Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Gifts for Coworkers

It's that time of year again! I know, I know - you are already sick of all the holiday displays that have been up since the beginning of November and spending hundreds of dollars on gifts that you aren't sure anyone will like. I get it. While it is easy to get sick of the commercialism, there is something about the holiday's that is special. There's a spirit in the air that is infectious. Plus us office workers actually get a decent amount of time off! After working for a year and a half without more than a week off, I'm VERY excited to have 11 days off IN A ROW! That is cause for a celebration in my book.

Anyways, what I wanted to cover today is the dreaded 'what the heck do I get my coworkers?' question. When I first starting working as a intern, I didn't even realize that people gave anything out for the holidays. I got a few cards and homemade items from some of my coworkers, and I felt terrible because I hadn't realized that people did that in my company. So I quickly went out and braved the hallmark to buy some cards for people. While it felt like a sufficient thing to give out, I vowed to do something a little more special in years to come. Which leads me to a list of cute, inexpensive homemade items that you can make to give out for the holidays.

Some really adorable ideas that I've heard and read online include taking a cookie recipe and putting all the dry ingredients into a mason jar. You'd measure out all the dry ingredients (oats, flour, sugar, baking soda/powder, chocolate chips, etc) and layer it into a jar. Put a bow on it with instructions on how to bake the cookies and there you go! Instant present! You can also do this with hot chocolate mix, chocolate chips, and marshmallows. I really love the idea of deconstructing a present into its own separate parts and letting the gift receiver bake the cookies when they want to. Plus it gives the person a good recipe, as well as a unique gift. Another gift that I thought would be cute (which lead me to what I made this year) is cooking a snack food. Chex mix would be a fun thing to hand out, or any other fun snack food along those lines. I also saw some mulling spices to make cider out of, or spices for veggies or meat. Filling a cute container with little candies is also an easy, fun idea. All of these gifts show that you put some effort into their preparation without spending a fortune.

What I decided to do this year is chocolate covered pretzels with candy cane crumbles. It is easy, relatively inexpensive, and doesn't require baking in an oven. I like to make things as simple as possible, especially when it comes food preparation so this fit the bill. As you would expect, there are only three ingredients- chocolate to melt, candy canes to crush, and pretzels to drizzle it all on top of.

First, I set up all my ingredients. I put out parchment paper onto my counters and put a single layer of pretzels on it. Then, I opened up my candy canes and put them into a gallon size bag. The easiest way for me to open the candy canes was to break them in half, and then pull the plastic wrapping off of them. This seemed to be relatively effective, but I had scissors as a back up. Once you have a few in the bag, seal the top and use a meat tenderizer/hammer/anything hard to smash up the candy canes into crumbles.

Next I melted the chocolate. I set up a double broiler, which sounds fancier than it is. You put a pot filled with a few inches of water onto the stove and put a second container on top of it. This way you melt the chocolate slower than you would on direct heat. You can also try microwaving the chocolate, but I just decided to do it this way. Make sure you melt the chocolate slowly to avoid burning it. Don't forget to stir!

Once my chocolate was ready, I put it into a squeeze bottle that I bought at a craft store. You could honestly just do this with a spoon or use the container you melted the chocolate in and drizzle it over the pretzels, but I know I would be too clumsy to pull that off. While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle over the candy cane crumbles. Warning- this will get messy! But the end result is so fun and festive.

Once you have let the chocolate cool down and set, you can box them up! I ended up using little plastic bags from the craft store and twist ties, but you can package them however you want. I found these cute little tags at the craft store to tie around the tops. I made the message generic so I wouldn't have to sort out who get's which bag. 

After I packaged them up, I put them in the fridge to continue to harden up. Here are some of my bags!

Finally, I tied on my little note and put a ribbon on the bag and voila! A cute, homemade gift for the holidays. Hopefully this post will gave you some good ideas to use in the future. Now if only I could get around to sending out christmas cards... I guess it's one step at a time when it comes to that. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In it for the long run.

Let me start by saying that I used to think running sucked. I would put a lot of effort and energy into running, and not get very far before I was huffing and puffing. I'd even go so far as getting myself light headed from a lack of oxygen. I thought that running was only for certain kind of people, and I simply just wasn't one of them. But anyone can run! Trust me on this one. It's all about pacing yourself, building up your endurance, and having a positive attitude. Working for Nike, I'm surrounded by people who run marathons at 7 min/mile pace. I have felt intimidated before, wondering why I couldn't run for more than a mile without feeling exhausted while other people could run 26 of them. I was doing it all wrong. If you are one of those people who didn't think running was for them, I'll talk through my process and may be inspire one of you to try out running the right way.

