Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter thoughts

I won't be able to post anything for the rest of the week, and my "glimpse" fell through for today (and why would I ever
 think to be prepared and have others planned in advance?), so I decided to post a few random thoughts on Easter since it is fast approaching!

This blog isn't about sharing my thoughts on religion, but it is about sharing most aspects of my life, so I will just say that Easter is one my absolute favorite times of the year (for reasons other than Reese's eggs and Peeps....and jellybeans and chocolate bunnies - I'm not a Cadbury creme fan). 

As a Christian, for me it is a reminder of a huge sacrifice that was made for me and a time to take an honest look at my life and determine if I am living in a way that is even worthy of such a sacrifice and to see what changes I need to be making to try to become more worthy - changes that usually run a little deeper than typical goals set as New Year's resolutions, for example.

It is also a time of hope and peace in the belief that there is more to our lives than just life until death and of joy in the thought of being with loved ones again after they leave us here on Earth.

For non-Christians surrounded by others celebrating the holiday with time off from work or feasts with friends and family, I would think now is as good a time as any to join in the spirit of revival - of any kind! Spring is here! Maybe not all the way, but it's OK to breathe a little sigh of relief and wave (among other things) goodbye to winter! 

Spring is my favorite season. With grass peeking out, lakes thawing out and a brighter, warmer sun shining longer than it has for quite some time, I just cannot not be in a good mood! Everything is coming to life again, so why not give life to things you've been wanting to do but just haven't gotten around to yet? I seem to have the most energy this time of year, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

And if none of this interests you, please at least immerse yourself in a delicious brunch! Find delicious recipes here, here, here and here!

Happy Easter! I hope you're able to spend lots of time with loved ones and beloved food groups!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Friday Favorites

Sometimes I post 'Friday Favorites' on Fridays. And sometimes I spend all night turning my laptop on and off until I admit defeat and go to bed. I'm winning today, though, so - 

Spring is here (well, for the most part - we can never get our hopes up too much around here)! Suddenly people exist, and they're all running outside. I've mentioned before that my iPod tunes are in desperate need of an update, but there are some pretty old goodies on there I will never part with. My taste in music is not necessarily appreciated by many people, but they just don't know what they're missing. Here are five of my favorite (slow, ancient) non-running songs to run to:

1. I Knew I Loved You - Savage Garden. Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones created many, many beautiful and incredibly underrated songs (in my humble opinion), and running may be the last thing you'd think about doing to this ballad, but that build to the chorus is actually pretty motivating for building up to a sprint!
2. Mouth - Merril Bainbridge. No matter how tired I am, this song always picks me up. I don't know what it is that makes this so catchy and fun, but I love it!
3. Already Gone - Kelly Clarkson. Oh, Kelly. You give me chills every time - fast or slow.
4. Breathing - Lifehouse. My all-time favorite band. I don't know what I would do if I ever had the chance to see them play. Ahh. Again, I don't know why, but I find the slow-type build motivates me to move faster.
5. Halo - Beyonce. I guarantee if Beyonce shouting at you that she can "feel your halo" doesn't get your butt in gear, thoughts of this gorgeous lady working it on stage will.
      Happy running!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to make every day a bad day

I loved Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, but I have to be honest: one of my favorite MM movies will always be How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and today's post is loosely inspired by the how-to-in-reverse concept.

Lately I seem to have come face-to-face with life - reasons the phrase "life isn't fair" exists and situations that make you realize why your parents told you to stop trying to grow up so fast because it's not all it's cracked up to be (both from personal experiences and those of people around me).

Regardless of the severity of the hurdles you encounter, the easy reaction is to let them get the best of you  - aka let them swallow you up and make you feel hopeless and worthless (dramatic, much?). So just in case it's unclear, I've outlined a few ways to ensure you always feel like a failure and hold tight to that negative energy: 

*Turn conversations with friends into frustration rants focused on ways you you can out-misery each other.

*Go home from these uplifting conversations and pore through every accomplishment of every single Facebook friend and LinkedIn contact to reiterate the fact that everyone you know (or just know of) is beating you at life.

*Invite a pizza to your pity party. . . and since you're so generous, invite a few cookies and pints of ice cream too.


