Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Healthy Starts

Hola, internetland! 

Today I wanted to share a few of my absolute favorite breakfast foods! Because who doesn't love breakfast? It's important to start your day right, whether you have the time to get out the old frying pan or not. Now, I have never been the type to skip breakfast for the sole reason that I LOVE IT. But I will be the first person to admit that I have made some bad judgment calls when it comes to the land of fluffy, flaky, delicious danishes and pancakes. And those goddamn McCain Hashbrowns. Those are like kryptonite in our house. 

So, in keeping with this new lifestyle change I have been working on, I wanted to share a few of my favorites! Depending on what you lot think of this post, I may do a few others with some lunch, dinner, and snack ideas. 

Here we go! 

Flourless Banana Pancakes

Oh. Mon. Dieu. I looove these. Not only are the guilt-free, but they also keep you full! There have been days where I've made these little gems at 8 o'clock in the morning and been full until the afternoon. The best part? THEY ONLY NEED A HANDFUL OF INGREDIENTS. 

You will need: 
                     - 1 ripe (ish) banana
                     - 2 eggs
                     - a nice dash of cinnamon
                     - a splash of vanilla
                     - a scoop of Protein Powder (this is optional)

This recipe will give you about 3 decent sized pancakes- I use a 1/4 cup scoop to measure them in the pan and it works out just about perfect. 

All you have to do is mash the banana in a bowl, whisk in the eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, and protein powder, if you feel so inclined, and you're ready to go! These cook exactly like normal pancakes, albeit they are a lot flatter and not as fluffy, but they end up tasting like tiny banana bread circles of joy. Personally, I also like to use Coconut Oil in place of margarine when cooking, but I know that that may not be for everyone. Keep your pan on the higher side of Low-Medium and make sure that the pancakes are nice and solid on one side before you flip. And if you botch it? It's still going to taste delicious. Pair it with a low-sugar syrup or nut butter, and you have a healthy start that will keep you full and help stave off unruly cravings! 

Baked Yam with Basil and Eggs

Alright, this one I usually save for weekends just because I don't often have time to go 'Full-Oven' in the mornings, but around our house it's still a favorite. 

You will need: 
                     - 1 medium sized yam
                     - A good splash of Frank's Red Hot Sauce (or whatever hot sauce you want)
                     - Dash of Basil (dehydrated works too, fresh is best!)
                     - Dash of Oregano
                     - Pinch of sea salt
                     -1 tbsp Coconut oil (can use Extra Virgin Olive Oil is you prefer)
                     - 2 eggs, scrambled
                     - Sliced grape tomatoes
                     -1/4 of an avocado
                     - a few strips of chopped Yellow Pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel and chop the yam into bite sized chunks, it doesn't have to perfect so don't worry about making everything even. In a large bowl, combine the yam and Coconut Oil. or EEVO.  Once everything is nicely coated, add in the Frank's, Basil, Oregano, and sea salt, mixing well so that the spices are evenly spread out. Throw that delicious smelling goodness onto a baking sheet and stick it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. If you're using a larger yam, add an extra 10 minutes, flipping at the halfway point. 

When you have about 10 minutes left on the yams, heat up a frying pan and add a small amount of either Coconut oil or EEVO. Sautee the peppers for a few minutes, don't let them get too mushy, and then add in your whisked eggs. Once your eggs are just about done, add in the sliced tomatoes and avocado. I usually add a bit of basil and hot sauce to this as well to give it a little more oomph. 

Serve up the yam in a bowl covered with your veggie-fied scrambled eggs and you're done! All that's left is to add in some fruit, and you've got a nice, filling, healthy meal right there! 


During the week I haunt the gym in the wee hours of the morning before work. This means that I'm going straight from the gym to the office without much time to spare. I'll usually make a smoothie the night before, one that has a lot of protein for post-workout muscle love, but there are days when I just don't have the time. 

On those mornings, I try and keep the prep to a minimum and I'll eat once I've gotten into work. My staple, if I don't have a smoothie, is a single serve cup of Activia Vanilla Greek yogurt, a banana, and a cup of either strawberries or raspberries. Bananas are great for eating post-workout, and I'll usually eat one in the car before I start the drive to work. I have also been known to sub out the strawberries or raspberries with a Fiber 1 bar of some sort. They have a lot of options that are low calorie, the only downside is that while they taste great, they aren't all that great for you. But in a pinch, they can be the difference between being miserable and grouchy in the morning, to not wanting to scream at your co-workers. 

