Friday, March 30, 2012

*Proper* Tattoo Aftercare

Okay. I have to be honest...I am shocked and appalled that a Google search does not reveal any sort of website with decent tattoo aftercare instructions.

I guess I just don't understand why tattoo artists don't/can't agree on the best way to care for a new tattoo. I've been to three different shops (and at one of those I was inked by two different artists) and they've all given me slightly different instructions. That said, the shop where I was inked more than once - a place called Body Graphics in Windsor, CT - gave me by far the best instructions. The tattoos I got there, and the tattoos I received afterward and cared for using the instructions I got at Body Graphics, were the ones that healed best and faded the least over the years.

I also understand that everyone's bodies are different, but between the three of us my sisters and I have something like 20+ tattoos. They learned their aftercare from me, and the only tattoos any of us have that didn't heal properly are one of mine, which was simply in a bad place (and also has a lot of blue ink in it, and apparently my body rejects blue ink and only blue ink), and one of my youngest sister's, which was also in a bad place but on top of that I wasn't around when she got it and she followed crappy aftercare instructions to boot because of that. Bad big sister, I know.

So without further ado...here are the best tattoo aftercare instructions I can possibly give. Enjoy ;)

1. First, I suppose you have to get your tattoo. ;)


For future reference, this one is on the upper front of my thigh and it's the one that healed badly (lots of fading/loss of ink). I do think the artist should have told me up front that the extremely tender skin in that area was not not NOT good for tattoos, but neither he nor I had any way of knowing that my body would reject the blue ink the way it did (and this was my 8th tattoo!) and it was a combination of those two things that led to the tat not healing well. The picture above was taken literally minutes after it was finished, by the way.

2. The artist should put some sort of bandage over the tattoo - sometimes an actual bandage, sometimes just some paper towels taped over it, sometimes just some Saran wrap. Leave that bandage on for I'd say at least 3-5 hours.

3. When you do remove the bandage, do so carefully, peeling it back slowly, blah blah blah. I think this should be obvious, but still, it's worth being repeated. If the tattoo is in a hard-to-reach area, get someone to help you remove the bandage.


4. Once you've removed the bandage, wash your new tattoo gently with warm water and an anti-bacterial soap. 

Personally I always use the regular old orange bar of Dial; I feel this is best because it doesn't have any weird scents or stuff in it that could irritate the skin. I have super sensitive skin and have never had a problem using this soap to wash a new tattoo. DO NOT USE LIQUID SOAP.

5. You can let your tattoo air dry after washing it, but I prefer blotting gently with a soft towel so that the tattoo doesn't remain wet for too long.

6. Once your tattoo is dry, gently dab a *thin* layer of Tattoo Goo or Burt's Bees hand salve over it.

A lot of artists will tell you to use A & D ointment, but to this I say no No NO. A & D ointment is petroleum based. It is too...thick, or something, and it doesn't let the tattoo breathe enough. I used the stuff once and will never, ever do so again. Seriously, do yourself a favor and invest in some Tattoo Goo (the last time I bought it, it was only about $5 for a small tin) or some Burt's Bees hand salve ($8-ish for a large tin, and you can usually find it at Target, Walgreens, etc.) 

7. I would only wash your tattoo once on the day that you get it, but if there is quite a bit of time between that first washing/goo application and when you go to bed I do suggest applying a second thin layer of the goo or hand salve before going to bed.

8. After that first day, wash your tattoo as instructed above at least 2 times a day, 3 if you feel it is necessary, continuing to apply the goo or hand salve immediately after washing and blotting it dry.


The picture above was taken a couple of days after I received that tattoo, but before it started drying/peeling/scabbing.

9. AS SOON AS YOUR TATTOO STARTS DRYING/PEELING/SCABBING - STOP WASHING IT MORE THAN ONCE A DAY, AND UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU CONTINUE APPLYING ANY SORT OF GOO/HAND SALVE/OINTMENT/LOTION TO IT. 

(As a note, depending on where the tattoo is located and how much damage it did to your skin while you were getting it, it will likely start scabbing somewhere between 48 and 72 hours after the artist finishes.)

I seriously cannot express how important the above instruction is. I've actually seen websites (one was a shop site, another was a site with instructions based on someone whose first tattoo healed badly, and a third may have been a wiki or ehow page) that specifically say to continue using lotions/ointments etc. even after the tattoo starts scabbing. Again, do not do this. 

