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Posted on Jan 3, 2013 in Dear Diary | 9 comments

Guest Post: Army Pants and Flip Flops

Boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Have I got a treat for you today. Some of you might recognize the name and face behind today’s guest poster, and that’s because today we welcome my good friend Aileen to the blog! Aileen, for those of you who don’t know, has a witty and laugh-out-loud hilarious blog called Army Pants and Flip Flops, where she details her life, opinions, and various neuroses–with all of those things being at least somewhat related to the fact that she is an Army wife-in-training. Oh, and she’s totally the one who edited my book.  NBD.

Aileen has managed to masterfully weave together a post about health, happiness, and new year resolutions for your enjoyment. Also, she utilizes the word “cheese” no less than 36 times, which I think is already very telling as to how awesome and delightful this post is. I strongly, strongly recommend you guys become a regular follower of her blog, but since I’m sure her own words will  be far more convincing than my own… take it away, Aileen!

How I tackled 2012 like a well-balanced cheese plate

In January, 2012, I made a list of resolutions. When I do choose to make New Year’s resolutions (re: rather infrequently), I like to set the bar as low as possible. One year I resolved to eat more cheese. The next year I resolved to eat less cheese, because my primary care physician recommended I have my cholesterol routinely checked, which I took to mean that my cheese consumption was rapidly killing me, and every slice of brie brought me one slice closer to death.

The year after that I went back to eating cheese again, because I decided that life is too short to ignore a sweet-cream gouda. Although my life might be a little longer if I decide to ignore the gouda every once in a while.

So by January 2012, I’d learned an important lesson: resolutions, like a good cheese plate, require a purposeful element of balance.


Study this CheeseClock; it will become important later. And now you know how to balance a cheese plate. You’re welcome.

At the end of 2011, I came down with bronchitis. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t simultaneously come down with tonsillitis and sinusitis, and a completely unrelated tendonitis in my right hip and left foot, none of which I’d ever experienced before, and all of which left me looking and feeling extremely attractive. Which is I’m assuming why, at the end of 2011, the time was also right for my then-boyfriend to ask me to marry him.

Anybody who doesn’t regret proposing to you after watching medicated nasal spray drip slimily from your snot-filled nostrils for the week proceeding the engagement is definitely a keeper.

The proposal and my sudden onslaught of ailments jolted me into 2012 feeling giddy and breathless. (The breathlessness was mostly from the bronchitis. It took me a while to get used to using the inhaler.) And while the general area of my face, chest, and throat only took a month or two to clear out, the other symptoms of my end-of-2011, it seemed, were a bit more permanent.

The first permanent symptom was Jonathan, my now-fiancé. I realize that calling him a “symptom” makes me sound like an asshole, but before you JUDGE ME, consider that I call Jonathan a symptom of my new life in the same way that the blooming bud of an orange day lily is a symptom of pollination, which is a symptom of photosynthesis, because the working world is full of beautiful symptoms that happen because we need them to, but also because we want them to.

I also call Jonathan a symptom because, as much as I believe every new marriage should strive for happiness and permanence, marrying Jonathan also means marrying his job as a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army. If you want to know how inadequately my upbringing and temperament has prepared me to be an army wife, feel free to take a look at my history with semi-violent situations and my fear of Republicans.

When 2012 began, I knew it would end with my fiancé’s second deployment to Afghanistan, and the promise of a new beginning when he returned.

What I didn’t know when 2012 began, however, was just how permanent my second symptom would be.

While the tendonitis in my foot disappeared easily with systematic rest and a nauseating dose of NSAIDs, the tendonitis in my hip decided it was really enjoying hanging around. It was having such a good time, in fact, that it decided to invite increasing joint and muscular-skeletal problems to the party. You know those really charming Mucinex commercials where they turn a big blob of mucus into a middle-aged New Yorker with a tiny bowler hat and suspenders? I imagine it’s something like that mucus guy that settled into my hip; except, instead of mucus, he is made of A THOUSAND TINY RETRACTING SWITCHBLADES, and he has no charming bowler hat.