I snack a lot during the day- everything I have read says that eating smaller meals more frequently helps your body with its metabolism and fat burning- and I've found that it makes a huge difference in both my productivity and my mood.It keeps your body in a constant state of work and so long as you are selecting healthy foods, it'll make you feel a lot better! I usually have my breakfast at 8:30 ish, a sliced apple at 10:00, lunch at 12:00, and then an afternoon snack at 2:30, usually cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, or something to that effect. 

I'll try and post some smoothie recipes in the next while, but for now here are a few of my morning loves! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! 

Stay healthy, friends! :)  

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Little Bit of Progress

Here goes the first Progress Report. 

I don't know if anyone else is doing the 'Lifestyle' change with me, but just in case you are, I thought I'd start doing these once every couple of weeks, just to let you know you've got a buddy! Reading other blogs on the internet really made me want to keep going when I started, and I hope that maybe somehow this can be that blog for someone else. We'll see how far I can go, though :P 

So this past week was a bit of a write-off. I had A. LOT. of cakes due which left me with very little time to do much else. I usually go for a run or do some sort of activity after work, but it just wasn't in the cards. Too much buttercream in my fridge. Not enough time in the day. Luckily my lactose-intolerance came in handy (...wait... is that actually a thing?) and since every cake had dairy in it, I physically could not be tempted by any of the extras lol see how that works out? 

Buuuuuuuuuut- I did get time to snap my weekly picture! Every week I try and take a photo of myself. Same time, same light, that kind of thing, just so that I can get an accurate picture of myself. With that picture, I'll try and look for a positive change, and this week I actually noticed that I'm finally getting some definition in my flab-tastic arms!! Though the scale didn't budge a whole lot, I got a chance to see the difference coming along in my arms and waist which is a nice little perk! 


It's a wee bit scary putting this up online, I know there's still a lot of jiggle and wobbly bits, but honestly? I don't really give a whit. That smile on my face is genuine and one hundred percent earned! The rest will come with time- maybe a few years, but I'm hoping sooner rather than later :P (I want my GD Shark tattoo!!) 

This week, since I'm relatively cake-free, I'm hoping to get out there and enjoy the unseasonal weather :) Lord knows Nova loves it, so I may as well get my butt in gear, too, right? 

Anyone else fighting the good fight? Got any tips or tricks? And if you want someone to talk to, feel free to message me! Buddy system is the best system! 

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Monday, March 23, 2015

On Exercise

Hello again, dear readers! 

Today I wanted to talk about what exactly I do for exercise. I've had a few people ask me for some ideas on where to start, and basically my only advice is this: Do whatever activity you will actually do. It's great to have big ambitions, like going to the gym every day, or running 3 miles before breakfast. Those are wonderful goals to have! But for me, those aren't things I can make myself do every day. I've had a gym pass, I've gone religiously every morning at 6 AM before work, but I could only do it for so long before I burned out. 

Your body will take some time to acclimatize to your new lifestyle, so start simple.When I first started on this journey (cliche terminology goes here...sorry folks), I started with my elliptical. I could only do 8 minutes the first time. 8. That was all I was capable of without crumbling on the floor. I was upset that that was all I could handle and got mad at myself, even though it was a step in the right direction. I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn't do more, but that feeling only made me push myself harder. Gradually, I was able to build up my endurance, and the first time I hit 15 minutes was one of the most glorious feelings ever. It took time. 

Now, my average runs are around 45 minutes covering anywhere from 4 to almost 5 kms, which is a huge improvement for me! It just took time and going back on the machine every day (or every other day). Now that it's spring (and GORGEOUS FOR MARCH IN WINNIPEG) I try and go outside as much as possible. There's something therapeutic about seeing the grass and feeling the sunlight on your skin! 

I also try and incorporate at least 2-3 days of strength training at home. This just means that I'll use my free weights I bought at Wal-Mart, or Target, can't remember which, and my exercise ball. I do a lot of the Pinterest workouts- those lovely combination sheets with motivational quotes above them... You do have to sort through them, there's a lot of garbage on there, but occasionally you'll find a good one. Pretty much anything with Jillian Michaels involved will guarantee pain the next day. I hate/love her, but I can't deny she gets the point across! 

I am hopefully getting my gym membership back in April for the sole purpose of Aquacise. Oh my god, guys. That is one of the most enjoyable methods of exercise I have found- I love being in the water, and the fear of putting on a bathing suit doesn't matter much since everyone is pretty much there for the same thing. Except some of those older ladies in the front row. They're just there to talk about the latest going's on with Gladys and her husband, but hey! They're still in the water, running in place! Fun fact- the first time I went, I thought, "Oh, I can so take those little old ladies! I am going to be swimming laps around them in no time!"... No. They kicked my ass that first class. They have many kudos from me. 