First off, walking is your friend. You should NEVER be ashamed to walk. No matter how fast people around you are running, know that you are lapping all the people who are sitting on the couch watching tv. I'm a pretty active woman, but I just couldn't figure out why I got so exhausted so quickly. It was because I wasn't pacing myself. I first started off by running 5 minutes, walking 2 minutes, running 4 minutes, walking 2 minutes down to running 1 minute and then walking 2 minutes to cool down. That's it. And running for those time period was difficult for me. But I forced myself to slow down and jog slowly during the running parts, and walk it off during my breaks. It's much easier to convince yourself to run for 5 minutes before a break than 30 minutes. If that's too hard, alternate walking for 2 minutes and running for 2 minutes. And when you are "running", go slow enough so you aren't gasping for breath. This may not seem as freeing as sprinting at top speed, but you will be able to maintain the exercise longer.

A good way to pace yourself is whether you could say a sentence or not while you are jogging. If you have to gasp between every word, you are going too fast! You will automatically assume you aren't cut out for running and give up entirely. Make sure you go slow! I don't care if you look stupid. You are progressing, and that's all that counts. You can't measure your success against other people. Be proud of the small accomplishments, like when you can run a little bit longer between each walk break. 

Another important thing to realize about running is that not every run will leave you feeling great. There will be some you will just have to power through, and that's ok. I have some tips that I've picked up so far to help make your run as enjoyable as possible. 
  1. Eat well- This may not apply to everyone, but I tend to run better when I've been eating healthy all day. Think cereal, oatmeal, salads, pastas, lean proteins, etc. However, I do operate under the 80/20 rule (try to eat healthy 80% of the time, and indulge 20%) so you don't have to be perfect. 
  2. Get the right gear- It's important to get good shoes and socks for you run, not to mention shirts and shorts that will prevent chafing. When I first started running, I kept getting blisters on my feet and I couldn't figure out what the problem was. I changed from normal cotton socks to Nike dri fit socks (Fabric was 58% nylon/41% polyester/1% spandex). It made all the difference. 
  3. Drink a lot of water during the day. This prevents you from drinking a ton of water during your run and feeling it slosh in your stomach. Not exactly a good feeling. Plus drinking water during the day will help you have more energy and help wash away toxins. It also forces you to get up and go to the bathroom during the work day. 
  4. Don't run too fast - see above. 
  5. Stretch before and AFTER. It helps make you less sore, plus it just feels good to give yourself a good stretch. 
  6. Don't run right after you eat. Similar to drinking a ton of water while running, the food will weigh you down and make your stomach upset. I usually try to wait an hour or two after eating a big meal before I start running. 

Training for a specific event can help motivate you to push yourself to go further and faster. If you are new to running, a 5K is a great distance to begin with. It is 3.1 miles, which will take you under an hour even if you power walk the whole thing. There are all kinds of training programs online, but I found some commonalities in them. Usually, you run 3 times a week, with one run as your "long" run and then your other two being between 30-45 minutes of running. You build up your long run by a mile or so until you reach your goal distance. You can do yoga/pilates/any form of strength training to help build up muscle to run better on your non running days, but make sure you have at least a day or two a week where you rest. Every program I've seen online makes you rest one day a week in order to give your body a break. Enjoy it!

All in all, running can be a great cardio exercise if you do it correctly. It burns more calories than just about anything else. Plus it's cheap (you don't need a fancy gym membership for it), portable, and universal. I stuck in some quotes that I found inspiring and applicable to running, in case you need some extra motivation. Now get out there and run!

Monday, November 4, 2013

From College to the "Real World"

As all college students know, transitioning from high school into college brings about a lot of change. How do people write 40-50 page papers? How can I handle 200 page reading assignments? What work is necessary and what isn't? How the heck do I do laundry? And cook? It's definitely a change for students, but through talking to your peers, older students, and reaching out to new friends, the change becomes easier to handle. Plus let's face it, the years you spend in college are some of the best you will have. But that doesn't mean that the good times stop when you leave college. As I became a senior and approached graduation, I felt like I was headed full speed to a cliff into the unknown. I was jealous of my younger peers, wishing that I could slow down time to stay a little longer in college. But in the end, the day comes when you celebrate graduating from college and start thinking about your future. Yikes! But as a young adult with 1 and a half years out of college under her belt, I have plenty of advice and tips to help ease you through the transition. Some of these tips can probably be applied to any change you may face in life, while others are more specific to the year or two post graduation.

