Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Well - I did it. I officially launched the first phase of a new idea that I've been working on for a few months now. Here it is. Tell me what you think! And if you're interested and live in the Chicago area, PLEASE sign up!
SWAP/MEET! New Clothes. New Friends. So Much Fun!
Do you like socializing with new people? Are you in need of some smaller sizes? Tight on budget? Looking for a new exercise buddy? Just want to come hang out with some like-minded and goal-oriented people?
Welcome to SWAP/MEET! A monthly meet-up for Chicago area ladies (gentlemen, hang tight - I'm working on expanding this idea to include everyone very soon!) to exchange plus sized clothes, books, recipes, exercise, stories and friendship.
The goal of this program is to organize Swap/Meet parties for 8-10 ladies every month who want to meet new people, are in need of new plus-sized clothing, have inspirational stories to share or are just in need of a little kick in the butt to get moving again. No topic is off the table - these parties are catered to YOU!
Here's how it works:
- Ladies bring 5 gently used articles of clothing or accessories and a $5 administration fee to each Swap/Meet.
- After a short introduction of our party guests, and while enjoying some light snacks and beverages provided by the meet coordinator, the "shopping party" begins. Ladies will "shop" from the clothing and accessories racks, try on new sizes, dish about belts, hand bags and earrings, give each other honest opinions about what's hot and what's not, and pick out up to 5 items to take home!
- When the shopping has concluded, the socializing begins! Ladies will have an opportunity to meet other Swap/Meet members, talk about books, recipes, movies, exercise, significant others - whatever suits the group's fancy. Discussions and ideas will be gathered and moderated by the group coordinator to keep the conversation fun and flowing. Ladies should feel free to network, exchange contact information and start planning your next get-together with your new friends!
- Though the Swap/Meet will have a specific start & finish time, there's no telling when the party ends! New friends are encouraged to leave for a group walk, head out to a movie or maybe hit up some more stores for a full day of shopping. The coordinator will be available to help with suggestions or to assist in making acquaintances.
The Small Print:
- Not everyone who attends the party is guaranteed to take home 5 pieces of clothing or accessories. Every attempt will be made to provide an assortment of sizes and styles for the ladies attending the party, but due to inventory, personal taste and the difficulty with determining the exactness of women's clothing sizes, ladies should be prepared for the possibility of not finding anything to their liking or their personal fit preference.
- The $5 administration fee covers the cost of food and beverage as well as any rental fee involved in securing a space for the Swap/Meet. The $5 fee is required of everyone, regardless of whether or not you take home clothing or accessories.
- The 5 articles of clothing or accessories brought to the Swap/Meet by each member may or may not be part of the items available for the shopping party. Articles are inspected for damage, cleaned and added to the larger Swap/Meet inventory before appearing for "purchase" at an event.
- While the goal of Swap/Meet is to assist people in finding new clothing in differing sizes, the overall objective of Swap/Meet is the social aspect of meeting new people and making new friends. Members are asked to come prepared to socialize and have fun - the clothing is an added bonus.
- This is NOT a Spark-Only program. Please feel free to forward this information to ANYONE who might be interested in this program. Swap/Meets will not be limited to once monthly if there is enough interest to generate more meets. Think of it like a dating site for new clothes! The best efforts will be made to match people, clothing styles, lifestyles and needs by the coordinator. Anything can happen!
- Since this is a BRAND NEW program, please allow time for set-up and potential start-up hiccups. Thanks!
Ready to SWAP/MEET?
Interested ladies, please email Jenn Kincaid (your Swap/Meet Coordinator) at email@example.com with the following information:
- car/public transportation
- marital status
- food allergies
- desired clothing size (be sure to indicate tall or petite if applicable)
- desired clothing style (business attire, casual, fitness, outerwear)
- description (size, style) of 5 articles for donation
- any other information Swap/Meet needs to know
Please allow time to receive adequate interest in these events and the organization of the first Swap/Meet. The goal is to schedule the first event in October or November. I'm sincerely looking forward to meeting all of you! Let's get this party started!
Questions? Please email Jenn Kincaid at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, September 24, 2011
I finally finished editing my Kenya photos. These are mine only and not the compilation album yet of my brother and cousins as well. Hoping to narrow down all our pics together into one MASTER ALBUM of the trip - so stay tuned for more!
For those of you receiving error messages, I checked it out - Spark is adding an extra http// into the address in some cases so if it's not working, copy and paste the link directly into your browser. That should do it!
