Blogging 201: Day 2

In the world of blogging, I am a newbie – I admit that, I own that.  Which is why I feel no shame in the fact that, on the day I started TFB, I chose the first WordPress “auto-theme” that had the color pink in it and went with that.

Badda bing.

Now that I’m a more “seasoned” blogger (cough), I realize that there are lots and lots of themes out there – and it just takes a bit of time to wade through them all.  Hence today’s assignment:

photo 5B201 – Day 2 – Get Responsive

Make sure your site is mobile-friendly, and familiarize yourself with the features of responsive design.  So in order to fulfill this assignment, I did the following:

  • tested about ten different responsive themes on my laptop and phone (my apologies to any readers to came by during my “experiments” – I promise I’ll leave it alone for a while!)
  • selected and customized my *new* chosen theme
  • asked my readers to let me know how they read my blog and how the page looks on their devices

Oh, as for that third point?  Help a sister out.  My blogging education and personal satisfaction depend on it…

How do you read ThisFitBlonde?  Does TFB look great on your tablet, computer, or phone – or not so much?

Blogging 201: Day 1

Typically, I try to bring you guys the latest in health, wellness, and “miscellaneous” fun – but this week I am also participating in a project called Blogging 201.  B201 is an online course in blog productivity – helping bloggers focus, improve, and maximize their blog efforts through a series of lessons and exercises – so of course, I wanted in!

Each day, I’ll be posting a B201 “activity” in addition to my regular posts – so if you’re a blogger yourself, or if you simply want to know more about where ThisFitBlonde is heading, read on!

B201 – Day 1 – Set Three Goals

Consider what you want to accomplish with your blog. Write down three concrete goals you want to achieve.

  1. Publish FIVE times per week consistently through the end of 2014
  2. Spend ONE full hour each week reading followers’ blogs, commenting, and building blog community with my peers
  3. Invite THREE guest bloggers to add posts before the end of 2014 – one in October, November, and December

As you guys can probably gather, I’m a relatively new blogger – I recently hit the “50 Post” level, which makes me feel more established, but I am a newbie when it comes to the fitness blog community.  I want to be “known” among peers and used as a source of professional advice as well as a sounding board for concerns from my readers and peers – a support group of sorts.

Here’s to a much more productive final three months of 2014 – I’m ready for the challenge!

What are some of your favorite blogs to read?  What types of posts make you stop, click and actually read your feed?

Weekend Roundup

It’s been a lovely week – not as stressful as last week, and full of exciting events (Disneyland!  Blue Apron!  Family in town!).  That said, I’ve got fall and Halloween fully on my mind – as I’m sure many of us do – so the roundup reflects some of the best parts of the season – with some DIY surprises along the way to boot (get it?  BOOT?  ROUNDUP?  Ok, I’m done):

What kind of party host are you?  Unsurprisingly, I’m a BYOB hostess.  You can always come over with beer in hand.

Who doesn’t need more easy $10 homemade meals in their recipe arsenal?  I sure do.

Sick of wrapped-up licorice and tiny Snickers?  Try these grown-up (and very indulgent) Halloween treats.

Ever just done a stone-cold Pinterest search for the word “pumpkin?”  Now you have.  You’re welcome.

You guys know I am obsessed with bathing.  These easy drugstore and at-home detox mixes are making it worse.

She refers to the amount of mascara she wears as a “shedload,” so clearly we are kindred spirits.  Love her daytime look.

I can never “do” a white button-up in the way the fashion kids do.  But this slideshow makes me want to try.

I’m feeling SUPER lazy about Halloween this year.  Maybe something like this is my equally lazy solution.

Have you found THE quintessential pumpkin recipe yet?  What’s buzzing around your corner of the virtual world?

Pick Six: The Football Workout

I’m a football fan, sure.  But I’m also an exercise enthusiast.  So when it comes to game day, I have to make sure I get my workout on well before the games start playing (and on the West Coast, that’s no small feat – our games start at 10am!).

That said, I am always looking for a fast, effective, minimal-equipment workout routine that allows me to a) sleep in a little bit on a Sunday, b) look nice and toned for the game-watching events, and c) work up a massive sweat.

