March Cleanse: Weeks 2-3

I’m back with a quick check in on my progress! A reminder: This cleanse includes: Belongings, Body, Bank Account, and Brain.

Belongings:

My cleanse in this area has been moving along much more slowly than I thought it would, but I’m being thorough and feel pretty good about the progress I’ve made. I am trying to follow Marie Kondo’s method of clothing, then books and papers, then miscellaneous, then sentimental items. Starting with clothing made sense, and I was able to complete that in the first week. But the books/papers category has really slowed me down. I’m still not really done with it!

Books were easy in terms of knowing what to keep and what to donate (most of them were keep!) but a lot of papers also seem to fall into the “sentimental” category – things like cards, ticket stubs, my race bibs, etc. It’s hard to know how to categorize them. Even harder to figure out creative storage solutions!

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Before

I managed to work through cards. I am keeping them in a basket up on my shelf, but they are now categorized by sender and/or occasion. This is done now, but took time.

I have also gone through my notebooks – both the used and unused books – and managed to sort through those pretty easily.

But now we reach the problem of loose papers. What papers will I need to reference again? What ones can I store digitally instead? Do they need to be visible somewhere? Or can I tuck them away? If I do, how can ensure they are still easily accessible without feeling like clutter? Honestly, I’m still working on finalizing all of this.

Then, just when I thought I was almost out of this books-and-paper stage, my beautiful wall shelves started to collapse! Thank goodness I noticed when I did, actually. They were heavy enough to be slowly pulling the screws right out of the wall! Whoops. Don’t tell my landlord!

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I managed to save them in time, but was honestly devastated. I had worked so hard, I loved the display of books, and now felt like I had moved three steps back. This meant finding a new storage technique for all the books and sentimental items on those shelves. As a result, this then led to a backslide to clothing again, as I ended up using some shelving that previously had clothing on them.

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After

In the end, I like the clothing organization better, actually. I’m not in love with the book display, but it’ll work for the space and money constraints I currently have. And it allows me to move on.

Now I have one week to try to accomplish both Miscellaneous and Sentimental Items! Let’s see how that goes.

Body:

I have felt pretty solid in this category over the past two weeks. My eating, while not really too restrictive, has felt balanced. I don’t know that it’s much of “cleanse” by the typical definition, but for me, just by focusing on making my own meals has really brought awareness to what I’m putting in my body. I typically don’t make a lot of time for this – and it is time-consuming.

I have not been drinking alcohol. I have still been replacing milk with homemade cashew milk or oat milk. I have been trying to simplify my meals, using fewer, but whole ingredients. I’m surprised by how much these simple changes made me feel more balanced and more in control of my body.

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Meal Prep!

A typical day of eating/moving looks like this*:

  • 8:00ish: Commuting to work, walking the whole way, weather permitting (approximately 3.5 miles)
  • 9:00 – 9:30ish: Overnight Oats, made from Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oats, my homemade cashew milk, a scoop of chia seeds, and a drizzle of real maple syrup, topped with fresh ground peanut butter and blueberries.
  • 10:30ish: Oat Milk Latte, sweetened with honey (if I need the caffeine!)
  • 12:00: 45-minute circuit class or a 3-4 mile run
  • 1:30 – 2:00ish: Salad with spring mix, sliced cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta, and crispy roasted chickpeas, drizzled with olive oil (I hate vinegar!)
  • 3:30ish: Apple or Banana with peanut butter
  • 5:30ish: Whole wheat fusilli pasta with sauteed onions, broccoli, mushrooms, and kale, topped with sun-dried tomatoes and freshly grated Parmesan.
  • 6:30 – 8:30ish: Dance rehearsal!
  • 9:00ish: Lara Bar, if hungry
  *If anyone would like a more detailed description of any of the foods above, or would like any recipes, please comment below! I’m not currently focused on food in this blog, but am happy to write a separate post about it if people are interested!

It helps that the weather has been nicer in Boston. I can walk around more, I can feel the fresh air and the sunlight, I’m not craving warm, comforting meals like I do in the winter.

All of this is surprisingly connected to…

Bank Account:

Because of the nice weather, I am walking more frequently to work, which helps with transportation costs. That said, the cost of fresh, organic foods and workout classes really racks up quickly. It frustrates me so much that a healthy lifestyle comes at such a high price tag. Healthy choices shouldn’t be exclusive to those who can afford it. We’re perpetuating a huge societal problem, as well as the rising healthcare costs, in my opinion. If anyone is working on tackling this issue, please share in the comments! I’d love to help spread the word!

A huge problem with my budget was also unexpected future costs that came up this month. I have a few too many bachelorette parties coming up this summer. When did bachelorette parties start costing as much as a small wedding?! Listen friends, I love you, I’m so happy for you, of course I want to celebrate this new stage of your life with you, but why do I need to prove my friendship to you by emptying my bank account? I’ve spent almost an entire month’s rent on parties alone this month! WHAT?! That really hurt my bank account and changed my budget a LOT. It’s given me a lot of anxiety actually, which I’m still trying to sort through.

I’m excited for life’s upcoming adventures, but am definitely feeling like I’m taking away from future endeavors by putting so much money towards these short-term events.

Brain:

Last, but certainly not least, I’ve been working to reduce my screen time and increase my sense of mindfulness.

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I’ve put a limit on my phone to reduce my screen time. That has worked very well! I’m down about 10% from previous weeks. (Shout-out to Apple, by the way, for starting to include this feature on iPhones! It’s not a pretty statistic to see at first, but it’s great for self-awareness and progress!)

Meditation is still a work in progress. As much as I want to make morning meditation work for me, it’s not productive at the moment. I still fall asleep. This may be partially because I don’t have the right space set up to sit comfortably, but not too comfortably. It may also be because I exist in a perpetual state of fatigue and too-little sleep.

