Why I Love & Defend (Crazy) Stylish Gym Clothes

Sorry to usurp my weekly Would Amanda Eat It? entry (it will bump to Thursday this week!) but a dear friend (and loyal reader!) of mine brought an article to my attention yesterday and said, “I think your full response to this will have to be a blog post.”

And she was right.

The article in question was about Nike’s new sportswear collection, which, the author claims, “looks more appropriate for a fashion runway than a gym.”  My first thought?

Finally!

But nope, lovely readers, in fact the full title of the article suggests that women are “insulted” by Nike’s new line.  The new collection, designed by Japanese powerhouse Sacai, features billowy skirt-pants and semi-sheer tops, among other street-inspired silhouettes (think lacy camisoles sewn into sweatshirts and mesh-front leggings).

Nike’s new Sacai line of activewear

And now, after seeing all this, I think:

Finally!

I have long lamented the absence of true fashion-forward style in fitness fashion, and the insinuation that just because something isn’t suited to “competitive sports” means it isn’t functional for a fit woman’s lifestyle is erroneous.  Also, what exactly about adding a sheer panel to the back of a T-shirt makes it less functional?

Nike has a long legacy of making actual sportswear for actual sports – there’s no disputing that, and about 80% of what’s in their current women’s activewear line is definitely made with exercise in mind.

So why does a brand who does so much “traditional” activewear get crucified when they theorize (rightly) that an active, fit woman might want to clean up and look kind of cool for a minute – without sacrificing comfort or movement?

And let’s be honest, critics who have seemingly just jumped on the Nike-griping bandwagon – were those popular Nike wedge sneakers ever remotely functional?

Nike Lunarwavy Ski Hi – adorable, yet horrible for actual sports

Where’s the outcry there?  There should be none, because I for one support the shifting of high-fashion ideals from the impossible-to-wear (and physiologically unhealthy) sky-high stilletto “norm” to a more activewear-focused, girl-on-the-move sense of what is fashionable.  This is a move in the right direction, ladies – not the wrong one.

And what of this Nike women’s short-sleeved poncho (again, not from the Sacai line)?  If you tried to work out in this plastic-covered bad boy, you’d suffocate, and the shortness of the sleeves means it’s not even really “functional” as a cool-weather jacket, much less an activewear staple.

And yet I think we can all agree that its purpose is not for playing sports; rather, its purpose is to emphasize a sense of style that doesn’t rely on skin-tight, crop-top, short-skirt, bare-all ideals of “high” fashion.  Pieces like this – puffy, the opposite of fitted, and a far cry from neon or sparkles – say to the world, “Ain’t nobody got time for bullsh*t,” and yet say so in a powerful, self-determined, athletic voice.

When it goes on sale (or makes it to the outlets), you can bet I’ll be one of the first ones lining up for the NikeLab x sacai line, because I am also the first one lining up for a new, more empowering vision of what a fit, fashionable woman can look like – and to me, that looks a lot like comfortable windbreaker skirts and cute, baggy sweatshirt dresses.

Do you think fitness and fashion are compatible?  Do you like – or hate! – designer “styled” athletic wear?

The Top Five Questions I’ve Received About Moving to Singapore

Blogiverse, listen up: my husband and I are moving to Singapore!

That’s right – after making it “Facebook official” earlier this week, I wanted to announce it also to my loyal WordPress, Bloglovin’, and other readers here on the TFB blog.  This is a huge life change for us – the second one this year, after getting married (!) – and we are over the moon excited about it.

That said, it’s an interesting thing when you start to tell people about a big life change.  When you tell people you got engaged, they want to see the ring.  When you tell people you got married, they say congrats and/or offer some sage piece of advice.  But when you tell people you’re moving to Asia, there are a whole host of odd/surprising reactions that I did not expect.

Like what, you might ask?  Herein lies the subject of this blog.