So there you go! I'll be posting some actual exercises in the next while, and I'll try and put up my recipe of the week in a couple of days! I'll also be putting up my first progress report (yikes!), so I'd love to hear if anyone else is having any luck with their endeavor! 



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Monday, March 16, 2015

The Weighting Game

Boom! Not so clever wordplay! 

Ahhh... I'll see myself out. 

But seriously, the purpose of this lovely post is to share some of the weight loss 'tricks' I've learned after months of trying to come up with a plan to ensure success. I've been reading other blogs, using the Pinterest machine rather a lot, talking to other folks who have lost a significant amount of weight- in general, just trying to forge a game plan for myself. 

Weight loss is daunting. For anyone who, like me, has a quite hefty amount of weight to lose in order for my Body Mass Index to be within an acceptable level, it's terrifying. Seeing how far you have to go, the possibilities of being even more uncomfortable after significant weight loss, those weeks where the scale is not a team player and refuses to move- it can all add up into a cocktail of doubt. The same can be said for ANYONE who is trying to lose those extra pounds, not just a large sum like me. But I seem to have found something that works for me and I really, really, really wanted to share it just in case it helped someone else along their own path. 

So, here is my list of tricks on the subject!


1- DO NOT 'diet'. 
Right off the bat, I'm sure there are a lot of people who are looking at that bold lettering with scrunchy eyebrows, but just bear with me. The word 'Diet' carries a huge amount of expectations with it- whether those expectations are the stigma of cutting out specific foods, starving yourself, or restricting everything that you put in your body. For me, the word 'diet' also brings a lot of anxiety and fear with it thanks to years of being told to diet, or trying to follow the latest fad diet. I can't do a 'diet'. I've tried. I have failed. I have cried into a bag of salt and vinegar chips after eating the whole thing. Falling off the wagon brings way more guilt when you're on a diet. 


Instead of 'dieting', choose to change your LIFESTYLE. Some people are going to say that this is like comparing apples and oranges, but for me personally? The two could not be more different. The day I started treating losing weight as a happy side effect to a lifestyle change and NOT a diet, was the day that I felt the oppressive weight lift off of my shoulders, so to speak. Diets have always had bad connotations for me, but a lifestyle? Choosing not to diet, but rather to add healthier foods, limit the amount of fast food, sweets, etc.? Thinking like that changed the game. 

2- Work in small goals. 
It's great to have big long term goals, but when those goals are so far away, it becomes very difficult to celebrate the little milestones along the way. You lost five pounds? That's amazing! Don't down-play it! (Side bar, have you seen those pounds of fat compared to pounds of muscle? BE HAPPY WITH THAT FIVE POUNDS.) You are getting there! It won't happen in a month so just keep working! And don't forget to appreciate inches lost! Just because it isn't on the scale, doesn't mean it isn't changing your body for the better.

3- Love yourself right now, this second. 
This one might be the toughest trick. I fight with this, I'm nowhere near body acceptance, but with incredible models like Ashley Graham and Tess Munster/Holliday, they made me realize that it's okay to look the way I do right now. I can be gorgeous regardless of the fact that (ohmygodguys) MY THIGHS TOUCH. And I will never be a size zero. 


Ashley and Tess? They are goddamn knockouts. And they taught me that I don't need to lose weight to look fierce, or be worthy of love. I'm getting healthy because I want to be able to run with my dog and not collapse after a block- not because anyone else thinks I should weigh less, or look different.


4- Don't cut out the things you love. 
I'm not saying that eating McD's everyday is a good idea, but remember that bit about having a new lifestyle? It's important to understand that having one bad meal a week is not going to undo all of your progress- just like having one salad isn't going to make an impact if all you eat is processed food. For the most part, I stick to a lot of leafy things, many much fruitlets (get in mah belly!!) and veggies, white meat, fish, low-cal snacks, homemade recipes that are tasty and nutritious, the kinds of things that my body is happy digesting. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't still have chocolate, or chips, or a dinner out. I just do A LOT less of that, and when I do, I still try to be conscious of what I'm choosing for body-fuel.


My personal rule? If I get a craving for something that I know is against my regular foods, I wait for two days. If that craving hasn't gone away, if it isn't my jerk stomach being bored and wanting awful things or wanting food from the fast food joint I just drove by, then that item will be my 'splurge' for the week. Just don't go crazy- everything in moderation, but if someone told me I was not allowed to have french fries ever? I'd punch them in the throat and step over them to get those hot tasty terrible french fries. It would just make me want them more. Which is why I don't really put a lot of foods on my 'DO NOT PUT THIS IN YOUR FACE HOLE' list. Just go easy and don't 'splurge' every day. Eventually the cravings stop happening for the most part, and then it gets a looot easier to resist easy meals over healthy ones. 