I'll start with some advice for current college students. I know every adviser keeps telling you this, but try to do a couple internships. I actually did this co-op with Johnson & Johnson, which gave me 6 months of full time work experience plus pay and school credits. Seriously, it gave me a HUGE advantage entering into the work force. Having some professional experience really does make a difference, not only for your resume but for your piece of mind. It helps the transition from college to working a full time job not seem so daunting. With a internship/co-op with a start and end date, it helps you deal with all the changes you go though, since you know it's only for a set time period. You will learn skills and programs that companies will be searching for in their candidates. Have your boss look over your resume, guide you in applying to new jobs, and write a kick ass recommendation. You will thank yourself post graduation.

Another piece of advice I would give a graduating college senior is to enjoy having such a great schedule- you will miss the afternoon naps. I miss being able to do that. However, once you leave work as an adult, you don't have homework (usually) and you can enjoy the nights and weekends. If you are thinking about going to graduate school within the next 5 years, I recommend that you study and take the GRE/LSAT/GMAT/ whatever test you will need for that while your in college. I'm regretting that I didn't do that. Even if you want to work a couple years first, the scores usually hold for 5 years, allowing you to have some flexibility. Before leaving school, make sure you connect with your peers/advisers/favorite professors. Networking is key, and you mines well keep in contact with the people you already know.

Once you have that diploma in hand, the first thing you need to avoid is COMPLETELY freaking out. Seriously. Fake it until you make it. Looking for a job (for those of us who weren't offered awesome jobs in college like the engineers and accountants we know) can be tough. Set timelines for when you will search/apply for jobs, and factor in breaks! There is nothing worse than spending weeks on end filling out applications only to realize that you made no tangible progress. If you are close to home/college, definitely reach out to people. Even if you moved across the country like I did, it's important to meet new people and reach out. I ended up getting a lead for a job I got through a Pilates class I took on the rooftop of my apartment. You never know who will help connect you. Make sure you give yourself a break and get out to meet people. If you don't, you may go nuts.

Now I'm not going to get into all the things you should do during a job interview, but here are a couple of key things I did that helped. First, I outlined a bunch of projects that I did at my internships that can help answer situational questions. Even if they aren't perfect, at least you have some foundation stories to build off of. Remember STAR (state the situation, task at hand, action you took, and the result) when answering questions. Know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your strengths that will play a role in the position you want to get. Stay calm, keep breathing, and act confident. If you plan out these things on a piece of paper before hand, it's very similar to taking an oral exam, which I'm sure your used to by now.

Finally landing that first position is awesome! But please keep in mind that it may not be as glamorous as you had imagined. You have to work your way up like everybody else. However, keeping a positive attitude, learning as much as possible, and working smart will help you gain recognition from your peers and supervisor. Make sure you schedule touch bases with your supervisor to make sure you are on the right path. They will help lead you to what's important to concentrate on and what can go on the back burner so to speak. Try to open up and meet your peers! They will help answer a ton of questions! Try to think through your questions at first so you aren't bombarding a person with 100 questions a day. The first couple months will be a bit confusing, but I PROMISE you will catch on. Remember- fake it until you make it. Even if you feel odd being a "real" adult with a "real" job instead of a college student, hold  your head high and before you know it you'll have a year under your belt, wondering where the time went.

Through this whole transition, there's a few things to keep in mind. Always have a support system of friends, family, mentors, old professors, etc. It really helps to have someone to bounce ideas and feelings off of. Second, make sure you join a gym or hit the pavement and run. Exercise will help ease the anxiety of the transition. I also highly recommend yoga, since you will not only get a great work out, but you will find a nice peaceful feeling afterwards. Don't feel stupid going to a yoga class! I was all worried people would judge me, but that's just another benefit of being in the real world- no one cares what hobbies you do! Embrace it. Schedule time for work and time to relax and go out. Going from a highly structured college syllabus run life to a new college grad can be tough. Ease yourself by making some kind of schedule. Finally, below are some sources I found helpful. And remember, your life doesn't end after college! I promise! --> blog on all different aspects of life as a young adult. i love this author so much. she also has a book, but let's be real, it's easier to go online. --> common interview questions --> this is another site with tips for the post graduate. a bit silly, but there is some good content in there. --> a silly book with some good life tips.

