April Post: Walking my way through Europe

Guten tag Double Chinners from Cologne, Germany!!!

From the last time I wrote, I spent time in Cardiff, Wales (hi Rob!), Galway and Dublin, Ireland (hi Seán!) along with a day in Liverpool and another four days in the rectal region of the UK (London).  After a day in Brussels, I am now happily hanging out in my hotel room in Deutschland!

It’s been twenty days now since I first landed in Europe and I think I have easily walked about 100 miles.

My friend Rob showed me a lovely time in Wales and proved to me that the Welsh are way more friendly and relaxed than what I had been used to encountering in London. As we strolled along the river walk out towards the sea, I took occasional moments to stop and enjoy the crisp air.  I ate fabulous Turkish food and enjoyed amazing Welsh beer called Double Dragon and Tangled Foot. It is pretty rare for me to find new beers I like but Rob amazed me by introducing me to two new beers that I loved enough to get mentioned on this blog. After spending the afternoon walking, Rob informed me that we had done at least 5 miles. I was pretty proud of myself as even by then, a week into my trip, that my legs and feet showed no signs of exhaustion.

The Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland

The Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland

After my journey to Wales, I headed out to meet Seán in Galway. I had been really excited to see Ireland as I’m borderline obsessed with the country since I suspected it to be gorgeous and full of smiley people. My suspicions were confirmed as my plane came down and broke free of the gray clouds that had been engulfing my $66 RyanAir flight. Below me the bright blue shoreline hugged the emerald isle and brought happy tears to my eyes as we descended down towards Dublin Airport. Once landed, I walked through the airport to catch my bus from one coast to the other.  I spent the next two days wandering through Galway and a small town called Cong, adding more miles to the distance my shoes had walked.

Speaking of shoes… I don’t know if I ever got to write about one of the best birthday gifts I received a few months ago!  After reading my post about how I needed new tennis shoes and didn’t want to spend too much money, my good friend Ronnie did some undercover work with Alyssa to find out my shoe size and sent me a snazzy new pair of Nike’s, knowing that they would get good use in Europe.  Ronnie was right, if it wasn’t for his generous gift my poor tootsies would probably be covered with blisters and unable to rack up the miles like I’ve been doing… so big thank you to Ronnie Follmann for being so awesome and thoughtful.

Continuing on, my cousins Anna and Jenny came into Dublin on the 24th of June and we spent our time doing what I apparently do best – MORE WALKING!  We walked from the Dublin city center down to the docklands and caught a plane back to the UK after two days in Dublin.  We walked around the city of Liverpool exploring sites like The Cavern, where the Beatle’s first played together.   After our quick day in Liverpool, we took a train for $5 to London and walked some more!!!  I took them to spots like The Natural History Museum and common tourist attractions like Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

The inside of The Cavern in Liverpool, England where the Beatle's first played together

The inside of The Cavern in Liverpool, England where the Beatle’s first played together

I also convinced them to do some yoga with me in Regent’s Park, the lovely park I had done yoga in two weeks before.  I taught them all sorts of poses and had them test the difference of their flexibility before we started our stretches and after we were done.  Both my cousins were impressed with the flexibility they gained after only ten minutes and I have a feeling they may give yoga a shot again someday.  We had a few spectators during our yoga session and afterwards I joked about how I should go give them one of my Double Chin Diary business cards so they could contact me for their own personal lesson.   I’ve given out a ton of my handy little cards Alyssa made me so hopefully we gained a few more readers – speak up if you’re one of my new European friends now reading our blog!

April doing her tree pose in front of Big Ben in London

April doing her tree pose in front of Big Ben in London

I also managed to get my first black eye ever while dancing with my cousin Jenny in our tiny hotel room in London.  Apparently if you are going to dance to the Cupid’s Shuffle, you want to make sure you have enough space so you don’t bump heads and accidentally get a black eye.  My eye swelled up faster than a marshmallow in a microwave and caused me to have my first session of crying on my trip.  I was so scared that it would spread through my entire eye but luckily it’s remained only on my eyelid, making it quite easy to cover up with the help of Mac concealer and dark eye shadow from Estee Lauder.

April's punishment for dancing

April’s punishment for dancing

Have any of you ever had a black eye before?  How did you get yours?  How long did yours last?  It’s been a week now and it’s slowly getting better but is still quite obvious..  so I’m curious as to when this will finally go away.

Have you ever exercised in a public place?  It’s taken me some courage to get over going into “downward dog” in front of people but I keep telling myself if it’s alright for people to prance around shirtless or in sport’s bras and covered in sweat, it’s alright for me to do some soothing stretches under some trees.

I’ve got two more weeks left and still have Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Lisbon set for my future.  I’m very excited because most of our crazy dashing around will be over by Saturday once Anna and I get into Amsterdam with my friends Anton and Jarno.

Is there anywhere you all recommend that we see in any of those places?