While my doctors and I had legitimate reasons to be concerned about this, the symptom (and this time I’m saying “symptom” in the traditional, non-fiancé sense) that manifested earliest was that I absolutely had to stop running, under penalty of tiny switchblade death. And also under penalty of a very nice MRI technician who let me listen to a local country radio station in giant headphones while he scanned my hips for fluid, so he seems like a trustworthy guy.

I guess my saving grace in this new army-wife-suddenly-crippled life was that I’ve never actually enjoyed running. I ran several times a week for many years of my life because I’m lazy, and running was the easiest way for me to exercise my whole body and keep my weight down, but still leave the gym in time to be home for Jeopardy. Running was the entire foundation on which my fitness routine was based, and suddenly, in the midst of these other life changes, that foundation crumbled like a chunk of pungent feta cheese when you take your first bite into a Greek salad.

I can make almost anything a cheese analogy if you give me time.

As 2012 began, so did many changes. I needed to find a way, with my doctors’ help, to stay healthy in a body that felt completely new to me (and was apparently a complete asshole to me, too). And I needed to do so in a way that would fit my life as it somersaulted into a new world of unknowns and anxiety.

With an eye for balance, I went about setting my 2012 New Year’s resolutions in the same way one would go about balancing a cheese plate according to the CheeseClock: from mild, to medium, to bold, to strong.

  • Mild cheese plate selection: Start your cheese plate at the 6 o’clock position with young mild goats, double or triple cremes, or bloomy rind cheeses.
  • Mild resolution for 2012: Get better at using the touch screen on my iPhone.

In my habit of setting the bar low, I chose to make sure my first resolution had nothing to do with anything. This resolution was mild (like a creamy chèvre) because it was literally impossible for me to be worse at using my touch screen. As a bonus, I resolved to train my autocorrect to recognize the word “chèvre” without suggesting I change it to “Chevrolet.”

  • Medium cheese plate selection: Proceed clockwise, with the next type of cheese being a soft to semi-firm, such as a mild cow, aged goat or sheep milk cheese.
  • Medium resolution for 2012: Incorporate poultry into my diet.

When I walk through the cheese aisle at Trader Joe’s, I will inevitably purchase at least one block of artery-clogging, semi-firm Manchego. Finalizing my departure from 10 years of vegetarianism was something I’ve known for a long time was equally inevitable.

While my doctors couldn’t prove that my lack of meat-derived amino acids was necessarily causing any of my health problems, they urged that being committed to appeasing my health problems meant cutting out any external factors that could be contributing to my body’s unhappiness. While I was already health-conscious and balanced my diet fairly carefully, I knew that my life would be much easier without the constant worry that I wasn’t getting enough protein. Which sometimes led to unhealthy binges on Greek yogurt and pad thai with tofu, which in turn left me unsatisfied and bloat-y.

  • Bold cheese plate selection: Your next cheese can become stronger, bolder and nuttier like a hard mountain, long-aged cheddar and mild washed rind (“stinky”) cheese.
  • Bold resolution for 2012: Plan (most of) my wedding.

One time I went to a wine and cheese bar, and was served a cheese that was purposely covered in fuzzy, pungent mold. Stomaching that cheese was more pleasant than planning a wedding has been so far.

Side note: I also learned that when a cheese is “washed,” it can sometimes be “washed” with penicillin. So make sure to warn your waiter about allergies you have to any medications. But only at wine and cheese bars; other waiters apparently don’t care that you’re allergic to penicillin, even though you were just trying to prevent a stinky cheese lawsuit for them, so they should really stop being such an asshole to you.

  • Strong cheese plate selection: To finish, choose a cheese with a bigger presence, such as more assertive washed rind cheese, or a classic blue cheese like Roquefort.
  • Strong resolution for 2012: Lift twice my body weight on the leg press.