Things to think about- car insurance (if you move out of state- drivers license, license plate, and car title), renters insurance, health insurance (if your under your parents, you have until your 26), rent, taxes, college debt, savings, credit/debit card if you don't already have one, cable/gas/utilities/internet if renting an apartment, IKEA/target shopping trips for the essentials. phew that's a good start.
... and if all else fails, take a few deep breaths and eat some chocolate.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Adopting a dog!

A couple weeks ago, my boyfriend D. and I went to an animal shelter and adopted a dog! Yes we live in an apartment and yes we both work full time. These were the main reasons we were holding off for a while. I was worried that a dog wouldn't be happy in an apartment, especially since D. and I work the typical 8 to 5 work schedule. Well, D. makes it more of a 9 to 5:30, but you get the idea. But after living in Portland for over a year, I start feeling like it would be a good time to get a dog. We had watched our friends' dog for a week a couple of months ago, so we got a feel for what it would be like to have a dog around. It was great to have a dog around for the week to try it out, without the commitment of adopting a dog. Plus it was free dog care, so my friends were happy with the idea. If you have any friends, ask if you can puppy sit the next time the are out of town.

D. was most concerned about the timing, since Thanksgiving and Christmas were coming up in the next couple months. While I understood his point, we were eventually going to have to travel, and we would find a good place to watch our dog. After some discussion, he was nice enough to let me start looking. And once I started looking, I found a contender! After much convincing, I was able to convince Dan that this dog was indeed the perfect dog for us. And let me tell you, we are SO glad we adopted Scout! But let me back up and give some tips/advice on the before and after of adopting a dog, as well as some resources that are helpful.

Before looking at all the adorable dogs, make sure you sit down and think about whether you are ready for a dog, both emotionally and financially. Cute doggies with wagging tails can cloud your judgement, so try to think about it BEFORE you even LOOK online.
1. Walks, walks, walks- are you ready for them? Because a dog needs to be walked, at least twice a day, for the rest of their lives (and I knew a dog who lived until he was 17). This amount increases if you don't have a yard or if you are crate training them. Dogs have a lot of energy, and this energy can be destructive if not channelled through walks and play time.
 2. Financial commitment- dogs are NOT cheap. Trust me on this one. You can get away with spending $800- $1,000 a year, but a lot of people spend more on their pet (especially the first year). You have to buy the essentials (dog collar, dog leash, food/water bowls, mat so water doesn't get all over your floor, food, chew sticks, dog bags, vet care. Optional: toys, crate, blankets to snuggle with). It's a lot of money. Make sure you (and your partner/family if its multiple people) are able to commit enough financial resources to keep your pup happy and healthy.
 3. Travel- do you have to travel all of the time for work? If so, that adds another dimension to adopting a pet. Remember that every time you go somewhere, you have to find someone to take care of said pet, which can be very costly.
 4. Daily care- your dog with eat, drink, and poop every day. Remember that. You will need to be consistently responsible for another living thing.
 5. Shelter- if you are renting, it is a good idea to check and make sure it's ok to bring home your furry friend. There is nothing worse than falling in love with a dog on the spot and not being able to keep it.
 6. Vet visits- just another thing to consider. It's important to find an awesome vet.
 7. Training... and patience- yes, it does take time to train a dog. You have to be patient with them. Some of the main commands dogs should know are sit, down, stay, come, and leave it. Take your time training your dog, it will be worth it in the end.
 8. Love- this is probably the easiest one, but be ready for your life to be full of enthusiasm, cuddles, and love.

Finding the dog
Alright, does that all sound good? Do all the people in your family agree? Awesome. Let's talk about how to find that perfect pup. While some people want pure breed dogs (search online, ask your local vet, etc. ), I'm going to talk about adopting a dog from a shelter, since that's what we did. Pet is awesome (see link below). It allows you to look up dogs and other animals that are available for adoption near you by entering in your city/zip code. It gives a little information about the dog, what shelter it's from, how to contact that shelter if interested, and most of the time a picture. This is how I ended up learning what shelters are in my area and where I first saw Scout. also has a lot of articles about adopting a dog and all the concerns that go along with dogs (crate training, house training, acclimating a new dog, etc.) Definitely worth a look.

