to link up with our fellow bloggers! For more details, and some prompts to inspire you, hop on over here.

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Fabulous Fridays: It's Spring!

21 March 2014

Happy Friday and Happy Spring! I don't know about you, but I feel like every March I begin to notice new plants and flowers. I'm not talking daffodils and hyacinths springing up, I'm talking the plants I don't know the names of and never really noticed until this moment. For me, every Spring is brand new and I feel like I am seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

This week was a wonderful (though crazy at work) week. The highlight was certainly seeing my dear Swedish friend Ina, whom I have not seen since I left Poitiers, France 9 years ago. I also got to see two other friends I studied abroad with, which was great (the last time I saw them was probably around the time I graduated college, 8 years ago). Meeting up with them was so wonderful because we found ourselves falling into old patterns and everything felt familiar, as though no time had passed at all. Friends like that are priceless.

And now I'm going to leave you with a playlist, because it's Spring! So put on your dancing shoes and enjoy some of these groovy tunes- it's time to bust a move!

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Birthday Babies

19 March 2014

Today is a doubly special day. On this day, 5 years ago, my dog, Lucy was born. And on this day 2 years ago, my nephew, Fox was born. March 20 is one of the best days of the year.

Puppy fuzz!
First, I'll talk about my baby girl. Fact: Fox does not call her Lucy, but instead calls her baby. How is that for cute? Lucy is my special lady, my shadow, my best friend. She's a bit shy, but she loves my nephews and gives lots of kisses. She sticks by my side whenever I'm sick or feeling down. She also makes for an excellent hiking companion, often schooling me on grueling uphill climbs. Almost five years ago, I took her home and promised her that I would always take care of her. Some days, that promise was the only thing keeping me going. In short, I cannot imagine my life without her.

And now for Fox. The night Fox was born was very special indeed. It was a Tuesday, and I had belly dance class that night, but my sister warned me that I may need to leave early if she checked into the hospital- she'd been having contractions all day, but wasn't sure if it was the real deal. Around 8-8:30 I headed over to the hospital, and hung out in the room while my sister took a bath. We all figured we had time to settle in. 

We turned on the TV and waited. While she was in the tub, my sister thought her water broke, so we called for the nurse who came to check things out. It turned out my sister was a lot further along than they thought. No time for drugs, which is good, since my sister was hoping to not use them. My sister's blood pressure was on the high side, so the nurse had her lay on her left side, but this seemed to give my sister more of an urge to push. When the nurse checked how things were progressing down below, she told my sister not to push- things were moving so quickly we weren't sure if the doctor was going to get there on time! I stood with my sister, rubbing her feet, but for some reason, watching her get contractions made me queasy and I nearly passed out. She said they just felt like really bad cramps, which I had dealt with in the past (and which always made me nauseous), so perhaps I empathized a little too much.

Once the doctor arrived, the pushing began and 15 minutes later, Fox came screaming into the world. It's no secret that I'm a sensitive person, and I choked up when I heard his first cry (while holding my sister leg back during the delivery). My sister high-fived me when Fox came into the world, and she was high on the adrenaline rush of giving birth naturally. It was an amazing moment, one that bonded me both to my sister and to her son. After the hubbub died down and everyone left, I stayed with my sister and her husband. I let my sister and her husband get some sleep while I rocked Fox and watched the snow falling outside. Yes, it snowed the night Fox was born, and it was peaceful and perfect.

And now that little baby boy is a toddler bursting with life. He's a boy who knows what he wants, and that means trains, books, robots, nummahs (sweets), and cats (which he calls mow, like meow without the e). He loves watching me do my nails or bake up treats in the kitchen. It's amazing how fast the time flies, and so much fun to watch a little boy grow into a person.

So, though neither of them can read, I will be wishing my dearest babies a happy birthday today, complete with nummahs.
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Rachel's Guide to Portland: Oso Market

Hello! This week I'm back with another installment in my Guide to Portland. I'm always trying new places, and when I get good pictures of what I've eaten, I like to share with you. I'm all for supporting local businesses, and with Portland's vibrant dining scene, you really can't go wrong!

Last Tuesday evening, I tried out Oso Market's happy hour with my dad. The menu is varied and generous on the portions, as you will see in the pictures. The happy hour drink specials include $2 off wine pours, so my dad had a lovely red while I enjoyed the Oso Rojo, a mixed sparkling wine beverage. All I have to say about my drink, pictured above, is that I will return for that drink alone. It was perfect for sipping in the sun (which made a cameo appearance that particular day.

