Monthly Archives: December 2012

Date Night: Who Foots the Bill?

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I may be the only female out there who doesn’t believe that just because he’s the guy, Ian should foot the bill every single time we go out.

Sorry I’m not sorry that I don’t put stock in archaic gender stereotypes or double-standards. Sure, I love saving money and feeling pampered just as much as the next girly-girl, but I realize that Ian is only human, and he’s also trying to put himself through medical school with loans and scholarships. Evidently I’m not as familiar with his finances as I believed due to his recent, ahem, proposal… but we’re pretty much equally “broke college students.” That said, there are a few ways Ian and I choose to pay for Date Night without him going bankrupt.

For the first six months or so of our relationship, Ian paid for everything. Then, because I turned 21 first, and everyone knows that A.K. doesn’t just have one drink with dinner, I started paying for my adult beverages. When Ian turned 21, sometimes we would agree that one of us would pay for the meal and the other one paid for the ah-ah-ah-ah-alcohol. [Sorry. Couldn’t resist.]

Typically, we go dutch. That way, I don’t feel guilty for ordering sweet tea and filet mignon while he orders water and a salad. He told me a long time ago to order whatever I like, but it puts my mind at ease to know that he doesn’t have to go broke trying to be a gentleman. We almost always split appetizers and desserts (when we even get them), so we split the cost of them, too.

We are not above purchasing gift cards for ourselves for restaurants where we’ll soon be dining (e.g. Olive Garden). Buying restaurant gift cards at Kroger, for example, earns us major fuel points. He drives an Explorer, so saving 30 cents per gallon at the pump really helps him out!

Along that same vein, because we live two hours apart, we generally agree that whoever is the “guest” does not have to drive to dinner. For one thing, we’re each more familiar with our own city, and for another, we just like making things equal. To that end, we try not to eat out more than once per visit; whoever is “hosting” the other one cooks dinner in the other night(s) of the visit.

One of the most important Date Night rules we have is that we agree — before we even step foot in the restaurant — who will be paying. It makes the entire evening more carefree, and less awkward for the waiter/waitress. It only took one or two uncomfortable “Uhhh…” moments for us to establish that rule for ourselves. Our only other Date Night rule? No cell phones. When we’re on a date, we’re on a date. My Tweeps can find out later what I was up to, and I can delay Instagramming my food for a couple hours 😉

Of course, when we’re married, a lot of this will change. For now, anyway, we’ve got a good thing going here, so why fix what isn’t broken?

Question: When you and your significant other go out, who pays?

Jumping on the Melted Snowman Bandwagon

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Since everybody else this winter has been making melted snowman cookies… obviously, I needed to make them, too. I’ve seen them on blogs galore, and they are so stinkin’ cute!

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I started by baking 24 store-bought sugar cookies until they were just barely ready — I am not a fan of overdone cookies. The chewier, the better.

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While they were baking, I worked on the marshmallow heads. For each cookie, I made one large marshmallow a simple face.

The very second the cookies were just cool enough to be touched without mussing the dough, I began working with a mix of room-temperature vanilla frosting and glazing with melted vanilla frosting. I found it easiest to spread the mixture with a brush to look like snow. I wanted the melted snow to look smooth like fondant, but I’m not much of a gourmand. (Yet!)

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Of course, I tested one “body” out while I was frosting to see whether the colored icing would melt too much; it worked perfectly! The faces on the marshmallows didn’t slide down, the buttons and scarves and such didn’t melt into food-coloring puddles, and they really looked like melted snowmen!

Mom suggested I use coconut to look like freshly fallen snow, so Dad adorned 8 of the cookies with coconut flakes and nothing more. We decided on a “less is more” philosophy for the cookies farthest right. I tried my best to have no two snowmen be identical. Dad and I even attempted to make little frosting neckties, bowties, feet, and scarves flapping in the… wind?

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Bear with me — I’m still learning how to use the Nikon I got for my birthday. But I’m happy as a clam, my hands smell like Betty Crocker frosting, our kitchen smells like sugar cookies and holiday cheer, and I am way. too. excited. to share these cookies with my extended family tomorrow at the annual Grady family Christmas gathering!