I may try meditating mid-afternoon instead. I think it’ll be easier for me to take a few minutes out of my work day to reset. Then, maybe if I start to master that, I can try it again in the mornings/nights. I do still love my walking meditation, too, and I can get into a pretty deep state of meditation after a great yoga class!

Next Steps:

One more week to push through some of these changes, then April will bring new goals and challenges to tackle! Let’s see how it goes!

 

March Cleanse – Week One Check In

You might recall from my last post: 2019: What Now? that I am kicking off some resolutions this year with a full cleanse for the month of March.

The idea is to cleanse all areas of my life:

  1. Belongings
  2. Body
  3. Bank Account
  4. Brain

Here’s how it’s going so far:

  1. Belongings

I would give myself a solid B on this part of the challenge. I am following the Konmari method of cleansing my home. My hope is that by creating more physical space, I will also create more mental space for ideas and energy.

The first stage is Clothing. I followed her method exactly – piling all the clothing I own in the middle of my room, sifting through each item at a time, asking myself, “Does this bring me joy?” and moving things into piles accordingly. Anything that didn’t bring me joy, I folded gently into bags to be donated with an appreciative “thank you.” I then re-organized all the clothing I am keeping, either hanging them or folding items in a way that everything is visible when I open a drawer. This took a long time. Keeping in mind that I work and dance during the week, this took me a full week to accomplish – and it included some late nights! But I will say, I love how almost everything looks now. It’s WAY easier to find everything and has taken some stress out of my morning routine.

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There were a few stressful moments of this process, though. For one, I own a lot of clothing that doesn’t exactly bring me joy, but that I can’t afford to replace or get rid of right now – jeans that don’t quite fit or aren’t in style anymore, black blazers and pencil skirts that I don’t use in my current life but definitely could see myself needing (and not wanting to buy again!) in the future.

I was also limited in my organizational techniques. Because I’m renting my space, I can’t very easily create the type of storage I’d prefer. I also can’t afford to buy all-new storage (thanks to March rule #3), so there were a few things I had to organize in ways that weren’t exactly in line with Marie’s methods, or just weren’t what I’d prefer. We’ll see how long these last!

This week, I’m onto Stage: Books and Papers. This is going to be a time-consuming challenge for me.

I own a LOT of books. And I’m happy about it. I love being surrounded by them – they all bring me joy. I can certainly update my organizational methods, but otherwise, not much will change there.

The challenge will be with papers. I’ve always saved all the cards I receive, notes I’ve taken, journals, poems and stories I’ve started, magazine articles I find interesting… I love collecting information and words that energize me and inspire me. They bring me joy. So, for all the things I truly can’t part with, I have to find a new way to honor and display them. This means arts and craft projects. Love those! But I really don’t have the time for them at the moment.

If anyone has thoughts on how to organize cards or paper travel mementos (tickets, maps, brochures, etc.), please reach out to me!

2. Body

This, I am giving myself a D on. Not so great. Here’s what’s happening:

I went into this month thinking I would do a strict Whole30ish diet (ish because as a vegetarian I was going to allow myself peanuts and beans on occasion to get some protein). I’ve done Whole30 before. Unfortunately, I did it while marathon training and, admittedly, I didn’t feel great. I ended up just eating a LOT of potatoes with homemade mayo and being really miserable.

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So this time, to try to avoid the misery, I was going to allow myself occasional peanuts, black beans, and chickpeas (both of which are some staples in my regular diet), as well as a very infrequent glass of red wine.

But here’s how it went down: For the first 6 days, I followed this diet perfectly. However. I also spent over $200 on food that would only last me around 8 days maximum, I spent probably 18 hours meal prepping over the course of 4 days, and, again, I ended up mostly eating potatoes with homemade mayo, which honestly doesn’t make me feel that healthy! I eat more salads in a normal week than I did in those 6 days – I think just because I was trying so hard to eat foods that felt filling and substantial to eat.

This didn’t feel healthy. I wasn’t happy (I was exhausted from cleaning and meal-prepping). And it was really impairing my ability to focus on the Bank Account Cleanse portion of my month!

(Aside: It’s absolutely absurd that in the US it is more expensive to eat healthfully than it is to fill up on junk food. Healthy food should be much more accessible to everyone – regardless of socioeconomic class – and sustainable, organic farms shouldn’t be struggling to maintain business and quality against corporate farming and foods produced with GMOs and hormones. Anyway…)

Needless to say, I gave up pretty quickly on that particularly strict cleanse. It’s frustrating. I want to focus on it, but it impacts so many other aspects of my cleanse and general happiness.

So here’s where I’m at now: I am also someone who enjoys working out, so that hasn’t changed. I am still attending most of my normal classes, dance rehearsals, and it’s been nice outside, so running is back on the table as an option! I am still trying to make everything homemade that I can: mayo, cashew milk, sauces and dressings – so I avoid any additives. I’m back to eating some dairy (although I always do this sparingly) as well as limited amounts of rice and pasta. I’m still avoiding processed food and sugars (aside from honey, dates, or pure maple syrup), and I’m trying to make all my meals instead of going out to eat (also helping with #3). This is basically how I normally eat, so it’s not much of a cleanse anymore.

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Oat milk latte, avocado toast with tomato and arugula

3. Bank Account

Alright my friends, this is a hard one for me! I am not great at saving and worse at planning. This month I created my first financial planning spreadsheet! I know, some of you are probably cringing. I am envious of you if you are!

I worked out, based on my regular costs (rent, utilities, student loans, etc.) and what I was hoping to pay off on my credit card, that I shouldn’t be spending more than around $180 a week. Ah! That is definitely a blow to my lifestyle. I LOVE meeting friends out for dinner or dance classes, planning weekends out of town, going to see shows. $180 is not a lot when all is said and done – especially when groceries alone were costing me $200!

At the start of this week, I was feeling pretty good. Now that I had opened up my eating options, I didn’t need to spend a lot of groceries. I didn’t have any big events to plan for. Things seemed ok!