I actually know someone who ignored my advice because his tattoo was itching (duh, that means it's healing) and because he'd seen on the internet that he could use a lotion on it to calm said itching (I want to say it was like Eucerin or something) he did so. And the tattoo not only healed badly, but also got infected, because it wasn't being allowed to heal/breathe the way it should have been. (And no, it definitely wasn't this person's body/skin or anything to do with the needle/artist as this person had numerous tattoos before and after this one, and not only him but others I know had been to the artist without any issues.)

10. Again, once the tattoo starts drying/scabbing, along with not applying the goo/hand salve any more, cut down to washing it just once a day when you shower, continuing to do so gently and continuing to blot it dry. Do not rub it dry. DO NOT SCRATCH AT IT. Obviously. It *will* itch - you need to just suck it up. 

Honestly I've taken to gently pressing against the skin around the healing tattoo with my fingertips to help ease the itching; it's better than nothing and better than scratching, I suppose ;)

11. If the tattoo is in an area that is constantly covered with clothes, make sure to wear loose-ish clothing over the tattoo while it is healing (until most of the scabbing is gone, if possible).


12. No soaking in bathtubs, no pools, no hot tubs, no tanning booths, and no direct sunlight exposure (if you can avoid that last one) until the tattoo is completely healed (minimum two weeks, three weeks is good, I'd say go as long as 4 or more if you can).

13. In fact, try to avoid direct sun/tanning bed exposure for at least 6 to 8 weeks, and after that make sure to always put sunscreen on your tattoo when it is going to be exposed to the above :) - but only put sunscreen on it after it is completely healed, not while it is scabbed/dry!


Just an example of how great my tattoos look even after many many years. The oldest of the ones you can see in this picture is from January 2001; the "newest" is from either the fall of 2002 or the fall of 2003, I can't recall which. I actually just got the sacred heart on the back of my right shoulder covered up, but that's another story for another post ;)


Sorry for the smoochy photo, but this is the most recent close-up picture I have of any of my older tattoos. Again, they not only healed well but survived well thanks to proper aftercare!

Soon to come...a post about that sacred heart tattoo, why I covered it up, and what I covered it with ;)
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why are we even discussing "Fake Geek Girls", anyway?

Well, I know I'm not the only one who is going to be doing this, but hey...I'm gonna do it anyway.

I had a special tattoo post all set up for today - because I finally had my new back piece finished this past weekend - but then this article, "Dear Fake Geek Girls, Please Go Away", caught my attention.

The woman who wrote it, Tara Tiger Brown, has apparently been a "technologist" for fifteen years and is a mentor for "passionate learners" (whether she means people who are passionate about learning about technology or just passionate learners in general, I'm not sure). Well. I'm here to say that she shouldn't be mentoring anybody, because apparently she believes that unless you desire to memorize every single nuance of something that you are interested in, you're a fake.

Now let's get one thing straight - I love to cook, I'm good at it, I know a decent amount about it (including how to "fix" recipes so that they are more to my taste and such), and I even blog about it sometimes. But I don't call myself a chef. However, by Ms. Brown's standards, I have no right to say that "I love to cook" because I'm not utterly obsessed with it. And that, my friends, is just ridiculous.

This gem was in the very first paragraph of her article:
"A geek is synonymous with anyone who has an Internet connection."
Honestly my reaction to this was "haha WUT?" Because I'm pretty sure that not even the majority of people who have an Internet connection would refer to themselves as geeks, and in that case how can the two then be synonymous? Way to make a blanket statement, but of course, that's what this article is all about - blanket statements.
"Pretentious females who have labeled themselves as a “geek girl” figured out that guys will pay a lot of attention to them if they proclaim they are reading comics or playing video games."
I'm sorry, so now the only reason most girls are calling themselves "geeks" is because they think it will gain them attention from guys? Even if that happens once in a while, the fact of the matter is that any self-respecting guy will quickly be able to tell if his new girl is faking her interest in comics or video games or MMOs or what have you. And beyond that, what if the girl really does love comics or video games? Because Ms. Brown is making it sound as if that never happens, or as if it can't happen. Newsflash: just like when a girl proclaims a love of sports, it doesn't mean she's doing so to attract the attention of guys, it also doesn't mean that a girl who "proclaims [she is] reading comics or playing video games" is doing so to attract the attention of guys.

I will admit that there are a couple of positive gems in the article.
"Don’t pretend to love something because you think it will get you attention."
"Being a geek isn’t something you so much decide to do, but realize you are after the fact."
The first of those gems is simply something that holds true in all things, not just geeky things. Love what you love because you love it, not because you think you should love it, have to love it, or because loving it will garner attention. That's just common sense.