 You can also do a simple google search for shelters in your local area. If you consult a vet before you adopt a dog, ask for advice. People are always willing to give you some ideas, especially dog lovers. I tend to find the dog owner community to generally nice and helpful. There are usually adoption events at your local pet store, so keep an eye on those. When looking for a dog, it's good to have some criteria in mind. Do you want a puppy? (If so, be ready to invest A LOT of time in puppy care) Do you want a dog? How old? Does gender matter? How about breed? Do you want an active dog or a couch potato, or a mixture? Do you want a 5 pound dog or a 50 pound dog? Is anyone allergic to dog hair? These types of things should be considered before meeting potential dogs. Don't rush in and adopt the first cute dog you see. Make sure it is a good fit for you and your family.

Once you find the lucky winner, get as much information as you can about the dog. While the dog is in a high stress environment and may not be on his best behavior, it's good to know as much as you can. Our dog has a skin problem, and we talked to the vet on site all about it. Ask if the dog is neutered/spade, or if the adoption fee covers that. Also ask how to license your dog with the county, because you'll need to do that. Ask about vaccinations that the dog has received, as well as heart worm, flee, and tick medicine. Finally, ask about what the dog eats and what kind of schedule it usually leads. Keeping the dog on relatively the same schedule and diet at first will help ease the transition for your new dog.

Bringing your dog home
In order to make a smooth transition for your dog and your family, here are some things that maybe helpful.
1. Iron out the rules- if the dog isn't allowed on the couch, tell him no EVERY time or else it can be confusing for the dog. Start out knowing all the rules and begin training the dog immediately.
2. Get into a schedule- this will help relieve some anxiety of the dog. We ended up getting our dog on a weekend, so we could start settling him in to his home, his schedule, and his crate.
3. Set up your home- if your dog is allowed to roam free, dog proof your house/apartment. If he will have a crate, then introduce him/her by putting treats in there, eat there, etc. You can start by putting your dog in the crate for a short amount of time and lengthening it.
4. Don't overwhelm your dog by meeting tons of new people. You will have plenty of time to do that. Try to have a couple of low key days, since your dog will be busy enough getting to know his new home.

Here is a petfinder article I found helpful. 

Understanding your dog
The shelter that we got our dog from actually gave us a couple really useful handouts. One is a list of dog parks in the area. The other was some literature about acclimating dogs to a new environment and dogs in general. Here are some of my key takeaways from that.
1. If your dog isn't house trained (which ours was!) there are a few things that will help. Confining your dog to a small space or putting him on a leash with you will help the dog out. Giving the dog free run of the house is asking for a mistake. When you want to take him out, make sure you take him out and not just let him out the door. The dog may get confused or distracted if he is alone outside. If he does do any business, praise him like no other! Food works too! When he does potty, say something like "good potty" so he starts to associate the word with the action. Always watch your dog for signs that he needs to go out- whether its walking around and whining, sniff the floor, watch the door, it's good to be on the look out.
2. It's good to socialize your dog. However, do it in a neutral territory so neither dog is territorial. Make sure you walk your dog right soon after you bring him home for the first time. See how your dog reacts to other dogs, since some dogs may need more work than others. Once your dog gets comfortable meeting other dogs, dog parks are a great way to socialize your dog and get out that excess energy.
3. Require your dog to sit, go down, or do a trick to get a treat.
4. Try to get your dog on an eating schedule, so he has regular bowel movements.
5. Understand that dogs are pack animals- they are trying to be a good team member. Whether this is barking to alert you of something, picking up gross food off the street to share with the pack, growling at a dog that may seem threatening, or chewing on things to get as much food off the "bones" as they can, it's important to understand the reason why dogs act the way they are. The are not barking to annoy you. They are really trying to be a good team member, and it's ingrained in them. If your dog is barking at something, go over and say something like "ok I see it, thanks" to alert him that you acknowledge it. This may seem strange at first, but thinking about dogs in this manner may help you understand your dog a lot better.
6. If your dog is destructive, he may have too much energy. Try an extra walk, a chew bone/toy, some more play time. If he is a barker, they make collars that spray citronella (orange smelling chemicals) that smell gross to dogs but good to humans. This is much nicer than a shock collar (seems WAY too cruel to me). A busy dog is a happy dog.