I present to you for consideration: my “pick six” game day workout.  The basic idea is this: six exercises, six sets, decreasing reps from ten down to – you guessed it – six.  All you need to get started is a pair of (relatively heavy) dumbbells, a chin-up bar, and a nice space to lay your body down for burpees and abs.  Ready?  Here we go:

Pull-ups (or lat

Want more?  When I actually did this workout in the gym yesterday, I added a bit since I had a full hour to get busy – here’s the “full form” workout for you animals out there:

WARM UP – 5 minutes running on the treadmill, rowing, or climbing stairs

SET #1 – Complete set above as described.

STAY WARM – 2 minutes jumping rope

SET #2 – Complete the exercises below in a similar pattern to the first set (2 x 10 reps, 2 x 8 reps, 2 x 6 reps):

FINISH STRONG – 5 minutes running, rowing, or climbing stairs

Try the shorter version workout when you are pressed for time – and the full version when you really want to kill it in the gym!  Feel free to share this one around (anyone can squeeze the short one in, even between setting up your fantasy lineup for the week and cracking open the first beer) – and let me know how you like it!

What’s your pre-game ritual?  Is Sunday a rest day or a workout day for you?

My Top 8 Lessons Learned in a Year of Wedding Planning

769_10101891931905125_953911257_nExactly a year ago today, my fiance Nick proposed.  I was overjoyed!  We flew off to India, celebrated the heck out of our engagement, and came home full of love.

And then wedding planning was in full swing.

I have always been a planner, and my inherent planning gene is in high gear when it comes to my own wedding.  I came prepared with a general idea of what I wanted (outdoors, bright colors, lots of details) but when it came time to actually put it all down on paper, commit to it, and budget for it – well, that’s a whole different story.

Nick is a fantastic partner.  He lets me have what I want to a certain point, and offers input only when valuable and necessary.  That said, wedding planning is a huge task, and although I’ve planned smaller parties and events, this is definitely the “big one” when it comes to my own planning experience – so I thought I’d share some of my own planning tips from my first year:

1) Read contracts closely, and prepare to fight for what you deserve.  I am currently working with a contracted vendor that wants to change the terms of our contract; after consulting several attorneys it is clear they are in the wrong.  That said, it’s easier said than done trying to get a vendor to understand their contracted responsibility while also trying to maintain any sort of friendly/positive working relationship.  Be ready to strike a balance between what you want and what you absolutely cannot live without – and be firm on the latter.

2) Stick to your budget, even in the face of amazingness.  I have a budget that is tighter than a pair of Richard Simmons’ Spandex pants.  But because I refuse to budge on it, I am much more creative with what I need to accomplish, and I’ve even “talked down” some vendors to meet my bottom line (like the floral designer who cut his estimate in half after I offered to pick up the bouquets!).  There are a lot of trendy ideas out there that seem like “necessities” – but you don’t need them to have a great wedding (for me, these things are wedding favors, a dessert table, and a champagne toast – all eliminated, no regret).  Your budget is your religion – don’t let anyone else’s influence shake your commitment to staying in the black.

3) Spend lots and lots of time on Pinterest – but then commit.  Just when you think you’ve seen the final word in a certain category – let’s say, aisle flowers – you do another Pinterest search and BAM – you’ve got a new concept in mind.  Sure, I am in full support of checking out the goods on Pinterest and finding your wedding style through the copious images available there.  But once you’ve made a decision on something, forbid yourself to look further into that thing.  Send a photo to your wedding planner and/or vendor, and leave it.  You can go crazy looking for “perfect” when what you really need is “perfect for YOU.”

4) Customize your dress.  Without throwing out numbers, know this: the alterations on my wedding dress cost twice as much as the dress itself.  So be it.  I want my dress to be one-of-a-kind, special, and perfectly fitted to me – and I will do anything to make the dress fit my exact specifications.  Sure, the “base dress” should already be darn good.  But to take it to the next level – whether it’s changing the hem, adding sparkle or detail, or adding straps – you need a good tailor.  Get one and make your personalized dreams come true.

5) Consider details.  Can you have a great wedding without a personalized napkin?  A custom-printed wine label?  A monogram-engraved cake cutter?  Sure.  But why should you have to?  A wedding is all about expressing your personal vision of you and your fiance’s relationship, and often the details are where those expressions are most genuine and real.  I have spent hours on Etsy concentrating on details like matching, custom-made flower girl and ring bearer outfits, and when they walk down the aisle, my guests will see unique and special people – not cookie-cutter, conventional kids.  It matters.

