Doing Better

Doing Better

For those of you who have been following my blog, first of all – thank you. Second, you probably know that I am trying to love myself warts and all, improve myself, and am also trying to lose weight. In the last almost three years, I had gained about 100 pounds due to a certain medication, combined with a few less-than-awesome habits. 

Well, since my last birthday, I have lost a total of twenty pounds, about half of it in the last month. I returned from Amsterdam on Wednesday and found when I weighed myself Thursday that I had lost two pounds since I left. Walking about five miles a day and eating European portions definitely contributed to that, but I wonder how much more weight I would’ve lost if I had been able to drink as much water in Europe as I can in the States. 

Of course, it isn’t that water isn’t available in Europe – of course it is. But, if you didn’t know, unlike at restaurants in America, water isn’t free there. You have to pay for the large bottle for the table. It seems almost criminal to me, especially since their tap water is held to at least the same standards as most American water. 

Anyway, if water had been as cheap (read: free) in Amsterdam as it is in the States, I would definitely have drunk more of it. I wonder how much more weight I would have lost, filling my stomach with water instead of food, alcohol, and cane-sugar Coca-Cola. 

Still, I’m happy with the progress. A great big thank you and hallelujah to my new med, which  improves my functionality in every facet of my day-to-day life, and also decreases my appetite. I also crave healthier foods and much smaller amounts of unhealthy foods when I do crave them, though that could just be my willpower, since I know when I’m actually hungry I should be making the most of my hunger, nutritionally. I also limit myself on unhealthy foods, which decreases my cravings for them. Lastly, I watch less cable TV, which you wouldn’t think would be significant. It is significant for me, though, because I am incredibly suggestible when it comes to food commercials.

I’m learning my triggers, and I’m learning effective ways to avoid and fight them. I’m moving, I’m eating better, I’m taking my meds, I’m seeing doctors. People are beginning to notice, which is incredibly encouraging. 

Tell me your thoughts on paying for water at a restaurant, or about your weight loss journey, or anything at all. I’d love to hear from you!

Me, Friday 13 September

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Amsterdam: Days 3-5

Amsterdam: Days 3-5

I’m stateside again, and I believe I owe you a description of my last three days in Amsterdam. Those last few days were delightful. Read on, reader!

DAY THREE

On Sunday, we went to the Happy Pig Pancake Shop for Dutch pancakes, which are quite similar to crepes in that they are large and very thin. Ben got one with chocolate-hazelnut sauce, strawberries, bacon, toasted almonds, and whipped cream. Mine had Gouda, melted from the warmth of the pancake, and the most divine fig jam I’ve ever tasted. 

We walked through the Bloemenmarkt, a large floating flower market, which was gorgeous; I dearly love flowers. I was tempted to buy some seeds and bulbs for myself and my father, but I knew that would involve a lot of paperwork at customs, so I resisted.

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After a nap, we spent the afternoon eating, walking, and later, drinking at various bars. We walked through the Red Light District again, and sat on the canal, our feet hanging over the water.

DAY FOUR

Monday morning, I woke up just before nine and got on the Anne Frank house website and waited for the tickets reserved for the day to go on sale. I procured two for the afternoon (thank God!). We also had tickets to the Van Gogh museum, which was our first stop for the day.

DSC_0003.JPGAfter a quick brunch after we’d finished at Van Gogh, we took the tram to the Anne Frank house. The line was long, but we got in during our window! It was a slow tour with so much information, and I couldn’t speak, I was so moved. I purchased a copy of her diary in Italian and a blank journal decorated in a style inspired by her original diary. 

After the house, we walked to another pancake shop. Ben got an unbelievably huge omelette, and I ordered a pancake with Nutella. Everything was delicious.

I had a desire to see some windmills, so we took the train to Zaandam. Zaandam is a suburb of Amsterdam, just north of the city. Unfortunately, as it was a Monday evening, not much was open. We managed to find a beautiful bar, where we camped out till closing. I journaled and Ben read. Still, the windmills were beautiful, and the town was charming. 

DAY FIVE

This was our last full day in Amsterdam! We went to the Palace in the morning. The Palace is somehow simultaneously ostentatious, gorgeous, and tasteful. Unlike every picture of Versailles I’ve ever seen, when you walk around the Palace, you’re struck with awe not because of decadence, but because of its beauty.