The second statement is, to me, a good one mainly because that's the way it went with me. I spent nearly half my life fighting against the idea that I was geeky - hiding it, being ashamed of it, not fostering my geeky instincts and interests in favor of doing things that were more "socially acceptable". And then I met an amazing friend who showed me, for all intents and purposes, how to "be one with my geekiness". I'd always been a geek; but finally at age 19 I not only realized that I was one, I became happy with that fact.

But this "Fake Geek Girls" article would likely still label me as "not enough of a geeky girl". Ms. Brown claims that one must:
"Dig deep, dig to the roots, dig until you know things that others you admire in the subject matter don’t know or can’t do. Then go ahead and proudly label yourself a geeky girl."
Now, I'll be honest - some of the "geeky" things I'm interested in I do know a lot about. More than most people. When it comes to Star Wars, for example, or the Song of Ice & Fire series - I've absolutely dug deep, dug to the roots, dug until I know things that others don't. But with many of my other "geeky" interests, that's not the case. I love Lord of the Rings, for instance, but prefer the movies to the books. I also think The Hobbit was a better book than said trilogy, The Silmarillion was to me one of the most boring things ever written, and The Children of Hurin was passable at best. X Men is a similar example...sure, I watched the cartoon back in the early 90s, but I wasn't really into it until just before the third movie came out in 2006 - when the aforementioned friend insisted that I sit down with him and watch X-Men and X2.

Yet I still feel that I can call myself a geek, and I'm proud of that "label". I am. That said, I played Star Wars Galaxies back in the day and currently play Star Wars: The Old Republic. I have an original Nintendo and go through phases where I'll play it for hours every day for months on end. I became obsessed with the storyline of Red Dead Redemption when my husband played it through, and I'm pretty darn good at Guitar Hero....but I don't think of myself as a "gamer". I agree that it's good to know where to draw the lines, but if I was someone else reading the above and the person ended with the words "I'm a gamer" - far be it for me to call that person a fake. Yet that's exactly what Ms. Brown is doing. And it's wrong.

It doesn't end there, though.
"...when it was harder to learn about something and you did it anyway...that’s when your passions really shined through. That’s what being a geek is."
I have to say that I do look forward to one day reminding my children or my nieces and nephew that I had to "learn about things the hard way" - but I would be a liar if I ever claimed that I wanted to go back to having to do things that way. So does that mean that, because I not only like but prefer things the way they are now, with the world at my fingertips via a computer and, say, Google...that my "passions" don't or won't shine through? That because I learned the vast amount of Star Wars trivia that I know from watching the movies dozens of times, reading the Timothy Zahn etc. books that came out in the 90s, even reading the character/robot/ship encyclopedias (I mean actually holding the books in my hands, turning the pages), that knowledge is somehow "better" than what I've picked up scouring the internet about the Song of Ice & Fire books? Because honestly, I think not. And I don't think the things I've learned the "easy way" make me a "weak geek", either.

Finally,
"And if you think something is interesting but aren’t willing to put the time and effort into understanding it deeply or becoming extremely skillful at it, do everyone a favor and call yourself what you are: a casual hobbyist."
Okay, fine. I'm a Star Wars/Song of Ice & Fire geek, but I'm only a Lord of the Rings/X Men "casual hobbyist".

Um, no.

This comment first implies that one must play the English teacher/Lit professor with all things geeky. Understand deeply? Really? And actually, I'm not the best at just memorizing facts, which means trivia-wise, when it comes to anything (even geeky stuff that I'm very interested in), I'm likely not the person you'd want on your team. But why should this mean that I love the things that I obsess over any less?

And if I choose, say, going to a baseball game, or jetting off to Vegas for a weekend, or having a cookout with some friends over staying home to re-watch Battlestar Galactica or research Song of Ice & Fire theories or re-read Harry Potter or play Old Republic...that does not make me fake; it does not make me a poser. It does not make me less of a geek. Not me, and not anyone else who goes the same route.

Tara Tiger Brown* - you are an insult to my given name, and to geek girls everywhere - and YOU should please go away.


*Is apparently an example of geek elitism, and also likely fits into that small category bad-apple geeks who aren't the accepting, laid back, kind people that I've come to associate with this particular "label".
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Confessions



I confess...that I find it hilarious that some troll keeps visiting a REALLY old Monday Confessions (we're talking last summer) and leaving dumb anonymous comments because he or she can't stand the fact that I think The Dark Knight was a crapshoot movie. Get over it.

I confess...that I went to get a tattoo finished yesterday and had every intention of getting two more (small-ish) ones while I was there...but even though I know what I want I can't for the life of me decide where to put them, so I "chickened out" of getting them at all. For now. Because dammit I want these tattoos. I'll figure something out.