6) Provide information, then provide it again.  And again.  And again.  We sent out Save the Date cards in April and May with a single piece of information – a website link, which sent guests to a comprehensive website on which every detail about the wedding (from hotel accommodations to registry information to the wedding-day schedule) was contained.  However, we still got questions on these details from lots of guests – many of whom had never even turned the Save the Date card OVER to read the text (!).  In retrospect, I would put the website link on the FRONT of the card, reiterate the information on the back of the card, and perhaps even send a mass email to guests to remind them how to find the relevant information.  Too much is never enough in the case of wedding-related communication.

7) Ask for help.  Although I am planning everything myself, I still hired a day-of wedding coordinator (who will also be serving as our floral designer) to make the actual day easier on me.  I have also recruited my parents heavily (thanks Mom & Dad!) since they live i1800205_10102140640491125_1983772613_nn the wedding location and are retired, meaning they have time to do some of the things I can’t (like put individual liners in each and every invitation envelope).  It’s not a sign of weakness, bad planning, or impatience to ask for help – it’s the only way to maintain sanity through the process.  For most brides, you have a planner, a set of parents, a set of parents-in-law, an officiant, and an entire bridal party.  Don’t forget that they are there as a support group – not an entourage.  Ask for help when you need it!

8) Remember why.  Throughout all of the planning, a lot of my married friends have reminded me simply to remember why I am having a wedding – to celebrate the union of life and love with my partner and our family and friends.  That’s it.  As long as we both show up, the people we love are there, and there’s a celebratory atmosphere – that’s all that matters.  The little stressors will fade and the big picture – that we are getting MARRIED, joining our lives together, and continuing our relationship in a completely new and important way – is all we need to remember.

Brides – what are your best planning tips?  What would you tell me to think about NOW – four months out from the big day?

Lessons from the Organizing Pro

If you think this post is going to be about my personal organizing tips, take a moment to shake that off and have a hearty laugh. While I do credit myself with many talents – training, writing, and doing makeup among them – I come in about 50th percentile when it comes to organizing.  My home is “basically” neat (I’m no hoarder!), but if you look just beyond the surface, you’ll see the problems: piles of papers, stacks of books, spilling-over spices, and much, much worse.

A friend and client of mine mentioned that she’d had a professional organizer come into her new (much smaller) home and help her get unpacked and established.  I realized then that I’d moved into my home over five years ago and still didn’t feel established.  So I called this lovely woman* right up and made an appointment.

First task on the docket was to make a room-by-room task list, which I did in about 12 seconds.  List-making is no problem.  Execution…well, not so much.  She asked to organize the list by which room was causing me the most stress, which in this case was my kitchen.  So when she arrived at my house at 11am yesterday, we walked straight into the kitchen.

And I sighed.

See, this is exactly why I need a professional organizer.  It’s similar to why many people need a personal trainer.  It’s not that I am incapable of organizing, similar to how most healthy adults not incapable of exercising.  It’s more that when I look at what needs to get done, I don’t see a clear path on how to do it, and I get overwhelmed.  So she asked me a simple question:

Where do you keep your cookbooks?

This simple question was the catalyst for our entire day.  We started with the fact that I was storing cookbooks above the oven, which left them smoky, sticky, and generally forgotten – so we took them out and weeded through them (did I really need The Sunset Seafood cookbook from 1971?).  After picking my “top 10” (ok, top 17, but seriously, I love cookbooks!) we stacked them neatly by height across the kitchen from the oven,photo 3 out of harm’s way, yet completely visible and useful when I want to refer to them.

Once the cookbook cabinet was clear, we were able to take a lot of the countertop “junk” (read: Costco-sized food that was too large to go in the pantry along with some seasonal/party supplies) and put them up over the oven where a little bit of grime wouldn’t hurt ’em.

Next up was my spice problem – I have almost 100 unique spices (!) in all sorts of jars, tins, and bags, and they’re spread out all over the kitchen – some near the oven, some with the baking stuff, and some strewn about in a nearby basket.  She asked me to find a permanent home for the spices – whether on a rack, in a drawer, or somewhere else – and committing to both throwing away old, expired ones and decanting and properly storing any new purchases.