And MyFitness Pal is the greatest thing for this. I love marking down what I eat- I actually enjoy tracking it because I can see the kinds of things I have been eating. 

5- Make a visual aid.
I am fortunate enough to have an elliptical at home (love it!), and it's in a room pretty much all by its lonesome. However, keeping it company are three things: 

1- Exercise tracking sheet: 
I keep a week at a time and mark down what I've done that Sunday- Saturday. I also keep track of my records. Example: Tuesday, I ran 3 kms in 32 minutes. Until I can beat that record, I'll use it as a regular target. It is amazing seeing how much you are capable of when you feel like quitting. You can look at it and go, "I wanted to quit last time, but I made it all the way to 3k!"Just try and beat it by a few seconds at a time. 

2- A whiteboard with every single pound written out : 
This way, you can cross those mother truckers off with a niiiiiiiice red marker when you have destroyed and conquered them. It's incredibly helpful to have the proof in front of your face on the days when you just can't see a change in your body. Feel like nothing is working? Look at that board and see all those crossed out numbers. You will smile no matter how many unmarked numbers there are. Progress is happening, even if it's slow. What you are doing is working! Take credit for it!

3- Reward system: 
I will cover this in a bit, but it's my favorite thing!! 

6- Metabolism
My metabolism sucks. Seriously. Those people who can eat whatever they want and never gain a pound? They are usually blessed with amazing metabolisms. I am not one of them, so I did a little research into what it would take to speed mine up, and it's pretty easy! 

Lift weights to build muscles. Those muscles? They'll work overtime in your body once they're there- they'll keep burning fat cells even when you aren't working out! Beautiful. 
Drink tons of water. I pee constantly at work, and my hands are always dry from washing them, but I feel so  much better. Flushing out your body is a good thing! DRINK YOUR WATER. 
Also, Green Tea? Amazeballs. Drink looooots of that as well. I cheat and add a teeeeeny bit of honey to mine, or cinnamon, both of which are also really great for kick starting that metabolism. Grapefruit is also a really great staple to have in your fridge- if you can handle the taste!
HIIT. High Intensity Interval Training. It's always going to be important to have some level of physical activity in your life, but HIIT is wonderful for getting those metabolism building helpers going. Your body has to adapt to the change in effort you are leading it through, so when you force it to accelerate and decelerate, you are doing yourself a favor!

7- Get active. 
This is incredibly important as well. Bored? Go for a walk. Call a friend and go to a park. If you're up for it, get a membership at a gym or go to a class with a friend. Having someone else there will make you work harder! And you'll never regret the time spent exercising after the fact. The hardest part is starting. There are a ton of free videos available on Youtube for at-home workouts. Do a workout while you watch a quick episode of your favorite show. An episode of Friends is 22 minutes. There are ten seasons. Just sayin'. Is there a movie you've been dying to watch lately? Only watch it when you work out, then you have to EARN watching it.  


8- Reward systems are the best. Actually. 
This is my favorite part. Like I said, in my room with the elliptical I have my reward board. Here's how it works: I have ten pound increments written on it, and in each bracket I have a 'gift' to myself. For the first ten pounds lost, I treated myself to a new book series I'd been wanting. The second ten pounds was that fancy 3D Fiber Mascara by Younique you see ads for on Facebook all the time. My third ten pounds is getting my hair done (which I got to book a few days ago! Hurray!). You get the idea. This way, on those days when you don't feel like sticking to your exercise routine, or staying healthy, you can look at that reward poster and go, "Well, only six more pounds and I can get myself that pair of boots I've been working towards!" Or "go for a pedicure!" Whatever keeps you interested!

...My final goal gift is a massive tattoo I've been wanting for years.I want it, and I understand that it will take time to get to, but it is achievable. Plus, who doesn't love gifts? :) I'm not saying go out and buy a pair of Louboutin's every ten pounds (but if you can afford that, then go for it!). Don't break the bank with these things, just make them something that will be a reward to you for sticking to your goals! 

9- Remember that time with pass anyway. 
Where do you want to be a year from now? The time is going to pass anyways, so you could either put in a little effort every day, or, in a year, be upset that you didn't start. May as well start now, right? Just start. I promise, you won't regret it!

10- Don't pressure yourself.
Everyone is their own worst critic. Don't get down on yourself, just know that you already have what you need to get where you want to be. The first time someone asks you if you've lost weight? Amazing. Second only to noticing a change in yourself and feeling better. 