But then, my only pair of work jeans ripped and my running sneakers finally met their end (these were the ones I wore for the marathon, so they really gave it their all!). So, within a day, another almost $200 gone on two items. This is going to be harder than I thought!

I’m spending less than I normally would. I have been taking public transit more than Ubers, and am definitely being more conscious of my food choices, but this is still tough. I’ve gone over my goal both weeks now!

4. Brain

There are two ways I’m working on cleansing my mind: through daily meditation and by decreasing my technology time. This has been going pretty well actually. I think it will only get easier as the weather continues to improve.

I’ve been using Headspace on my phone to guide my morning meditation. (I know this seems ironic, given that I’m trying to reduce technology…) Sometimes I really feel like I’m figuring it out. Other times, I fall asleep on my bedroom floor. Not kidding. Mornings are tough for me! Unless I’m going right into a workout, I am very very sleepy.

What I have found I like, though, is using the walking meditations they have on the app. My mom thinks this doesn’t really count – and, yeah, probably I should become more comfortable with stillness that isn’t sleep, but in the meantime, I like taking these walks and being guided through noticing more about my body and my surroundings. I do always feel more relaxed afterward.

My phone screen time is down 25%! I’ve been trying to focus more on reading and writing and working on puzzles with my roommate – all of which are typically more productive than scrolling through Instagram! I don’t watch very much TV as it is, but I’ve been trying to do it strategically when I do – not too late at night, and not when I could be doing something more productive (like organizing my books or going for a meditative walk!)

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Week One Summary:

There’s still a lot to do with my physical organization and my eating routines, but I’m making changes consistently. I’ll be continuing to work on this with the next few weeks and will keep sharing updates as I go!

 

Goal Accomplished: RUN. A. MARATHON.

November 4, 2018. I ran the New York City Marathon.

WHAT!? I RAN A FREAKIN’ MARATHON!?

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This was, by far, the biggest surprise of 2018 for me. Maybe one of the biggest shocks of my life! It was never something I thought I’d do. I still can’t believe I can say those words: “I ran a marathon.” I can’t believe it’s me in those pictures.

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In high school I did whatever I could to get out of running a mile. Seriously. Sickness, music lessons, appointments, make up tests… you name it, I’m sure I thought of the excuse! Running made me so aware of my lack of athletic ability. I felt weak and slow and uncoordinated. I felt like running was an activity reserved for those on sports teams.

The only time I ran willingly was alone in my parents’ bedroom on their treadmill. This was another part of the problem. I associated running with calorie-control, and that was it. Just like so many young women in high school – especially as a dancer – I had a very unhealthy body image and an even worse relationship with food. So running was my means of punishing myself if I ate the cookie my mom packed me with lunch, or if I ate a real dinner instead of just a bowl of cereal or a salad. You can see how I developed such a strong hatred of running.

 

One of the few pictures I have of me in high school

In college, my friend Baili would run for miles! I didn’t understand it! She wasn’t on a sports team. But she trained for races – for fun. What?! I used to try to go meet her to run one of her many miles with her. I can’t say I made a habit of it. Our other friend Brandon tried to get me to run a 5K with him at some point freshman year. I think I may have made it halfway.

Flash forward to 2014. I was living in NYC, in a horrible, little apartment with no heat or hot water. There were rats outside, mice inside, and I couldn’t stand up straight in my bedroom because the ceiling was so low. It also SNOWED. IN. MY. BEDROOM. I won’t tell you how much I was paying for this horrendous Lower East Side apartment. I also won’t tell you about the cult downstairs…

I will say that my time there was some of the darkest of my life. I was heartbroken, cold, and broke. So, much to my own surprise, I found myself jogging along the East River as a means of getting out of my apartment. It was one of the only free activities in NYC, and it got me out of my dark, low-ceiling room. It also gave me some sense of satisfaction to walk around my office for the rest of the day and think to myself ” at least I could outrun you” or “I am stronger than you think I am” whenever someone was rude to me.

I spent almost a year in New York. It wasn’t a complete waste of time. I made some amazing friends. I learned exactly what I could endure, and also what I shouldn’t have to. I increased my caffeine tolerance. I found my favorite places for bagels, cupcakes, and late-night pizza. I learned how to walk fast and straight-faced. I can navigate the subways without a map. But, ultimately, I left New York, defeated, tired, and broken (literally – long story).

My last day in NYC. I burst into tears about 10 minutes after this was taken.

 

2015. I had moved to Boston and was working – as I still am – at EF Education First. I was rediscovering my confidence and was realizing that I could enjoy being at work! I had joined EF’s running club — not because I was any better at running. I still wasn’t fast or consistent, but it was a good way to meet some amazing people in my new city and it kept me busy. And I recognized that running saved me in NYC.

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I started to surprise myself with it. I joined the unofficial EF team for their annual Ragnar Reach the Beach race. I ran 7 miles with a colleague (and friend) in San Francisco just to see the Golden Gate Bridge during our work trip. Then, last year, I completed a life goal by running my first half marathon with my friend and roommate (and co-worker) Ali! I felt inspired by my co-workers, who were not necessarily athletes, but who committed to their workout regiments for their own health and enjoyment! There were so many stories of people who had turned their lives around with fitness. Those same people made running and working out feel accessible. For the first time in my life, I felt invited to this previously-exclusive-club reserved for the naturally thin or the athletically gifted. Somewhere along the way, I found that running was no longer just a means of losing weight or escaping. It made me feel strong and confident. 

  

I still had no intention of running further than my half marathon, but when EF gave me the opportunity to run NYC with their non-profit organization, Kids First, it felt like everything was coming full circle. I would go back to NYC and this time I would conquer it! (Ironically, Brandon – my friend from freshman year – was running it too! Really full circle.)