I know there are hordes of recipes out there to make these cookies more decorative and to make the frosting smoother and more snow-like, but as much as I’m a recipe-follower, sometimes I like to experiment in the kitchen. I haven’t actually tried a cookie, but I’m sure these will be a big hit — especially with the little ones. It always makes my heart sing when tinkering with a recipe or wingin’ it works out for me 😉

Have a marvelous weekend, blends!

The Blog Turns One!

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It’s official: Saturday marks one year of blogging! Girl Emerging taught me tremendously about healthy living, recipes, dietary experimentation, fitness, running “competitively,” transitioning from lacto-ovo pescetarian to omnivore, and writing in a public forum. This site, as my new-ish extension of Girl Emerging and segue to more sophisticated blogging, has allowed me to expand my writing and healthy-living horizons. In fact, these days I find myself writing more randomly and freely when I don’t pigeon-hole myself as a healthy-living-blogger. I still think of myself as such, but I tend to think of the term loosely so I can incorporate a healthy “diet,” health-promoting exercise habits, mental health, and healthy daily practices (e.g. meditation, prayer, routine). I want to celebrate the first anniversary of my little slice of the blog-o-sphere (as well as accomplishing my goal of writing 250 posts by the blog’s first birthday) with something very personal.

Today’s topic is more on the serious side. I’ve been trying to find a way to write about this practically since I began blogging. Unfortunately, I haven’t told most people in my life about this topic. I apologize to those of you who were not aware previously, especially my closest friends, but this isn’t something I’m at all comfortable discussing, for numerous reasons. I’ve decided it’s finally time to reveal it in a way that some might find impersonal, but in a way that gives me (a sense of) solace and peace of mind. I’m finally relieving the pressure I have put on myself for so long to keep this secret. So, here goes:

I have a seizure disorder. It’s not technically epilepsy and I’ve never been told specifically that I suffer from grand mal seizures, so the doctors don’t want to classify it as anything other than a “seizure disorder.” It’s well-controlled on anticonvulsant medication and monitored by a neurologist now, but things haven’t always been so carefree. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything as terrifying as waking up surrounded by concerned parents and paramedics asking me questions I can’t answer, being told I’ve just experienced something I can’t remember, and feeling intensely panicked. Most of the time, my seizures caused me to bite my tongue so badly that my speech was affected for a few days, eating and drinking were miserably painful, and my tongue now has permanent tooth-shaped indentations along both sides of it. Sounds awesome, no?

Fortunately, my family knows how to cope with this when it occurs. Even more fortunately, my medication has kept me seizure-free for nearly two years. However, I will probably have to take medication for the rest of my life in order to be able to drive and live a normal life. My neurologist has told us that there is no need for me to go to the emergency room when a seizure happens as long as I’m responsive within five minutes of the end of it. This condition isn’t something that even crosses my mind on a daily basis (even when I take my medication). I’m grateful that I’ve never seriously hurt myself or someone else during a seizure, and I’m also grateful that I’m able to drive. I have had to give up my license twice for six months at a time until my doctors and the DMV could be sure that my disorder was well-controlled — for my safety as well as that of other drivers. I literally thank God that all of that is behind me and that my health is good. I also thank God that the most I have to do to continue to live and drive normally is visit my neurologist to renew a prescription and file a form with DMV annually.

The reason I chose to share this with you is because for almost ten years, I’ve kept this secret to myself. Of course, Ian knows, and my roommate of four years knew (because she had to call the paramedics one evening when we were freshmen), but precious few people have ever been informed. One of the main reasons I’ve kept it to myself is because of people’s general insensitivity. Have you ever heard someone say something to the effect of, “Looking at that strobe light is gonna give me a seizure!” Let’s be honest — people joke about heart attacks, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, intellectual disability (i.e. mental retardation) and all manner of other serious conditions — and I’m not exempt when I say “people.”