*After your new friends have weighed you down to the point where you're almost immovable, plop yourself in front of a mirror and pinch and squeeze and stare at and analyze every handful you can grab and dimple you can find until you don't even recognize the tear-filled eyes peering into and judging your soul.

*In a fit of desperation, create a list of goals resembling New Year's resolutions on steroids you are now required to stick to - starting tomorrow at 5 AM with the first of three daily workouts, mixed in with ridiculous short-term career goals and all the ways you'll be a better friend, employee, partner or stranger.

*Wake up the next day and realize your list is unrealistic and the best thing to do, instead of lowering some of the expectations, is to tell yourself you'll start tomorrow for the next few days . . . of the rest of your life.

*Resent every stranger you pass because of his or her amazing life (that you invented in your head).

*Take every sour interaction you have personally and forget that people's actions say everything about them and have nothing to do with you.

*Focus only on materialistic and temporal values. 

*Instead of being thankful you have a body healthy enough to run three miles, berate yourself for not running more.

*Instead of focusing on the things you're doing right in all life aspects, focus only on what you're not doing.

*Become so overwhelmed that you give up completely and tell yourself it's not even worth it to try anymore.

*Worry, worry and worry a little more about things you can't control.

*Take playing the blame game to a whole new level.

*Take everything seriously and forget that life is about ups AND downs - and that the downs are almost more important than the ups.

I could go on and on, and I'm sure everyone could add something to this list. I am slowly learning that your attitude is really all you have, and though I may be a little late to the party, it is a beautifully painful lesson to learn, but one I hope to start living.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Favorites

Wednesday's glimpse was my 50th post! My first Friday Favorites listed my five absolute favorite blogs (SkinnyRunner no longer blogs, though, FYI), and I'm thinking 50 posts later is the perfect time to share five more, so here you go!

She shares everything from running tips to recipes and all the super-relatable ups and downs experienced by us real girls trying to stay healthy (with plenty of indulgences in the mix).

The name alone sucked me in, but what keeps me there are the recipes and workouts (two of my favorite things)! She's a personal trainer and shares a lot of mini easy-to-do-anywhere workouts along with the different DVDs and classes she loves.

How shocked are you to find out that I love this blog for . . . the recipes and workouts? OK, so my favorite blog topics are somewhat limited, but I love what I love:) She's also a personal trainer and shares A LOT of workouts. Her husband is a pilot in the military, so it's interesting to read about that aspect of her life as well.

 A registered dietitian, she first started blogging a few years ago when trying to lose weight. She more than keeps it off now and shares a lot of awesomely healthy recipes.

 Her tagline reads, "Self-acceptance is delicious." Do I even need to say anything more? Hilarious and beautifully honest, you need to read her thoughts on everything from motherhood to friendship and the millions of general life happenings in between.

Happy reading this weekend!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A glimpse into the life of. . .

                ALLI JAGODA 
It's easy to fool yourself into thinking you're a photographer with all of the fancy gadgets, editing software and crazy amount of other technology out there today. But it takes a true artist to really capture a moment or emotion in a way that transforms it into - well, art.

Today's glimpse takes us into the life of one of these few: Alli Jagoda, owner of Sweet Light Studio and Alli Jagoda Photography. I met Alli almost two years ago through church, and though I was (and still kind of am) my awkward keep-my-head-down-and-hope-no one-notices-or-talks-to-me self, she has always been welcoming and gracious, and it is truly wonderful to be in her presence. And her photos? Exquisite. Take a peek here and here; then read below for some tips and tricks.

Current profession: Photographer/ Owner of Sweet Light Studio and Alli Jagoda Photography.

Summary about your studios and background: I’ve been doing commercial photography since I moved to Minneapolis to open a studio 14 years ago. Once I started my family I wanted to extend my work to something more flexible, and so I started another studio called Sweet Light Studio, which is a photography portrait business for just about anyone that wants to look good. I’ve found that I like shooting a mix of commercial and portrait work – it keeps things interesting!

Dream job: Shooting the children’s clothing catalog for Wee People or ads for The Gap.

First job ever: Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at age 14. I got to make fudge in the store window display. Mmmm!


First “grown up” job: Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine six-page fashion spread when I was 21 years old.

What drove you to pursue photography? I got accepted into college as a drawing and painting major, but I decided that I wasn’t that good and switched to photography knowing that photography would keep pace with my ideas faster than a paint brush.

