ICYMI: Jet Lag Edition

Hi friend!  How are you?  Are you having a good February?  Also terrified of puppy monkey baby?

Sorry for the radio silence ’round these parts.  We’ve been battling jet lag, and I feel like we are just kind of mostly getting back to normal.

I’ve been kind of insufferable lately.  I have so many things I want to do that I feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin.  We did have excellent family time in January, but it was hard to get going on things while on the road.  Then the jet lag is setting us back.  I know it will just take time.  But I never claimed to be a patient person.  I want it ALL.  And I want it NOW.

I should give myself a little credit.  We have booked 2/3 of a Sicily trip for this spring.  I won my January Diet Bet, and I’ve been sticking to fairly strict paleo.  I just signed up for the Spartan Run in April (EEP!), but I still need to get officially signed up for the half marathon in March.  And then train for it.  NBD.

We are psyched to be back in Italy.  Carnival has been in full effect.  Confetti on all the playgrounds.  Children in costume on the reg.  We hit up the parade in Piazza Navona this past Saturday.  It was quite the classy affair compared to our raucous Tuscan Carnevale last year.  Picture lots of people on horses and in period costumes.

We are also in the throes of trying to apply for Italian public preschool.  I’m still not sure if we want to do it, but we are trying to even see if we can get a space before we have to decide.  Let’s just say the process has been VERY Italian.  I promise to share more on this later in case it helps anyone else who wants to try it.

On the Blog:

What I was into in January.  I should have also mentioned seasonal squash.  They don’t really have winter squash here, and I was LOVING all the butternut and spaghetti squash.

I also finally got around to putting pen to paper on 2016 resolutions.

After an awesome free first Sunday museum in December, you’d think we’d have hit one last Sunday, but not.  😦

Those boys keep saying the darndest things.

I threw down the fitness gauntlet.  But then I did some thinking on how to feel good without diet or exercise changes.

On the Internets:

My latest stroller obsession.  I’m very tempted by the fact that my friend says this fits on Roman buses and trams.

Anyone want to buy Michelangelo’s Tuscan Villa?  (Hat tip PK)

Want to see where Beyonce (apparently) stayed for the Super Bowl?  (Hat tip JRW)

Hope to be back more frequently soon.  In the meantime, anyone have any cruise line recommendations?

5 Ways to Feel Good this Year that DON’T Involve Diet or Exercise


Blargh.  You guys.  The carb flu is real.  I feel gross, but I’m persevering because I know I’ll feel better.  Eventually.

(I’m not doing an official whole30, like here, but I’m trying to be as close as possible while traveling.  Gotta get that cheddar!)

Maybe your shiny resolutions this year involve diet and exercise.  But we all know that is a long con.  You have to stick with it, possibly for weeks or months, before you hit real pay dirt.

Maybe you have resolutions that have nothing to do with fitness.  How un-cliche of you!  Get it, gurl.  I can’t wait to hear all about the new vegan taco truck you opened for dogs.

Or maybe you think resolving to be better at an arbitrary time of the year is for complete suckers.  You are living in a higher state of enlightenment and resolve to be your best every day of the year.  Good for you.

Whatever camp you fall in, I have some thoughts on things you can do for yourself.  These are all low effort, low cost, and can help you start the year on the right foot.

Continue reading

Welcome to the SPRING OF FITNESS

Happy New Year everyone!  Did I ever tell you about that time I lost weight and made $50?  No?  (Hang on, checking the archives.)  No, you’re right, I didn’t.

Here’s the skinny.  (heh)  Around this time last year, Roo announced a Diet Bet.  I was planning on buckling down on my fitness anyway, and I was definitely intrigued about a competition.  A competition where you can make money?   Yes please!

To inaugurate 2016, I have announced to everyone who will listen (and some that won’t) the commencement of the Spring of Fitness.  But Melissa, it is pretty much winter.  You are really jumping the gun on this one.  Shhshhshh, there now, quiet, it’s OK.  For whatever reason, spring is stuck in my head and this is what we are going with.  You’re probably sick of winter by now anyway.