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
It hasn't been easy - getting "back on the wagon" after vacation. And in the middle of a plateau, no less. But if anything is going to jar me out of this feeling of being stuck, it's up to me to figure out what that is and DO IT.
Despite having a couple of bad food weekends, and the ever present siren-song of the pumpkin scones that call me ALL DAY from the Starbuck's down the street, I have managed some really good and positive behaviours over the past couple of weeks that I think deserve some attention as well.
When things are crappy and my food intake is a little out of control, one thing that I can ALWAYS manage to do is drink my 8 glasses (or more) of water a day. It's a relatively easy and small task to complete - especially since it involves more consumption and not less - and it makes a huge difference in satiety levels and overall heath and well-being. Even if it means chugging 4 glasses of water right before bed, knowing that I'll be up at 2am trodding to the bathroom, I do it. Because I can. And all the little things that I CAN do add up.
Last week sucked for exercise. Despite my best efforts to resume my schedule of running and swimming and zumba, I ended up skipping 2 running days, only swam for 30 minutes out of an hour and then missed my long-run Sunday because of an impromptu trip to Iowa. And I realize that most of my reason for shorting myself on exercise had to do with spending time with my boy. NEED to get that in check. Because ultimately, spending time with him is detracting from spending time on me. And one of my reasons for wanting to spend so much time on me is maintaining a hot bod for him. So I'm not helping either of us by skipping out on my runs. Not to mention that I'm SUPPOSED to be training right now for my 15K in November. So yeah - I had a bad week, but it only made me miss it that much more. Which is an exciting revelation when I really think about it. Even though Mondays are typically an off-day for me for exercise, because I didn't get my run in on Sunday I KNEW I had to go home from work and run - not just because I needed to get a training run in, but because I felt the urge to get out there and pound the pavement. I raced home and threw on my running clothes before I could think twice about it. Even though I was in my usual state of work daze and exhaustion from the day, which usually lands me on the couch with dinner and the new Fall TV lineup, I headed out into the already crisp, cool night just as it was getting dark, and I RAN. And I felt like I was flying. So I opted to do an extra lap around the park. Because I could. 6.5 miles later I was literally grinning I was so happy with myself - and I felt SO good. 4 miles last week was HARD. And I had just knocked out an additional 2.5 miles after a week of nothing. So what has this taught me? Not only that my body is AMAZING, but never, ever to doubt my abilities. I can do whatever I put my mind to - and when I really, truly want it, I work that much harder for it. So if I'm having a bad week, I just have to remember to WANT it, and to hang on to that Spark. It's a small thing that I CAN do - but it makes a huge difference in my spirit and hopefully (eventually) the outcome on the scale.
Food has been a problem since my return. 3 weeks away had ballooned my stomach again and I got used to eating a lot more, whenever I wanted and indulging in sweet treats because "I was on vacation". Even when you adopt the 80/20 rule for healthy eating when you're away, that 20% becomes a bit of a bear to tackle when it's time to get back to 100% effort. And to be honest, while I was away, it was more like 50/50. But one thing that I have going for me is that I DO love food. And that makes it easy for me at home because I want to get back to trying new things, cooking, tasting, and enjoying all of it. I know from experience that when I am unprepared, I don't eat very well. So I went out last week and got good food. I bought a ton of fruit, and healthy pasta and chicken sausages. Veggies for my lunches, and a whole case of yogurt. Last night I made the most delicious 5 Cheese Tortelloni & Chicken Sausage with a homemade tomato & pesto sauce (recipe is posted in Spark Recipes if you're interested). It was the most delicious thing EVER after my long run, and it made a full 6 servings, so I'm set for lunches for the rest of the week. Tonight I'm looking forward to going home and spending some time in the kitchen baking some herb & cheddar biscuits and a sweet treat of some cheesecake (Nikhil's favorite). It may sound indulgent, but I know that if I make it, I can make it healthier than buying it - and perhaps it will help to quell some of the treat cravings that I've had for far "calorically-pricier" items this past week. This is something that I can do. I don't always have the time available to me to cook every night - but by prepping things when I DO have a night off, sets me up for healthier choices for the rest of the week and gives me more options. It's a small thing that I CAN do, but it's a huge step in the right direction - and darn if it doesn't taste GREAT!
Regardless of what the scale says on Friday morning - I'm finding my way back and fighting hard to keep moving forward. All of the things I CAN do add up. And look at where I am! The number of things that I CAN do now that I couldn't do before is astounding. I'm looking forward to adding more CAN DOs to the list soon. Including running a 15K, losing another 10 pounds, fitting into a size medium and then small.