What is your favorite part about your job?  I just love making pretty pictures that tell a story or that capture an honest moment.

From Alli's Sweet Light Studio

What is the most challenging aspect? Battling what I call the “perma-grin” with children. Many kids have been coached by parents to stretch an awkward smile on their face when a camera is placed in front of them. Consequently, I NEVER tell a child to “smile." Instead we do things that will get them to laugh - and that is when I start taking pictures.

Favorite object/person/location/event to photograph? This is an impossible question for me to answer. I deliberately shoot many different subjects of all ages and in all surroundings because I find beauty in it all. And one of the reasons I think I’ve been satisfied in my career for so long is because of the variety it allows. It can be portraits of babies one day and a fashion shoot for a new jewelry line the next day. 

From Alli's Sweet Light Studio
What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing a similar career? You don’t have to go to college for photography, but it does put you on the fast track! By the time I was 22, I was shooting ads for Target and doing eight-page fashion spreads for magazines. I think it would have taken me much longer to do that without the jump-start that a commercial photography program gave me.

And advice I give often to my photography interns is to learn just as much about running your own business as you do about photography. You might be the most talented photographer out there, but if you can’t handle all the estimates and invoices, then you won’t work for long. (At least in the beginning- you can eventually hire that work out! )

What advice do you wish you could give your 20-year-old self? I turned down a five-day clothing catalog shoot when I first started because I had never done a production that large before and was scared that I’d screw it up - only later to realize that I could have hired a producer to take care of all the details I was scared of doing myself. I’m still kicking myself for that blunder.
From Alli's Sweet Light Studio
How do you define success? Money is certainly easy to quantify, but the joy I feel at doing my job well holds more lasting value for me and brings me a feeling of accomplishment and success.

Who has been your biggest influence, personally or professionally? My step mom. She’s inspired me both personally and professionally. She owned and operated a large publishing company as a single mom for many years before marrying my dad. I love that she was able to be so accomplished with her business and how wonderfully she raised my two step sisters. I want to be able to accomplish the same balance with my professional and personal family life.

What hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time? I get a huge amount of satisfaction from organizing things, cleaning things, redecorating… anything that makes my surroundings more beautiful is really fun for me to do.
And I like to bake and decorate cakes. I put myself through college working as a cake decorator. This is a skill that still comes in handy.

Number one on your bucket list: Travel to Japan.

Favorite ice cream flavor: Salted Caramel.

Thank you, Alli!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Favorites

Open letters are everywhere these days, as more and more people use the Internet as an outlet (or a wall to hide behind after spewing things they wouldn't dream of saying in person). Some are good, and some are really bad. Either way, I love reading them and hope to write a few myself sometime.

After reading this one to Gwyneth Paltrow after her unsurprisingly obnoxious statements this week, I thought I'd share a handful of the other ones I like!

1. This one to Miley Cyrus (I know there are more than several).



Have a great weekend! We might hit 60 degrees here on Sunday, so I know I will!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My first "spin"

Even though I go through phases, I consider myself to be in good shape. I cried laughed that thought away this week when I finally had my first “spin” adventure.

I use quotes because – this was news to me but probably not to anyone who knows a thing or two – Spin, like Zumba, is a registered trademark name, so gyms without a Spin license can’t call their similar classes spinning classes. My gym calls it cycle, so I officially took my first cycle class, but from what I’ve heard, it’s basically the same thing. 

Whatever you call it, it has never appealed to me for one pretty big reason: the bike. I strongly dislike riding a bike because not only can I not balance enough to stay upright very long, but the lack of control I feel on one freaks me out. Yes, these are stationary bikes, but if there’s anything I dislike more than trying to stay on a bike, it’s sitting – on anything – but especially on a tiny, uncomfortable “seat.” 

However, my curiosity tends to get the best of me sometimes, and when something is so popular among so many different people, I want to know what all the fuss is about. I’m fascinated by the number of cycle fanatics we get at the gym. The strategies people come up with to make sure they snag a spot in class amaze me.  I was also intrigued by this article responding to claims that too much Spinning gives you bulky thighs. To me, bulky = muscle, and since my legs were not made to be slim to begin with, I’ll take bulky muscle over bulky jello. 