So there you go! Those are my tips! I hope they help someone, or make weight loss/ healthy living seem a little more manageable. And hey, honestly? If I can do it (and hopefully stick with it), anyone can do it. 

I'll be posting progress reports on here as well as some of my healthy recipes! Slight change of my usual stuff, but documenting it is helping me stay determined! 

Enjoy :) 

I'd love to hear what other tips and tricks folks out there have! Or if this makes sense to anyone besides me haha. 

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

That Time I Got a Concussion in a Pillow Fort

So I figured since I am now able to look at a computer screen for longer than twenty minutes, I may as well share how I managed to pull off that tag line. It's real. It's a thing. It happened. And it is veritably fraught with 'Alexandra-ness'. I left out some of the lead up when explaining it to the doctor, but he still laughed at me. Well, giggled. I mean, the guy was a professional. I'm sure it wasn't the first time someone got a concussion this way. Maybe. 

The setting: It's the first day of 2015. I have the day off from work. It is also the day after I built a SWEET fort in my basement to surprise my husband with when he got home from work. It was amazing. We're talking full sheet walls, an actual mattress, a mountain of pillows, delicious snacks, the works. I know. 


... In this fort of epicness and bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, I also included twinkle lights. If you don't call them that, they also go by the names 'Christmas lights' or 'Unknown Murder Bulbs'. Either or. We have the super intense ones, you know, the ones built to be inside OR outside so they are made of Wolverine's adamantium claws or something similar? Yeah. Those ones. 

Anywho, I had them strung over the back of the couch, which I had turned around because FORT, and shoved into the crevice between the cushions and the equally adamantium-like frame of the couch. I thought, "Oh! Those look so pretty there! I'll leave them for days!" 


This brings us to New Years Day. 

I spent most of the day with my girlfriends, laughing it up, eating Chinese food, watching Bridesmaids (which will be funny and ironic later), Pitch Perfect, and select parts of Burlesque (I have a strange obsession with that one scene with the belting out and the police costume... chiiiiiills). Now, as with any good hang out, we inevitably got on the Youtube machine and began watching videos. 

They introduced me to the video of the Two Virgins Kissing For The First Time At Their Wedding. Folks, I'll spare you having to watch it, because I will never be the same, and say that it basically looks like two large-mouthed bass(es?) making out. Those singing fish mounted on a wooden board in your Dad/ Uncle/ Grandpa's garage because they're funny? Picture two of those. It's... well... you've got the mental picture now, so you can understand it. 

Anywho, upon watching this and cringing into whatever couch was closest, they came up with the brilliant idea that I should kiss my husband like that when I got home from girls night! Blair and I are ridiculous humans, and we have a similarly twisted sense of humor, so I figured it would be hi-larious. Hahaha. 

I got home. The stage was set. Blair was in the basement fort playing Call of Duty. All I had to do was keep it together and play it cool. This was going to be a piece of cake! And one hell of an awful memory that would be laced with furrowed eyebrows and quizzical expressions that would be sure to bring a smile to our faces for many years. 

I didn't really factor in my 'Alexandra-ness' until it was far too late. 

I 'fwoomped' down onto the mattress beside him, trying to reign in my borderline hysterical laughter. I waited patiently for him to finish up his game. Then he turned to me with his usual adorable Blair smile and welcomed me home, asking how girls night went. 

I gave him a giggle-free smile. I went in for the smooch. 

I broke composure. I couldn't get it together enough to actually kiss him as terribly as the video I had seen. So instead, I pretty much just laughed against his face and did the WORST impression of it ever. 

I couldn't stop laughing and when I saw his face, I lost it. I mean, huuuuge belly laughs. Important side fact: When I laugh reeeeeally hard at home, surrounded by pillows and the like, I tend to do a Whale Trust Fall at high velocity onto whatever surface is available. 

Unfortunately for me, that surface was the back of the couch and the string of Murder-Death-Kill Bulbs that I had left up because they were 'pretty'. 

After smoking my head against the demon-twinkles, I crumpled onto the mattress and it was Blair's turn to burst out laughing. He managed to ask if I was okay in between gasps of laughter. Once we had determined that I wasn't bleeding, and was most likely not in grave peril, he went upstairs and got me a bag of frozen peas, which I left IN THE BAG. 


See? I told you the Bridesmaids watching would be ironic. 

I stayed up until 3 AM that night, making sure I didn't show any signs of a bad concussion, and things seemed alright except for the macho headache. It wasn't until I was at work the next day trying to read my computer screen that I realized, 'Hey! Maybe I should go to the Doctor since my right eye keeps blurring?'