Our first stops on the food portion of the happy hour menu included mixed olives and the pickle plate, both pictured above. They bring plenty of olives, and while they're not the most spectacular olives I've had in town (I prefer when a place created their own mix with seasonings, and when the olives are warmed, which these were not), they still hit the spot (I love olives, what can I say?). As for the pickle plate, the servings were generous, and the variety was different from anywhere else I've tried, and that's saying something since Portland seems to love its pickles. Here we had pickled peppers (my fave), pickled radishes, pickled fennel, and kimchi. These ones all packed a punch, so if you're sensitive to heat, you might be better off without the pickles.

Also on the happy hour menu, we tried the radishes cooked with butter and salt. These were just okay to me, but definitely unlike any other radishes I've ever had. I actually found myself missing the usual radish bite, and would have been better off with raw radishes, French butter, and fleur de sel.

As much as I love my olives, I love my cheese even more, so whenever a restaurant has a cheese plate, I have to give it a try. Although there is a cheese plate on the happy hour menu, it is more of a meet and cheese plate, and since I'm a vegetarian, we ordered the cheese plate off the regular menu. I'm so glad we did. It's one of my favorite cheese plates. All 3 cheese were delicious, and sadly, I couldn't tell you what they were (though I do know the middle one is a wine-soaked goat cheese). The cheese came with a fruit spread (fig?) and grain mustard (this is what won me over- I am a mustard fanatic), and some more pickles, this time bread & butter. The plate was also served with some sliced baguette, the better to enjoy the cheese and spreads with.

My dad was still hungry, so while I saved room for dessert, he ordered the chickpea sandwich off the happy hour menu. What you see above is only half of the sandwich, making this the biggest bargain on the happy hour menu. The sandwich is made with curried chickpea spread, kale, provolone, and green apples. It was nothing short of delicious, and I felt like a kid in a candy store when my dad told me I could take the leftovers home with me.

And now the dessert portion, because I cannot go anywhere and not order dessert. I tried the panna cotta with wine sauce, and it was the perfect ending for my meal. The wine sauce tasted like a rich cherry lollipop, and the panna cotta tasted fresh and creamy. The perfect sunny day dessert- and cute to boot.

Finally, since Oso is a market as well as a place to eat, one wall is lined with displays of candy, condiments, cheeses, tea, beers, liquors, and wine. Its a lot of fun just to browse around (I wanted all of the chocolate, but it's a bit on the spendy side), and my dad came away with two boxes of my mom's favorite tea- Smith Tea's Lord Bergamot, which is a delicious Earl Grey tea.

My verdict: I can't wait to go back. I'd love to enjoy my drink and that sandwich again, and poke around the shop a bit more.

Portlanders- have you been? How do you feel about Portland's pickle obsession? I'd lve to hear form you in the comments below!

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Cultivating Self-Love: Rejecting "Fitspo"

16 March 2014

How do you feel when you see an image of a thing, toned, tanned body with words like "no excuses" emblazoned across them? Do such images make you love yourself more?

If you're anything like me, they don't. For me, these images remind me of a body that I will never have, and a body that I have learned that I don't even want.

Actually, no I'm not, and  I'll tell you why next week. Source

I know we've all seen these images popping up in our Facebook feeds and on Pinterest (especially on Pinterest). Some argue that they are meant to inspire women to take control of their health and move their bodies. But really, they are just another means of (emotionally, mentally) punishing women for not living up to some ideal that someone else decided was attractive.

My problems with this are manifold. 

First, the images themselves. Only one body type is represented in these images: that of a thin, usually white, tanned, and toned body. Many of these images even feature a woman with somewhat large breasts, with just the right amount of cleavage to make it "sexy." These women have defined abs and very little body fat. Nothing about their bodies is soft.

Personally, I don't want a hard body. I want a body that babies want to cuddle with. I want a body that jiggles some when I belly dance (it makes for a more pronounced visual). I want a body that is feminine and sensual, by my definition. This means more body fat than what these pictures tell me.

Is the body I want unhealthy?

Nope. In fact, the body I want is the body I have. And the body I have is within a healthy BMI range.

