Alyssa’s first mud run: Muckfest MS Los Angeles!

Do you remember when you were a kid and you got to play in the mud? Maybe your parents didn’t let you, but you did it anyway, finding that stray mud puddle on your way home from school. You delighted in the joyful sensation of sticky, wet, mud squishing around your toes, making mud pies, trying to slog your feet out of the quicksand as you splashed around in. Now, there’s a way for grown ups to play in the mud — and not just any mud — mud that’s for a cause, more specifically, fighting MS, or Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that affects over 2 million people worldwide. Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to get MS, and I can think of three female friends of mine who bravely fight MS. Muckfest MS was in Chino this past week, about an hour and 20 minute drive from where I live. I knew I would walk this 5k rather than run it, because running’s not my jam. I walked, I mucked, I conquered. Here are five reasons why the Muckfest MS was mucking rad.

1) You get to get muddy. Absolutely, fantastically mucking muddy. Covered. Soaked. Saturated. It’s fun. (And maybe, exfoliating. Think of it as a fitness spa treatment.)

race_117_photo_12308493

2) You can take the obstacles at your own pace, and that might mean skipping ones that just don’t feel like your style. I did, and didn’t feel self conscious at all – a really nice change from some of the other fun runs I’ve been on where the spirit is more competitive. However, you can also take on obstacles that challenge you in a good way – like the Spider Web. I was sure I’d have to be rescued like a kitten from a tree halfway up this giant rope jungle gym, but instead I scurried like a Mountain Goat to the top, and was super proud of my climbing skillz. You also get to do obstacles with names like BIG BALLS. The description? ‘When one big, swinging pair is not enough. How about 9 gigantic balls swinging over 4 mucky trenches?’

Photo from Muckfestms.org.

Me at the top of the Spider Web. Photo by Mike Murphy.

Me at the top of the Spider Web. Photo by Mike Murphy.

3) You get free beer at the end. And snacks. And professional photos. And a super cute t-shirt!

Photo from Muckfest MS Facebook page

Photo from Muckfest MS Facebook page

4) You get to walk on water! I tried really hard to be graceful on this one, and not take a tumble, and I made it across unscathed. If you don’t want to walk on water, you can jump in and swim like a duck. Either way, you’ll be encountering some muck.

I'm walkin on sunshine, heeeeeyyy ooooh... Oh, I mean water. Photos via Muckfest MS, facebook.com/muckfestms

I’m walkin on sunshine, heeeeeyyy ooooh… Oh, I mean water. Photos via Muckfest MS, facebook.com/muckfestms

5) You get to have a mucking blast, while knowing that money raised goes to fight MS, a disease that affects over 2 million people worldwide.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.47.55 PM

We mucking rock.

Now – who’s doing it in 2015 with me? You can find out more information and the cities near you at MuckfestMS.org.

Have you done a mud run? Would you?

A walk down Alyssa’s memory lane: From blonde hair to… darker blonde hair.

People often ask me if I’m a natural blonde. I reply yes, because I am. However, do they need to know that my actual, natural blonde is probably the darkest blonde you can be without being brunette? Naaaah. I was a towhead from birth (and always thought that was actually spelled TOEhead, for the longest time), and my wispy white blonde Children of the Corn hair lasted me until I was about 10.

That's me on the left, with our brother in the middle, and April on the right. Look at me rockin my double chin!

That’s me on the left, with our brother in the middle, and April on the right. Look at me rockin my double chin!

Then, my hair became more golden and grew interesting cowlicks and stubborn waves, until it burst into mermaid-esque ringlets. In high school I messed around with all kinds of hair dyes, I was fond of pink, and at one point had a yucky purple that turned gray. Me and my friend Lisa (Hi Lisa!) would spend hours in her bathroom working out the perfect punk rock highlights. Then, one year, I went auburn. I quite enjoyed that color, and thanks to the powers of Facebook, a friend recently found this picture documenting my redhead hue.

Me on the far left. I was so skinny!

Me on the far left. I was so skinny!

For about the past ten years I’ve been a home dyer, and stuck to a golden blonde shade that needed touch ups about every five weeks. I had the best luck with the $2.99 box of Revlon ColorSilk Dye, and did it by myself on random weeknights, being careful not to touch my head as I putzed around the house for 30 minutes smelling awful.

Golden Blonde by Revlon

Golden Blonde by Revlon

For the past year, I’ve been an “ultra light” blonde, which is pretty much platinum. I had a  lot of fun with this color, but it had some significant drawbacks. The first being that I needed to do my roots about every 3.5 weeks, and I’m lazy. The second drawback was that it really washed out my face, and if I didn’t put on blush, I looked like a walking q-tip. Given that I work from home I wear very little makeup, but when I do go out, I’d rather kids not point to me and ask their parents how a cotton ball learned how to walk. The third drawback was that since it’s basically bleach, the color was killing my curly texture and making it a limp wave. It was time for a change.

