Tuesday, April 29, 2014

10% Happier

Dan Harris was pedaling this book on my morning radio show a couple weeks ago. Since then, it’s been steadily climbing the NY Times Bestseller List. As luck would have it, it was available at the library with nary a day’s wait.

 Good Reads' Synopsis: "After having a nationally televised panic attach on Good Morning America, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. After learning about research that suggests meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain, Harris took a deep dive into the underreported world of CEOs, scientists, and even marines who are now using it for increased calm, focus, and happiness. "10% Happier" takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America's spiritual scene, and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives."

What I Thought: This wasn’t really what I was expecting at all but it turned out okay in the end. I suppose I was looking for a bit more guidance about meditating and not letting yourself get stressed out. It was really Harris’ journey from, essentially, a nervous breakdown to seeking enlightenment (whether that exists or not remains to be seen). But his story is an interesting one and you get a lot of insight about his time at ABC and various experts he came to find. At the very end is a little information for beginner’s meditation. I haven’t put this into practice yet but I plan to. It’s amazing what a few eyes closed, deep breaths will do for you. Try it! If you are interested in hearing about someone else’s journey to live stress free and become happier, pick this one up. If you are looking for a true self-help book, this isn’t it. I did enjoy reading it though and am now on a journey of my own.

Rating: * * *

Monday, April 28, 2014

What I'm.....

What I’m Buying: A new car! Well, John is buying a new car. I am excited to see his old Vibe go but I loathe car shopping. It’s a fate worse than death. He his getting a Fusion Hybrid. I cannot wait to spend a whole lot less on gas and to help the mileage on my car too.
What I’m Sewing: Nothing lately. But, I am about to embark on a quilt excursion. I’ve never made a quilt before. Having saved umpteen pairs of jeans, it’s going to be a denim quilt for use outside. Wish me luck!

What I’m Listening To: Fitz and the Tantrums. You know the song because it’s in a commercial right now, I think. John downloaded a bunch of their stuff. It’s got a great beat for running.
What I'm Relishing: Patio sitting in nice weather. We had dinner on the patio at Fleming's for their Happy Hour special on Saturday. It is THE best deal on a burger around. Only six bucks! The sun was shining and the breeze was calm. Perfection.
What are you _______ lately?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stitch Fix #5

Time to go in-home shopping again! I set my fifth Stitch Fix to arrive just a couple days after my birthday as a little gift to myself. That probably wasn't the most responsible thing for me to do but I did it anyway.

Want to see what I got? Of course, you do. Otherwise you wouldn't be here!  As I was editing these pictures, I realized I definitely should have slapped on a bit of lipstick. Hindsight.

Pomelo - Corinna Striped Dolman Top, $48

The fabric on this was soft and comfortable and I liked the color but it is a bit muted heading into the cheery colors of spring I typically gravitate towards. The fit was fine but this is the third dolman sleeve top they've sent me in a row. I kept the first but returned the second. How many dolmans does a girl need? I liked it but I didn't $48 like it.

Verdict: Return

Daniel Rainn - Axis Geo Print Crochet Detail Blouse, $68

I love the graphic print on this one and I don't really have many (if any) black and white pieces so it would fill a void in my wardrobe. The length in the back is really nice. You can't really see it but the detailing at the neck with a metal clasp adds a fun, unexpected feature. I think it'll be good at the office under a cardigan and for wearing out and about with bright crops or shorts.

Verdict: Keep

Leota - Tyra Geo Print Faux Wrap Dress, $158

I love everything about this dress. The color is vibrant. The print is graphic. The fit was flattering. John went nuts for it. I love everything except the price. ONE HUNDRED FIFTY EIGHT DOLLARS!!! I was actually really upset that it cost so much considering my Style Profile has a $50-$100 price range and this far surpassed that. I could not even begin to justify the cost on this one. But, it does make me want to see out this vintage style in a more responsible price point. 

Verdict: Return

Sold Design Lab - Korye Distressed Skinny Jean, $128

OK. White jeans. Distressed white jeans. You can't see it but these $128 dollar jeans come pre-distressed with holes in the knees. There are very few people who can pull off white jeans. I am not one of them. I looked like a whale which is why you are seeing a picture of the jeans and not me in the jeans.

Verdict: RETURN

Zad - Zoe Open Shape Metal Earrings, $32

These earrings are cute and I like how the shape echoed that of the black and white sleeveless blouse. They are lightweight and about 1 1/2" in length. Ultimately, I didn't need another pair of larger gold earrings.