Random other tips my friend gave me.
1. Talk in a high pitched voice when you his/her attention
2. Instead of saying "No" say "Uh uh" or something other than "No", since dogs may have come from an abusive past. This also means you should approach a dog palm up (palm down may remind him of getting slapped) and with no rolled up newspapers (my first family dog really didn't like that). Let the dog set the pace of how quickly you can start interacting with him/her.
3. If the dog is jumping or barking or doing something to get your attention that you don't want them doing, then just turn around/or ignore the dog until it stops
4. Never leave your dog home alone with a raw hide bone (they can choke on the small pieces).
5. Have many treats on hand to encourage good behavior

Wow that was a lot. I hope that this summary (if you could call it a summary) was helpful for you!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The 3 Components of Life

A very wise women once told me that there are three components in life that a person has to take care of in order to be fulfilled and happy. Many people know about two of them, but they tend to forget about the third. These components are the physical, mental, and emotional parts of oneself. Each part needs to be taken care of, since all three are extremely important. The physical part includes eating healthy, exercising regularly, resting, and sleeping well. The mental part has to do with keeping your mind active, anywhere from reading a book to researching topics online. It is important to have a wide range of mental activities, especially if you work in a job that only utilizes a few types of thinking. The third and final component that needs to be tended to is the emotional component. This is the one that seems to be forgotten the most, but it is just as important as eating healthy and staying mentally sharp. The emotional sphere is comprised of the love and support of family and friends, personal enjoyment with hobbies/activities, and healing from the stress/anger/sadness that will infiltrate your life from time to time.

Now I'm going to make an assumption that you aren't neglecting more than one part of yourself (but it you are, work on it!). If you are physically and emotionally taken care of but not mentally sharp (1), you may start to feel like you aren't being challenged and that you aren't learning anymore. Try to play a game (that requires some reasoning skills), research a topic that interests you, read a book, learn something new. It's very important to always being learning something new, even if you are no longer a student. If you are emotionally and mentally happy but not taken care of physically (2), you may notice that you get tired often and that you may be gaining some weight. It's also possible for you to have more anxiety or depression if you don't regularly exercise. Luckily this one is easy to fix- go for a run, make sure you have 8 hours of sleep at night, shop the outer ring of your grocery store and pick up fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains. This is an easy trap to fall into if you work crazy hours and don't have a lot of time. However, it's important to make the time to treat your body right, since you will definitely begin feeling healthier, more alert, and productive throughout the day. Now let's look at 3, where I was stuck for a while. You make the time to eat right, exercise, and continually stimulate your mind. However, there is just a part of you that feels unsatisfied. This is because you don't make enough time to develop the emotional part of you. It is important to see your friends and family, indulge in a hobby or pleasure, have a really good laugh every day. By prioritizing this time, you will begin to feel yourself have a more positive outlook on everything. Don't see reading a book as a waste of time, but as an act of enjoying yourself and building that emotional part. Finally, if you are nurturing all of these parts of yourself (4) you should probably be giving me advice!

To dive a bit deeper into the development of these 3 components, it's important to understand where they came from. There are different time periods when people normally develop each component. From ages 1-6, humans learn how to use their bodies and develop this physical component. Kids learn how to sit up, crawl, and walk during this time period. Afterwards, from ages 7-13, kids begin to develop the mental component of themselves. They learn how to read, do arithmetic, learn history, understand cause and effect, and many more valuable lessons. Finally, between the ages of 14-18, kids finally reach the emotional developmental stage. They begin to fall in love, hate their parents (at some point for most teenagers, especially teenage girls - trust me on this), and make very important friendships. It's this time when kids grow emotionally that can continue to affect the emotional outlook later on in their lives. During this time period, teenagers need as much emotional support as possible. So if you have a teenager out there, give them an extra hug for me! It's important to note that these ages aren't set in stone, but it's a good general guideline to understand the growth of a kid into an adult.

While all of this is interesting to know how these parts of a person develop, a key takeaway for me when learning this was how important it is to commit time to each one of the 3 components. I would always set time to hit the gym and challenge myself mentally through research and games, but I never set time to take care of the emotional part of myself. All three parts really need to be prioritized; I'm not saying you have to only eat carrots, work out every day, and dance around your office every minute. But it is important to address all three of these components at least every week.You will really feel the difference!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Stretching after a workout

I know, I know, most people hate stretching and skip it altogether. I used to be one of them. It wasn’t until I started yoga that I realized that stretching after a big workout makes a HUGE difference. First of all, it helps you calm your mind and body. Some of the most peaceful moments I have felt in my life are right after a big workout, in some kind of yoga pose. Besides feeling awesome afterwards, it helps the recovery process. It helps to loosen up those muscles you were just working. It also helps reduce the soreness that can come the day after an intense workout.