Photo by Lynnette Joy Photography from three weeks ago at my best friend's wedding

Photo by Lynnette Joy Photography from three weeks ago at my best friend’s wedding

I’d been hemming and hawing about going back to my natural color for a few years, but was always too chicken. The closest I ever came on my own was during this era, which was a “Dark blonde” box dye that I felt was too red. I lasted like this for about two weeks before running for my blonde safety net.

289828_881124193196_1904198087_o

Reddish blonde.

Over the past year, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a wonderful hair stylist who really “gets” my hair. Curly hair is a pain in the butt, because it changes day to day depending on the weather, the water texture, your shampoo, your stress level. George at Floyd’s Barber Shop in Encino is awesome (and so is Mikki!), and he’s been cutting my hair the past year. At our last visit, I asked him what he would do to my hair in terms of color. He won me over with a description of a multi-tonal mix of highlights and low lights, that would allow me to grow my roots out and have a very low maintenance of about every 3-4 months. I was in, and this Friday, we went for it!

Why yes, I do post terrible before photos of myself on the internet. In the name of science! Photo collage by George.

Why yes, I do post terrible before photos of myself on the internet. In the name of science! Photo collage by George.

I really love the new look! It was a little bit shocking at first to see the newer, darker me, but I knew I liked it. I’m still not 100% used to it, but I’m already loving the fact that I feel like my face looks slimmer and I don’t need as much makeup to look “alive”. I’m also looking forward to my low-maintenance new hair routine. So, ‘fess up – is your hair your natural color? Do you dye? If you do, would you ever go back to your roots?

The after of my new 'do

The after of my pretty new ‘do

April’s bikini day at the beach

I did it.

I finally wore a bikini at the beach.

I had done it before as a child, I’m sure.

But as an adult, my stomach had never once felt the cool sea air upon it.

bikinibeachI’ve always wanted to try wearing a bikini. If I just didn’t have that horrible fear of what everyone there would think, I bet I would have done it a lot sooner. However on this day, once my friend and I had successfully walked the farthest away we could from people, I decided to strip down just to the bikini I had worn there with fearful anticipation of actually showing it. My friend easily sensed my embarrassment as I peered around to see just how far away everyone was, standing with my hands in my shirt ready for lift off. Luckily, as the awesome guy my friend is, he knew to say all the right things to make me feel better. Compliments about me being hot and “no one caring” eased my anxieties enough to get me to take off my top and plop down with my hands/arms hiding my stomach. With a few more self-esteem boosting words, I let go of my stomach and realized I badly needed to just get over this deep-rooted fear I have about wearing a bikini.

Why is that I could go to Burning Man and walk around with no  top? Or go to an Oregon hot springs and do the same? Why didn’t I feel horrible shame there the way I do at the beach?

A suggested answer came from one of my close girl friends. She pointed out that at Burning Man and hot springs, so many people are naked and “letting it all hang out” that the societal pressure to look a certain way just isn’t there. Though at the beach and other public swimming places, it is almost expected that the only women you will see wearing bikinis are thin. I am grateful that these times are changing and more and more women are feeling more secure about rocking whatever they want to at the beach. Sadly, I still haven’t been able to JUST GET OVER IT. I think I’m getting better since I’m even willing to give it a try, but I hate knowing that the #1 reason I won’t wear a bikini to the beach is because of my fear of what complete strangers think of my body.

How freaking lame is that?

So, blog readers, does the fear of what other people think of your body ever hinder what you like to wear?  If it doesn’t, how did you get to that awesome place of complete self-security? I’d love to hear it!

Oh, and by the way, I’m totally down 20 pounds officially from the start of this year. YAY. Thank you 3-day training and food allergies! WOOO!

 

Lots of love,

AprilSignatur

 

 

 

 

bikiki

Proof (at a safe distance for my insecurities).

Out and About: Alyssa Explores Sequoia National Park

This year has been a weird one in terms of vacations — rather than one week in one particular place, Matt and I have ended up going on lots of mini trips this year. One of those mini trips was to celebrate Matt’s 30th birthday. His request was for trees – lots of ‘em. We ended up booking a cozy cabin on Air B n’ B and headed up north to Sequoia National Park, about 3.5 hours from where we live in Los Angeles. The first picture below is when you’re about an hour outside of Sequoia. The last hour of the drive is very curvy and into the woods.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.55.33 PM

Here’s the inside of our cabin. Note the VHS player, which enabled us to indulge in film classics like the Birdcage and Mrs. Doubtfire (We’re still missing you, Robin Williams.)

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.56.15 PM

We woke up the next morning after our arrival and headed to the Trail of 100 Giants. It was an easy three mile loop through a gorgeous… well, trail of giants. Giant trees, that is! The first picture shown below is of two trees, each over 240 feet long, that fell after a storm. Insanity!