Actually, it is has been really hot.  Like unseasonably warm where I live.  I’d enjoy a little winter!

You guys!  If you don’t stop hijacking this post, I’ll never get around to telling you about that thing I want to tell you before the kids wake up from their naps.

Which is . . . . this year I’m hosting my own DietBet.  Just a little friendly weight loss competition where you have the opportunity to make some cash.  (Did I tell you I made $50 on my last one?  I did already?  All for doing something I was planning on doing anyway.)

What is the diet challenge?  DietBet sums it up better than me, but here are the highlights:

  • The game kicks off on January 4.  You can weigh in starting tomorrow, and you can join until Day 14.
  • You do weigh ins at home by taking a picture of yourself in a mirror on the scale.  You upload the photos and DietBet verifies.
  • You DO NOT have to share your weight with any of the group participants.
  • Weigh out for the game is on February 1 or 2.
  • If you miss the goal (4% lost in the month), you have to pay $25.  If you hit it, you pay nothing and get to split the pot from the losers.
That’s it.  If you’d like to play along, JOIN HERE.  This is more fun with friends!
You may see fitness and health type posts hijacking the blog here for awhile, but I promise to squeeze in some travel shenanigans and you know I’ll keep it weird.
Here’s to our best SPRING OF FITNESS EVAH!

30 Day Everything Challenge: The Assessment

6.8_30 day challenge

So now that I’ve done the 30 Day EVERYTHING Challenge and told you about how it felt as it was happening (Days 1 – 15, Days 16 – 30), I’m doing some thinking on what I liked.  On what worked.  On what didn’t work.  On what I can do better.  And on what I want to try next.

This is an important step for me.  My usual style is to keep charging full steam ahead without pause for thought or consideration.  Reflection is not my strong suit.  MORE.  LET’S GO.  DO IT.  This, however, is dumb.  It would be like taking a bunch of practice LSATs and then not bothering to score them.  And anyone who has made themselves take full LSATs knows just how ludicrous that would be.

So let’s reflect.  BTW, here is my full report card:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Get Up Early X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Whole30 X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Plank Challenge X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Abs Challenge X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X / / /
Steps X X X X X X X X X X
8 Glasses of Water X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
5 Minutes Meditation X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
20 Second Hug X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Real Kiss X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Wash Face X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Floss X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Bedtime Alarm X X

Even shiny, new things fade into the background after awhile

You know how you get a new something, like that living room chair you’ve been obsessing over, and you LOVE it and you love how it looks and you sneak little glances at it but then eventually it just becomes part of the room?

That is human nature, I suppose.  We become accustomed to things to the point that we don’t really see them.

Why is she talking about chairs?  Get to the point, already!

My point is that this is the way I felt about this challenge.  I made my spreadsheet document, and in the early days I was SO excited to run to the computer to enter my X.  About mid-way through I would tally my Xs at the end of the day.  On the last days, I had to struggle and recreate Xs for the day before.

My water tracking experience was a little better.  Using my fancy schmancy resources, I devised a sort of water abacus using fridge magnets.  Pour a glass of water; move a magnet to the other side.  It works great until Henry decides he wants a letter.  This was easier to maintain because of the tactile aspects of it.  The act of pouring water signaled to me that it was time to move a magnet.  Also, the fridge magnets were close to where the action took place.  Their prominence on the fridge, right at my eye level, made me take more note as well.

For future endeavors, I need to figure out how to make this proximity + prominence formula work to my advantage.  Printing things instead of having them buried under tabs on my computer would probably be a first step.  Multiple copies in different locations could also assist, but maintaining multiple tallies would be a pain.  Instead of having a master list, the answer might be to have separate lists near the place where the activity took place.  Once upon a time when I was pumping at my old job, I kept a “got milk?” post-it right beside my light switch that I turned off on exiting.  I never forgot the milk.