I confess...that I am NOT looking forward to getting my car serviced this week. I need two new tires and paying for them is literally going to break me :-/

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Meatloaf Muffins with Sweet Potato Fries

This was originally a Rachael Ray recipe, but I found it a BIT too spicy for my liking and it called for homemade breadcrumbs. Which I know aren't hard to make, but I had Panko crumbs lying around and yeah...using those was easier. So here is my slightly edited (and re-named) take on this recipe ;)

SWEET & SPICY MEATLOAF MUFFINS

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed into small pieces (no more than 1/4")
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1.5 lbs lean ground beef
1 egg
1 onion (small-ish), finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp finely chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, PLUS 1 tsp of the sauce
6 tbsp PLUS 1 tsp ketchup
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese

 
- Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan.

- In a saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the sweet potato about 3 minutes. Drain.

- Mix the breadcrumbs, beef, egg, onion, cilantro, chipotles, adobo sauce, 2 tbsp PLUS 1 tsp ketchup, minced garlic, a heaping tsp of salt and a dash of black pepper in a large bowl. Make sure all ingredients are well combined.

- Fold the sweet potato chunks into the beef mixture and then divide it evenly among the greased muffin cups, packing well. Hollow out the center, add 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar and cover the cheese back up with the meatloaf mixture.

- Spread the remaining 4 tablespoons of ketchup evenly over the tops of the "muffins". Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet and bake 40 minutes.


BAKED SWEET POTATO FRIES
(note that these cook at the same temp and for the same amount of time as the meatloaf muffins!)

1 sweet potato for every 2 people you are serving
Olive oil
Sea salt & Fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp Onion powder *for every potato*
2 tsp Garlic powder *for every potato*

- Chop your sweet potatoes into french-fry style slices and put them in a large bowl.
 - Coat well with olive oil, onion powder, and garlic powder.
- Spread the fries on a baking tray and grind sea salt and black pepper evenly over them. This is really to YOUR taste; personally I prefer a not-so-healthy dose of salt and a bare sprinkle of black pepper but to each his or her own ;)

If you want to serve these fries with a sauce, I highly suggest mixing about 1/2 cup ketchup with maybe 1/8 cup chili sauce, then adding a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar and whisking/stirring until the sugar is basically dissolved. It's a great sweet and salty sauce to go with the sweet and salty fries!
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Family History Friday: Something of a Roadblock

Unfortunately, the one thing that kind of sucks about having family that immigrated so recently is that to figure out where they came from I would have to pay extra (a lot extra) for the international subscription to ancestry.com. And as I'm simply not in the financial position to do that at the moment...well, you know how these things go. This meant that once I got back to my Swedish ancestors who immigrated here in the late 1800s, I was stuck.

But hey, no problem, right? Instead I moved on to my grandfather's paternal side, assuming that as someone had apparently done enough research on them in the past to know that we were related to a person who came over on the Mayflower, that they wouldn't be too hard to find on ancestry.com.

Unfortunately...wrong. I pretty much immediately hit another road block - I had my great-grandfather's name, and my great-great-grandfather's name...and there my information ran dry. And so, apparently, did ancestry.com's. Even after poring through censuses and the like...and thinking I'd found the next person in line...I still wasn't getting any hints. Which is rendered even more unfortunate by the knowledge that this branch is where that whole Mayflower story came from :(

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Pictured above: My great-grandmother Hulda (who I never met) and great-grandfather Frank (who I met briefly when I was very, very young). I was able to get up to Frank's father Alpheus on my tree, and that's where I kind of "lost it" :-/
 
Anyway. I hit these roadblocks but don't worry...rather than get all hot and bothered I allowed myself to move on. I did promise myself that I'd go back to that line eventually and work on it some more...but as I had plenty of other ancestors to look for I allowed myself to move on to my grandmother's side of the family...and some pretty darn famous entries on my family tree.

But that, my dears, is a different story for a different time ;) Pin It

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: The Long Drunk by Eric Coyote

The Long Drunk by Eric Coyote is classified as an "ultra noir" novel. In case you aren't sure what that means, other books that would be included in that genre are The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy. If something fits under this tag, it is supposed to be gritty, dark, and probably a bit too descriptive ;)

Personally, mystery novels aren't my usual fare. That said, I did thoroughly enjoy this book. It does what I think ultra noir is supposed to do - make you simultaneously love and loathe the main character(s). The reader will get pretty graphic insight into the life of the homeless - more specifically, the homeless in Venice Beach, California - as he or she follows the point of view of Murphy. This football star-turned-alcoholic bum is possibly one of the most interesting main characters I've ever seen in a murder mystery, even the ultra noir type.