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.57.51 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.36.08 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.46.31 PM

After a few hours exploring the Trail of Giants, we headed off to Dome Rock, a secret little vista that overlooked all over the Sequoia Canyon, recommended to us by the park ranger. This place was incredibly stunning, and we showed up at just the right time, when a storm was rolling in and the clouds were dramatic and gray. The only slightly freaky thing about this place is there are no stairs, no guard rails (and a 5,000 foot drop, as warned by the ranger), and no civilization – so if you see a hungry bear or happen to take a tumble down the rock face, well, you’re on your own. Matt and I were the only people at this place, so when he was scurrying over rocks and up into trees I was lecturing him about how if he fell, we’d be up Shit Creek without a paddle (and without cell service!). We hung out for about 30 minutes and then had to hightail it down the mountain when hail starting hurling down on us.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.49.43 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.51.30 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.52.32 PM

How amazing is that view, right? There ended up being so many parts of Sequoia we didn’t even see, like the General Sherman Tree, but now I know for next time that we need much longer than two days. This part of California usually gets all the buzz for Yosemite, but now I know that if you stay just an hour or so south, you’re in for some incredible scenic viewpoints and a quieter, more mellow vibe; with no cell phone reception or wi-fi. (Sometimes that’s paradise, as long as you don’t fall off a mountain.)

Have you ever been to this part of California?

Things I’m Reading and Loving

Hello there! One very subtle shift in summer to fall for me is that suddenly, my nose is always back in a book. I’ve always been a voracious reader, so much so that my parents used to buy books for me for vacations and hide them so I didn’t read them before the trip. However, in the throes of boring adult life, it seems like I never have time to stick my nose in a book; that is, until the seasons change, and there’s less weddings on weekends and allergy appointments and beach days (not bad things to be preoccupied with, other than allergy appointments.) I’ve been sick since Monday with a terrible cold, and the only positive of this crud (well, that’s being dramatic, because there’s lots of positives — like it’s not ebola, I work from home, and I have access to doctors and medications should I need them), is that I’ve had lots of time to read. Here’s what I’ve been reading: (And no, none of these are sponsored endorsements. As usual, if you click the link I may make 4c (I’m rich!), but these are my own heartfelt recommendations.)

1) Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

This book was given to me by an awesome friend and coworker, and it’s a wonderful mental vacation through the minds of a bored but genius architect mother and her 15-year-old daughter. Here’s the official blurb:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

I really liked the way the book was written via different forms of communication: email, letters, post-it notes, etc, and from so many different points of view. I liked the snarky commentary on the tech world that comes about from Bernadette’s husband’s job, and the creative twist on perspective offered by Bernadette and her dreary suburban life. This is a book you’ll rip through quickly, and I promise you’ll feel good at the end.

2) The SkinnyTaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka

I’ve been a fan of the Skinnytaste blog for years, loving that these light and delicious recipes aren’t loaded with chemicals or weird ingredients. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single recipe I’ve made from Skinnytaste has been a hit. Pinterest? Not so much. (Pssst: Visit Pintester.com, which cracks me up, especially this post, because I’ve recently had the same fail.) I can’t wait to make the Skinnytaste Baked Potato Soup, or her watermelon lime granita, which I just may do as our dollar store is having a few sad looking late-season watermelons rolling in. The photos in this book are gorgeous, the instructions are easy, and I’m all about beautiful cookbooks that you can ooh and ahh over without feeling the button on your jeans simultaneously stab into your roll of tummy flub.

3) Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham

I don’t watch a lot of TV(probably less than two hours a month), but occasionally, I would check out old episodes of Girls. I didn’t fall in love with the show, but it did intrigue me; I appreciated the different perspective of ladies my age in the media. I enjoy following Lena on Twitter, and also enjoy seeing her challenge the media in a bunch of different ways: by wearing froofy pink and red ball gowns, by pointing out the very obvious fact that every time she gets told how “brave” she is for going naked in a film it’s implying that she should feel brave because she’s showing off her imperfect, non-Hollywood body, and by her unwavering stance on feminism and equal rights for all. Lena’s book is hilarious — it’s not going to be for everyone because she’s brutally honest in ways that may make some people squirmy, but her chapter about her food diaries had me guffawing and realizing how very much like her struggles with weight echoed my own life and my own Double Chin Diary. I think Lena and I would be friends in real life, and I already have two people in mind who are getting this book for Christmas.

4) Ebola’s Cultural Casualty: Hugs in Hands-On Liberia

As a sometimes journalist (Go CSUN, Class of 2008!), it warms my heart when I read a piece of journalism that not only informs, but also gives you all the feels in terms of story. This piece was the first piece of news about Ebola that made me really grasp the severity of what Africa, and now Spain and America, are experiencing. The piece specifically talks about the challenge of having to go touchless in a culture that is so built upon touch, and it’s a heartbreaking and eye-opening look into what this horrifying illness is doing. Read it.

What recommendations do you guys have for me? Now that I’m through these latest books, I need ideas for others! :)