Yup. And I had to call my step dad to come and drive me. So, yet again, he and my little brother (who couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a good laugh) drove me to the dr, where it was discovered I had actually managed to get a Mild Concussion from falling like a whale in a pillow fort onto lights designed to be indestructible. He even asked, 'So... like the BIG Christmas lights, or...?' to which I was forced to shake my head and hold up an inch with my fingers. 


Needless to say, not being able to read, watch TV, go on my phone, or drive kind of put a damper on the next four days. 

So there you have it. The hero-ing tale of how I took my clumsiness to soaring new heights and started 2015 off with a bang (bah dum, chish!). 

I hope that this gripping tale of love, suspense, whales, and bridesmaids has brought a smile to your face. Lord knows it has been a source of constant entertainment for my co-workers, who have thoughtfully offered to bubblewrap the Christmas tree at work since there are 'hazardous' lights on it. They've also started an 'Alexandra Helmet' fund. I've been informed a 'bubble' is in the works as well. 

Happy New Year! :) 


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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Up on the shelf

Good morning, fellow humans! 

After my slightly less than chipper post yesterday, I decided I would start this new 'trend' of me blogging with something that I love. I say trend, but secretly I am hoping that this habit will stick because hey! I rather enjoy a good stream of rambling consciousness! 


Cliche, yes, but boring? NEVAH. 

I could prattle on and on (and probably will) about how much I adore the written words of others, whether they come in the form of a blog post, an article, a novel, an imdb write up (okay, admittedly a little weird), random fanfiction (there are some gems out there!), comments on tumblr (fine,that one is just to marvel at the genius of other people's comments) or anything else. LOVE it. But, as with any book worm, my heart lies in books. 

I decided that, since I did something kind of scary to me yesterday, I have earned a little bit of fun share time! I have compiled my personal list of:

Books to Read in Your Twenties (or anytime, because books)

I've seen a fair few of these posts, most of them on glorious sites like Buzzfeed (another one of my daily vitamins). Some of these books shaped me as a person, while others are simply ones that I grew up loving and I wish to perhaps pass them along to an unsuspecting passerby. Please keep in mind that I have left out the Harry Potter series simply because I am a muggle (sad), and I am a firm believer that every Muggle must educate themselves about Harry Potter and god-queen Rowling. Always. Moving on. 

1- The Darkest Minds Series by Alexandra Bracken

These books will, in a word, 'break' you. And when I say 'break', I mean the slow, ever so wonderful, full-stop, can't get enough, never want the agony to end kind of 'break' that only truly great writers can accomplish. This series blew me away right from the first pages and once I started, I COULD. NOT. STOP. I also did the worst thing possible and bought and read the first book only days after it came out. This was by accident. I then had to wait a year for the next one, and another YEAR after that. So be glad I am suggesting this to you now and not when they first came out. Otherwise you would have been sharing my tear-filled boat SANS life vest sailing straight for Danger Bay. 

These books bring to light so many fantastic moments and changes that come with discovering who you are. They have characters so real and so complex that even now, months after I finished reading the last book, I still catch myself wondering about what is happening in the characters lives. They are part of me in a way that few fictional characters have ever become.

2- The Watcher Series by Margaret Buffie

Written by a Manitoban author, The Watcher series was one of my childhood favorites. The writing, while simple, tells such an interesting and epic story. Science fiction meets old fashioned folklore, and I sit down to read these books once a year. My mom got them for me on a whim, but not a summer went by that they weren't stashed in one of my carry along items for flights or camping trips. This became 

3- Red Shirts by John Scalzi

Okay, this one is a little bit nerdier than the others, but if you enjoy sarcastic, biting, ironic humor like I do, then trust me- Star Trekish (that's a word, don't judge) though this book may be, lacking in entertainment it is not. It is fantastic from start to finish, an easy read that is so well developed that it can transport you (see what I did there? Beam me up, Scalzi!) in but a few pages. I found myself laughing out loud by light of my cellphone light while my husband slept. Thank god my laugh is mostly me just shaking silently and looking around like I just said something brilliantly funny and I expect others to join in. The narrator is the sort of fellow you would want at parties/every single day because they have such a clever way of making comments. It's bravery through fear and laughter which is something I am a huuuge fan of. 

4- Looking For Alaska by John Green

 I know, you were waiting for when this name would pop up, weren't you? I thought as much. When I first decided to pick up a John Green book, I had no idea what to expect. Sure I'd heard a lot of hubub about his books, especially The Fault In Our Stars, which I did read and am forever more emotionally scarred/ in awe of, but I wasn't sure if it would be my kind of read. 