I like some exercise, but unreasonable expectations make me want to not even try

Exercise is definitely a good addition to my routine.  I like the way my mind sort of zones out when I’m doing it.  I absolutely like the results.  I can do more then 30 leg lifts without stopping now!  When I started, I couldn’t even do 10.  Now that so few of my daily activities result in a feeling of check-the-box accomplishment (maintaining the children is just a continuous, never-ending cycle), completing a set of exercises is surprisingly rewarding.  Also, I do enjoy the new hint of abs.  Just a glimmer.  Recipe for making me like exercise:  one dash of abs.

But I think 15-20 minutes is probably my sweet spot.  Once I knew it would take me more than 30 minutes to get through the whole thing, it made me not even want to start.  This is not good.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing.

For the future, now that I’ve rebuilt my mornings, I do want to add back running.  I hope to update you on this soon.

For the days I stay home, I may put together a grab bag of exercises to try and rotate them around.  One day could be pilates, another day could be barre, etc.   I may try the 30 Day Beach Body Challenge.  It looks like the numbers do increase, but the focus is more on rotating different exercises.

I will apparently only exercise in the morning

One of the reasons I wanted to try the plank challenge is that I thought it would be really easy for me to drop and plank throughout the day.  I spend a large portion of time crawling around on the carpet.  Why not throw some planks in there?

But it just never happened.  I could try much harder to build some planks into my routine, a la always plank before eating.  Although our kitchen floor is usually pretty gross.  Ain’t nobody want to plank on that.

My main takeaway though is that I like exercise and, if I actually want to do it, I should make sure to do it in the morning.  BEFORE even touching the computer to make sure that it actually happens.

Convenience food on the whole30 is really annoying

This wasn’t a shocker, but it was definitely reiterated during the challenge.  It annoys me that all of your easy on-the-go options like a sandwich or a slice of pizza are out.  I know some places have it, but I haven’t seen tons of salads here.  Even if I found a salad, this isn’t good eat in a hurry food.  I like a good sit down meal as much as the next gal, but particularly when sightseeing with the kids, it is nice to have better on the move options.

Everything I can think of to carry with for protein, like boiled eggs or tuna salad needs refrigeration.  Not ideal.  Anyone had more success on this?

Cooking was not as annoying this time because I already feel like I’m doing all the cooking

Our first whole30, we felt like we did ALL the cooking.  Sunday afternoons were usually devoted to roasting batches of sweet potatoes and preparing a breakfast mix of sauteed meat, peppers, and onions.

Now, I already feel like I’m thinking of food constantly so this was less of a change.

This time around I gave up on most advanced prep.  Instead of breakfast variety, we just ate eggs most of the time.  Also, I nuked more sweet potatoes.  Voila, smashed potato in time to serve once I finished the rest of dinner.

It is kind of unreal the number of times I wanted to eat when I wasn’t hungry.  I just wanted to enjoy the sensation of eating

Uh, what?  But it is true.  Particularly in the early days, I just wanted to be eating.  I wasn’t hungry.  I just wanted the sensation of putting food in my mouth.  That’s not really cool, man.  This has gotten better.  Mostly.  I’ll have to watch this in the future.

I like the idea of tying unique food to special circumstances and occasions

You know how some places are just tied to special foods?  Like, why would you go to Italy and not try some pasta?

I don’t want to miss out on special foods.  If you’ll remember, I chafed on the whole30 when we went to Turin and I wanted the special chocolate and at the strawberry festival when I wanted the berries with whipped cream.  Maybe I’ll go back to Turin.  I could if I wanted.  But I probably won’t.  Same for lots of places we adventure to.

I’m hoping to keep eating pretty whole30ish.  I’m not going to let it keep me from travel food.  I don’t ever want to miss out.

I missed booze the most, but we might need to break up

My first whole30 in 2013, I think I missed cheese the most.  Salads just didn’t seem right without it.

This time around I really missed booze.  For me, other than the occasional margarita, booze means wine and beer.

I missed variety.  I really only drink water, wine, and beer with the sometimes coffee.  Things got monotonous.

I also missed the way I’d feel.  I like unwinding with a glass of wine at the end of the day.  I like escaping the heat with a chilly, refreshing drink.