In the winter of 2011, I ventured for the first time into the weight-machine section of my gym. While I’ve always felt safe and comfortable among the treadmills and suspended flat-screen TVs playing Hardball with Chris Matthews in closed captions, the weight-machine area was like some weird factory on Mars to me. It was filled with levers, and clanking, and angry, grunting men. Who smell your virgin weight-lifting fear. And then stare at you like you’re a toddler sporting a stinky, poo-filled diaper when you remove the pin completely from the bicep curl machine, because you realize you can’t lift more than 25 pounds, and that’s just the bar.

In my first two months of lifting, I hated it so much that, once a week or so, I decided maybe my body was better now and I could start running again. On one such occasion, I ran for an entire 11 minutes before my friend the DELIGHTFUL BALL OF SWITCHBLADES remembered he was on duty in my hip. F that guy.

I stopped running. Indefinitely. And, thanks to the backsliding, I had to stop all cardio for a few months, because just the strain of my apartment-to-work commute was prompting my doctor to recommend my taking short-term disability from my job. OKAY. I GET IT. I’LL STOP RUNNING.

I learned how to properly use all the machines. I discovered a particular affinity for the leg press, which is probably because I learned to channel my rage through my legs during six years of soccer as a kid. I even learned to use the machines I hated, i.e. THE STUPID BICEP CURL, which, even when I finally got the machine adjusted to the right height and position, I still couldn’t set it to more than 25 pounds. A guy at my gym who wears short shorts and those webbed-toe shoes that make you look like a frog continued to eye me patronizingly for weeks. I decided not to care, because maybe my lack of strength was ridiculous, but his shoes were also ridiculous so in my book we’re even.

When I began lifting weights at the end of 2011, I weighed 115 pounds. Which sounds like maybe I should quit my bitching and just skip a few weeks at the gym, until I mention that I’m 5’2” and I consistently have to go up a size in bikini bottoms because the size that accommodates the rest of my body absolutely cannot accommodate my butt. Which also probably explains why I’m overzealous about the leg press.

So I set my goal. Starting at a measly 100 pounds on the leg press, by the end of 2012 I resolved to lift twice my body weight: 230 pounds.

Then halfway through the year I gained five pounds and angrily realized I’d have to get to 240 instead. Jonathan says this was just a result of building muscle. I say it probably also has something to do with the manchego.

December 27, 2012 marked my one-year engagement-versary with Jonathan. He celebrated by attempting to find a free computer at the MWR in his post in Afghanistan so he could email me. I celebrated with this:

Leg press

Seated leg press

Leg press, and seated leg press for good measure. 10 reps; 3 sets. 240 pounds.

For 2013, I have resolved to make no resolutions. Except for dropping back down to 220 on the leg press for a little while, because apparently completing my New Year’s resolutions was at some point more important to me than being able to walk up and down stairs for the next week.

And as for the others…

Touch screen

Turkey leg


Aileen blogs regularly about cheese, life, and her gun-wielding hubby-to-be at http://armypantsandflipflops.com. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

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Posted on Nov 4, 2011 in Fail | 24 comments

New Month, Same Goals

It’s Friday! We made it! It’s time to do a little happy dance, get a hot cup of coffee, and watch this amazing video from Jimmy Kimmel Live re: kids, parents, and halloween candy.

Oh, the lies parents tell their children for the sake of amusement. (The two little boys at the end are the BEST. “She ate it! What the heck!”)

Now I hope you have your happiness force-fields up nice and strong after that, ’cause you’re going to need ’em in order to survive the continued doldrum-dwelling that’s about to follow. That’s right, it’s time to revisit the October goals that I belatedly established halfway through last month. Spoiler alert: There is a lot of failure involved.

Flashback time:

1. Hit 184-point-something pounds.

This did not happen. I gained 2.5 lbs two weeks ago, and I haven’t weighed myself since. Them’s the facts.

2. Complete a long run every weekend.

Now, I will concede to myself that this wasn’t a TOTAL failure, since I did go out and run twice over the weekends, as well as completed smaller runs during the week with uncharacteristic regularity (this week excluded, haha.) But, I didn’t do it every weekend, so technically, this is a wash too.