And this takes me to my second point. Women shouldn't be striving to change their bodies in order to love them. Women should be encouraged to love the bodies that they have. Why? Because love is what matters. And if you're coming from the stand-point of promoting health, people take care of the things they love. Loving your body leads to caring for your body.

My second problem with fitspo are the words that are used. There is too much talk of "no excuses" and "a hot body is the best revenge" and "someone who is busier than you is running right now." Really makes you feel great about yourself, right? Wrong.

Call me sensitive, but such words just make me feel chastised. I imagine a drill sergeant yelling at me, or some snobby girl giving me that stinky face look. No bueno. 

First of all, the bodies in those images require more workout time than needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Some people just don't prioritize fitness in that way. For some of us, three times a week is all the workout we can manage, and that is ok. For some of us (ok, for me) sleep is the biggest priority in our well-being, so we are not going to simply wake up earlier to fit in a workout (also, I prefer working out in the evening to burn off stress). 

So don't talk to me about excuses, I've got mine and I'm ok with my choices. And as for having a hot body?

Since when is my body not hot? And why does it even have to be hot?

That last one is the one that gets me the most. To me, the worst thing that these images do is perpetuate this idea that a woman's biggest goal and greatest asset is being sexually appealing to everybody. Seriously? I do not want everyone to be sexually attracted to me, far from it! And last time I checked, I was a person with thoughts and feelings, whose greatest asset was her capacity for love.

So, how do we fix this? I, for one, have stopped following Pinterest boards that pin these types of images, just as I stopped buying fashion and fitness magazines years ago. We can all start making choices about what we want to see and what images we choose to surround ourselves with. And if you're someone who casually pins or shares these kinds of images, I'd like you to think twice about what kind of impact you are having. Chances are you're not encouraging someone to choose a healthy lifestyle. 

If you want someone to choose to eat healthy, pin recipes for delicious salads. And if you want to inspire someone to lead an active lifestyle, a lifestyle which manifests itself in all body types, show images of all types of people engaging in a physical activity. Because really, how many times have you looked at an average person (not a fit model) and thought to yourself, "if they can do it, I can."

How do you feel about "fistpo?" What sort of images make you feel inspired? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Cultivating Self-Love

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Fabulous Fridays: Pi Day

14 March 2014

Happy Pi Day Friday everybody! I hope you have all had a fantastic week. Mine has been filled with ups and downs, and I am definitely ready to get the weekend started. That said, here are some of the fabulous moments from my week:
  • Saturday was my oldest nephew's 6th birthday. We celebrated with family and 4 of his classmates at Big Al's where I bowled my worst game ever. Doesn't matter, I was having a lot of fun observing 6-year-old social behaviors and helping wrangle my youngest nephew.
  • Saturday was also the Portland Bloggers Speed Networking event at Cyril's at Clay Pigeon Winery in Portland. I am now the Portland Bloggers Blog Master, so I got there early to help set up. I was amazed by the cheese spread and wine that was offered to us by Cyril's, and can't wait to go back!
  • Sunday I met up with an old coworker I haven't seen in a long time for coffee, and it was so great catching up with her! I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed talking with her when we worked together, and I'm hoping to get to hang out with her a little more, especially since it seems we're in similar life stages right now (read: early 30s, single, and still figuring out the career thing).
  • I also went to Powells Books' huge sale on Sunday. While I nearly had a panic attack because of how crowded the place was, I'm still thrilled with my bargains- almost all books for book club, and one birthday present for my youngest nephew (and one for my mom- not pictured).
  • I had plenty of time with my youngest nephew this week, and his word explosion continues. In fact, last night I dreamed he said an entire clear sentence ("there is birthday cake on the lawn"). I took him for a walk to the park after work one day this week, since it is lighter later, and we had fun on the swings and slide. Ah, to be a kid again.
  • I belly danced on Wednesday night, and I felt like it was one of my best performances. My teacher showed up to offer support, and I was so happy to have her there! But, she said that now she knows what I'm capable of, she's going to pick on me more in class. Uh oh. 
  • Finally, Spring is springing, and the evidence is all over town. Last night I enjoyed a walk around my favorite neighborhood with my dog and there were flowers in bloom all over the place.
Your turn! What has made your week fabulous? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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10 Things I Like About My Body