Lots of love from abroad,

AprilSignatur

Embracing my awkwardness: shaking my booty in Zumba

Fraggle Rock!!!!!

When I was a teenager, it took me awhile to realize that I wouldn’t ever be cool in a conventional way. I would never be the girl who had a sheath of straight, blonde hair that fell in a perfect waterfall down my back, nor would I collect phone numbers en masse. My first two years of high school I remember trying desperately to fit in, to have the same L.E.I. jeans as everyone else, even though mine were a juniors size 14. With my brace face, cowlick curls and curvy hips, I never quite fit the mold. I muddled along feeling awkward until something magical happened in my junior year. With the help of my best friend Katelyn, I learned to let my awkward out. I embraced the dorky music lover inside of me, and started to realize that I didn’t CARE if playing the flute was nerdy or if liking Lenore comic books wasn’t cool.

Rockin’ out with My Ruin at the merch table (I was SO SKINNY!!! Why on Earth did I think I was fat?!)

My parents let me go to heavy metal shows in the city, and I became a little band-aid to a bunch of girl rock metal bands. It was the best thing ever. I bought a BC Rich Warlock Guitar and I had pink streaks in my hair. I drew creepy little monsters in my text books, started to make my own lunches and dated a boy in a band. (I married him. Aww.) My life got much, much cooler but only because I learned to let myself be awkward. The day I embraced myself was the day I realized how liberating it was to just be yourself — to say, I don’t give a crap if you don’t like my cow-print socks or my fondness of Phantom of the Opera – because I do, and I am awesome. Embracing your awkwardness is incredible – and I’ve recently had a mini-renaissance of this feeling from Zumba.

You see, I’m not a dancer. I would never call myself graceful. I bruise easier than a ripe peach on a hot summer day, and I’m constantly tripping over my own shadow. I took my first Zumba class several years ago and was horrified by the shimmying, the shaking, the legs crossing over each other and the sheer amount of dance patterns you had to perform. I went once and never again – because I felt too awkward. Nobody wants to see a fat white girl gyrating to latin music, right? At FitBloggin’, I participated in a group Zumba class. The old familiar feeling crept in – the embarrassment, the awkwardness. The negative thoughts started coming. “I look fat. Everybody’s looking at me. I can’t dance. I’ll never get these steps right. I’m so offbeat… I should just give up.” But, by the grace of Buddha, I shushed those thoughts and kept going. And I had fun. Eventually the little voice waned into a quiet whisper, and I shook and shimmied and tried to dance — and it was fun, and I burned calories.

Awkward and Awesome!

I did Zumba tonight and some of the old familiar thoughts came back as I caught sight of my pasty white arms in the mirror. My tummy clung to my hot pink tank top and I thought “Ugh, I look gross.” But I kept going – and I reminded myself that I’m never thinking about what other people look like when I’m working out – I’m thinking about how tired I am or how I’m going to sneak a handful of chocolate chips out of the cupboard when I get home. And BAM – the negative voices stopped. I danced, I shimmied, and I shook — and I burned calories –  smiling and laughing while doing it. On the way out, the teacher even told me how she loved my smile. That’s right. You don’t smile at the gym if you’re not having fun! Tonight I realized I may never feel 100% confident in my skin, but as long as I can embrace my awkward rather than fight it, I remember that it’s not so bad being me. I can’t dance but it’s not about whether or not I can dance. It’s about working up a sweat, churning up some endorphins, and burning fat. It’s about saying, “I don’t need to be the Zumba Queen. It doesn’t matter if I do the Salsa! Eff the standards of perfection – I’m gonna shake my booty!” So thank you, Zumba — for reminding me how to embrace my awkwardness.

 

A whimsical wedding: 1920′s style!

The gorgeous bride and dapper groom

Hi everybody! Hope you had a fantastic weekend! Last weekend after Matt and I time traveled to the 60′s, we headed back to Los Angeles to enter the roaring 20s! My longtime friend and twin Amy (at work we dressed up as each other for Halloween once because so many people confused us for each other) was marrying her sweetheart Casey at the beautiful Legendary Park Plaza hotel in downtown Los Angeles. I was looking forward to this wedding for a long time, because I knew lots of my MGA friends would be present, and I was so so happy for Amy to get to say “I Do” to her sweet Casey.

 

The ceremony location

The bride and groom said their handwritten vows under an ornate painted cathedral ceiling, flanked by towering wrought iron gates and a beautiful wooden chuppah draped with flowers and ivy. The bride’s brother officiated the ceremony and did a wonderful job. I really love the touch of people using people they know to officiate their weddings – our 7th grade English teacher officiated our wedding!