The thing is - I already know that I CAN do all of these things. It's only a matter of time until I prove it!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
So it was only a matter of time, right? Vacation euphoria has passed and left in its wake a serious time-off hangover, the all-too-familiar "I don't get another vacation for at least a year" depression and capital B, BOREDOM.
Sure, I have a ton of stuff to do. Everyone is bugging me for my photos, I have life (and laundry) to catch up on that I've been putting off for 3 weeks, I need to get back into my exercise routine, grocery shopping, healthy cooking...but I've been hit by a serious case of the "I Don-Wannas". I think that was even my issue with writing my blog yesterday - for some reason just looking at the pictures of my fabulous trip makes me sad. And don't even get me started on work...
I know I need a game plan to get over this feeling and back in the game. So I've been thinking about what I need to do this week to jump start Fall in the right direction. I'm still sitting at this miserable plateau. I was ecstatic to see that I hadn't gained a pound upon coming back from 3 weeks away, but now I'm beginning to realize that it's most likely because the scale just isn't moving in EITHER direction. And my goal is to be down another 25 pounds by Christmas. This is going to be tricky!
I received a wonderfully sweet reception from my honey when I got home. He missed me as much as I missed him, so we've just had a lovely weekend catching up and celebrating being together again (by eating and drinking way too much).
I'm STUCK. And it sucks. Life for the past few days has felt painfully slow. All I want to do at work is eat because I'm so bored. Most people would rejoice at the fact that it only took a day and a half to catch up on 3 weeks of missed work, but for me, that's almost torture. We're gearing up to our busiest season and I'm not at all excited about it. In fact, I want out more than ever. Come to think of it, I'm not exactly excited about anything. Boo!
I am excited about my boy, but I can lose precious hours being wrapped up in him. I don't get anything done when we're together and since I derive most of my own personal pleasure from my own accomplishments, vacation aside, I haven't had many of those lately. I need my Spark back!
So here's what I'm thinking to get me back on my feet. Here's hoping it makes me feel a little bit better about the state of current affairs in my life:
1. Resume my activity schedule asap. I'm training for a 15K in November, so running NEEDS to happen and not just on weekends. 1-2 runs during the week in the mornings or evenings and a long run on Sundays. Zumba on Saturday mornings. Swimming on Wednesday nights. Monday and Friday can still be reserved for light activity or days off. As much as I would like to continue biking to work - my schedule is packed, so unless I can conceivably run and bike, or swim and bike on the same day, I might have to be ok with taking the bus to work again.
2. Weekends off food tracking. Since Nikhil and I spend most of our time together on weekends, it's been very difficult to track food when he cooks or when we go out. I can't give up my time with him so I can count everything like a mad woman. Something's gotta give. So I'm going to TRY weekends off counting and see what happens. It terrifies me to leave the tracker behind for even a day. But I proved on vacation that I can be responsible (even though I don't really think I was and I think my weight results had more to do with extra walking/being sick/carrying a heavy pack/plateau than they did with me being careful about what went in my mouth) so I'm going to use the same rules for the weekends. Drinks are going to happen. Food is going to be more plentiful. But as long as I'm really good Mon-Fri, I should be allowed a tracker-free weekend as long as I'm exercising both days to compensate. We'll see.
3. Bust out the crockpot! The season is upon us. No reason I can't have healthy meals at home that take approximately 10 minutes to make and provide healthy lunches for the whole week. Don't slack on grocery shopping. I need to get and keep the ingredients I need on hand and make time to prep and cook on a regular basis.
4. Retain vital "me-time". Just because he's available to get together, doesn't mean I am. I need to figure out just how much time I need for me and stick to it. And not feel guilty about it.
I think this last one is still the most important one for me. Having a boyfriend has been a great thing. But it's something I wasn't exactly planning on or factoring into "the plan" and as such has thrown me for a bit of a loop in my personal scheduling. It's not easy going from having every second that you're not at work or with friends to yourself, to all of a sudden scheduling around another person and trying to make things work for two people instead of just one. It's been an eye-opener for me, learning just how selfish I have made this journey for myself and realizing how difficult it has become for me by adding another person to the mix. No one was supposed to love me until I was a size 6! Haha! I didn't plan on finding someone so wonderful until I hit goal. The fact that I have found a partner but still have a lot of work to do is a bit more complicated than I expected it would be - but this is life. And I need to be prepared to live it no matter where I am on this road. But I will say - I can't believe that I'm HAPPY about Nikhil having double classes this semester for his MBA since I know that it's going to cut into our time together - however, I feel more like it's a blessing in disguise and I'm looking forward to having that extra time to myself. And I know deep down, that doesn't make me a bad person, it just makes me a healthy person.