I elected to finally share this publicly for three reasons: (1) As a future counselor, I need to seriously consider clients’ co-occurring health concerns along with their mental health conditions, as well as their feelings about said medical conditions. No one except my parents and Ian have ever asked me how I felt about having a seizure disorder. Decisions were simply made for me by doctors, and I was expected to go along with them silently. (2) This is a bit premature, but Ian and I both have a love of children and want little ones of our own. That said, it may not be possible for me to become pregnant while on such medication, though as I mentioned, the medication is vital. This is something we’ll need to carefully consider with various doctors in the years to come. (3) And lastly, I’m tired of pretending that this condition doesn’t exist in my body or in my mind. It’s high time I came out with it, because there’s no shame in having this medical condition. (4) Okay, I’m ad-libbing this fourth reason, because it was unanticipated when I wrote this post several weeks ago. Sometimes things happen that are simply beyond one’s control… like my annual appointment suddenly being postponed by the doctor’s office four months after I made it. It’s not fair, it isn’t just, and people don’t deserve the medical conditions bestowed upon them by genetics or by chance. The point is, life can go on, even when things are difficult or unfair. And in the grand scheme of things, this condition hasn’t altered my life in such a way that my daily living is affected or so that I cannot live “normally.” For that and for my good general health, I am grateful.

Guess the cat is out of the bag now… So here’s to a future of confronting my fears, facing my challenges head-on, and owning every part of myself — the good, the bad, and the ugly!

P.S. Please feel free to ask me questions — it’s part of the process I began initiating weeks ago toward becoming more comfortable acknowledging and discussing my condition 🙂

The Real Reason for the Season

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This morning, our pastor’s sermon was truly powerful. He spoke about the 80-mile journey Mary and Joseph trekked to Bethlehem, with Mary as young and pregnant as she was. I was really struck by his message and by the real season for the hustle and bustle of the season. I also can’t help but notice, surrounded by family and close friends, how truly blessed I have been this year. I didn’t want for anything, I didn’t lack anything, I wasn’t without those I love, and I have all that I could ever desire or need.

My immediate family has grand Christmas Day traditions, including unwrapping the multitude of presents that have been gathering under the tree, but we try to never let the commercial trappings of the holidays stray us too far from the real reason for the season. It’s incredibly easy to allow the merriment of cookie exchanges, the stress of hosting parties, or the anxiety of checking every shopping item off of the Nice List to overshadow the celebration of Jesus’s coming to Earth — and I’ll be the first to admit it!

Spending yesterday evening with my godparents and my godsister, who as I mentioned has just returned from more than 18 months in Africa, renewed my faith that human beings really do look out for one another and love one another unconditionally. As I listened to Mallory’s tales of the expense of sending even one Ugandan child to school, the effort it took for her and her fellow missionaries to acquire a car, and the hardship of taking in street children and becoming their foster parents, I couldn’t help but think of the Newtown tragedy. I chose not to blog about Sandy Hook Elementary because I had too many thoughts swirling around to make logical sense of them enough to write about my feelings and my reactions. Even so, I have no doubt that God works in mysterious ways, and that the reason for something isn’t always logical or even evident. Nevertheless, all that has happened this year has kept my heart and mind focused on the real reason for the season.

Just one more thing…

If you haven’t ever seen this video, I encourage you to check it out. It’s pretty awesome.

Have a happy Sunday, blends, and enjoy yourself if you are one of those lucky people out there getting snow! It seems to be snowing everywhere but Richmond, VA…

Laughter is the Best Medicine

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Last night, the Lew Crew did something we’ve never done before as a family: we attended an improv comedy show! I was hoping it would be like Whose Line, but it was so much better! It was called Comedy Sportz, and it involved two three-person teams with a referee to determine the winner of various comedy challenges and skits. The improv involved lots of audience participation, including having text messages or Tweets read aloud onstage! Two of my texts were used, so I was thrilled. It was a family-friendly show, but there is also a not-so-appropriate show my sister and I would like to check out 😉 Can you say “fart jokes”?

Tonight, I’m ready for many more laughs at my godparents’ home, especially since my “godsister,” Mallory, has literally just returned from more than a year in Uganda building a school and working with orphaned children. I’m so excited to be able to share the news of my engagement with them (even though Ian won’t be in attendance), but I’m even more excited to hear the stories Mallory will have about the work she has been doing. Every year since I can remember, we have gotten together (sometimes with other close family friends of my godparents’) for brunch to catch up and to celebrate the reason for the season. This year, we’re doing dinner, and we’re doing it in style! My godbrother Taylor is whipping up his grill specialty — bleu burgers — which I am really excited to try. My godmother, Kathy, always has some of the best and the fanciest foods for us to sample.