Dangerous curves ahead

Matt and I put on the ritz for this wedding, and I was so excited to wear my (size 16!) dress from Nordstrom’s rack. I felt that it was really flattering and comfortable, which is a rarity for curvier gals like me. Evening wear is one of the worst things to shop for, in my opinion, almost up there with bras. However, this dress is a keeper, and I only suffered minimally in my control-top briefs. (I’ll tell you, getting home from an event where you’re wearing some sort of girdle or spanx? The moment when you take them off ranks up there with like… scoring a huge raise, winning the lotto, or some other form of massive hedonistic pleasure. Let the flab fly free after being constricted all evening. Sooo nice.)

 

The gang's all here!

After the ceremony, we headed in to the ballroom, where we enjoyed appetizers, an open bar and a bandstand style band! We swing danced, ate, chatted, drank and enjoyed the vintage photo booth. Here’s a great shot of the whole group, ready to go protest the prohibition. Matt and I cut quite a rug, so I wasn’t feeling too bad about the lavendar macarons I snacked on from the dessert bar. I always forget what great exercise dancing is until I’m out there shakin’ and boogieing and sweating.

 

 

Eric Balfour and Jenny and I

One of the other cool things about this wedding was that there was a CELEBRITY there! I guess I’m still small town Illinois girl in that I get all giddy and excited when I see someone who’s on TV. Amy’s cousin is Eric Balfour, whom I instantly recognized as Gabe from Six Feet Under, one of my favorite shows ever! I very respectfully asked if Jenny and I could take a picture with him and he was super super nice and friendly. Cool!

CAAAAAAKE!

There were three types of cake – carrot, red velvet, and some sort of oreo cookie cream. Yum! I had the carrot cake but by the time we got to cake, I was so stuffed I only had a little bit. Isn’t their cake pretty? Amy’s bouquet and center pieces, and floral elements on the cake, featured succulents! I’ve always wanted to go to a wedding with some succulent touches. I had soo much fun with all my friends at this wedding, and by the time the evening was over, Matt and I had been to the 60′s and the 20′s, all in one weekend. I only wish we could have hit up the renaissance times while we were at it too (I’ve decided that clearly, the reason I’m overweight is I’m just in the wrong era. This body would have been GOLDEN in the middle ages, y’all.)

Congratulations, Amy and Casey – and thanks for letting us be a part of your special day!

 

Trying something new: Eating Clean

My mom and I hiking in Malibu

This week, I’m trying something new. After a somewhat bad-eating weekend (a cupcake here and movie popcorn there), I decided I wanted to do a re-set. I wanted to eat clean.
So since Tuesday morning, I haven’t eaten a single processed thing. NOT ONE PROCESSED THING. Nary a processed “convenience” item has passed my lips. I realized I eat a lot of packaged crap on Weight Watchers – the frozen SmartOnes baked Ziti, little Weight Watchers chocolate cream cakes, peeps, crystal light, fiber one bars… My Yo-Yoing has made me realize it doesn’t matter if it keeps me on plan or within my points. It’s still crap, and it’s stuff I wouldn’t want my future children eating daily, so why am I? It’s easy to pop a SmartOne into the microwave on days when I’m heading to class or stuck in a lunch meeting, but I’m kind of over them. Sure, they’re tasty and low points, but they’re also filled with salt and preservatives. I’m not raggin’ on them, because it works, but I think I’m relying on them too much. Crap is crap is crap no matter how it’s packaged, marketed or prepared.

I’ve stayed in my points allotment but I’m doing it a little differently. Here’s how: tons of vegetables, fresh fruits, dried fruits, seeds, lean protein and water and tea. LOTS OF IT. Here’s what I ate yesterday (and stayed within my points allotment on):

1 Apricot Mango Greek Yogurt, Organic (8 points – I mistakenly bought the full fat version and wondered why it was so damn delicious and tasted like icecream. Then I calculated the points. Haha!)
1 Mug of Green Mint Tea (0 points)
1 Banana (0 points)

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds in shell (4 points)
2 cups vegetable beef soup, homemade (packed with spinach, zucchini, carrots, celery, onions, cabbage, peas and tomatoes) 5 points
4 prunes (2 points)
Water

1/2 Cup Cantaloupe (0 points)
1/2 Cup Pineapple (0 points)

Grilled chicken breast (boneless, skinless) 4 points
1 cup asparagus, sauteed (1 point)
1 small baked potato with butter (5 points)
Water

4 slices dried mango (3 points)
3 squares 85% dark chocolate (2 points)
Water

I’m actually somewhat under points on this, but I don’t feel hungry. I’m not even craving diet pepsi, which is weird because I usually have one at every lunch. This is probably TMI for you so close your eyes and skip to the next line if you’re squeamish, but I’m also like….regular. Haha! I have no idea what this little plan of mine will result in tomorrow on the scale, but I’m hoping it’s good. If it’s not, I’ll decide what to do then. I also have been walking at least a mile on breaks at work every day, and yesterday I did an hour of dance class. On Sunday, I hiked for two hours with Matt and my mom. I’m trying, and like Thomas the train, I’m chugging along saying to myself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….”.

Have you ever tried to do a “detox” of sorts by eating clean? How did it go?