After a photometiculous inventory and reorganizing, we emerged with five (!) racks full of spices – two of the most-used near the stove, two racks of magnetic loose spices (mount pending), and one corner rack (see photo above) for the lesser-used stuff.  Badda bing!  The little jars and bags seem so much happier now that I can see them individually – and it makes prep time a thousand times quicker.

Oh yeah, also in that picture to the right?  TWO utensil caddies.  I told her I needed LOTS of utensils for the type of cooking I do, and she said that if I absolutely needed to have them, I absolutely needed to have a place to put them (up until this point I was shoving them all in one caddy, often overflowing and falling out along the way).

Next we moved on to another functional project – the “stations.”  Besides cooking, we determined that there are two auxiliary uses of our kitchen – shake-making and coffeemaking.  Both of these functions are done daily, and done require at least a few steps and devices (for the coffee, for example, we need the coffee maker, filters, coffee, mugs, and spoons).  That said, I was running all over the kitchen to make a simple cup of coffee – coffee was with baking stuff in the pantry, filters were under the sink (?), the mugs were next to the fridge, spoons in a drawer…nothing made sense.

The result of some simple cabinet-switching (and mug-donating – someone at Goodwill is going to be VERY happy with their new set of matching Christmas-themed mugs) and shelf-repurposing (yep, that’s a shower caddy corner-shelf thing from the bathroom section of The Container Store anchoring that shake station).

photo (1)photo 4

I know this might seem like small potatoes to some of you organizing gurus who came out of the womb with stacks of drawer inserts and shelving in hand.  But for people like me, who are used to just plugging along, putting stuff wherever it fits and hoping for the best – this was a revelation.  We finished the day by washing out all the cabinets with soap and water, finding lids for all pots and Tupperware, aphoto (2)nd taking a hard stance on glassware and plates (donating about half of what we had), and taking a helluva load (see photo – and this doesn’t include the TWELVE BAGS of stuff we trashed!) down to Out of the Closet (the donation transportation, incidentally, is part of her services – you don’t have to touch a thing once it’s out of your house for good).

Five and a half hours later, I had a workable kitchen – and boy, were the results immediate!  I made a very complex dinner last night with speed and finesse; I felt like I was working in a TV studio kitchen with everything within my reach and easily located.  I cannot wait for her to come back next week so we can work on Mammoth Project #2: the master bedroom (“before” photos pending).

Sure, there’s a cost involved with this type of service, and yes, I did drop a little extra cash at The Container Store last night on some storage and racks.  But the payoff in sanity and peace of mind is worth its cost multiple times over, and I am confident that once we have our entire house organized I will be a happier, more energetic, more efficient person in all parts of my life.

Have you ever hired a professional for this type of service?  What are your favorite home organizing tips?

*did I mention she’s kind of famous?  She’s a classically trained actress and has many fun and interesting stories to share while you work!  Please contact me privately for contact information and rates.

The Anger Problem

I have a problem.  It’s an anger problem.  I’ve had it all my life.  My temper gets vicious, my pulse races, and my mind gets stuck on whatever the thing is thaCREATIVITY.t made me angry – and I can’t let it go.  

The anger haunts my peaceful thoughts, disrupts my sleep, and makes me feel shaky, volatile, and upset all day.  I’ll try and find a way to distract myself, or I’ll go to sleep at night thinking I’ve found closure, and then BOOM – the moment my thoughts drift back to the issue, or wake up, or am reminded of what I’m angry about, the feelings are there full force.

I once went to therapy (the single therapy session of my life, which shows you how much this issue weighs on me) to deal with anger and the therapist taught me deep breathing techniques, which I had also learned to do in yoga and do find very helpful and centering.  Deep breathing can help me deal with anger in the moment, meaning it will stop me from acting, speaking, or lashing out in ways I will regret.

That said, no amount of breath can stop the anger I am talking about here.  The resentful, righteous, insidious anger.  The type that can only come from an unresolved argument, deep-seated insult, or lifelong feud.  I am involved in an ugly situation right now and it has consumed my past few days; each day worse than the next; no resolution at all on the horizon.