I never gave myself the time or space to consider not finishing. I’m not saying it was easy. In fact, it was pretty miserable most of the time. I was either hungry or nauseous all the time. It took time away from my other activities. My usually-full social calendar felt too daunting, so I ended up spending too much time in my own head. I had to limit what I was eating and drinking. I kept up training during the hottest days of summer and whenever I traveled for work. Check out my Instagram story for proof!

But I had to do it. I never thought about not doing it – or about what would happen if I didn’t finish. I would finish. I had to. I find that’s how most goals have to work – without any space for doubt. 

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I don’t know if I ever need to run another marathon. I think I probably won’t. But knowing that I CAN has changed the way I look at everything in life that seems challenging. I know what perseverance and discipline feel like. I know not to question something that I want, but to go for it – without any room for doubt. And I learned not to define myself by my past. By labeling myself as “not an athlete,” I was only limiting myself. I was boxing myself in, keeping myself from achieving bigger goals and discovering something new about myself.

It is an important lesson to learn – to be with yourself now, to acknowledge where you are – not where you used to be, and not by some standard that may have been given to you years ago by someone who doesn’t matter.

Check in with yourself every day. Allow yourself to grow and change. Don’t let previous you to hold current you back from potential future you! 

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2019: What Now?

It’s already March, 2019?! How did this happen?!

One minute I’m crushing goals in 2018, next thing I know, I’ve already lost two months of 2019! I don’t even think I’ve finished setting resolutions for myself yet!

[Aside – I definitely don’t feel like I’ve wasted the past two months, I just haven’t had as much focus as I would like. But! I have traveled to Las Vegas, Chicago (by accident), Copenhagen, Berlin, Dubai and Abu Dhabi already! So it’s been a busy two months. And at least I’m chipping away at that ‘Visit Every State’ goal of mine!]

To be honest, I have been having trouble setting resolutions and goals for myself this year. 2018 was so epic! How can I possibly top that?

I think before I can set any specific objectives for myself, I have to define resolutions and goals. They are different, even if only subtly.

A Goal implies the act of finishing something. There is a clear end point that, if reached, would indicate a level of success.

A Resolution is a commitment to change the way you do something. It is the journey, more than the final results. To me, a resolution is more of a lifestyle change. It can potentially  lead to a goal, but is more the act of resigning to work on something.

So, in 2018, my resolution was to work towards accomplishing 12 life goals. I wanted to change my perspective on my goals – I didn’t want them to feel so unattainable and distant. I want to be actively working towards them in my day-to-day life.

This year, I think I need to separate my resolutions and goals a bit. I still want to be working actively towards achieving more of my life goals, but I also need to make a few lifestyle changes.

For those of you reading this and triple-checking the calendar, yes, I know it’s March. But I have to believe that we can set ourselves goals and resolutions any time we want! So, March resolutions. Why not?

So, here we go… drum roll…

Resolutions for 2019:

  • Blog once a week. You’re right, I haven’t done this so far, but – again, starting the resolutions now!
  • Meditate every morning. I have been ok with this so far. I’m going to call the last 7-weeks a trial run. I’m really not great at meditating. I either get myself more anxious realizing all the things I could be thinking about, or I fall asleep – seriously!
  • Dance more, differently. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I already dance a lot. But, here’s the thing – I’ve gotten pretty complacent with it. I’ve accepted being a mediocre dancer. That’s so boring! No more! I’m pushing myself this year to learn some new styles, get back some of my flexibility, audition for more opportunities, and see what happens!
  • Keep in touch with my friends and family. This is a resolution of mine every year.  Not great. I think I’m a pretty good friend if I see you around and about my normal life. I’m not great at keeping in touch with my loved ones who are further away, or who are just as busy as me. It’s not that I love them less. I think of them constantly (like when I’m trying to meditate!), but I would like to better at letting them know I’m thinking of them.
  • Reach my savings goal. Turns out, achieving 12 Life Goals in a year is not cheap! My bank account deserves a little extra love and attention after this past year!

Life Goals this year:

  • Read every book on a ‘must read’ list
  • Do 3 pull-ups
  • Get a 6-pack!
  • Re-learn to play piano – to a point where I can share a video online
  • Learn Spanish to a point of basic conversation
  • Be in a movie, even as an extra
  • Help three other people achieve their Life Goals this year! (More on this to come)

That’s actually a lot of goals and resolutions!

I’m someone who needs to feel like I’m starting out with a clear mind when tackling a new goal, and with all the traveling I’ve been doing, I haven’t had the time or space to do that. So I’m kicking everything off this month with a FULL LIFE CLEANSE.

What does this mean?

  1. Belongings – A clear mind starts with a clear space. This month, I’m using the KonMarie method, by Marie Kondo, to get rid of what might be holding me back, and open up more space for energy and ideas to move!
  2. Body – Since some of my goals are fitness related, it feels like the right time to hit ‘reset’ on some of my eating habits. Travel is great, but very indulgent!
  3. Bank Account – As I mentioned in my resolutions, I’m working to get my savings to a better place this year. To start it off, I’m cleansing myself of any unnecessary auto-drafts from my account and am trying not to touch my credit cards!
  4. Brain – This one will be challenging for me. In addition to meditating every day, I am also going to limit my screen time. My goal is to limit my phone more week-by-week this month, and avoid watching any TV until I’ve checked off all my daily goals (I have 11)!

I’ll definitely be keeping you guys updated on how this kick-off-cleanse month goes. Since I’ll be blogging weekly (see what I did there?!), it’ll help hold me accountable and will also give me a lot more to talk about.

So until next week…

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Goal Accomplished: Make Homemade Pasta

Reasons to make your own homemade pasta:

The pasta tastes so much better!

Compared to store-bought pasta, homemade noodles seem heartier and richer. Plus, you are in control of the taste – add salt or herbs, stuff it with cheese or chocolate… you can make it taste however you want!

It feels so much better on your stomach

I don’t know about any of you, but as I get older, I notice that more and more foods affect my stomach. Too much milk or cheese, too many carbohydrates – all leave me feeling sluggish, bloated, or achy.