Where is Singapore, anyway?  Fair enough, fellow Westerners.  I can’t say that it was until a couple years into our relationship that Nick took out a map and actually pointed to Singapore so I could understand its position – and tiny size – among the other Southeast Asian countries.  That said, here’s a map to get us all up to speed:

Yes, it’s an island.  Yes, it’s tiny (276 square miles).  And yes, it’s far away (18.5 hours flight time from Los Angeles, making it one of the world’s longest flights).

Will you need to learn the language?  Luckily enough, folks, “the language” spoken in Singapore is English – they were a British colony until independence in 1965, so English is the predominant national and conversational language spoken in the country.  That said, because they are such a melting pot of cultures, Singapore DOES have four national languages – English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil – and often you will see all four on the same street sign (hint: Tamil is the one that looks like curlicues).

Is Singapore the capital of Malaysia?  Again, because Singapore is so small and somewhat remote and often looked over on maps of the region, you may not realize that Singapore is its own country – and in fact, its own island – separate from Malaysia.  It was part of the Federation of Malaya (which did include Malaysia) for less than two years from 1963-1966, but that’s it.  Singapore is its own city-state – Singapore, SINGAPORE.

What’s the weather like over there?  I hear it’s bad.  Oh yes, my friends, you heard right – especially if you’re an Angeleno, where “bad weather” means “anything under 60 degrees” or “any degree of rain” or “a day without sunshine.”  The weather in Singapore is…tropical.  Wait, let’s build on that – equatorial rainforest tropical.  Which means the average daily temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit (although most days the temps hit 90 at least once), there are two monsoon seasons (December to March, where the rainfall is heavy and daily; and May to September, where morning rainstorms dominate and leave the rest of the day relatively dry), the humidity hangs around 80-90% each and every day, and the sun rises and sets at roughly the same time every day (7am, 7pm).  It will be an adjustment, but it could be worse…right?

SING-in’ in the rain…get it?

And finally – one of my faves – what will you DO over there?  Surprisingly enough, at least to a lot of people unfamiliar with the region, fitness is big business in Singapore.  Personal training, group exercise, and nutrition consulting all exist – and even thrive – and there is definitely a benefit to being a Caucasian, blonde, female Westerner in this field.  Although it will take me some time to really understand the industry and its differences from what I’m used to here in L.A., I plan to train, consult, and write – just as I do here – under the ThisFitBlonde name and brand – so worry not!  I’ll be the same ol’ TFB, just coming to you from halfway around the world.

Have you ever considered an overseas move – or lived abroad?  What questions did you feel like you were constantly answering about your choice?

Weekly Roundup

Ah, internet, I feel so safe and cozy when I’m basking in your loving glow.  Sick as it sounds, there is something comforting about being able to just sit at home with my browser open, lazy on my couch and surfing my fave blogs from the week gone by.

That said, it’s been a while since I’ve updated the Roundup so there’s a lot to check out!

These crazy makeup hacks are almost as nuts as the blue/gold dress debacle.  Red lipstick as CONCEALER?!

A client recently insisted that I have thick hair, which almost made me cry with pride as I’ve always considered myself a thin-hair girl.  These tricks must be working!

BYE FELICIA.  Wait, that’s not right.  BYE GISELE.

Obviously my Palm Springs wedding was my favorite ever.  But this is a close second.

I don’t care if they’re “cool” or whatever, I just adore printed shorts of all kinds.

Just seeing these numbers makes my bank account shudder – my grad tuitions didn’t even touch these amounts, and I’m still feeling the burn.

I just discovered the lululemon expert blog, and now I’m addicted.  As if I needed that.

OMG I feel more stylish just because I know about this app – it turns your snaps into fashion sketches.  How cool is that?

Allow me one more wedding-related link – these amazing photo envelope liners are literal game-changers when it comes to personalized invites.  Love ’em!

What are you guys looking into this week?  Share with me your favorite links!