For a few months now, I’ve been wanting to try a class, and my schedule only allows for early morning options. I have even impressed myself by the number of different ways I’ve been able to talk myself out of going, but last weekend I finally gave in.

What I expected
First and foremost, I expected to leave the class a soggy, shaking mess. I also expected a fired-up instructor shouting out commands – and not in the endearing way Jillian does it (in her DVDs at least). I wanted to make sure to grab a bike in the back corner – obviously – because I had a feeling I’d be sitting while everyone was standing and sitting still while everyone else was pedaling up a storm. I was especially nervous about getting the bike situated just right because the last thing I wanted after getting up early to do two of my least favorite things was to not get as much as possible out of my workout. Plus, I don’t have the fancy, clippy spin/cycle shoes so I wanted to figure out the pedal situation. I also assumed capris to be a better option than shorts as to keep the thigh flappage to a minimum.

What happened
What happened is what usually happens on the rare occasion I venture out of my comfort zone: I regretted not doing it sooner. I was so happy to arrive with enough time to choose the perfect spot – middle left, back row. The girl a few bikes down was a newbie too (accompanied by a workout buddy, of course – a foreign concept to me), so I felt less nervous right away. The instructor recognized me from working the front desk and helped me adjust the seat, handle bars and pedals. I don’t know how official Spin bikes are set up, but these pedals were made to accommodate both cycle shoes that clip onto one side of the pedal and regular athletic shoes you stick into a little cage-like contraption with an adjustable strap to tighten around the front of your shoe. 

Before going around the room to help a few other non-experts, she also took the time to explain the screen that displays the time, speed and mileage and how to change gears. Two of my biggest worries were immediately solved – success!

I had heard the seats would be painful, and I have never wished so badly that I had been lied to. 

I’ve got plenty of cushion, but after just 15 minutes sitting in the softest, most comfortable seat imaginable, I get extremely sore, so you can imagine how awesome I was feeling after just one minute on the bike. As people started trickling in, I pedaled along with the rest of the group warming up, desperately trying to fit in and somehow hide the ridiculous amount of squirming I had to do to keep myself from running away and calling it quits. What helped was sitting in the back; it's not only a great spot for hiding – it’s a great spot for people watching, and I was able to keep my mind off the pain a little by being entertained by the rest of the participants, from the super serious to the oddly indifferent.

As luck would have it, five minutes into the class, as I reached down to tighten the shoe straps, I pulled the right one all the way off. Instead of doing the smart thing – switching to the empty bike right next to me –  I tried to just tuck the broken strap under my foot, hoping for the best. It was manageable, but my foot and ankle definitely paid for it later that day and into the next. For the next 55 minutes we climbed hills and did sprint intervals, alternating a lot between pedaling using just the right or left leg, which I hadn't expected or thought of but liked.

Two things surprised me the most: 1. How out of breath I got! I realize it’s a cardio class, but I didn’t expect it be so aerobic, I guess. It was awesome. 2. How sweaty everyone else was. I build up a pretty good sweat just walking across the street (I’m just lucky that way), so seeing how much of a workout it was for everyone else was less embarrassing.

OK, I guess three things surprised me, with the third being how much I loved it. I can’t quite explain the feeling I got when I was standing and pedaling as fast as I possibly could, with music at just the right volume with just the right beat. Even though I was surrounded by others, I felt like I was alone and racing the wind, as corny as that sounds (and there was no wind). It was just very freeing.

The instructor was awesome . She explained things very well and perfectly balanced words of encouragement with just staying silent and letting us do our own thing.  I really like that you’re able to control your own pace and resistance. Of course I was a creep and tried to do exactly what the ripped girl in front of me was doing, but I had no problem switching down gears when the burn was just too much. 

Overall, the only thing I wish I would have done differently (besides not staying on a bike with a broken pedal strap), was how much I pushed myself. I kept trying to save my energy since I didn't know what to expect next, but this resulted in me not getting the best workout I probably could have. My legs still felt it the next day, but not as much as they should have. 

The good news is I can incorporate this lesson into my next class because I will definitely be making this a regular part of my workout routine, and I strongly recommend it to you too if you haven't tried it yet (although, most people probably have since it's been around for quite awhile - but better late than never seems to be my life motto)!