The Long Drunk is a quick read, at times funny and at times even a bit heart-wrenching. Make sure to go into it with the knowledge that it's the first installment of a trilogy, though, because otherwise at the end you may be saying, "But what else is there?!" Because that's my only "complaint" about this book - "complaint" in quotations because I'm guessing I won't be complaining when the second installment comes out - the ending does feel a bit rushed and not-quite-wrapped-up. 3.5/5 stars.

Please note that while I received a copy of this e-book for free from the author, this review absolutely represents my unbiased opinion of the novel. You can buy the e-book for $2.99 at Amazon and it's honestly worth every penny of that amount :)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Writer's Block Wednesday: Optimism

I apologize for having been so absent lately! Not only have my posts on my own blog been infrequent, but I have yet to catch up with anyone else's entries :-/ To be honest we were away last weekend (for a long weekend, on top of that) and also...I've just been having a really rough week or so. They say bad things come in threes, but I've got four bad things going on right now...so does that mean I have two more to "look forward to", soon? Sigh. Anyway, without further ado I'm going to post another "Writer's Block Wednesday" because...well, I just don't have the energy to come up with some sort of amusing or amazing post.

What do you do or can you do to build optimism in yourself and for those around you? Consider actions that you can use as a "restart button" to rejuvenate your outlook. Keep a log of things you consciously do to promote optimism.

I thought this was a perfect prompt for today and for how I'm feeling. Because to be honest, at the moment I'm not optimistic at all. But there are a few things that I do to rejuvenate myself and to try to change my outlook when things are going wrong.

1. Rant.

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  Sometimes it's here on this blog, but more often than not it's to my family or close friends, and I also keep an actual private handwritten journal. Sometimes the best way to try to regain your optimism is to simply get all of those negative feelings out, to expel them.
2. Yoga.

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  It sounds cliche, but yup...yoga does it for me. It calms me and makes me a far more relaxed and positive person.

3. Take a hot bath, book in hand.

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 Self explanatory.

4. Run.

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(Oh hey, that's me in a 5k back in January - I'm on the far right behind the girl wearing #1075) 
There is absolutely nothing like a good run to empty my head and make me feel energetic and healthy, and if I feel energetic and healthy it's really hard not to feel optimistic :)

5. Remember everything good in my life. Because there are so, so many good things in my life.

Awesome, awesome friends. Not just these two, either, though they are pretty special ;)
My amazing family - my fun, smart, loving sisters and my nieces and nephew who remind me every day how beautiful innocence can be.
All of my pets, but most especially this one. My Miss Wendy Pie, Miss Wendy Darling, the sweetest and best dog I've ever known.
This man. For more reasons than I could possibly name.
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Confessions



I confess...that I never get used to playing catch-up after a vacation. And I was only away for three days!

I confess...that I'm getting too old for...everything. Life. Partying. Traveling. Yet I'll keep doing it because...because. haha

I confess...I'm trying to speed-read my way through Game of Thrones and Clash of Kings before the next season of the HBO show comes out. Not sure how I'm going to accomplish this, but I'm trying.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Oh how I love St. Patty's Day...

I'll be wearing green for the next three days...how 'bout you? ;)

(5 years of my St. Patty's celebrations)

Spending St. Patty's in Myrtle Beach in 2007. I wasn't making a rude gesture, I was just showing off my ring. I swear.
With my beautiful sisters for St. Patty's 2008

St. Patty's party 2009 in Connecticut
St Patty's in G-Vegas 2010
St Patty's Pub Crawl 2011
I hope y'all have a great weekend...because I may or may not have time to post... :D
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No, I'm not trying to lose weight, but thanks for asking. NOT.

I have one question and one question only:

Is it so unbelievable that a girl wouldn't be trying to lose weight?

The thing is, I know that my weight isn't "ideal". Not when compared to the images that society presents us with. But I am healthy, and I'm perfectly okay with the way I look. Would I like to lose some weight - say, ten to fifteen pounds? Sure. Who wouldn't? (Yes, I know that there are people who wouldn't, but we're talking generally here.) But to do so I'd have to diet, and I like food too much for that.

So, where did this come from? Well, last week the UPS guy had to come see me to sign for something at work. He's been our UPS guy for years now, so he knows who I am, but as our operations manager usually accepts packages, he rarely sees me. And yeah...I've somehow lost a bit of weight in the past few months. Honestly it's likely from stress, but we won't go there. The UPS guy simply asked, "Have you lost weight?" To which I replied, "Yeah, a bit. Not on purpose though."