Speaking of food in style…

We ate at Keagan’s Irish Pub last night. I resolved to make better meal choices at restaurants, so I started last night… or at least I tried. Instead of immediately choosing something creamy with a heavy pasta base, I let my eyes wander the menu. I ended up choosing the Celtic Chop Salad and a bowl of Virginia Beach’s Finest Shecrab Soup. Little did I know that the salad would probably have fed our party of five comfortably, or that the soup was the size of a UFO!

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I even asked questions to try to gauge the size of what I was ordering… Nevertheless, my meal was incredible, and I even have leftovers for lunch today.

This afternoon, I am planning to get my first shellac manicure, something I’ve been wanting to treat myself to for awhile, but not an expense I could justify until every bit of my Christmas shopping was done and wrapped. My sister set the deadline for all presents being under the tree at 11:59 p.m. on December 23rd, and I’ll be ready 😉 I used to get acrylic nails done about every two weeks, but that’s not an expense I can justify at all anymore. Thirty dollars (or more) every time I turn around seems ridiculous to me — though I am ridiculously excited to have beautiful French tips for all of our upcoming holiday affairs! #FirstWorldProbs at their finest, amiright?

If you don’t do anything else on this blustery Saturday, my blends, do yourselves a favor and laugh!

Resolution Ringers

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As today is December 20th, it’s pretty obvious what I should be doing, right? Of course you already know: blogging about my New Year’s resolutions! Duhhh.

Nah. It’s not so self-explanatory. In any event, I’ve resolved (get it?) to beat the late-December-slash-early-January rush and write about my resolutions now. While my list is not necessarily one hundred percent complete, I’ve put a lot of time and thought into the resolutions I do have complete. So, off we go, in no particular order.

1. I resolve to make better choices at restaurants. I tend to tell myself, “You worked out today! Go ahead and order the Creamy Calories with the side of Bloat!” or, “You know what? You had a stressful week, so go ahead and order whatever you want, and we [your body as an audience] will look the other way.” Is there really a reason I seem to be “unable” to choose lighter fare with side dishes of veggies? I am under no misconceptions that the reasons I can’t lose weight as quickly as I would like are cursed alcohol and restaurant delights…

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2. I resolve to be less critical and more complimentary. I admit it — I’m a pretty judgmental person. I will call you out for lookin’ like a hoe walking into church. If you make a Freudian slip, I’ll be the first to make you aware of it. And if you say something utterly stupid, you can count on hearing from me about it in a particularly embarrassing manner. Better watch your back! But that was the “old” A.K. 😉

3. I resolve to keep an honest-to-goodness budget during the spring semester. Though Ian and I won’t be tying the knot for quite awhile, we both need to gauge how much we spend on a monthly basis. Currently, his rent covers power, water, cable, Internet, laundry and garbage services, and gym and pool access. Mine covers about half of that for the same cost. Bully. I’m going to try my hand at a legit line-item budget, color-coded (my OCD passion) by type of expense. Keep me in your prayers — math is NOT my forte.

4. I resolve to comment on fellow bloggers’ posts more often. So many times, I read a post that I really like, and I comment aloud or mentally… but I don’t leave the blogger my feedback. As a fairly new blogger who gets far too excited about a single comment I appreciate feedback, constructive criticism, encouragement, and simple messages letting me know that someone out there is reading my stuff. I know I’m really simplifying the mantra, but it’s a way I can treat others as I want to be treated.

5. I resolve to love myself on the outside. Loving yourself on the inside is equally as, if not more so, important. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty comfortable with who I am on the inside. I really learned to love who I am during college, and those feelings have grown firmer and more confident as I have lived on my own and worked on my Master’s degree. However… my feelings about my body shape and size aren’t nearly as lovey. I’ve lost 34 pounds in the past 11 months (huzzah!) but I have 36 more to go until I reach my goal weight. What I resolve to work on is eliminating that “but” from my phraseology. For example, “I weigh __ pounds, and I have __ pounds to go!” I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and all that I’ve learned, and I resolve to actively try to feel more comfortable with the size and shape I currently am.