Verdict: Return

....Just one keeper this month which I suppose is okay. I don't really need to spend the money. But, I was supremely disappointed that two of the pieces were well beyond my approved price range. I did schedule another fix for May but I was clear on my form to please stick to the budget.

Do you want to try it out for yourself? For a $20 styling fee, you can receive your first fix of 5 items. If you decide to keep anything, the $20 is subtracted from the purchase price. If you buy all 5 pieces, you get a 25% discount. Pretty neat, right?

If you are feeling like you want to be fancy with your own personal stylist, click this link to get started!

Want to see what I got in my first four fixes?

First Fix
Second Fix
Third Fix
Fourth Fix

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Goldfinch

This book is everywhere these days! Maybe you didn't know it also just won the Pulitzer. Kind of a big deal. It took months for me to make it to the top of the list at my library but the day arrived in recent weeks that I was finally able to pick up the latest from Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch.


Good Reads' Synopsis: "It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate."

What I Thought: Wow. Well, the writing here is just superb. It's so lyrical and descriptive. I found myself rereading paragraphs just to catch all the nuances. And it was a page turner, for sure. But let's make no mistake... it's hard to remain a page turner for 700+ pages. About 3/4 of the way through, I was starting to lose interest just slightly. Of course, I had to see it through and find out what happened with Theo and the painting. I so badly wanted things to turn out well for him but he was in quite a pickle. I don't want to spoil anything of course but I HIGHLY recommend this one. If you can get your hands on it!

Rating: * * * 1/2

Monday, April 21, 2014

Oh Monday

Did everyone have a wonderful Easter? I did!

John and I headed up north to spend the weekend with family. We also celebrated my birthday belatedly and my father-in-law's birthday as well. There were wineries involved. And some delicious cake. 'Nuf said.

I fell off the sugar wagon big time this weekend but I am back at it today. All candy went into the freezer and there it shall stay for awhile. Back to the crazy workouts. The weather is finally conducive to outside running. I got a kettle bell for my birthday which I am totally stoked to start incorporating into my strength training. I have to wear a bathing suit in Florida in just over a month. Yikes.

P.S. I have to go to the dentist today. I have been flossing religiously so I better get a good report!

P.P.S. Cannot wait to see all the marathon coverage today. So awesome!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Better You

Can I share a link with you today that I absolutely love?

It's from Cassey at Blogilates who has such a great energy in all her videos and blog posts. She always helps put a positive spin on my day.

15 Ways to be a Happier Human

Simple advice that goes a long way, right?

I have a happiness related book on my nightstand that I cannot wait to dive into. It's all about living above the fray and minutiae and stress and focusing on what's good in your life. I hope it's a very informative and helpful. I don't even care if it has a stigma as a self-help book. Don't we all deserve a little self help anyway?

Speaking of a better me......

I was able to go to hot yoga this past weekend for the first time in 4 months. I woke up so early with excitement on Saturday morning that I made it to the 8:00 am class. The sun was shining and I had a big stupid grin on my face the whole drive there. The instructor was one I hadn't had before but she gave great guidance and suggestions for adjustments that really made the class awesome.

So, if there's something you love doing but haven't been able to for awhile, I challenge you to make time in your life to DO IT. The rest of my weekend was completely fantastic and I'm crediting that to kicking it off right with a good sweat. Releasing toxins is always cathartic.

Stay happy, friends!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Coming to Terms

I did not want to admit this as I was afraid of this outcome. OK, here goes.

Cutting out sugar works.

There, I've said it. You might remember a little experiment John and I undertook in the past couple weeks of a Sugar Detox. Two weeks, no added sugar. Nothing with more than 10 g of sugar already in it either. Our sugar consumption and, in John's case, addiction had gotten completely out of control. It was not easy

John lost 7 pounds in two weeks. Eye opening, right? I lost about 2 pounds but I wasn't eating nearly the amount that John was. It showed us that while a detox can re-set your thinking, if we want to continue on this path, it's going to more about less sugar as a lifestyle change. I'm not one for "diets". Diets don't work. We eat healthfully 99% of the time. We eat out only once a week and that is a meal where calories don't count (in our minds). We cannot go back to eating dessert every night though either. It's a slippery slope.