And honestly his face was just...incredulous. He didn't know what to say. He stuttered a bit and then told me to have a nice day, and left.

The thing is, I have been heavy. I guess I'm a bit "lucky" in that I carry my weight well, but some years ago I weighed 25-30 pounds more than I do now and it was an unhealthy weight - I ate crappy food, drank way too much beer (yes, there is such a thing), and didn't work out. Nowadays I eat whatever I want, but eating whatever I want includes cooking 90% of my meals at home and sticking to light lunches of hummus and pita chips and/or yogurt, cutting back on the amount of sugar and cream I put in my coffee, etc.

See what I mean? The following picture was taken in November 2006.


 My shirt and bra are both obviously too small, and that's because at this point in time none of my clothes fit me anymore. My face is fat and my arms are huge. I probably weighed between 175 and 180 pounds in this picture, and I did get bigger, but don't have any photos of that time period because, well, I refused to let people take them. And obviously that's not my kid as I don't have any kids, so it's not like it was post-baby weight ;) (it's my niece Savannah at about one month old, btw)

Now, compare that with this picture taken at the beginning of February of this year.


I am not a stick-skinny girl, nor will I ever be. Not even if I did starve myself half to death. I'm just not built like that. So again, can someone please explain to me why it's strange that I'm happy with my weight/size/body despite the fact that I'm not "skinny"???

The reason this frustrates me so much is not because I'm self-conscious but because I have been, and because I have friends and family members who are when they have no need or reason to be. The thing is, I have to work really hard to keep myself happy with my body - as I mentioned, I eat whatever I want but thankfully the things I want to eat are fairly healthy, and on top of that I work out 5 or 6 days a week - running, walking my dogs, rowing, sometimes yoga or weight-lifting. This isn't something that "just comes naturally". I'm not that "lucky". 

And I think more women need to learn to be happy with what they're given, because (at the risk of sounding cliche) until you are happy with yourself so many other areas of your life will suffer.
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Confessions



I confess...that I went to a rodeo Saturday night. And it was...weird? I really don't have any observations beyond that.

I confess...that I paid my car taxes back in January and was supposed to replace the sticker on my license plate when I received it in the mail a few days later...except I just did that this weekend. Oops?

I confess...that even though I had a long weekend in Orlando at the beginning of February, I'm *way* overdue for a vacation. Sigh.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Another chicken & broccoli casserole, you say?

Last weekend I shared a casserole that consisted of chicken and broccoli, cheese and sauce...well, this one has some onions and rice thrown in! Honestly I'm big on casseroles. They usually include a decent amount of veggies and they're just the easiest for leftovers :) I know they probably aren't the healthiest of meals but personally I just love food and therefore don't skimp when eating...though of course portion control is very important and thankfully I don't have a problem with that. Most of the time. (haha)


CHEESY CHICKEN & BROCCOLI RICE CASSEROLE

2 cups uncooked medium grain brown rice
Chicken broth
3 cups broccoli florets (fresh)
¼ cup sliced green onions
4 small chicken breasts, cut into chunks
Garlic powder, salt and pepper for seasoning the chicken
½ tsp pepper (for the sauce)
1 tsp salt (for the sauce)
¼ tsp Garlic powder (for the sauce)
Cooking spray
5 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (I use 2%)
1/3 cup sour cream
12 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese

 
- Cook the rice according to the package directions but substitute the water for chicken broth. When the rice has 5-7 minutes left until fully cooked, add the broccoli and the green onions into the pot to steam.

- Season the chicken chunks with the garlic powder, salt and pepper.

- Meanwhile, spray a large skillet with the cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook about 7-8 minutes, or until done. Remove to a plate and wipe out the skillet.

- Turn the heat down to medium and in the skillet, whisk together the flour and ½ cup of the milk. Gradually add the remaining 1 ½ cups milk, whisking constantly, until the mixture is boiling. Turn off the heat and add 8 oz. of the shredded cheese and all of the sour cream. Stir until smooth and season with the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Make sure to mix well.

- Preheat the broiler.

- Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray and combine the cooked rice/broccoli/green onion mixture with the chicken and cheese sauce in the dish. Top with the remaining shredded cheddar and broil (keeping an eye on it!) approx. 5 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Anyway, I promise that I'll have a different type of recipe next time! As I mentioned last week, I'm *super* backed up posting recipes on here and I'm trying to be somewhat organized about getting them out of the way and kind of failing miserably, haha. I never said organization was one of my strong points ;)
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Family History Friday: Oh hey, I'm really Swedish! (no, like, REALLY Swedish)

So, as I mentioned a few weeks ago - once upon a time, I thought I was Swedish. But then my dad was really vague about where said Swedish ancestry came from, so I thought that maybe I wasn't Swedish at all. Thankfully my grandfather's memoirs cleared that up, as when I started typing them up I found out that his mother's maiden name was Carlson. And her mother's maiden name was Bergstrom. And her mother's mother's maiden name was Anderson...