But.  I realized that–and this is hard for me to write–alcohol has become a proxy for “I’m having a good time now.”  How will I know I’m having a nice dinner if I don’t have a glass of wine?  How will I know I’m enjoying adult time if I don’t have a drink in my hand?

And I’m not OK with that.  I’m not saying all booze is bad.  I’m just saying that for me, because I have problems doing things moderately, less is definitely more.  I think alcohol is a very major player on keeping me from springing out of bed in the morning.

So none would be ideal, but I’m not ready for that yet.  I am living in a wine culture these days.  I’m not saying people drink all the time or a lot, but wine is plentiful, reasonably priced, and darn good here.  If you order a glass with lunch, no one would bat an eye.

I remember in college I met a girl who quit soda based on her dermatologist’s recommendation.  She said her skin was now amazing and she didn’t regret it.  I was incredulous.  How could anyone live without soda???

Fast forward a few years to 2007.  I quit caffeine cold turkey, and I haven’t looked back.  I now enjoy the occasional espresso or cappuccino, but soda is very rare for me.  What used to be outside the realm of possibility is now my new normal.

So maybe I’ll feel the same way about alcohol some day.  Who knows?  For now, I’m going to try to employ the same strategy as with food.  Don’t drink something because it is there.  Drink it because it is really good and I want it.

Thank goodness for sparkling water

Ah, sparkling water.  I’ve been a fan for a few years now.  But you were really here for me when I wanted something a little different.  Thanks, pal.

I need to cultivate higher quality adult time

Without a glass of wine in the evening after the kids went to bed, I sometimes felt adrift.  I had trained myself to want a treat at the end of the day.

Without the wine or snack, my post-kids evenings felt a little unfulfilled.  I watched TV some, but not a ton.  I read every night and I really enjoy it, but because I do that all the time, it doesn’t feel special.  Most evenings would be frittered away puttering around on the computer.  Some things I need to do, like email and trip planning.  But these feel like have to dos.  Not relaxing.

I’d like to add a little more purpose to the evenings.  I think this means more socializing.  More quality time with James.  And possibly even doing my reading on the couch.

I LOVE having my mornings back, but I need to use them more mindfully

I was so excited that I was getting up early that I didn’t crack the whip on productivity.  This is prime writing time.  I do NOT need to be dorking around on the internet.

It would help if I eliminated any need to get on the computer until after exercise and meditation.  I didn’t print the ab and plank challenges.  I should have.

It would also help if I cleared distractions on the computer (cough, 78 tabs, cough) and planned what I want to do the night before.  This is a definite area for improvement.

Meditation is my favorite new thing that is most likely to be pushed by the wayside

For my meditation, I sat up straight with my legs crossed and eyes closed for five minutes.  It was surprisingly OK.  I had that pleasant sensation you get on a long run where you think nice thoughts but can’t really remember them later.  I mostly tried to think about nothing.  Clearing my mind and focusing on a point in the center of my blacked out vision worked better for me than doing any kind of mantra.

So I hope to continue this, but it could get pushed out.  See, I can’t see tangible results from meditation.  I can’t look at my abs and see, wow, that meditation is really doing something.  Maybe it is a part of my sleeping better and feeling better, but maybe not.

Having a grownup bedtime routine isn’t so bad . . . and good habits breed more good habits

At first I was all getting ready for bed takes FOREVER now.  But then it wasn’t so bad.  I mean, we’re just talking about flossing and washing my face.  I have perfect marks on this, and I have every intention to continue.

I can also report that doing these things led to doing more things.  90% of the days I also used the toner I dug out of somewhere AND applied moisturizer.  Good habits beget other good habits it seems.

I need to keep working on this sleep situation, but at least I’m addressing the elephant in the room

You guys may have found it tedious that I listed my bedtime almost every night.  I know it seems small, but knowing the time was actually a really big deal for me.

Before, I deliberately chose not to look at my watch.  I didn’t want to know.  I knew it was late and that I should go to bed.  But this was my time, and I didn’t care if morning Melissa had to pay for it.