What the detox did do for us was teach us to really appreciate the small amount of sweets we have let back into our lives. Just one thin mint tastes amazing. You don't need three or four. John puts a whole lot less cream and sugar in his coffee now after not having it for those two weeks and he's cut back to one cup a day. Smaller amounts of sugar are more satisfying and that was a major goal.

Something that John said that really struck me was that because he wasn't having sugar in the morning with coffee, he didn't get hungry as quickly throughout the day. Ding ding ding!!! Sugar makes you hungrier, people! Then, you eat more calories than you normally would have because you're overcompensating.

If you eat more sugar than you'd care to admit, you might try cutting it out for a couple weeks. I'm no doctor, of course, and I can only share my experience. But, it seems to have worked for us. Of course, we're also still working out 6 days a week which is also important. Staying active is a key component to any healthy lifestyle.

Get after it out there!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

I have been looking forward to this book coming out for awhile now. I think I was probably one of the first at the library to read it, which was pretty exciting. If you don't recognize the name, you might recognize BJ Novak as Ryan from The Office. Of course, his career is larger than that but that's where I first encountered him.


Good Reads' SynopsisB.J. Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut collection that signals the arrival of a welcome new voice in American fiction.

Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, Novak's assured prose and expansive imagination introduce readers to people, places, and premises that are hilarious, insightful, provocative, and moving-often at the same time.

In One More Thing, a boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of Frosted Flakes - only to discover that claiming the winnings may unravel his family. A woman sets out to seduce motivational speaker Tony Robbins - turning for help to the famed motivator himself. A school principal unveils a bold plan to permanently abolish arithmetic. An acclaimed ambulance driver seeks the courage to follow his heart and throw it all away to be a singer-songwriter. Author John Grisham contemplates a monumental typo. A new arrival in heaven, overwhelmed by infinite options, procrastinates over his long-ago promise to visit his grandmother. We meet a vengeance-minded hare, obsessed with scoring a rematch against the tortoise who ruined his life; and post-college friends who debate how to stage an intervention in the era of Facebook. We learn why wearing a red t-shirt every day is the key to finding love; how February got its name; and why the stock market is sometimes just... down.

Finding inspiration in questions from the nature of perfection to the icing on carrot cake, from the deeply familiar to the intoxicatingly imaginative, One More Thing finds its heart in the most human of phenomena: love, fear, family, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element that might make a person complete. The stories in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader.

What I Thought: Maybe my expectations were too high for this one. I was hoping for laugh out loud funny and unfortunately, that's not what I got. The stories were clever and some were amusing but I didn't chuckle once. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be all that funny and just insightful. I don't know. A couple of the stories did resonate with me but not on a humorous level. I like Novak's writing style and I won't give up on him just yet but, I was just looking for something more.

Rating: * * 1/2

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

March Running Round-Up

This will be the shortest post about running ever.

Mar 8: 3.2 mi, 29:52
Mar 11: 2.5 mi, OUTSIDE, 23:39
Mar 30: 3.3 mi, TM, 29:33
Mar 31:  4 mi,  in 35:41,   9:24/9:03/8:49/8:43

13 sad miles

Pathetic, right? I have a good excuse. Well, I have an excuse. I'm not sure it's a good one. It is March, in Ohio. That means snow and sub-zero temps and no outside running. My treadmill met a sad demise. The belt folded in on itself and it was un-runnable. Sears has since fixed the problem but it took two weeks. Because, you know. Ordering parts and whatnot.

Plus, I had surgery on my back and was benched. Let the record show that I was running again 4 days post-op. I love saying post-op because it makes me seem doctor-y.

April will be better. April HAS to be better. I have two races in May to train for. Time to buckle down.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Thirty Plus One

Today is my birthday. Having your birthday on a Monday is the worst possible day you could choose. And yet here we are. Instead of dwelling on the monday-ness (mundane-ness?) of today, I choose to be thankful for another year.

Turning thirty was rough on my psyche. I was not pleased to be leaving a fun and fruitful decade but I was not given much of a choice. It's possible there were tears one year ago on April 7th. Today, there are no tears. I'm actually rather okay with turning 31. I'm taking this upcoming year as a chance to grow a lot more secure and sure of myself. With every year that passes, you should try to love yourself more, or at the very least, like yourself more. I find there are fewer things about me that are displeasing these days. Which is not to say that I am a displeasing person, just that I am becoming the person I think I'd like to be.