An important thing to note is that I am by no means flexible. And you really don’t need to be to reap the benefits of stretching after a workout. It’s important not to push yourself too hard in a stretch because you probably won’t hold the stretch long enough to have any benefit to your muscles and you endanger pulling something. Not a good idea. It’s important to understand the limits of your flexibility and not to push it too hard.

Now I’ll talk about some yoga poses/stretches that are super awesome after a workout. Not only do they feel great, but they are good for you! Help reduce that lactic acid build up!

Half pigeon/quad stretch.
This one is an awesome stretch to help stretch those quads. You want to put your front leg in a “pigeon” pose (for those yoga lovers) and grasp the back leg with your hand. For the not so yogis, see below for a good picture of the stretch. You should feel a nice stretch in both legs. Make sure you keep your weight centered so you don’t rock back and forth. Make sure you hold it for at least 30 seconds on both sides.

Now for the reclined pigeon pose

This one is a good stretch for the hips and gluts. Tuck your knees to your chest, making sure your back stays flat against the back (otherwise you risk hurting your lower back). Pull one leg over, placing the ankle on the lower thigh of the opposite leg, holding onto that opposite thigh with your hands. Make sure to hold these for 30-60 seconds on both sides. Do NOT rock in the stretch, just put a continuous stretch on your muscles.

Triangle pose

I love this pose, it always feels amazing after a big workout. Put your legs in a straddle, tip one hip up, and fold at the waist. Stretch one arm up, while the other reaches for ankle. You don’t need to grab onto the ankle, just feel the stretch of your arms as you open up your chest to the side of the room.

Wide legged forward bend
Another good stretch is clasping your hands behind back and bending at the waist with legs in a straddle. It is usually easier to do if you concentrate on pulling your palms together in the clasp in order to get a nice deep stretch in the shoulders. This one is especially good if you sit hunched at a computer all day, but it also feels good after a workout.

These final two poses should be done after the more active poses that I outlined before. You should stay in each of these for a few minutes, really letting go of any thoughts or worries. You will feel amazing after a couple of minutes with your eyes closed.

The first one is having the soles of your feet touching while you are lying on your back, opening up your hips. Rest your arms on the ground (either out or by your sides) and let gravity do the work. We tend to carry a lot of tension in our hips, so this is a nice restorative pose.


Finally, the last pose you can try is a wide legged child’s pose. This is great to stretch out any last tension in your shoulders, while stretching out the hips as well. Take a few minutes to enjoy the pose, relaxing and letting your mind go blank.
Wide Legged Child's Pose

These are just some of my favorite stretches after a workout. I really do think they are beneficial, both psychologically and physically. While it may be tempting to just plop yourself down on the couch after a nice long workout, take some time to really stretch out those muscles. It will become your favorite part of all workouts, guaranteed!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Let me begin by saying that when I was a kid, I hated vegetables. A big shock right? But really, could you blame me? I will always remember that clump of overcooked, limpy spinach with the yellow gooze running out of it on my lunch tray at school. No wonder kids hate vegetables. But as I grew older and wiser, I realized that vegetables didn’t have to be mushy, smelly and gross. They can actually taste as good as they are for you. One of my favorite vegetables now is spinach (ironic I know). It is chalked full of vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, and zinc to name a few. Plus it is super versatile – you can mix it into a salad, throw it into a stir fry or pasta dish, or blend some into a smoothie for a little extra nutrient punch (not to mention an awesome, subtle flavor).
So what would be an awesome dinner that incorporates said delicious food? Spinach stuffed shells, that’s what. They are delicious. Seriously. D. always gets very excited when he realizes I’m cooking them. He can barely restrain himself from eating the whole pan! This is definitely a good sign, since it is a relatively healthy dish.
Let’s jump into the recipe then!
-30 jumbo pasta shells (almost a whole box)
- 1 15-oz. container ricotta
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
- 1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 large egg
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 26-oz. jar spaghetti sauce
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put a big pot of water with a pinch of salt on the stove to boil. While waiting for the water, grease a 9 by 13 " baking pan, or whatever you have on hand. Gather your ingredients up. Once the water is boiling, put in the pasta and boil for 10 minutes (give a couple of quick stir). Drain afterwards. While the pasta is cooking, mix together the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, parmesan, egg, salt and pepper, bread crumbs, and nutmeg. Then add the spinach after you run it under some warm water to loosen it up. I usually cut it into fourths and put it in strainer under hot water. Break it up with your hand.
Next, I use a gallon size ziplock bag to help pipe out the filling. Fold over the edges before you put the filling in to avoid a big mess (trust me on this one).