3. Go shopping.

I didn’t buy any new clothes, so really this was a full fail. But from a debt perspective, not buying clothes is kind of a win. Plus, I did technically shop, just mainly for food. Also, toothpaste.

4. Bring lunch to work everyday.

I have no excuses. Sad trombone.

5. Step up my photography.

My real goal here was to take a class or read up on photography technique, neither of which I did. In fact, most of the latter half of the month was spent with me in Photoshop writing words on pictures of my dogs. So while I do feel that I got some great shots at the various weddings I attended and whatnot, I don’t think that really counts.

So there you have it folks. Not exactly a stellar report card. But since I’m still hell-bent on trying to make this goal thing work, we’re just going to reset for this month instead.

1 – 5: The exact same as October’s goals. Only, y’know, without as much fail. I was going to amend my weight loss goal to make it lower, but then I remembered that Thanksgiving is happening at the end of the month. And since I haven’t gone completely crazy (yet), I do know better than to be that ambitious. I’m also adding an unofficial sixth goal to keep busy, have fun, and stop being sad/angry/lame. Eventually, at least.

What’s one of your November goals?

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Posted on Oct 14, 2011 in Dear Diary | 40 comments

Freitag Fünf

Yes, I’m a copycat. I fully admit it. Every blogger and her mom does a “Friday Favorites” or “Five for Friday” or some other cleverly alliterative post, and today I am no different. Well, except for the whole thing where the title of my post is in German (literal translation according to Babel Fish: Friday Five.) Hey, I gotta mix it up somehow!

See, my plan was to blog about my first training run (in preparation of the Hot Chocolate 15K that I signed up for in an insomnia-induced stupor Tuesday night.) I was going to have this whole schpiel about how I did it even though I incessantly tried to talk myself out of it and how I managed to complete X amount of miles and blahblahblah. But just as I was tying the laces on my Brooks, the skies opened up. And since I am barely a runner, let alone the kind of hardcore runner that runs in the rain, I kicked off my sneaks and did yoga in my room instead. Let’s just call it “cross-training” and move on.

I like lots of things, but especially these things right now.

Photo on 2011-10-04 at 17.08 #5
1. La Croix Sparkling Water

You guys have known about my sparkling water obsession for a little while now, but I have to say it’s gotten a lot more focused since I’ve been introduced to this amazingness. I foresee many dollars being sacrificed to the La Croix gods in the future. Must… try… raspberry…

2. Brussels sprouts.

Sorry Pops, I know these are your least favorite food, but the little green brains are back in my life! These used to be one of my scary foods, but I’ve since learned better. Cook ’em up with some maple syrup and bacon? Man, oh man. Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll eat your share.

3. Weddings!

Tomorrow brings the FOURTH wedding that I will have attended since August. Whew! That being said, I still love weddings, and I am so, so happy to get to share in my friends’ special days. Steve, on the other hand, might be getting a little burnt out on my not-so-subtle bouquet-catching efforts, hahaha.

4. iOS 5

I just downloaded iOS 5 for my iPhone the night before last and I love it. Things are running smoother, faster, and I am OBSESSED with the new Banner notification option. Now when I get text messages they no longer pop up and interrupt whatever I’m doing – a notification simply slides down from the top. I can click it if I want, otherwise it will go away after a few seconds, sans interruptus. The new iMessage feature, where I can now text anyone else with iOS 5 for free (similar to Blackberry’s BBM function) is sweet too. Kinda makes that unlimited texting plan a little useless though, eh?

5. If I Die Young – The Band Perry

I know I’m really, really (um, a year?) late jumping onto this bandwagon but I have been eerily obsessed with this song lately. I literally cannot get it out of my head… and it may or may not be my ringtone as of 5 PM yesterday evening (damn you iTunes!) I’m sure my roommates are probably getting mighty sick of hearing me butcher it as I attempt to learn it on guitar though.

So what if October is already half over?! Better late than never!