I am so glad that I decided to pick up his books. Looking For Alaska was the book I read to get the tears out of my throat after finishing TFIOS. I was not disappointed. The man can write, and what's even more incredible is the way he can get inside your head, can make his characters matter to the point where you completely check out from reality and end up forgetting that you are reading about a person dreamed up inside the skull of a fantastic youtuber. I know I'm big on character stuff, as I've said, but this was one of those books that kind of got me through some stuff. Again with the cliches!! I know. I'll stop now. Maybe. I make no promises. 

5- Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

I'm a suck for anything to do with Greek Mythology, especially things that throw it into a new light. This book does that while you laugh off Apollo's smiley face tighty whiteys into a bowl of Poseidon's goldfish crackers, all the while watching Zeus try to get his pieces of toast out of the toaster with a lightning bolt. Yeah. That. So good. 

6- The Partials Series by Dan Wells

This was another series that I got hooked on a few years back when I did the dreadful thing of buying multiple New works all at once. If you are into dystopian reads that combine things that have potential to really happen and science fiction, then this is a read you will enjoy. Super soldiers, biologically designed plagues that wipe out 98% of the world, genetics, old world meets new world- I mean, it's pretty much got it all right there. 

7- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The eighties. A golden age of video games, hair bands, classic movies, adventure, and rock band concert shirts that people now search out online. This is another one of those highly addictive reads that will have you flipping pages faster than you did when you realized you forgot about the homework that was due in the thirty seconds before class. Light speed, my friends. This book is a rocket ship to awesome town- Population, you and whoever else reads this book/ loves awesome things. It's that good. Much adventure. Such thrill. Wow. 

8- Ex-Heroes by Peter Cline (Not to be confused with Ernest Cline, although he did write a lovely quote for the front jacket) 

Zombies and Superheroes. ZOMBIES. AND. SUPERHEROES. 

...it doesn't get better than that. Moving on. 

9- Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

I got these for Christmas and I'm halfway through the first set of five... the fact that I have pulled myself away from book 3 is a testament to how much I wanted to write this list. As previously stipulated, I love me some Greek Mythology, and Rick Riordan KILLED it with these books. Something about these books reminds me of the Harry Potter series- a compliment I do not hand out lightly. It's like growing up with your Hero. And Percy Jackson has so much sass I have had to put the book down more than once to shake my head at his whip-quick retorts. I want to be like him when I grow up. 

10- Red Rising by Pierce Brown

I did an entire post about this book riiiiiight here because it is so stinking good. I CANNOT wait for the next one to come out in January. It's just... asdf;lkjasd;lfkjasd;lfkja 


Now, I have left out a good many favorites, but that is only because I am sure a lot of you have already fallen in love with them. Game of Thrones, the Hunger Games, Divergent, Mortal Instruments City of Bones (the book not the movie. I'm sorry, I can't back that one. Can't. Won't. Same thing), the list is endless. The list I made is merely a new sampling if you care to give it a whirl! 

I'd love to hear what books you're reading! I'm always looking for new pages to fill the old bookshelf with- after I finish this Percy Jackson business. Seriously guys, it's ruining my life. 


*Him: the book series. I don't know how to work Gifs. I just learned how to pronounce them properly. 

Anyways! I hope you enjoyed this list and I hope that you get a chance to crack open a few of these gems :) 

Cheers, readers!   

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Monday, December 29, 2014

The struggle is real...


I have been absent from blogland for a good long while, since July 21st to be precise, and it is high time I started getting back into the groove. Now, I have my reasons, some of which I plan on divulging in this/possible upcoming posts, and while some may not be very good, the big one is just straight up dreadful. 

Disclaimer right now, this is NOT going to be my usual stuff. This isn't going to particularly cheerful, or witty, or full of hilarious Gifs or memes that I laugh about waaay longer than I should. This is going to be the scariest thing I put out there about myself ever. Something I have been hemming and hauing about writing down at all. 

For the past several months, I have been attempting to deal with a newly diagnosed Anxiety disorder, and let me be the first to say that I'm not sure if I've made much headway in the matter. Before figuring this out, I just assumed I was more susceptible to worrying or panicking about little details, but as the anxiety grew and started taking on a personality of its own, it became much harder to ignore or push away. I started realizing that what I thought was 'normal', wasn't, in fact, normal at all- a scary realization when I pride myself on being in control of myself at all times. 