Interestingly, I have noticed a difference when I travel. This past summer, I went to Rome for work and I worried about my stomach. I loaded up on digestive teas and herbal supplements before I left, but didn’t end up needing any of them. As much as I ate in Italy (and I ATE – pastries with cream for breakfast, breads and cheese at lunch, pasta with more cheese for dinner), I didn’t once feel sick! The way food is prepared in Italy – everything fresh, using local ingredients with no preservatives – it truly makes a difference. Returning from that trip, I vowed to pay more attention to what I eat. I don’t need to punish myself by avoiding dairy and gluten, but I do need to eat the purest forms of these. Homemade pasta is a perfect solution!

It’s fun!

It takes some time (especially if you don’t have a pasta press), but making pasta is fun! Flour is everywhere, as are drying noodles. But for as long as you’ll be cleaning, you’ll be kneading even longer! You’ll be rolling dough for what seems like eternity! Ok, I know I’m not really selling it, but really it’s pretty cathartic! It’s a great time to listen to your favorite songs and get a little workout in before dinner!

Impress your friends and family

Oh come on, we all know this is one of the best reasons. Bring homemade pasta to a family gathering and you’ll definitely get the best Christmas present this year! Making it for a date? Don’t even get me started! (Just make sure you actually want to impress that person. If you’re trying to keep things casual, I’d stick with the boxed pasta and Ragu – fair warning!)

Acknowledge where your food is coming from

This is a goal I’m working on currently in my life – to be more mindful of the food I’m eating and where it’s from. There’s no better way to appreciate your food than to make it all from scratch. Seriously. And then, the crazy part, is that you’ll be more aware of other foods you’re eating, too. So, even if you’re not eating homemade pasta one night, you’ll suddenly be wondering how many ingredients are in the frozen mac and cheese you’re stuffing into your mouth and will appreciate even more when you get the opportunity to eat the real stuff. (Maybe you’ll even start to imagine buying a cow and making your own fully homemade mac and cheese one day…)

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The Process

My mom and I used THIS BOOK to guide us in making our pasta: Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto

We followed the most basic recipe, using mostly just flour and egg, sprinkling a little water or oil on the dough as needed. In this book, the rule of thumb is:

300 grams flour + 3 eggs + 1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tbsp water

IMG_3109.jpgIn terms of ingredients and actually combining everything, it’s way easier than it should be. We used about half semolina flour and half all purpose flour. Even if you don’t really measure and just go by look and feel, you’ll probably figure it out! (That’s my kind of cooking!)

 

We mostly made pappardelle-style IMG_3132noodles (the long, wide ones), but also experimented with some ricotta-filled ravioli, which were amazing. We didn’t have a great place to let everything sit, so we laid chopsticks on top of books to hang the pasta! Points for creativity?

I don’t love tomato sauce, so instead we sauteed some garlic, onion, and broccoli in extra virgin olive oil and drizzled that on top, followed by a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Honestly, we made way too much, but ate every bite! It was delicious and well worth the time to make. I definitely plan to keep this up and experiment with more flavors and styles. Trying to get on the family’s Favorites List, after all!

 

For photos and videos of our process, you can check out my story on Instagram, or watch the clips below:

Goal Accomplished: Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

This has been a hard life goal to sum up! The entire drive was so beautiful; the task of describing each moment feels daunting. How do I put words to that feeling of nervous exhilaration I feel when I stare into the line of hazy blue where the sky meets the sea? How do I talk about the road that cuts through the mountains and teeters along the rocky edges? How do I juxtapose the waves that crash into the sharp ledges of the coast with those that glide in melancholy patterns onto the soft sandy beaches? How do I explain how they sound and how they feel and smell? Do people even care to try to understand that? Or should I just write, instead, that you really just need to go and experience it for yourself? (You should, by the way!)

I am struggling with whether to give a sweeping description of the drive itself, and the views, and the experience, or if I should instead be more concise and specific and write about each stop for anyone looking to plan a similar trip.

So, for those who don’t need the full, mapped-out description, you can just read the next section – and check out my video documentation of the trip, which you can see on my Instagram! For anyone thinking of doing this themselves, read on for more info!

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The Overall Experience:

As someone who usually associates “travel” with international adventures, this was a good reminder for me that there is still plenty in this country that I need to explore. This drive gave me the chance to remember what a beautiful and diverse country we live in – that there is still so much I need to see.

As with any road trip, there was also plenty of time for introspection. I didn’t do the drive alone – I was with one of my greatest friends, Leanne, who I’ve traveled with before. (As a side note: she is hilarious and an amazing travel companion, which you’ll see on my Instagram. I highly recommend it!) That said, Leanne and I are comfortable enough together at this point to allow for silence during the drive, too. We could just listen to music and watch the scenery pass. We could think our own thoughts – work through our own challenges. Much of the communication we had was just to point to things outside and exchange breathy “wow’s,” coated in awe and accompanied by a slight shake of our heads. (The rest of the time we were talking about completely irrelevant topics and laughing hysterically!)

I can’t say I came to any groundbreaking conclusions, but I had a lot of thoughts about next stages in my life – about long term goals and some goals that are really non-negotiable for me. And in the meantime, I really enjoyed the view. And just thinking of now – how grateful I am for these experiences, for the chances I give myself to chase down these (often time-consuming and expensive) goals.

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The Drive:

So, admittedly, I can’t really talk about driving the highway. Fortunately for me, Leanne loves driving and is happy to be the one controlling the car if I’m the one documenting. That really worked in my favor because I don’t love driving.