My wonderful father, whose temper is much like my own but whose experience and demeanor helps him control it much more effectively than I can, told me yesterday to just let it go.  He assured me that while I am fully entitled to my anger, it does not help this situation, and what we can do is fix the issue to the best of our ability – and in doing so, we will release our own stress, leaving the other party to their own nasty feelings, hateful words, and incompetence.

He’s right.  I know it.  So why do I struggle so much to do it?

As emotions go, I’m not a very showy person.  I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve.  I don’t give others the opportunity to know what I’m feeling most of the time, particularly if those feelings are negative.  I tend toward putting on a happy face even if it betrays my heart.  This strategy helps me stay optimistic and in control, both of which I need for my own sanity.

But in putting on this emotional mask, I surrender my mind to the resultant internal struggle – the fight to combat the angry feelings that still remain, regardless of how I’ve decided to proceed in action.  Even if I let it go in practice, “it” still shuffles around my brain, deep in my lonely thoughts, poison to the productive parts of my life that demand my attention.

This week my goal is to let go of my anger, both at face value and deep inside.  If I can give myself permission to forgive and forget, perhaps I will be stronger for it.  I will retrain my brain to react not with that sharp and sudden pang of fury, but with a rooted and contented understanding that in situations like these, it is what it is, and only I can put my mind at ease.

How do you deal with anger?  Do you have a temper – and how do you keep it under control?

Sunday Special: Bubblin’ Baths

When I started this blog, I made a commitment to writing six days a week (and on the seventh day, TFB rests).  Twice this week, I chose wine and sleep over writing, and so I present to you a one-time-only Sunday special entry – in honor of the bath.

Like most people over age 50, under age 5, or of extreme wealth and indulgence, I prefer baths over showers.  Apparently this is shocking to my peers, many of whom think it is “sitting in a tub of your own filth” or “a waste of water” or “dehydrating for your skin.”  All of these things may be true.  But for me, the bath is a singular pleasure.

When I am having a bad day, nothing calms and rejuvenates me like a hot bubble bath.  When I can’t sleep, a bath will often soothe me into peaceful rest.  When I wake up and the day seems overwhelming, I make an extra 20 minutes for a soak to set up my entire schedule for success.

Baths are my secret weapon.

So how do I bathe?  My friends, it’s all a carefully instrumented process, with specific products, methods, and order.  You fine readers are the first people (ok, second people, since my fiance is all-too-familiar with my weird habits) to know the details behind my old-timey bathing ritual.

First off, I stand in the bath before filling it so I can dry brush.  Dry brushing uses a brush like this one to exfoliate, invigorate, and detoxify the skin by increasing circulation, improving digestion, and removing impurities from the surface of the skin.  It feels amazing, wakes you up, and yes – even reduces the appearance of cellulite!

Now is a great time to light a candle if you’re in a super fancy mood, which for me is about once a month (and always on a weekend).  You and I both know that those crazy Diptyque candles are all the rage, and they are every bit as awesome as you think they are.  They are also $60 apiece and don’t last particularly long.  This one’s up to you, readers – save or splurge, but rest assured that a bubble bath with all the lights out and just a candle burning is the ultimate height of relaxation.

After sexy candle lighting and dry brushing (and a quick rinse of the tub to get the dead skin down the drain), I fill ‘er up with warm (not hot!) water and pour in one of three things:  either my ULTA 3-in-1 Beauty Smoothie in Buttercream Cupcake (for normal days), Dr. Teal’s Therapy and Relief epsom salts (after a week of tough training), or Village Naturals Aches & Pains Therapy Soak (once a week – the effervescent effect is stimulating and amazing).  All of these products are best used in 20-minute soaks, so if you’re the impatient type like me – set an alarm, grab a magazine, and make sure you stay put in that tub.

Before I get too deep into my US Weekly (yes, I allow myself to read total trash in the tub), I make sure to wash and deep condition my hair.  The product I have used for years and swear by is a simple and cheap one – Aussie Moist 3-Minute Miracle.  Yes, it really works in 3 minutes (even when you’ve curled, teased, or braided your hair) and yes, it really is a miracle for any hair texture and type,  You do remember that you’re in the tub for 20 minutes, right?  So let the conditioner sit and work.