 Then push all of the filling into the corner of the bag, and snip off a good portion of the corner, big enough so the spinach can get through, but small enough to it's easy to handle.
 Next, put about half of the tomato sauce into the pan. Then, take each cooked pasta shell one at a time and pipe in the filling. I usually overstuff them a bit. This doesn't have to be perfect, but try to get some filling in each shell.
Once you have filled the shells, admire the beautiful shells you just made, because you are about to cover them up with sauce and cheese.
 Next, put the rest of the container of tomato sauce over the shells and sprinkle the other 1 cup of mozzarella over the shells. Cover in tin foil and back for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes to help make the cheese all melty and gooey. Here's a picture of mine!
 Serve it while it's hot, but not too hot to burn your mouth. Waiting until it cools down is definitely the hardest part!
Save any leftovers for dinner the next night. It usually makes about 4 portions, so D. and I get to have an easy dinner the following night. 
I hope this is a relatively easy and delicious way to incorporate spinach into your next meal. Enjoy! Until next time. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The beginning.

As with everything in life, there is a beginning and an end. While I try not to dwell on them, it is important to set goals when you begin something new in life to A. hold you accountable B. make sure you are striving towards the main purpose of the activity and C. because I am a neat freak and like to organize everything. So here is the beginning of my blog- Mayhem. The Musing and Advice of a Young, Healthy, Empathetic woMan (ok I cheated on the end there, but work with me here). In this blog I want to post about an assortment of things that lead to a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle in the middle of this chaotic thing we call life. I find it helpful to keep any helpful tips located in one location, since it can be so difficult to actually remember to take a moment and really reflect on the things around you. If I'm going to take time out of my schedule to do that, it better be easy, accessible, and motivating. So here is my attempt at creating a resource for people trying to do just that. 

While the format and content maybe a little hodgepodge at first, I sincerely hope that I provide some kind of entertainment to you as I work towards, sometimes humorously, living a full life. There maybe times that I just see something random and decide to share it with you, even if it isn't exactly "healthy". But everyone deserves to have enjoyment of all kinds in moderation, so I'll attempt to mirror that in this blog. 

So a little about me so you can understand my perspective a little bit better, and maybe see why I'm a little bit weird (but let's be honest, who isn't weird in one respect or another? If you were completely "normal", then what would you talk about with friends and loved ones?) I'm originally from good ol' New Jersey. I know, I know, people automatically jump to thinking about the Jersey Shore (which I can gladly say I have never seen). But believe me when I say, it was actually a relatively normal, nice place to grow up. No I don't have an accent and please believe me when I say that my hair is completely flat and normal. 

I ended up going to college close to home, which was nice when I needed to escape the bubble that was a college campus. While I really did enjoy being a student, I was ready to leave by the time I graduated. I ended up packing up and moving across the country for my boyfriend of forever (or it seems like forever) D. He got a job right outside of Portland, OR so that's where we went. After a lot of tears, anxiety, and doubts, I ended up finding a job in the area as well, but maybe I'll go into that story at a later point. Now I am happily employed at Nike as a sales analyst. It's a fun company to work for, and it is conveniently near Intel, the company my boyfriend has a job at. 

For the past year, I've been enjoying the fruits of Oregon (literally and figuratively). I was very uncertain of moving to Oregon of all places, but Portland is actually a very awesome city, mixing beauty of nature and the accessibility of a city into one crazy place. I've started eating much healthier than my ramen noodle days of college, and I have been trying out new things like running (or I should say novice jogging, because what I do can't qualify as running), pilates, yoga, and a whole assortment of exercises. I'll be sharing recipes, stretches, exercises, musings, rants, and all things beautiful with you throughout this journey. 

So fasten your seat belts, and cheers to new beginnings! Without beginning, how would we improve, grow, and learn? Have a good one!