The Five Stages of Soreness & How to Break Free

I feel like there are two types of people who get sore after workouts:

It burns

1) People who are formerly sedentary and whose bodies are “waking up” to the shock of actually doing meaningful exercise

2) People who are overactive and have such an intense program of exercise that their bodies always kind of ache

Those who are never sore also fall into two categories:

1) People who don’t do sh*t anyway

2) People who stretch and foam roll so well that they eliminate all soreness before it even has a chance to settle in

Oh, Dickie Simmons, I love you.

I have this fanciful nostalgic memory of being one of the “never-sores,” where I could run miles and miles, lift heavy weights, and then spring out of bed with the vim and vigor of a young Richard Simmons (or heck, even an old Richard Simmons).

I am pretty sure those days were due to a medical condition I used to have called “being in your twenties.”  Now that I’m 30, sh*t is getting real.  I have a general level of hip pain.  My knees are hit or miss.  My mid-back feels like it gets punched while I sleep.  And my whole body crackles.

Now while that might sound alarming, I assure you that for me (and for my fitness level, job status, and age) this is perfectly normal.  For folks that are newer to exercise, just getting into weight lifting, or simply trying a new activity, consider the five levels of soreness – and assess where you fall on the scale:

1) In-Motion Soreness.  This is the kind that sets in during your workout, while you are still actively exercising.  It may come in the form of lactic acid buildup, muscle fatigue, or just “feeling the burn,” but it’s usually fleeting and stops as soon as you stop moving, put down the weights, or catch your breath.

2) Day-Of Soreness.  So you worked out this morning.  Good for you!  But then most likely you went and sat down in a car or office, and suddenly when you got up to go to the bathroom your legs felt like they were going to collapse under you.  Soreness at this point is basically stiffness; your body is beginning to feel the effects of your exertion.

3) Next-Day Soreness.  Ah, the pain of trying something new.  Hamstrings that felt so free and loose in yoga yesterday feel like they’re going to snap in half today.  Hips that shimmied and shook their way through Zumba can barely propel your feet forward today.  Areas that feel sore the next day can give you a clue to muscle imbalances and form problems, too, so pay attention to unilateral (one-sided) pain and/or neck strain.

4) Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).  Yep, this is a thing – a medically documented reality.  You might feel superb the day after a workout and think the soreness has passed you by – only to be blindsided by pain 48 hours after.  DOMS strikes even the strongest among us, especially when trying to “up your game” (run faster, lift heavier, go further).  Find comfort in the fact that it’s only temporary, and usually gone by 72 hours.

5) Chronic Soreness.  Also known as injury, this is the type of burn you don’t want.  Chronic soreness and/or the fatigue associated with it is a sign of chronic inflammation, which is related to a whole host of undesirable health problems.  Chronic soreness accompanies certain sports injuries like stress fractures, muscle strains, and tendinitis.  Any persistent soreness that lasts beyond 72 hours is worth a trip to the sports doc or physical therapist just to make sure everything is OK.

All this being said – I do have some tried-and-true methods for eliminating (or at least managing) soreness.  For example:

  • epsom salts baths.  I swear by ’em.  I buy good old Dr. Teal’s and I soak for a legit 20 minutes, at least twice a week.  This is basic maintenance for me.
  • ice baths.  Also sworn by, but horrifically uncomfortable and really only necessary in the face of massive effort (for example: a 16-mile marathon training run).  15 minutes max for me, and usually with a hot cup of tea in hand to ward off the chills.
  • sports massage.  Whether you prefer Chinese (best spot in L.A.) or Thai massage (like me) or more traditional Western massage, make sure your therapist knows where you’re hurting, what types of activities made you hurt, and how firm you need the pressure to be.  I like to get one at least every two weeks; one a month is crucial.
  • foam rolling.  This is your daily fix – the way you can relieve muscle soreness in a jiffy (caveat: it hurts like hell).  I recommend going through these stretches/exercises to release the conventional spots of soreness, plus going double on any areas that bother you regularly.
  • yoga.  I always tell clients I’ve never gotten injured while doing yoga regularly (for me, just one a week does it) – and it’s true.  When I let the yoga lapse, the inflammation takes over – and that’s no bueno.  You can check out a YouTube at home or hit the studio – it doesn’t take much to reap the stretchy benefits.