You get the picture.
source - The Carlson family, Gustaf & Hulda bottom row center and their 13 (!!!) children. My great-grandmother (my grandfather's grandmother) Hulda Elisabeth is in there somewhere...
In fact, they were the first line I looked into when I started my tree on ancestry.com - because I wanted to see if it was possible to find out when my Swedish ancestors immigrated. Now, Hulda Bergstrom married Gustaf Carlson in Sweden in the mid-1890s, but their first son was born in Massachusetts in 1896...so a bit of poking here and there revealed that they arrived in New York while Hulda (my great-great grandmother) was pregnant with this child.

To be honest this is just really exciting to me. Not only do I actually have Swedish heritage, but my Swedish ancestors immigrated only 116-ish years ago! Which sounds like a LOT of years, but let me tell you, I have ancestors who were some of the first people in this country so this was almost refreshing to discover ;)

So there you have it - my Swedish roots, and deep they are! In fact I still have distant relatives in Sweden. We all know I love to travel...so maybe I'll visit someday? Here's hoping! Pin It

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Review: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

As books go, I suppose that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is entertaining enough. That said, the biggest draw this "nonfiction" title held for me was that I've been to Savannah and will be going back there soon. True, the characters - namely Chablis, Joe Odom, and Luther Driggers - are larger than life and dole out quite a few laugh- and quote-worthy lines...but the point of view character himself is outright dull and the fact that the picture is painted that he was there when the crime in this "true crime book" took place when in fact he was not is just a bit off-putting to me. 3/5 stars.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writer's Block Wednesday: On Writing.

Write about your passion for writing.

I've been writing little stories for as long as I can remember. Or rather, at least since first grade. I had a teacher - Ms. Browning was her name - who really encouraged us to write. She would assign us general prompts or whatever and have us to write and illustrate stories - and then she would laminate and spiral-bind the pages for us :) I still have all of those "books", though of course they're packed away with other childhood memorabilia.

In fifth grade my teacher Mr. Rogers also gave us plenty of creative writing assignments and apparently thought I was pretty talented. He convinced me to enter one of my stories in a national contest. I only got an honorable mention but it was still very encouraging of him to help me with the entry process.

In middle school there was a boy in my home room who was super nice to me when everyone else made fun of/bullied me (for being a geek/nerd, of course). We never ended up as close friends but we did remain on good terms throughout and after high school. He was just...a genuinely nice guy. One day he saw me writing away and asked me what I was doing. I admitted that I was writing a book and he asked if he could read it. I was very hesitant but I did say that maybe when I was finished I would show it to him...and somehow I got up the courage to follow through with that. Again I was met with someone who was very praiseworthy of my writing. I want to say we were in 6th grade at the time so I think it says a lot that I was able to hand-write a 100-page story, show it to a GUY, and have him say that he liked it. Of course he could have been lying but even if he was, it was just one more bit of positive support...and trust me, at that age I needed it.

I go through writing "phases", unfortunately. Sometimes I'll work on something diligently for weeks or months, but eventually I always end up getting sidetracked or distracted and not writing at all for months or even years. I'll blog, I'll journal, but I won't actually write. It's one of the things I dislike most about myself, and during these times I'll even try to remind myself "hey, you should write a bit today/tonight/this weekend"...but life ends up taking over and there you have it.

Recently though something has changed. I've found different sorts of encouragement that to be honest I don't feel comfortable sharing here (probably because one of them makes me sound petty and the other is just very personal) and I've been steadily plugging away on a couple of different things for about two and a half months. That's a pretty good stretch for me and hopefully I'll keep it up, because when life gets stressful and crazy escaping into my writing has always been a necessity for me.

And I want to be published. Even if I have to self-publish, I want to see something I've written listed on Amazon, bring copies to the Mast General Store in Greenville and have them on display as "by a local author", hold an officially bound copy of something I've created in my hands. And I can't do that if I don't focus and get the work done.
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Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Confessions



I confess...that I was pretty useless this weekend. I got a few necessary things done, sure, but most of the time I just messed around online and played Old Republic. Oops.

I confess...that against my better judgment I went to a bar that I don't care for on Friday night. And yeah, it was just as bad as I remembered it. On top of that I had to pay a $5 cover, which in Greenville is a BIG no-no.