After, we crossed off another activity on my list: shopping at Primark. Oh boy, I really fell in love! The clothes are so affordable and fashionable. It’s like the Irish-originated H&M. 

We stopped in a café, where I wrote my last blog post. We had a lovely and very long dinner at a little Italian restaurant before heading back to the hotel for the last time.

Amsterdam: Days 1 and 2

Amsterdam: Days 1 and 2

Well, friends, it’s officially my last full day in Amsterdam. What a trip this has been! Again I have to thank the boyfriend greatly for making this possible in every way. I thought, since today we decided to spend most of the day camped out in a cafe, that I might tell you about the first two days I spent here. 

DAY ONE:

The flight was uneventful. My seatmate was chatty, but nice. I only slept an hour, but as I spent most of the flight trying to sleep, I was still resting my eyes and body. There was a family with a baby and a small child on the flight as well, but whatever those parents did worked, because I forgot until we landed that there was a baby on the flight at all, and only remembered then because I saw them!

We landed at seven Friday morning. We were on track to arrive sooner, but had to circle a bit in the sky, as Amsterdam has a law that says planes can’t land until at least seven a.m.! But it was because of this that we got to see the beautiful sunrise over the clouds, so I wasn’t too upset. The boyfriend came to get me in the airport, though we just kept missing each other. Once we’d located each other, we took the train to the hotel. 

The Jaz Hotel Amsterdam is in a quieter part of the city, south of city center. It is about a half-mile walk to the train, and a ten- or fifteen-minute train ride into downtown. Once there, we relied on trams. We’d purchased a five-day pass for each of us, which ensured we could ride the train and tram an unlimited number of times during those 120 hours for under 30 euro (Nice one, Amsterdam!).

I took a nap, having only slept one hour on the plane, and then we went into downtown. We got lunch at the Food Hall and walked the area around the Palace. We stopped in H&M, because it’s cheaper over here, and I got two shirts (Side note: the sheer number of H&Ms in Amsterdam is ridiculous. It was the one thing that kept confusing me about all the neighborhoods we visited, because, I kid you not, every single one had an H&M, usually on the corner of two streets. Otherwise, I naturally find my way around new places very quickly.). The exhaustion of the day began to catch up with me, and we decided to return to the hotel for a quick nap before dinner.

We ended up sleeping five hours, and woke up hungry. There was little open around the hotel, and we knew the trains stopped running at midnight. That left us with only one option: the dreaded hotel restaurant. The food was good, but overpriced. We returned to sleep almost immediately after dinner. 

DAY TWO:

We actually got up in the morning on Saturday, and rode the train and tram to a cute cafe called Small Talk. We found, to our dismay, that tickets for the Van Gogh museum were already sold out for the day, but managed to purchase tickets for the Rijksmuseum. We looked at every piece of art, except for that from the Middle Ages (we’re both not as interested in it).

Because walking the massive museum was apparently not enough, we walked some more to a bar on a canal. We sat alongside it, the canal just below us. We shopped at H&M, this time for Ben, and spent awhile in a bookstore, where I bought an English book and a book in Italian. We dined at Cafe Gasthuys, a charming restaurant in the Old World style, then walked through the red light district. After sitting and drinking at a bar on the canal (Mankind), we headed back to bed.

More to come on days 3-5 later!

 

Do Better

Do Better

Hello! In my August goals, you read that I have been losing weight, and wanted to continue doing it. It was about two pounds a week then. Since the beginning of August, I have lost a total of nine pounds. I don’t eat as much anymore, and I’ve been working a lot, which involves walking (during a 7.5-hour shift, I regularly walk about six miles) and hauling one to six dresses, weighing anywhere from a few ounces to five or so pounds each. I’ve still been eating less, and making better food choices. If I continue in this fashion, I should reach my goal weight by mid-May 2020. 

The thing is, I know I could be doing better. I could walk the dog more. There have been too many days these past two weeks I’ve taken the easy route of putting her in the backyard and encouraging her to run by chasing her. I could take up exercising on my days off again, and work my way up to working out every day. I could make even better food choices. I could wean myself off Coca-Cola faster; take up coffee instead. It’s been a wonderful four weeks of 2.25 pounds lost a week, on average. But, like I said, I think I can do better. 