For years, I have been on the sidelines as several of my closest friends and family went through the absolutely terrifying steps of dealing with anxiety, depression, panic, the works. I always marveled at them- they had this way of putting on a brave face, even when they were going through something I couldn't quite relate to, but wished I could help with. I never fully understood how hard day to day life was, and I didn't want to be insensitive or foolish enough to say, 'I understand', or, 'It's not so bad'. You never know what someone is going through, so don't be the one to say how much you 'get it'. You don't. Their battle is their own. Just be there for them. 

I came to understand this a little better once I figured out some things about myself, which were ugly and awful to learn, but had been living on a timer for years.

It started by me e-mailing a friend after one of the worst 'lows' I can remember. It was the first time I openly admitted to needing help and feeling lost, like I was no longer in control of how I felt. I've had some doozies the last while, but this one was the worst one to date at the time. My anxiety stems from a whole mish-mash of things, but my biggest, most terrifying fear is death and disease. Now, a lot of people reading this (if there are any of you) will say, 'Hey! Don't be too hard on yourself- that's the most natural thing in the world to be afraid of!' to which I will reply, 'Yes, but not to this extent'. 

Let me break down a few of my thoughts for you- paint a picture, if I may. 

My brain works like this:  

I hear a story about how someone got cancer/rare disease/common cold. I hear what symptoms they experienced. My IMMEDIATE reaction is to imagine what it would be like to have that happen to me. And not just a, 'Oh, that would suck' thought, I mean visualize the whole process. Finding out from a doctor. Telling my family. Telling my husband. What would happen to him. What our life would be like. 

Then the real fun starts. 

Then I worry about what would happen to him if I died (escalated rather quickly, no?). The fear of what it would do to my loved ones. What would they have to suffer? What would I miss out on? This is followed by pain in my chest/ arms so brutal that for the first while I thought I was having a heart attack. Or that I actually had one of those rare diseases and this was a warning sign. Or that I was having an aneurysm. Or that I was having a stroke. And not just a fleeting thought- those ideas ignite into fully-fledged mental wars between the rational side of me and the irrational. When I'm in the middle of an 'attack', I can't get myself out. My brain has me completely convinced that one of those scenarios is playing out in reality- that I really am dying/having a heart attack/ whatever else my brain thinks would be horrible. It's impossible to get out of those spirals. It's like a war being fought against yourself by yourself. 

Imagine if that happened, say, once a week. Stole your sleep, your peace of mind, made your heart beat so hard in your chest that after a trip to the doctors, you find out that your chest is bruised from it beating so hard from fear? That's what it's like. Only it happens for days. All the while, convincing you more and more that you are on borrowed time. Even saying it/ writing it makes you feel like you a merely confirming it.

To say it's exhausting is a gross understatement. I used to love being alone. I relished my 'me' time. Now it feels like a punishment. Because it's always worse when I'm alone. What if something happens when no one is around? What would happen then? That's the kind of thinking being alone brings on. The constant What If game that I never seem to be able to win.

I've been trying to get past it, but the more I read up on Anxiety, the farther away from an answer I feel. 

Perhaps this is too dark for the internet, too serious a topic for a blog that discusses knitting addiction, puppies, baking, bad interviews with poop on your shoe, and sound through colour, but this is also a place I write about what's important to me. 

I never fully fathomed how real these diseases were, not until it was knocking on my front door with a sledge hammer. And part of me is ashamed for that. For not trying harder to understand what people suffering from these things go through. Day to day life is a struggle. Every day. Every hour. I don't know how many times a day I tell myself, 'That's just your anxiety. You are fine.' My heart races, or my head hurts, or my muscles twinge, or my chest aches, or my breathing spikes out of the blue, convincing me that something is very wrong with me, and I have to say a mantra in my head just to stay grounded. All the things I classified as 'normal' don't quite apply.

So for anyone out there dealing with a mental illness, or struggling to keep themselves whole, I feel ya, Holmes. The one thing that sort of helped me in the beginning was reading up about other peoples experiences. It was reassuring in a morbid sort of way- reading that perhaps I wasn't actually dying, perhaps what I felt was a legitimate issue that I needed to address. That I wasn't having a heart attack. It was actually anxiety. 

Sorry for the gloom-and-doom post, I promise I'll be back to my sunny disposition soon enough, but I finally felt brave enough to talk about this. I explain things better in writing than I EVER could in a conversation with a real live human being. Baby steps. And hey! Maybe this will help someone else realize that they aren't alone. Maybe it will help another soul understand that there are others who are fighting along with them. And maybe that's too much to hope for, but here goes! 

Finding happiness in the things around you does help, even if makes you more afraid of losing them, because they exist. You have those things now. Enjoy them. Tell the people you love just how much they mean to you every chance you get. 

Don't be afraid to say, 'I need help'. You might be surprised who stands next to you.     

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