Now, I’m not hitting the target bedtime, but I am getting closer.  I’m at least making a conscious choice to stay up later.

We’ll see what I decide to do about this.  If I keep getting up on my own at an early time feeling rested, I might not change anything.  I may decide to get the reading material out of the bedroom, as my friend Maggie suggested.  I’m anti-TV in the bedroom because of the distraction factor.  Is my book presenting the same issue?


So.  These are my takeaways.  Some things are working.  Some need tweaking.  Some need more work.  It’s always a work in progress.  Life that is.

Do you have any stellar exercise routines to share?  And has ANYONE found paleo food on the go?  This is my next million dollar idea.  I’m on it.


Do SAHMs have higher rates of skin cancer?

And we’re back!  We got back from five nights in Munich last week.  There were definitely some lows (like Henry causing 50 euro of damage at the hotel breakfast), but plenty of fun moments and the Christmas markets were amazing.  You guys will be hearing plenty over the next few weeks, I’m sure.

After a week of meat, sugar, and beer, I’m looking forward to getting back to cooking real food.  This is a bit of an exaggeration, but I almost feel like I haven’t cooked since Thanksgiving.  The holidays are here which makes it tough, but it is time.

I’ve been thinking about this article: How I Gained and Lost 60 Pounds as an Entrepreneur — and So Can You!  Even though I’m not an entrepreneur or working outside the home right now, many points here really resonated.  I try very hard not to, but it is easy to put yourself last.

Overall, I’d say my new lifestyle is less healthy than my old in several ways.  I drink less water.  When sitting at a desk, I had my Nalgene bottle right in front of me and I drank water all day long.  I am excellent at drinking things put right in front of me.  This is a great skill for staying hydrated, a less great one for trying not to get sloppy at a party.  Now because we are on the move, I don’t have water in front of me.  I feel like I take two sips and then we are off to something else and cups just end up all over the house.  It is not ideal.

There is less incidental movement.  Before, I did a good bit of walking on my commute.  I would often walk to lunch.  Even walking around a large office building built in some exercise.  I thought here, we’d be constantly on the go and would really rack up those steps, but it is surprisingly easy not to move far at all.  The grocery store is only a few blocks away.  I have playgrounds steps from the front door.  I want to walk more, but the sidewalks here can really be a pain for the stroller.  And the toddler doesn’t really want to sit in the stroller anyway.

One of the best bonuses about working at home is making your lunch.  It is easy to throw together a real salad or even just grab leftovers without having to lug them to work in a giant Tupperware.  But even though I’m at home, I haven’t been taking advantage.  Lunch is usually a scramble.  An afterthought.  Not good.

I’ve been noticing more freckles.  Freckles I haven’t seen this bright since I was a kid.  Small wonder, I’m spending much more time outside now.  Usually just standing at a playground with the baby strapped to me, but it adds up.  My mom has had precancerous things removed from her skin.  Why am I not doing better?

Looking over this list objectively, I admit that there seem to be easy solutions to many of these issues.  A little more effort.  A little more planning.  But it is easy to get really caught up in the day-to-day kid spiral survival mode and the last thing I want to do is walk across the city or even walk to my kitchen to get a glass of water.  And even typing that sentence, I know it doesn’t make sense, but that is honestly the way it feels sometimes.  I’m tired.  And even though I know that making an effort on some of these things would make me less tired, it is hard to do.

As the Entrepreneur article says, the answer is inevitably to Plan the work, work the plan.  I get it.  I need to do this.  I’m working on it.

In the meantime, at the suggestion of my cosmetologist friend here, I have switched to wearing real sunscreen on my face.  SPF 55.  Formulated for babies actually so I think it stinks less.  (I hate smelling like I’m going to the beach all day.)  My Oil of Olay with SPF 15 advertised continuous moisture all day long, but if you read the fine print, stated that you needed to reapply every two hours for sun protection.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Anyone have any tips or tricks?  I know, I know, there are no easy solutions.  Grr.