1. Hit 184-point-something lbs.

I know this might not seem like the loftiest of goals considering I’m sitting at exactly 186.0 lbs (as of my last weigh-in), but with the aforementioned wedding coming at me tomorrow… well, it might not be such a gimme after all.

2. Complete a long run every weekend.

At this point, 4 to 5 miles is still a lot for me. I wasn’t able to run the Navy 5 Miler without walking, so I want to master that before trying to tack on any more distance. My goal is to do at least two shorter runs during the week and a longer run on the weekend. This is a really specific goal compared to how I usually plan things, so we’ll have to see how well I stick to it!

3. Go Shopping.

The feedback you guys gave me on yesterday’s clothing dilemma helped me decide that I should pick up a few more closet staples in the size I am now. I plan on snagging a couple of fall & winter basics to carry me through this in-between phase before I hit my goal weight. Thanks for giving me an excuse to spend more money, guys!

4. Bring lunch to work everyday.

I’ve been shamefully lacking in this area lately (and I was doing so well, too!) so I’m re-resolving to pack my lunch everyday. Bringing my own food is so much better for me, makes calorie counting so much easier, and is so, so, SO much cheaper.

Buncha Monkeys
5. Step up my photography.

Seeing Ben in photog mode (both at the wedding and at various portrait shoots like the one above with our friend’s baby) has made me really want to up the ante with my photography. Seeing him in action made me painfully aware of how much I still have to learn. I want to take a class, or at least spend some real time reading and viewing tutorials on how to master my camera and get to the next level of editing expertise.

And there you have it. Yet another one of my forays into a (hopefully) beloved blog fad. So now it’s your turn!

What’s one thing you’ve been loving lately, and/or one thing you’d like to accomplish before the end of October?

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Posted on Feb 23, 2011 in Dear Diary | 8 comments

Mid-early-early-life Crisis

oberazzi via flickr

Every so often, a girl stops to take stock of things and ask the question: What the frack am I doing with my life?! Well, folks, today (and for the past few weeks, really) I have been that girl. Asking that question. Granted, this is no mid-life crisis. Even I am not so dramatic that I don’t acknowledge the fact that I’m barely even into my early life here. But I still find myself so frequently searching for that big answer to that big question: What am I going to be when I grow up?

For those of you unaware of my professional(ish) history thus far, I graduated from JMU in 2009 with my B.A. in Communication Studies. With the recession and the constant looming threat of how the job market was the worst EVER for my graduating class, I snatched up the first job offer that came along, securing a customer service position at an event-management software company in Tysons Corner prior to graduating. I thought I had it maaaade in the shaaaaade. Job security before I even walked across the stage to collect my fake diploma? I acted like the baller I thought I was, and started my First Real World Job with anticipation, excitement, and typical Gretchen-like enthusiasm.

Needless to say, it did not work out. I lasted exactly 1 year, for reasons I won’t get into here (trying to do the high-road thing.) I had researched various job industries prior to quitting, and I knew that I wanted to get out of customer service but still draw on my communication skills and aptitude for people. I figured that HR would be a good way to still incorporate both of those things. I escaped into an HR Assistant position at a government contractor (still in Tysons) and have been at my current job for the past 7 or 8 months.

While I have definitely learned a ton about both HR and the world of government contracts, I’m finding that something is lacking. I’m still interested in the HR field, but I’m not sure if it’s the slower pace of government work, or the specific work that I’m doing… I just feel like I’m going through the motions but there’s no focus. No goal. No aim.

I don’t know if these feelings would remain the same if I were doing the same thing at a different place or if I’m just totally off-track here, but I feel like I need something to pull me back in. I started this blog only a few weeks after I had started my current job, and even in the short amount of time that has passed I feel like I have changed immeasurably (and not just my dress size!) Since my passion for healthy living and nutrition has been ignited since starting my weight loss journey and this blog, I’ve contemplated going back to school to pursue a dietetics degree (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right Anne? Haha!) But I’ve also thought about going back to school to get further education in HR, or going to culinary school, or revisiting the idea of becoming a massage therapist, or pursuing that dog bakery I’ve always dreamed of opening (don’t judge!) I’ve gone through a lot of ideas in the past year or so.