Here’s to nine pounds lost. Here’s to a sizable amount to go. And here’s to continuing to improve my habits, and hopefully increasing my average weight lost per week.

Amsterdam Bucket List!

Amsterdam Bucket List!

Well, friends, it’s real: I’m going to Amsterdam! It’s the place I’ve wanted to visit most for a long time now, closely followed by Paris and Greece. A great big giant thank you to the love of my life for the tickets! (He even made sure I’m flying direct!) I thought I would share my Amsterdam bucket list with you, and check in with y’all after the trip to see what all I did. We’ll see if I hit all the points on this list.

Visit the Anne Frank House.

I first read Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl in middle school. I both loved and was in awe of the book. Some of the thoughts and feelings I was having, she had too! It was amazing, though saddening, to read how she quickly matured while in hiding. She had a marvelous mind, and to be in a place where she lived before her life was cruelly and unnecessarily snuffed out is a dear dream of mine. 

Visit the Van Gogh Museum.

Everyone knows at least one Van Gogh painting, whether it’s Starry Night or The Cafe Terrace on the Place de Forum or any other. The bold, free, beautiful strokes of his paintings are stunning, to say the least. I’m excited to visit his homeland and see more of his work!

Take a canal boat tour.

Part of the reason Amsterdam has always intrigued me is the abundance of canals. I love water in any form, and for me, to be near it is to be near joy and peace. Plus, I’ll admit that The Fault in Our Stars made the canal boat tour look really, really appealing, okay? Okay.

Try authentic stroopwafel.

When I was about seven and my parents took their second honeymoon and attended a wedding in Venice, they stopped in the airport in the Netherlands and brought home stroopwafels. We all fell in love with them! Though I’m sure those were authentic, I’m excited to try a fresh one while in Amsterdam.

Eat ALL the cheese and bread and visit the Cheese Museum. 

Though I have a possible sensitivity to yeast and am lactose intolerant, I have found I can handle these foods in small quantities. That being said, I am willing to suffer for the glory of bread and cheese – maybe even together. I hear great things about the breads and cheeses in the Netherlands, and I want to experience them.

Visit the Rijksmuseum and I AMsterdam sculpture. 

In case you haven’t been able to tell, I love art. I grew up about six miles west of Washington, D.C., and my parents took care to make sure they took advantage of the free and cheap culture in and around the city. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t visiting museums and galleries, so to visit the palatial Rijksmuseum will be delightful. 

Amble through Vondelpark.

Another thing you may have noticed about me is that I love to be in nature. To stroll through the Netherlands’ most famous park is something I certainly look forward to doing. I’ll be in Amsterdam in early September, so the weather should still be glorious.

Visit the Hermitage Museum.

More art, plus some Amsterdam history! I love an opportunity to learn. This museum contains an antique orphanage, as well as art, and chronicles of visits by celebrities such as Napoleon and the Beatles. 

Go shopping in the Nine Streets Neighborhood.

From my research I have learned that the Nine Streets neighborhood has plenty of shopping opportunities. This includes concept stores and vintage boutiques, the latter being a favorite of mine. There are designer shops too, but I’m on a budget!

See the windmills at Zaanse Shans.

Going to the countryside near the city to escape may be appealing, after the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. I’d love to see the iconic windmills, as well. I think it will be nice to hear more natural noise for a half-day.

Have any of you ever been to Amsterdam? If so, do you have any recommendations? Leave them in the comments below!

Monthly Goals – August

Monthly Goals – August

It is August, which means it’s time for my monthly goals. I know I’m late, but I was the maid of honor in my sister’s wedding a few days ago. With my classes and the wedding and working and job applications, my life recently has been a zoo. Still, I’ve accomplished a few things, and these are the ones I hope to accomplish this month.

My first goal is to continue in my healthier lifestyle. I’ve been steadily but slowly dropping weight, about two pounds a week. Other people have started to notice, even when I haven’t. I plan on continuing to walk my dog on long walks, and eat healthier. As I said last week, I’m trying hard to love my body, and that means caring for it.