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And there you have it. Every year that I’ve made resolutions, I haven’t quite stuck to them as I would’ve liked — a trap to which I feel most some other people must fall victim. However, every year I create new resolutions after January first that somehow seem to stick around far longer and are more effective motivators. I’m not saying that 2013’s resolutions will definitely, for sure happen, but maybe having them written down (publicly) will keep my eyes on the prize. You win some, you lose some.

Happy Thursday, blends!

Losing the Battle AND the War

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Unless you have insanely good willpower or you have allergies to everything under the sun, for most of us the holidays are a two- to three-week period absolutely filled to the brim with scrumptious goodies just itching to give us saddlebag hips, a spare tire, or thunder thighs. At this time of year, there aren’t just one or two parties for me to cautiously navigate without exploding — there are more like 5 or 6. I’m not yet at the point where I have work holiday events (can I please stay a student forever?!), but that’s a bridge I’ll be crossing before too long.

I’m honestly convinced that I don’t have the willpower to say “no” to holiday delicacies, so I have a few party “rules” — I use that term loosely — by which I try to abide so I don’t feel like a total elephant (with my pants surreptitiously unbuttoned under the table) after each and every event. It’s not that I want to offend any of my relatives or family friends who have slaved over their treats; it’s that while I’m still on my weight-loss journey (with 36 more pounds to go…) I don’t want to take one step forward and two steps back. This is what I mean when I say I feel like I’m losing the battle and the war.

Here are my party rules:

(1) If you’re not sure there will be anything nutritious and the event is potluck, bring your own goodness! I’m always the first among my friends to volunteer to bring the veggie tray. I load a platter up with celery and carrot sticks, broccoli florets, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, cauliflower, and hummus. That way, if I start to feel overwhelmed by all the sugar, I can snack on my own provisions.

(2) Drink a glass of water before you arrive at the holiday party, and have another as soon as you’re settled in. If your stomach feels full of water, you won’t be as inclined to stuff your face with calories, carbs, and fatty guilt. Bonus! You can never go wrong with water, and hydrating yourself properly helps keep your digestive organs running smoothly so you don’t feel as sluggish after a big meal.

(3) This one I borrowed from my mom, but I’m claiming it as my own 😉 Don’t sample every single treat just because. If it’s Aunt Hilda’s world-famous fruitcake (gag me! Maybe someone out there somewhere likes fruitcake) or Cousin Marty’s secret eggnog recipe, then by all means. If you’re looking to cut a few corners, don’t eat what I call “everyday dishes” — chips and salsa, sodas, brownies, slice-and-bake sugar cookies, French onion dip, etc. Save your calories for special foods that aren’t available everywhere you go.

(4) If possible, fill a plate with dinner-type items first, and choose a separate, smaller plate for dessert items. If everything is piled together on one vessel, it may not look as if you’re consuming as much. If your salty and sweet items are separated by time and distance, it’s often easier to tell at a glance how much you’re eating and whether you really want four different types of fudge.

(5) When you feel full, stop eating. I know I am guilty at many events of feeling the need to clear my plate so as not to offend anyone, and because I feel compelled to sample everything. You’ve probably experienced that I-hope-I-don’t-barf-I’m-so-full feeling, and you don’t want to feel stuffed and miserable for the remainder of the party.

(6) Don’t stand by the food displays. Once you’ve put items on your plate, find somewhere else to munch and socialize. If you have to walk some distance to get back to the goodies, you’re less likely to pile your plate high again than if you were standing right next to them and could feed yourself practically from serving dish to mouth.

(7) After you eat, do something. Suggest that the group play a brain-teaser game, Apples to Apples, or a card game. If you simply sit for a few hours after eating, don’t be surprised if you feel drowsy or your eyes glaze over. Getting your brain buzzing will likely encourage your bod to move around a bit.

(8) If possible, exercise within a few hours of the event. Don’t fall into the health halo of “I exercised today so I can eat whatever I want,” but a good sweat sesh will raise your metabolism and energize you.

All that said, enjoy yourself this holiday season! Relish time with family and friends, and don’t stress yourself out about a cookie or two 😉