I just don’t know. I know that I’m still young, that I still have time to figure it out, but so many of the things that I would be interested in pursuing involve a significant commitment – either time or money, or both! And that’s just to get qualified to DO those things, forget about whether or not you love it or not. You won’t know until you get there, and I don’t even know where to start.

I guess my question is, how do you know when it’s time to take the leap? How do you get the courage to jump in? How long before “taking some time to figure things out” is really just stalling on letting your life begin?

Ok, I guess that’s technically three questions. Three loaded questions, haha. Anybody with insight on this, or even just your opinion, pleeeeeeease weigh in. It’s not like I’m not happy with how things are right now, I just feel like I need something bigger to work towards. My weight is getting under control. My life? That’s the next work-to-be-in-progress.

Ok, just one last teensyweensy thing:

If you lovely, lovely readers wouldn’t mind nominating Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen! for the Women’s Health Magazine Blogs We Love 2011, contest that would be amaaaaaazing!! Click here and I’ll love you forever (well, let’s be honest, I would love you anyway.) 🙂

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Posted on Jan 2, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food | 1 comment

hello [2011] goodbye [2010]

Happy New Year from Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!

Happy New Year!

I spent a nice, fairly low-key New Year with family and friends, and it was just perfect. We spent our evening in Falls Church, which is evidently now going as “The Little City”:

Falls Church or Bust!

The night started off with my family (minus Ben, plus Steve) getting our grub on at Pilin, a local Thai restaurant. We had a chicken satay to share amongst the table, and then I had a Tom Ka Gai – lemongrass and coconut milk soup with chicken and veggies:

Tom Yum Gai

My main course? What else:

Pad Thai Shrimp

A perfect shrimp Pad Thai. Not too greasy, not too heavy, but perfectly satisfying and yum-o. My favorite thing to get when dining a la Thai is actually panang curry, but I *tried* to be good and not get something totally creamy and coconut-y (veeeery high in fat, but allegedly it’s the good kind of fat!)

After dinner, we traipsed the 20 feet from the restaurant to watch Ben and his band, Judo Chop, in action!

Judo Chop!
Rock out with your...

They headlined the night’s festivities and were awesome (and it was such a riot to see the band’s teenage groupies screaming in the front row, talking about how in love with my brother they are, hahaha!)

We ended the night at Ireland’s Four Provinces, a local Irish Pub (duh) and favorite haunt, with a champagne toast and some new year paraphernalia.


I hope everyone had a fantastic New Year celebration, and kicked off 2011 well! After reading through all 62 unread items on my Google Reader prior to posting this, I decided that I’d contribute to the apparent blogosphere trend of saying what my goals for 2011 are. I’m only going to concentrate on the two biggies here, since I’m not a huge fan of the whole New Year Resolution thing (talk about setting yourself up for failure!) but here are the main points:

1. Continue on my weight-loss journey and lose an additional 30 – 40 pounds. I’ve already lost 40 pounds off of my original weight of 246 (huzzah!), so now it’s time to really crank it into gear and finish this thing!

Originally, I was pretty set on a “goal weight” number: 165, plucked fairly arbitrarily out of my idea of what would be appropriate for me. My new goal isn’t necessarily going to be centered around an exact number. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on being healthy while being able to stay happy. Whether that ends up being 160 or 175, I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

2. Continue working towards my fitness goals and run an 8k and a 10k race before the end of the year. I completed my very first 5k race this past Thanksgiving, and would also like to run another 5k with a much better time. I finished in about 41 minutes without stopping the first, time, and bare minimum I’d like to finish in 39 minutes or under next time around.

Happy 2011, everyone! 2010 was great, and I made some very important life decisions that have put me in a much better place now as compared to last January, so here’s to hoping that I keep up that trend! What are some of your resolutions/goals for the new year? I’d love to hear about ’em!

Happy Powell New Year!

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