My second goal is to finish my online class strong. I’m doing pretty well so far, and I’d like to keep it that way. After this, I’ll need two more classes – then I’ll be done!

My third goal for the month is to continue putting away as much money as possible. Eventually, I suppose, I will move out of my parents’ house, and I’ll need a nest egg then. I’m proud of what I’ve saved so far, though I’ve had to dip more than I am comfortable with, what with buying presents for my sister and future brother-in-law, planning and throwing a bachelorette party, and traveling. But it’s only money, I can always make more.

Next, I definitely need to get my passport. More on why later. I have the pictures for it – I just need to get my stuff together and do it. 

Lastly, my biggest and probably most achievable goal is to journal more – hopefully at least weekly. I used to have multiple notebooks going, and use one (the official, formal journal) for the formal letters cataloguing the events and thoughts of my days. This was a very inefficient system, and more formal than how I think and write. There are still entries in letter format, but there are also snippets of writings I’ve thought of throughout the day, calculations, drawings, lists, etc. It’s freeing to not have to be perfect in my journal. Because of the lack of perfection requirement, I’ve been better able to keep up with my journaling, which I hope in the long run will help me with my writing overall. 

These are my August goals. I’ll try my best to accomplish them all, but if I don’t, I don’t plan on beating myself up about it. If you so desire, please share your goals in the comments below!

Budget Bachelorette Bash Ideas

Budget Bachelorette Bash Ideas

My sister is getting married. In fact, she will be married by August third. I am her maid of honor, which meant throwing the bachelorette party was solely my job. My sister is not the “stripper and/or clubbing” type, at all, so I had to think of something else. Here are some budget-friendly ideas that you can use if your bride isn’t the “stripper and/or clubbing” type, either.

Have a fancy brunch.

Perhaps your bride is a morning person, or she just really enjoys brunch. A brunch bachelorette is a great option for the maid-of-honor on a budget, because it can be held anywhere – your home, or a local brunch spot. If you choose to go out for brunch, everyone can pay for their own meal, so you only have to pay for the bride and yourself. Brunch can be as fancy or casual as you want, too. Plus, if you host a brunch bachelorette party, you don’t have to stay up to the wee small hours of the morning.

Go on a hike.

If your bride is an outdoorsy person, consider gathering a group to take a hike to a beautiful spot. Once there, you can have a picnic and take gorgeous photos. The fact that there will be others there means you’ll have help carrying picnic fixings, so, depending on how many are joining you, you can feel free to bring whatever you like. Make sure to pack lots of water and bug spray, and be on your way! 

Host a game night.

There are almost limitless opportunities here. If you have a local arcade – or better, a barcade – take everyone out to play. You can also go more low-key, and play video, card, and/or board games in your home. You could go bowling, or find a laser tag spot. For the more adventurous, consider paintball. Activities breed memories, so get going!

Go shopping.

If your bride responds well to gifts, maybe think about hosting a group shopping trip. Instead of bringing a gift, each person can buy the bride something of her choice. This way, there is less possibility for waste and clutter, because the bride will receive exactly what she wants. You can even do the 2000s movie montage of trying on silly outfits for each other, and go out for lunch or dinner once you’re finished.

Take a road trip.

A road trip can be as long or as short as you like. Is there a place within driving distance that your bride has always wanted to see, or loves to go to? Maybe it’s the beach, or a park, or a lake. Maybe it’s just a nearby city. Load up the car with gas, drinks, and snacks, and head out for the day. Make sure to have a killer playlist!

Throw an old-fashioned (but boozy) sleepover.

This is what I chose to do for my sister. I ordered pizzas, laid out junk foods, sodas, and desserts, and decorated the normally less-than-impressive basement. It was like middle school all over again, but this time, we were allowed to drink – and drink we did. To keep costs down (as I am a student who works part-time), I suggested on the e-vite that everyone bring their favorite alcohol to share. 

We also played games – the one that took up the most time for us was “pizza box,” but there was also Cards Against Humanity, among other things. I had a list of wedding-related movies lined up that included The Princess Bride, Princess Diaries 2: Royal Wedding, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. My sister had an awesome time, and that was the most important thing to me.