I confess...that I went waaay over my budget last month and the way it makes me a bit nervous for this month and my spending. Especially as I'm in desperate need of facial cleansers etc. Sigh.

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Roast the broccoli, don't steam it.

I'm kind of sad that I missed Family History Friday yesterday :-/ I have so many post ideas for it but it was just one of those crazy days at work, and then my sister wanted me to go out with her...I never go out on Fridays because they're already hectic enough, but I ended up agreeing to go and that's that.

Anyway, I'm so backed up on posting recipes here (I'm still working on pictures I took of meals that I cooked back in August of last year! oops haha) that I'm really trying to do at least one recipe a week. And this week I have a very yummy casserole recipe to share! I originally found it on Pinterest but as usual I played with it a bit :) It's rich, but you can make it using more "fresh" (ish) ingredients than most casseroles (no cream of anything soup!) which I really liked.

FRENCH CHICKEN BROCCOLI SUPREME

2 very large or 3-4 small to medium heads broccoli, chopped into florets
5 small chicken breasts or 3-4 large chicken breasts, chopped into chunks
3 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
1 stick melted butter
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

For the sauce:
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup *cold* water
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups milk
1.5 cups of the above cheddar cheese


- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and roast the broccoli florets for about 20 minutes. When it's done, lower the oven temp to 350.
- In a greased 9 x 13 pan, layer the roasted broccoli and the chicken, then set aside.
- Heat a saucepan over medium heat on the stovetop and combine the melted butter, cornstarch dissolved in water, chicken broth, salt and pepper and milk. Stir well until sauce has thickened (3-5 minutes).
- Turn the head down to low and add the 1.5 cups of grated cheddar. Stir until melted and pour over the chicken and broccoli in the pan.
- Top with the remaining 1.5 cups grated cheddar.
- Melt the butter and add the poppy seeds, then stir well. Crush the Ritz crackers in a large zip-lock bag with a rolling pin (don't crush them too small!) and add the crushed crackers to the melted butter. Sprinkle the crumbs over the grated cheese.
- Bake uncovered at 350 for about 30 minutes.

I was actually surprised that the poppy seeds really added to this recipe, and I'm glad that I included them because I definitely thought about not doing so. That said, the major thing I changed is that originally this recipe called for the broccoli to be steamed, but I much prefer roasted broccoli...crispier, better tasting, etc...so as a note you can steam it and I suppose that would work as well ;) I know it's less time consuming to just steam it for a few minutes but again...trust me on the roasting? haha.
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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Monthly 101 Update: February

Mehhhh I sucked at this again last month :-/

To be fair...work has been insanely busy (it always is the first two months of the year).

Though, to be honest...I also allowed myself to get sucked in to some kind of unimportant stuff last month. Like Star Wars: The Old Republic. Too bad one of my 101 in 1001 goals wasn't "Play an MMO/RPG game". heh

Technically this first achieved goal was in January: Host a giveaway on my blog. The giveaway itself took place from January 20-27 and I chose the winner on the 28th (or rather, random number generator did). Buuut...the giveaway included a sort of personalized gift so I didn't actually purchase and send out the winner's spoils until February. So I don't feel *too* bad including this goal completion in this update :) My friend Marty actually won and when I asked what he wanted he said "Shot glasses for my collection!" I wanted to get him some geeky shot glasses while I was in Disney at the beginning of February, but sadly...the Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean shot glasses were sadly lacking. Instead he got these:


Sorry the picture is a bit blurry! I tried taking it at least three times but the only way it wasn't blurry was with the flash, and then it looked washed out and you couldn't really see what the shot glasses said. Anyway, I picked up the Hollywood Studios (MGM. ugh.) one because Marty and I worked there together! And the South Carolina one because, well, it's where I live. And he did visit us here back in 2010! So again, congrats Marty and I hope you enjoy your shot glasses :)

Drink Around the World at least 3 more times for 15 total - I didn't expect, when I made this a goal, that I'd accomplish it in less than a year! Mainly because I knew I'd be going to Disney in May and October last year, but the trip I took last month was as last minute as a vacation gets for me...planned just a few months in advance. Haha.
1/3 - May 21, 2011, during the first of my two 10-year WDWCP 2001 reunions!

2/3 - October 31, 2011, during the second of my two 10 year WDWCP 2001 reunions...

3/3 - February 5, 2012...just because!

Thankfully I also finally started making a little more progress on a few things...got a bunch more recipes typed up for my second big recipe "book" (just a binder, haha) and I also finished reading For Whom the Bell Tolls and was able to start on some other books. Thank God for that. So I'm about halfway through my "read 50 books I've never read before" goal now :)
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