What stage of soreness do you feel most often?  What remedies do you use to relieve it?

Another Round of Lessons From the Organizing Pro

Remember when the organizer first came to my house and fixed my kitchen?  And then do you guys recall when she came back and we tackled the hell out of my bookcases?

Well, we just stepped it up a notch, Teresa (the organizer) and I.  We took it to the big leagues: my bedroom closet.

Sure, pretty much every closet in my home is jam-packed – we only have so much space, and we house two people with lots of stuff.  But I don’t have to see every closet in my home every day of my life.  I do, however, have to dress myself daily.  And so having an organized, well-structured and separated closet was a huge priority for me.

Upon looking at my disaster, Teresa noted the following issues:

  • Nick and I had TWO separate and distinct Master-bedroom closets, and yet we each had stuff in both of them – meaning neither of us had our own space
  • There was a ton of stuff in the closets unrelated to dressing (memorabilia, wrapping paper, and sporting goods, to name a few)
  • There was an utter lack of organizational tools, such as bins, buckets, boxes, or anything to separate what had become piles of stuff loaded up on the shelves
photo 2

Jammed-in clothes and Nick’s shirts – why??

We attacked in similar fashion to my other conquests – by first unloading everything, making trash and donation piles, separating Nick’s and my stuff, and then replacing (only) my items in systematic ways that made actual sense.

photo 3

My closet runneth over

After clearing out five full trash bags of clothes, shoes, and purses, we transitioned everything over from crappy Old Navy plastic hangers to amazing, velvet nonslip ones (definitely worth the relatively minor investment, and they make you feel so glam).  Just seeing my clothes, organized by type, material, and color, hung on those beauties makes me feel like Cher Horowitz.

Rather than stuffing my workout clothes (by far the “most worn” items in my closet) onto a far-too-high shelf, we bought some cheapy sliding-drawer bins and separated my tops into tanks and shirts, then put them cleanly away.  Same went for my scarves (in canvas pull drawers).  Same for bathing suits (which were previously threatening to take over an entire shelf like creeping ivy).  Same for hats.  They were all given a neatly contained, accessible but not visible permanent home.  And I love it.

photo 5

Proper velvet hangers. Shelf separators. Heaven.

Teresa also noticed that my dresses, which are more or less my weekend uniform, were exiled to the front hall closet (mostly because they are long!) – but if we simply moved one shelf a bit higher, we could hang the longer ones where the sweaters were currently hogging the real estate (BTW, sweater solution: folded and shelf-separated) and squeeze the short ones in with my tops.  Result?  My most-worn items were finally in front of my face when I walked in the closet.  Ideal.

Finally, we realized that because the ceilings (and therefore shelves) were so high, there was a lot of unused – but totally viable – space in the higher echelons of the closet.  I bemoaned having to bring a dining room chair in there every time I wanted to get something down, to which she simply replied, “Get a stool.”  Sheer genius.  I got a foldable stool that slides behind my clothes so it takes up no space, and now my luggage, additional storage bins, and “special occasion” hats (yep, I have those) are top-shelf but not forgotten.

Processed with Moldiv

Processed with Moldiv

What became of Nick’s stuff, you ask?  Well, with the amount of “shared” spaces in both of our closets, we were able to evacuate some items of mine into my “new” closet and “refill” his with his own stuff – a bit more crowded on his side now, sure, but that’s a project for another day.

All in all, we were able to transition my closet space from a messy, spilling-over stressfest to a neat, spacious walk-in – which is exactly what I wanted.

Next up?  Bathrooms (yep, those crazy messy under-sink and medicine cabinet zones) and “other” closets (front, guest, Nick’s).  The battle may be won, but the war rages on…

Which spaces in your home need some TLC?  What items help you feel organized?

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?