Some things to know:

  • The drive actually takes closer to 24 hours. Google maps may tell you 8, but between traffic, the winding roads, and stops for pictures (trust me, you’ll want to), you’re looking at 3 times the estimated travel times. We took around 4 days to drive it (not including our extra days in San Francisco and San Diego) – and we still felt rushed. I would have loved more time to take in the scenery and actually enjoy the beaches!
  • There aren’t a lot of gas stations right beside the highway – especially through Big Sur! I would highly recommend stopping for gas as you pass through towns, or every morning before you leave your overnight stop.
  • On that note, there also aren’t a lot of bathrooms. This was a concern for me! Leanne and I ended up buying toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and took advantage of the obscure viewpoints that few tourists cared to stop at. Maybe that’s too much information, but consider yourselves warned!
  • It is COLD. Pack a coat. Really. Everyone told us it would be chilly, but we didn’t really believe them, being from the North East. Not our best decision. It’s not “chilly,” it is COLD. Even if the weather says it is 70-degrees, the wind off the ocean makes it feel closer to 50. I sincerely wished I brought a coat with me so that I could have enjoyed more of the stops in the first few days of the trip.

From Leanne’s perspective, most parts of the drive felt fine, but there were a couple of difficult parts:

  • Big Sur was extremely foggy. The low visibility combined with the winding, cliff-side roads and the “Warning: Rock Slides” signs made that part of the journey a bit nerve-wracking for her. They were also finishing up construction through the area after the rock slides that occurred there last year.
  • Highway 1 south of L.A. – between L.A. and San Diego – is stressful because there is so much stop-and-go traffic. There are traffic lights every few minutes and only a few cars can get through at a time. I really thought that was the moment Leanne and I were going to give up and get off the highway. It was extremely frustrating, and not the most beautiful part of the drive. If you don’t care about driving the full Route 1 Highway, I would say you should avoid that part of the highway. If I ever do the drive again, I will certainly skip that part and find another route.

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Our Route:

First Stop: San Francisco

Immediately upon landing, we began by hiking the streets of San Francisco – yes, I do mean hiking. Anyone who has been before knows you can’t simply stroll the streets, you have to trek! Your legs WILL be sore and shaking by the end of the day.

Of course, to balance all of our exercising, we ate everything in sight – Lo Mein noodles from a little corner shop near Chinatown, a sundae from Ghiradelli square, a cucumber martini to enjoy by the harbor, the Impossible Burger (for me) – smothered in avocado and spicy special sauce… We spared no caloric expense!

LombardStreetSomehow between meals we managed to fit in some sightseeing. We wandered past Grace Cathedral and Lombard street, meandered in and out of shops along Fisherman’s Wharf, took pictures on the pier with the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz as our backdrop. On this trip, we didn’t have a lot of time to stay in one place and really explore, and I had been to San Fran before so it was just nice to re-visit. (If anyone is going to San Francisco for the first time, you should take time to do the guided tour of Alcatraz. It is by far one of the best guided tours I’ve experienced. Get tickets HERE.)

We stayed overnight at a friend’s place in Sunnyvale, passing through Palo Alto for dinner and drinks, then woke up early to begin our official road trip!

We started, actually, going the opposite way – driving north to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and to try to see Muir Woods. What I didn’t realize is that things have changed since the last time I visited San Francisco, and now you need to purchase a ticket to get to Muir Woods – that would have been good to know. (PSA for anyone planning a trip! You can get passes HERE.)

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Since Leanne had never seen a redwood, we were determined to find her some. We decided to stop somewhere else closer to our next stop, which was a motel in Monterey. This turned out to be more difficult than we assumed. We turned off of Route 1 and ended up very lost in Central California, looking for Big Basin State Park. It took us a few hours (not exaggerating), but we eventually made it. Compared to Muir Woods, the forest did not feel as free or as towering, but we still got to see the beautiful trees, and it was a shorter walk that fit into our schedule. (Well, would have, if we had not gotten so lost!)

 

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SantaCruzWe stopped in Santa Cruz for dinner that night. We were surprised how unimpressed we were. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I could have had some fun there – especially if I was in high school, meeting friends out on the boardwalk at sunset, or in college, with the goal of getting drunk! But as a stop to pass through, we were surprised by how much it felt like the East Coast! There were stores selling cheap trinkets, bars selling overpriced drinks, and a lot of kids with questionable agendas walking around! (Again, if I was one of those kids – I would have been having a great summer!) I think Leanne and I were expecting every beach town to feel like we had stepped into an episode of The Hills or The O.C. (gotta love that early 2000s childhood!) and instead it didn’t feel too far from the Cape or North Shore towns where we spend our summer days.

Night Two: Monterey

We stayed in a little motel in Monterey that night – mostly for cost and convenience. I wish we could have spent time in Monterey during the day, when all the shops and restaurants in Caramel-by-the-Sea were open. We spent time that morning weaving through the streets, taking in the storefronts and watching the locals, but we didn’t stop to walk around since shops were closed and we were freezing!

17mile2We drove the 17-Mile Drive, which we recognize is primarily a money-making strategy for the resort there, but one that we enjoyed nonetheless. It was still freezing out, so we spent much of the route in the car, but the views were incredible through the window. And the fog at that point was impressive in its own right! It curled around us and seemed to flow down the cliffs like water.

Emerging from 17-Mile Drive back onto Route 1 was when our appreciation of the scenery really began! The route through Big Sur had just reopened (thank you, Universe), and was, by far, the most memorable part of our journey. You cross bridges and echo through tunnels, all while passing rolling fields on one side, and intimidating ocean waves and harsh cliffs on the other.

 

At some point in this drive, the fog cleared up and all of a sudden it was warm! Just like that! We also stopped for burritos at the camp grounds in Big Sur, so all-in-all, it was a successful day!

Night Three: Ventura

surf shackThis was by far our favorite overnight stop. We stayed at the most adorable Air BnB – a surf shack, right on the water. Our host was informative and accommodating and we absolutely loved the sleepy town. In comparison to Santa Cruz, nothing was open late – or early for that matter! Where we stayed wasn’t kitschy or full of tourists. There were a lot of surfers, up early with the tide, and older couples that sat in the same diner as us for breakfast – the only place open before 11am. We took some time to doze on the beach  before getting back in the car to head towards L.A.