What else to do with your precious tub minutes?  Pop on a face mask, of course!  I like to use a “low impact” mask that I can put on daily or near-daily, so my go-to is a nice cheapie from Queen Helene – the Mint Julep mask.  It shrinks my pores, clears my skin, and has a nice minty scent – plus it’s under four bucks.  Can’t be beat, IMO.  Should you want to elevate your regimen a smidge, I do recommend the Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask, which is a killer pore cleansing mask (I splurge on this one once a week – usually the same day I use the Aches & Pains bath salts).

After brushing, masking, and conditioning, I put on my bath gloves and exfoliate with oil.  Yes, oil.  I go through phases that typically follow the seasons – in the summer, I love a light, citrusy oil, whereas in the fall and winter I go for a deeper, musky scent.  Right now I’m stuck on this eucalyptus spearmint stress relief oil from Bath & Body Works, but this is one place you can go for quantity over quality.  Any essential or massage oil that you like will work; just pour it right onto your gloves and start massaging it in, focusing on places that are traditionally dry (upper arms, butt/upper thigh area, etc.).  This part isn’t super intense – you’ve already dry brushed, so this is more of a massage than an exfoliation – enjoy it.

Now the sad news, folks – it’s time to get out of the bath.  Rinse your face mask off, take off your gloves, and pull the plug – this whole lovely ritual is only intended to last 20 minutes so that you don’t dry out your skin, wrinkle your fingers and toes, or let the water get cold.  It’s a fleeting pleasure.

Afterwards, I try to keep the luxuriousness alive by working some Moroccan Oil treatment through my hair, throwing some Boots Organic Facial Oil on my skin (have I mentioned that I LOVE OILS?!?), and rubbing the old classic Nivea lotion into my entire body.

Boom.  We’re done.

I know it seems like a lot of steps, but believe me, this type of bathing is my sanity.  It is my release.  Since starting this ritual I have found so much more peace in my daily life, and it fills the space that a massage, yoga class, or meditation session usually would on weeks that those things just aren’t possible.

Do you bathe or shower?  What are your favorite products – and what “little luxuries” do you allow yourself each week?

Weekend Roundup

I dive into the Internet when all else fails, and this week has been a bit of a failure.  Oh well.  Let’s escape together…

I am obsessed with YouTube makeup tutorials – but seeing them attempted on real life New Yorkers is kind of hilarious.

Despite the horrific hybrid name, how have I not known about this amazing fit-fashion website before now/!?!?

Extra 30% off all the sale items at Forever 21.  I think for like $100 you can just buy the entire store.

You guys, I run.  A lot.  And I’m pretty sure I need all these ridiculously-priced but amazingly designed safety items.

So is Daryl gay or what?  Inquiring minds want to know.  Can’t wait for TWD to come back tomorrow night!

Obviously I need to know about the best Indian restaurants in the country, just in case I’m ever anywhere.

Taking advice from dogs has never done me wrong.  Ever.  You should try it.

I already have my (well under $500) wedding dress.  But perhaps the rest of you might want one of your own?

I mentioned that I run a lot, right?  Oh yeah.  So here’s one way to keep all your running/race day stuff organized.

What have you guys been into this week?  Did I miss any major web news?

Love Your Body – For Real

I am conflicted about the whole “love your body” movement.  I mean, the basic message is airtight – be proud of what you have – but I feel like it too often goes one of two ways: either a) “love” your body but secretly still desire to be a size 0, or b) actually love your body, but prepare to be judged if that body is anything outside the accepted feminine norms of size, shape, muscularity, etc.

Rock and a hard place, as always.

That’s why I love events like the upcoming Annual Love Your Body Fashion Show, where women from all different backgrounds, shapes, sizes, and gender presentations are invited to come together and enjoy the things that make every body feel good – yoga, massages, manicures, tasty food, amazing clothing, and a community that accepts and welcomes the diversity of women.

My favorite part?  The event is open to girls age 8 and older, which means you can bring your daughters, nieces, and other important young ladies in your life to the event and show them what acceptance, beauty, difference, and self-love look like.  There’s not a woman on the planet who couldn’t use a dose of that every now and then – especially here in image-obsessed Los Angeles.

For more info, check out the event’s Facebook page and follow them for more info.  The event is Sunday, November 2nd from 10:30am-3:00pm and is completely free with pre-registration.  I’ll be there with my girl Jenny from Pugs & Pearls, and we’d love to meet up with fellow love-your-body bloggers, too!