10 March 2014

Photo by Motormouth Studios

Today's post is inspired by Lisa's post last Wednesday, which was inspired by this post from Avoiding Atrophy, a new-to-me blog. I love the idea of talking about things that we love about ourselves. As women, we often feel the need to downplay our assets, lest we sound boastful, and more often than not, we tend to focus on the things we don't like about ourselves. For this reason, and in the hopes of encouraging you to do the same, I'm joining up with these two ladies to talk about ten things I like about myself. Of course, since this month I'm blogging about showing love for our bodies, I had to give the post my own twist, so I present to you:

10 Things I Like About My Body

  1. I like my legs. I like their shape, their curve, and I like the way that they have taken me places I never could have imagined. They've climbed the stairs of Giotto's tower in Florence, they've run/walked a half marathon, they've danced across stages, and they've remained steady and strong the whole time (well, other than the bit about the IT-band).
  2. My smile. True story: I never really thought much of my smile until one of the classes I taught in France. To give my 11th-graders a chance to get to know me while working on their English conversation skills, I had one half ask questions about me, while the other half guessed my answers to the questions. One question that was asked was what I liked best about myself, and my students guessed my smile. When I told them that was not my answer, they asked me why- it seemed so obvious an answer to them. That moment made me think I should smile more often- and I do.
  3. My eyes. From a young age, I was always told this was my greatest physical feature, and I admit, I love my eyes. I love that they are big, hazel, and I love that I have naturally long-ish lashes.
  4. My eyebrows. Weirdo-alert, but I love a good eyebrow, and I am very happy to have nice arches. I actually have a fairly prominent (to me) scar in my left eyebrow where it is white and no hair grows- I've had it since I was a toddler (I supposedly fell in the bathtub). So, though they be crooked, my eyebrows make for nice curtains to the windows of my soul.
  5. My hourglass shape. Granted, dressing my shape is difficult given that many clothes manufacturers seem to make clothes more suited to straighter figures, but I love that I go in at the waist, and it's something I love to see when I'm decked out in my belly dance costume. It also makes me feel very feminine.
  6. The odd brown spots on the palm-side of my hand. I've had the one ever since I was a toddler, but the other showed up some time in the last two years. They're kind of odd, and growing up my siblings referred to the one on my finger as my poop spot. Very funny (not). I don't care what they say- I like that it's unique.
  7. My hair. My hair actually thinned out quite a bit the second time I lived in France, as did both of my roommates' hair (freaky). Even so, I like the thickness of my hair, and how shiny and soft it tends to be. I've grown to appreciate my stick-straight brunette locks, despite doing everything in my power as a child to get Madonna's and Stephanie Tanner's golden curls.
  8. My nose. I used to hate my nose as a kid. I thought it as too big, or too round, or just plain ugly. But somewhere along the way, I grew into it. I'm not entirely sure who's nose I acquired, but I can say it's mine and has its quirks. And I like it that way.
  9. My hands. They may be small, and they may be showing my age, but they are fierce. They can shape up an amazing scone, they can chop chocolate like their lives depend on it, they can fashion words out of thin air, and they give the best doggie ear and belly rubs.
  10. My hips. I used to hate my hips. Really, truly hate them. They were too big, and finding pants was always frustrating. But then I discovered belly dance, and I learned how to use my hips. Now I love nothing more then to shimmy my hips in class and on stage. And who needs pants anyway?
I hope that this list inspires you to create one of your own. It may take some time and thought (I know mine did), but it is worth it. If you can, write it down or print it out and keep it near a full-length mirror so that even on bad days, you can be reminded of what you truly love about your body. Because, let's face it: we only get one body in life, so we might as well show it some love. Our bodies deserve it.

Your turn- share with me something you love about your body! Or better yet, create your own post! I'd love to hear what you love about yourself.

Cultivating Self-Love

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Fabulous Fridays: It's March Y'all

07 March 2014
Happy Friday my friends! (side note: I really had the urge to type mothaf***as there- I blame the wine and the wearing off Novocaine) Yes, I'm typing this while recovering what is hopefully my last bit of dental work for a while. I'll be enjoying soft foods yet again this weekend.

Anyway, it's March you guys. Spring is two weeks away. Two of my nephews have birthdays this month, as does my dog. I have a fairly busy social calendar this month too (I'm noticing a trend for the year so far). But I'm really most excited for flowers to start blooming. I'm already starting to see buds on trees.