We ate lunch and drank margaritas on the boardwalk in Santa Monica to break up our drive. Although it was touristy, we loved the energy and the feeling of stepping into a 90’s music video! We walked around after eating and found cute boutiques, tons of Mexican restaurants, and places that served as both cafes and surf shacks.

 

We eventually made our way to L.A. and weaved through the crowded streets to see the Chinese Theater, cruised down Ocean Avenue, and passed through Rodeo Drive, where we pretended we were just “too good” for those stores. We tried to find the Hollywood sign hike, but we got a bit lost, and instead ended up on a different mountain, where we watched the sun set over the city.

 

Night Four: L.A.

We stayed that night with a friend of ours, Sara, who showed us the night life and street art in West Hollywood. She also managed to get us to the real Hollywood sign hike the next morning, which we struggled through in the dusty heat. (Don’t worry – we mustered up enough energy to take plenty of pictures with the other tourists at the top!) The views were a bit foggy that day, which may also have had to do with the fires that were persisting in the northern part of the state.

 

After leaving Sara, we met up with two of my other friends for brunch – turns out, a lot of my favorite people live in L.A. – is this a sign?! I think it might be…

Now, here’s where the trouble started – the miserable drive between L.A. and San Diego. I have very little to say about it. It wasn’t the prettiest part of the drive. Decent people watching, I suppose, which we had plenty of time for, as we stopped at every. single. traffic light.

InandOutFinally we made it to San Diego, which felt incredibly refreshing after the hustle of L.A. (And honestly, anything outside of that car felt refreshing after that drive!) We picked up dinner (In-and-Out, obviously) and brought it to our next and final overnight stop.

 

Nights Five – Seven: San Diego

We spent our last few nights staying with Leanne’s (and now my) friend, Lauren. She was such a gracious host and showed us all the best food San Diego has to offer – I think I still dream about the food… tacos, margaritas, mimosa flights, acai bowls, fried snacks along the beach…

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(Side note while we’re day dreaming about all those delicious calories: Believe it or not, I managed to get a longer run in while I was there. I ran 11 miles, despite the sun and the fact that I had NO idea where I was! Gotta keep training! See: this update.)

BirdsWe spent time on the beach, took Bird Scooters around the city, went into Little Italy for the best homemade pasta and wine, oh – and we spent a day in Mexico! Because, why not?!

 

Bonus Stop: Tijuana

I couldn’t miss an opportunity to get another stamp in my passport! I know, I know, I said this was a domestic trip, but come on – I was so close to a country I’d never visited! Besides, if Marisa and Ryan went in an episode of The O.C., it must be a Californian past-time, right?

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Mexico – especially given our current political climate.  We only stayed for a few hours, unfortunately, but I really enjoyed my time there and would recommend that anyone visiting San Diego make the trip. I will definitely go back!

First and foremost, the tacos were divine. I know I talk about food a lot in this – just go and you’ll understand why! Leanne and I made our way to the Telefónica Gastro Park – a little off the beaten path – but so glad we did. We sat outside, surrounded by locals, not tourists, and found vegan tacos for me! So. Good.

 

Of course, we also spent a lot of our time wandering through shops, too. Store owners were friendly and energetic – offering tequila and asking where we were from. I wish my Spanish was better so I could have engaged with the locals more. Next time.

MexicoFor anyone wondering, we had absolutely no trouble getting over to Mexico and back. We had read a lot about long lines and tough security, especially on our return to the US, but we had no problem at all. We decided to take public transit in San Diego to the border, then walk across, rather than drive so we didn’t need to worry about parking or waiting in long lines of traffic. The process was pretty easy– no big security checks or lines on either side. People were friendly and helpful. The hardest part was finding the entrance back into the US, honestly! I’m sure there are times when it’s busier. We went on a Sunday, which may have helped, and crossed over midday, came back around dinner-time.

Conclusions:

Drive Route 1. Drive it slowly. Give yourself days to take in the scenery and wander around the little beach towns and busy cities. Eat tacos every day. Bring a coat and toilet paper and a camera with a lot of storage. Don’t worry about getting lost. Let the sun and the waves dictate your journey.

 

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Goal Accomplished: OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED!

It’s official!

I am a certified Kick It by Eliza instructor! I’ll be teaching the 13-round, kick-boxing inspired cardio classes in Boston — and wherever else my travels take me!

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Here’s why this is significant:

Like so many women, I have struggled with my weight and body image my whole life. Growing up in the dance studio, I was constantly comparing myself to the other girls, feeling that I could never look as graceful as them because of my shape. I specifically remember my first time feeling upset about this: I was EIGHT. I had come home from a dance class and cried to my mom that my thighs were too big. AT EIGHT!

I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food and exercise in high school. I counted out to 1,000 calories a day, despite the fact that I was spending hours a day in dance rehearsals or acting classes and was walking between classes. I would skip meals, throw away food. If I ate too many calories, that’s when I would come home and walk/jog on the treadmill until I had burned off the excess. To be honest, as sick as it sounds, I’m impressed with my self-control!

In college, much of this faded away naturally. Food was part of the social culture, so it didn’t seem like the enemy! I felt like I had escaped the pressures of high school and just wanted to fit in. I was also so active with dance and walking to campus, that I didn’t care as much about the extra weight I had put on. (Not that I didn’t care at all, but it was certainly an improvement.)

Also in college, I had access to a gym for the first time. I had no idea what to do with it the first few times I went, but I went anyway and tried to watch other peoples’ routines.

I was in a new environment – people didn’t know me, didn’t know that I wasn’t a “sporty” or athletic person, so I wasn’t as afraid to try new things. My friends slowly got me into running. We’d go to the gym together, and I actually started enjoying it.