The more weight I lose, the more space I take up. My ME is getting to be quite a large person. But I like her. She's broad, and bold and requires a lot of time and attention, but she is beautiful and talented and deserves every second that I am able to give her. The larger she becomes, the more respect she demands from other people as well. And frankly, it's about time.
And right now, that big, beautiful ME that I've created is bored. But that can only mean wonderful things for my future, because when she's bored, she dreams up fantastic things to do. It's only a matter of time, but I will settle on something great. It isn't the best feeling right now, but I think I'm still headed in the right direction. So...back to those personal accomplishments. Back to my Spark. And lunch. Because right now, I am ACTUALLY hungry, not just bored.
Monday, September 12, 2011
I know you're all expecting an epic travelog - and I seriously don't want to disappoint, but one of the main reasons I have been so silent since coming back from vacation, is, well...I'm SPEECHLESS.
There is no beauty like Africa. Vast plains, gorgeous sunsets, wild animals, beautiful people. I loved every second of my trip and am starting to wonder already when I might go back again.
I am still working on editing approximately 2000 photos of my trip. So what I will do for those of you who want the entire travel-blog is post a link to my albums that I am painstakingly going through, editing and narrating as I go. There are videos there as well, so it's an all-encompassing look at my vacation from start to finish - "African Sickness" included.
From a Spark perspective, I don't feel like I would have been able to do this trip, nor would I have enjoyed it half as much 120 pounds heavier. In fact, I don't know that I would have even had the courage to book a vacation like this. For 12 days we camped through the Masai Mara in Kenya, the Serengeti in Tanzania, the Ngorogoro Crater, the Great Rift Valley, Lake Manyara, the foothills of Kilimanjaro in Moshi and all the red dirt roads and acacia laden plains in between. I successfully used a squat toilet for the first time in my life (and even managed not to pee on myself - which is a substantial feat in my books). I ate the local food and drank the local beer and enjoyed every ounce of it (except maybe the banana beer which is more like fermented banana juice mixed with plain oatmeal). I saw a herd of over 100 elephants on our first night in the Mara and cried at the shear beauty of it all. I saw lions mating (lots of lions mating, and elephants, and wildebeast, and zebra, and ostrich...it's all about the circle of life kids!), and leopards eating their prey. I heard exotic bird calls, and hyenas laughing (some right outside my tent at 2am, which is the one night I didn't sleep very well - can you blame me?) - the likes of which my ears have never heard before. I met local tribes people, and made new friends in the small village of Mtu Wa Mbu where we visited a kindergarten classroom and fed the kids trail mix for their morning treat. I noticed a small boy crying and as his sister ran to comfort him I noticed that he was wearing a torn sweater from my Alma-matter in Toronto - one of the most touching and striking images of my entire trip. I schlepped a 15kg pack all over East Africa and was amazed that my feet didn't hurt once. We helped load and unload the safari jeep at every stop - but honestly, we were spoiled by our guides so much that I didn't have to carry or heft as much as I expected. I learned a few words in Swahili and am now convinced that I want to learn the language and go back to speak it. Even though my brother and I got terribly sick for 2 days at the end of the trip - I'm forgiving. It was all part of the experience and it was the price we paid for probably being a little more adventurous than we should have been in the food/water department. Who knows. But even a trip to an African hospital was an adventure and something we will talk about for years to come.
I had some amazing bonding time with my brother and my cousins. And I no longer feel like an outsider in that group. For years I have felt "less than" when it comes to my family. Because of my lack of physical fitness, I couldn't keep up and therefore didn't feel like I was one of the gang. But this trip proved all of that wrong. Not only did I fit in, I matched the fitness level of the rest of my crew. I didn't hold anyone back. I didn't need help getting around. I was part of the team - and nothing can describe the relief and happiness I felt because of it. The only question now is "where to next?"
Overlooking the Masai Mara.
The Hippo Pool on the Mara River
A visit to the local Masai village - the kids were hungry for trail mix.
Clothing from home - this little one has on a sweatshirt from York University (my Alma-matter!)
My brother and I at the top of a Pride Rock overlooking the Serengeti.
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