But today is Friday, which means sharing with you guys what made this week fabulous for me.

Given that my last several Instagram posts have been food-related, I guess you could say I had a good food week. I made baked ziti (ok, it was actually rigatoni- I can't seem to find ziti anywhere) and homemade tiramisu for an amazing dinner on Sunday (along with Caesar salad and a nice Dolcetto from Zerba winery). Tiramisu is the way to my heart, so it's a good thing I know how to make a good one. I love me.

The Oscars. I really enjoyed them this year. I laughed, I cried, I shook my fist when Steve McQueen did not win best director, but then cheered when 12 Years a Slave won best picture. I watched that movie on Saturday, and though it was very difficult at times to watch, it was very well-done, and a movie everyone needs to see. I was also ecstatic when Cate Blanchett won because her performance in Blue Jasmine was beyond belief. Her acceptance speech was even more flawless (heck yes I will pay to see movies about women- duh!).

I finally, after searching for a while, bought a new pair of skinny jeans. This is a big deal, y'all. And since this month's Cultivating Self-Love theme is all about loving your body, I might do a special post about my jeans. Let's just say, I'm in love and they make me happy.

I whipped out a good spin in my mini-performance for belly dance class. Spins are not my forte, so to pull one off that made my teacher cheer (seriously, she cheered, because she's awesome like that) is quite an accomplishment for me. I feel inspired to practice for my performance next week.

I had a lovely dinner with my dad at Coppia for Portland Dining Month. I totally brought the demographic down in the place (everyone else looked over 50), but the food and wine were delicious. Sometimes it's nice to eat somewhere that is off of the radar of all the young, hip folk. Especially when that means great, unpretentious service.

Finally, I'm reading Lean In for book club, and I've been making lots of notes. I'm going to have a lot to say about this one, and so far, I"m finding myself identifying with Sheryl Sandberg a lot. I was called bossy as a kid and loved playing teacher/director/photographer. I'm sure I'll have a post ready when I've finished to share all of my thoughts.

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Ladies Who Brunch Book Club: Maurice

05 March 2014

This past weekend, I finally had my first brunch book club discussion. We met once before over brunch to decide on books/pace/brunch, and this time was to talk about what we'd read. Initially, we were meant to meet up 3 weeks ago to discuss The Snow Child, but we were, ironically, snowed out (only in Portland).

Let me back-track a little. I've wanted to be part of a book club for a long time. I was part of a book club once, but it fizzled out after only two books and a real lack of direction. I was super-stoked when my friend Macey asked her facebook friends who would be interested in joining a book club, and even more excited to meet some new friends in the process (shout-out to Lindsay, Sarah, and Ashley). No surprise that we're all bloggers.

So fast forward to this past Saturday when we met at Maurice for brunch to discuss The Snow Child and Little Bee (affiliate links, meaning if you buy anything through those links, I could get a teeny tiny percentage of money from Amazon). We met for brunch because we have decided that it will be the setting for all of our book discussions, and a great way for us to explore Portland's brunch offerings. Every meeting will be a new book and a new brunch spot.

Maurice was a delight. I love when a luncheonette has a case full of tasty treats as soon as you walk in the door, and Maurice's was very enticing. The whole space is bright and airy, with white walls and south-facing windows. The offerings consisted of quiches, scones, and pastries, and we all opted for coffee. I loved the cups used to serve the coffee, and the brew itself was tasty (from Courier Coffee, next door). I opted for the bleu cheese quiche and the deliciously huge currant and rosemary scone. If you haven't figured it out by now, I love my scones, and I'm a bit of a scone snob (those Starbucks bricks can't even be called scones in my opinion), but this one was wonderful. The scone itself was flaky and tender, while the rosemary added some depth. And it was big enough for leftovers! The quiche was good too, but sweets are the way to my heart.

As for the books, each of us seemed to hold different opinions. I loved The Snow Child (and you can read my review here), but others had a hard time with it because they struggled with whether it was supposed to be real or fantasy (must a book choose?- that is my opinion). As for Little Bee, I think we mostly agreed that it was good, but a difficult subject, and perhaps not one we may have read were it not for book club.

Next up, we're reading Lean In and meeting for brunch at Meriwether's. I'm looking forward to it- I'm only 15 pages in, but I already have some notes for discussion.

Have you read any of these books? How do you feel about scones? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
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