Flash forward to 2013. I was living in NYC. Completely miserable. I hated my job and my apartment. I was heartbroken over a breakup, struggling to try to become an adult, and I felt so alone. So I started running as a means of getting away from my depressing, cold, tiny apartment. And I used any small amount of money left over from my rent to pay for a gym membership. This kept me busy – and also gave me access to hot water, which I often didn’t have at home. I very quickly became addicted.

I tried everything – hot yoga, aerial classes, kick boxing, chair dancing, circuit classes, insanity workouts. I even tried out a personal trainer – until I realized I couldn’t afford that! I met new friends there – people who didn’t know about my breakup or my history with food and dance and working out. They knew me as a person who loved the gym – who was strong. And, I kind of liked that!

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In 2014, after almost a year of struggling through my New York City lifestyle, I moved to Boston and started working for EF Education First, where I still work today. The company is amazing in general, but one of its best employee benefits is its fitness programs. There are work out classes for employees offered multiple times a day. There is a running club, a hiking club, deals on spin classes, yoga, climbing gyms… you get it.

Since moving to Boston, I have run my first half marathon. I started circuit training regularly. Working out became a part of my routine; a source of my confidence.

So when the opportunity came up to teach a fitness class at EF, I knew it was the right moment.

I had taken a few Kick It by Eliza classes before. I loved that it is focused on strength, not skinniness, and empowering women, not shaming them. It is founded in kick boxing, but also in dance and musicality. I leave Kick It classes feeling more confident. I want to help other women (and men!) feel that way, too.

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Also – for those of you have been following along – you know that I was also coming off of a pretty intense surgery and recovery period (read here). So this felt even more important to me – to regain a sense of control over my body and my activities.

Certification was exciting! First there was a class, followed by a Q & A session with other instructors. Next – and most importantly – there was the 4-hour course where I was surrounded by other inspiring and strong women. We took class together, learned kick boxing technique, discussed class structure and format, then took turns leading each other. Finally, there was the video submission. Then the waiting…

 

 

I still can’t believe it! I feel so grateful to be a part of the Kick It community; so inspired to be surrounded by confident, strong women (in Kick It, we call it the #femire). And, probably most importantly, I feel grateful for my own body for all it’s able to accomplish.

Goal accomplished.

Goal Accomplished: Paint-Filled Balloons

Tell me you’ve seen Princess Diaries! Do you remember that scene where Mia is talking to her mom about everything that is difficult about being a teenager-learning-to-be-a-princess (typical) and her mom starts throwing darts at paint-filled balloons? Ok, well, if not, here’s the scene:

 

I don’t know why this was so memorable to me. I think as a teenager, I could relate to this honest moment between a mother and daughter, and the desire to escape the pains of growing up in favor of something so innocent and fun.

I also liked how chaotic it was. I took art classes growing up – I loved them, but took them so seriously. I liked that this was an art project you couldn’t really plan for. You couldn’t really mess it up. The paint would splatter on its own and create something beautiful and unexpected.

Anyway. I tried it! It was as chaotic and fun as I hoped. But also harder than expected. I still have not figured out the best way to fill balloons with both air and paint – you may notice mine are less full than theirs. There may be a Part II to this project so I can figure this out! Suggestions welcome.

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My friend Amy – an inspiration in her own right–  joined me. (Thank goodness she did, because she was much better at blowing up the balloons than me!) Our full video documentation can be found below and on my YouTube channel. Enjoy!

 

 

Status Update — June 11, 2018

Hello, hello my friends! I realize I haven’t given a status check in a while, so here’s what’s going on re: life goals:

  • I am currently working on becoming a certified fitness instructor! I grew up dancing, minored in dance in college, and still insist on fitting it into my “adult” schedule. I also love working out – yeah, really! So when one of my friends introduced me to Kick It by Eliza, I was hooked! It’s fitness, set to music! Win-win! Last week, I attended the 4-hour certification course and this week I submitted my official audition video. (Actually, I submitted two, because I was worried the first one wasn’t good enough…) So now I wait, which is arguably the hardest part.

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  • Flights are booked! I am officially driving the Pacific Coast Highway in July! Well, technically I am not driving. My best-friend-and-travel-accomplice Leanne generously offered to be the one to drive us. She navigated us through potential land mines in the Bosnian mountains last summer, so I feel much more confident in her abilities than my own. So now that flights are booked, we’re officially looking for food and beach recommendations! Send ‘em my way, please!

 

  • I’ll be taking sailing lessons this summer! You may remember that sailing was on my list. I crossed it off a few summers ago while living on Cape Cod. I can’t say I really learned how to sail, but I had a ton of fun for the day! Now let’s see if I can make it more sustainable hobby. Stay tuned!

 

  • I bought this pretty, new cookbook to learn to make homemade pasta! So far I haven’t attempted it, but the cookbook sure looks nice sitting on my table!

 

  • A lot of my life goals relate to water: surfing, cage diving, jet skiing… This is interesting because I have never learned to swim. I know, I know – it’s weird. Surprise fun fact! I posted recently about the surgeries I’ve had this year. Hopefully, if all is clear, I will be able to go under water for the first time in my life! I’m pretty terrified by this, actually. It’s overwhelming to imagine! But I want to overcome the fear and start swimming lessons this year to lay the groundwork for my other goals. Anyone up for teaching?

 

As an aside, I am hoping to make this blog more dynamic –  more posts, more connecting with other people, videos to document my progress… I’m pretty nervous to launch a video component to this, but I also recognize it’s 2018 and videos are an easy way to engage with more people. If anyone has thoughts on how to do this successfully, I’d love if you shared below! Help me, Blog Community!

For anyone who actually reads these – you are the best! Thank you, thank you for supporting all my crazy life goals. I would love to know yours, too. Social media – for all its negative implications – also helps to connect so many interesting people. It’s important to me to develop a community of people here who can support each other and can offer their own talents and connections to help others achieve their dreams.

Let’s do this!

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Me, this weekend: Fishing with Dad. Writing this post on my bus back to Boston!