For instance.....

Last week, it rained a lot and two days in a row, I remembered to wear my wellies. I've owned those boots for 5 years and I can never manage to grab them when it's raining. Then, I'm left with wet feet and a frown. Now, however, I am smart enough to think ahead. That's what 31 will do for you.

Also, I finally deemed it time to get rid of the tan velour pants that I've owned since college. Not even senior year college either. We're talking under-age college days. Before you lambaste me for wearing said pants the last 10+ years, just know that they were not for public consumption and were only pulled on in the privacy and comfort of my own home. I also got rid of a sweatshirt that I purchased when I was 18. I am going on a tear through my closet and drawers. Nothing is safe. Because I'm 31, I need to look like I'm 31. Not a 31 year old grasping tightly to an age that doesn't suit her.

Fortunately for me, I'm also still in the best shape of my life. This year will be devoted to continued health. As we age, it's important to take better and better care of our bodies, yes? So, more greens, fewer processed foods and some killer workouts too. Ashley 31 is looking forward to smashing her 5K time that say Ashley 25 never could have dreamed of running.

To me, my thirties are for determining. Tastes have changed from things I used to like. They evolve and mature and I like that. I'm excited to tackle life. There is a little voice I hear says, "Get your stuff together. You're not 30 anymore. I let you mope about your age for a whole year. Get over it. You're 31."

Thirty-one, I'll be kind to you, if you promise to be kind to me. We are in this together.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Beer Me: Bell's and Black

I have a few offerings for you today thanks to a good number of tastings in the area this past weekend.

Fair warning. This is an IPA.


But, it's a Black IPA. Jukebox Hero from Revolution Brewing Co. was pouring on the tasting bar. Since John's newfound interest in IPA has sparked, he thought he'd give this a shot.

From the site: "Our black IPA is bursting with crisp, clean bitterness and layers of wonderful American hop character. Pale Ale, Munich and Naked Golden Oats give a toasty malt backbone with a smooth mouthfeel. The dark ominous color comes from the Chocolate Malt and the de-husked highly roasted malt. We want the layers of hops to shine against this roasty malt backdrop. Warrior, Citra, Chinook, Centennial and Amarillo lend bitterness as well as a wonderful cornucopia of aromas and flavors of fresh citrus fruit, pine, fresh cut mint and fresh flowers they offer. "

I always try these even though I know I won't like them. Call me a glutton for punishment. I was told that it smelled super hoppy but was actually pretty smooth for an IPA. That description was spot on. Going in, the aroma made me sure I wouldn't be pleased with the outcome. On sipping, it actually went down a lot smoother and I didn't even make an "I just licked a bar of soap" face while swallowing. I still didn't like it but I suppose it was tolerable. I'll attribute that to the fact that it's double dry-hopped. Dry-hopping always mellows things out a tad.

We have been wanting to try the Consecrator Doppelbock from Bell's for awhile but at $15.99/6 pack, we were deterred over and over. As luck would have it, it was on tap at a local brewpub and so John put it in his tasting flight that night.

From the site: "Reddish brown in color with a mild hop profile,Consecrator Doppelbock is a well balanced, full bodied lager with hints of caramel and molasses in its smooth, malty finish. As with our other lager brands, Consecrator undergoes a lengthy lagering period. Unlike the 6 week profile of the other two brands, Consecratorexperiences a full three months in the fermenting vessel, giving it an exceptionally smooth character."

Well, this was delicious! Smooth just like the description says but with lots of flavor depth throughout. Probably one of the best bocks I've ever had. Still, having said that, I would not pay that much for a 6 pack. Try to find it on tap somewhere or in a single bottle if you can. It's worth trying....at a lower price.

I saved the best for last.

This is Bell's Sweet Potato Stout. I know what you're thinking. Huh? Sweet potato? I was skeptical at first too. This was on tap with the Consecrator so a pint was ordered. Well, a 10 oz. tulip glass "pint" was ordered.

Bell's doesn't have a write up on their own site for this so I'm guessing it's not an every year brew.

It tasted like a fall beer, almost pumpkin in nature, which I suppose makes sense. Though one is a potato and one is a gourd, both favor the same spices. You definitely get cinnamon and it's certainly a sweeter stout. There is sweet potato on the nose too which was a bit strange. The alcohol content is high and thus, so is the price. But, if you like sweet stouts and pumpkin beers, you'll like this one.