Create your own joy

The world happens around us, every day. It happens around us and sometimes, it happens to us. There are any number of things that are totally outside of our control, and sometimes, those things are pretty terrible.

You know what’s totally within your control? The ability to create your own joy. You can give yourself permission to seek out joy. That’s allowed. It should even be encouraged.

picmonkey-collageI spent the weekend on the Cape, borrowing my cousins’ incredible home for a much-needed break. I took Friday and Monday as work-from-home days so that I could have some time to myself, to get some much-needed mental clarity and peace. For the weekend itself, friends came up from New York and drove down from Boston to spend Halloween in Provincetown. We got to be very stereotypical New England tourists for the day on Saturday, and when night fell, we dressed up in costumes, broke out the booze, and celebrated the holiday in truly ridiculous fashion. It was something of a social experiment, throwing together two separate sets of friends who had never met, but it turned out great and the weekend was a success.

Leaving the Cape yesterday for the long drive back to Boston, I found myself reflecting on how grateful I felt for the past few days – grateful to the family who let me use the house, to the friends who made the journey to the Cape, to the job that gave me the flexibility to work remotely, to the universe for giving us amazing weather. The key, though, is that I didn’t sit around and wait for these things to fall into my lap. I asked whether the house would be free at any point this fall; I asked my friends if they wanted to spend a weekend away. I created space for this weekend to happen.

If I don’t make a conscious effort to create space for joy, then yes, it’s really easy to let everything else overwhelm me. That’s the thing about stress, about exhaustion, about bad news and difficult experiences: they creep, they spread, they entangle you. You can let it happen, or you can do something about it. I’m choosing the latter; I’m choosing to invite in the light.

To that end, I’ve decided to participate in a Daily Gratitude challenge for the month of November. I’ve been using (and loving!) the Day Designer planner printables, and the company sent an email out this morning with a link to their free daily gratitude journal printable. They shared a blog about how to make gratitude a daily habit, and they’re encouraging followers to share their daily reflections on social media with the tag #DDdailygratitude.

joy-gratitude-quoteI’ll be sharing my daily gratitude posts on Instagram at @beingyourchange, and where appropriate I may expand them into a longer post. I’m hoping this will help to keep all of the dark-and-nasties at bay, while keeping me focused on the sources of joy and light in my life.

The Halloween Dilemma

People are usually surprised when I say I’m not a huge fan of Halloween. I’m a theater kid, we’re supposed to love any opportunity to embrace a costume, particularly if a theme is involved. Setting aside the fact that I haven’t been onstage since 2003 – almost half a lifetime ago! – the truth of the matter is that Halloween becomes a lot more work and a lot less fun when you’re a larger lady.

I’m 5’9″ so those flirtatiously short costumes that you see on other girls put me in danger of an indecent exposure arrest. It’s also just too damn hard to try to buy a costume off-the-rack; most costumes run small and the cheap fabrics do absolutely nothing for my body. So if I want to do a costume, I have to make it myself – and since I can’t sew, that usually means trying to think of something I can build around existing wardrobe pieces.

My all-time laziest costume was “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – I dressed in all black, wore a pair of dark sunglasses and lots of pearl jewelry, and I carried a Tiffany’s bag filled with donut holes. I loved this costume, but very few people understood it, so I spent most of the night explaining myself to increasingly drunk party-goers. On the plus side, drunk people love snacks, so the donuts were a win. I don’t have any pictures of this costume, because in every picture from that Halloween, I just look like the lame friend who showed up in normal clothes – although my hair does look fantastic.

miss-piggyI knew I had to step it up the following year, so I went as Miss Piggy. I wore a strapless black dress I already had in my wardrobe, and I made a purple and silver sequined belt to wear with it. I bought purple velvet gloves and a purple feather boa (which molted all over my friend Steph’s apartment – sorry, Steph!) and recycled the mountains of fake pearls left over from the previous year’s Tiffany’s get up. I made pink pig’s ears from craft foam and glued them to a headband, and I put a Kermit the frog picture on a stick and carried it around to make it completely clear who I was meant to be. (In other news, check out that REALLY AWESOME photo quality – this dates back to 2009, and I grabbed it off of Facebook. Those pictures were 100% taken with someone’s crappy Canon point-and-shoot digital camera. Thank you internet for making these things so easily accessible. Also, can we show a little love for my commitment to the Snookie poof?)

I really outdid myself with Miss Piggy, and I have absolutely no recollection of my costumes for the next few years. The internet is also no help here – 2010 through 2013 were apparently dark years. I’m going to go ahead and blame that on the fact that it is just so damn hard to figure out a costume when you aren’t a size 6.

2014 minion.jpg2014 marked my return to costume life, and I scaled back a bit from Miss Piggy. I went as a minion, based purely on the fact that I had a denim dress that would work as a substitute for the minion’s overalls. Yellow tights, a yellow long sleeved tee, and black boots completed the look. I kept the crafting to a minimum, making a belt with the Gru logo on it and crafting together a pair of goggles. The goggles fell apart at the first party I wore this costume to, but luckily it was hosted by a world-class DIY-er who had spray glue on hand to help me fix things. We got a little overzealous (I blame the tequila and not her skills with spray glue, for the record) and my beer bottle was stuck to my hand the rest of the night, but otherwise it was a success. This was also the comfiest costume I’ve worn in ages.

cruella.jpgI went from that – pretty simple, minimal effort – to the most involved costume I’ve ever made. In 2015, I decided I could not live another day without channeling Cruella DeVille. I wore a simple black dress, and made a red sequined belt to go over it. I bought the wig and teased it within an inch of its life, and I carried around a stuffed dalmatian with a noose tied around its neck (sidebar: there are two types of people in the world – the type who finds that hilarious, and the type who thinks it’s horrifying and that I’m a bad person for finding it hilarious. Excellent way to help me weed out the people who lacked a sense of humor at the party.) I also decided to sew my own cape, with a dalmatian-print exterior and a red sequined lining. Only one problem: I can’t sew. At all. And the printed fabric was super thick, so getting a needle through it was a challenge. I worked on that damn cape every night for hours in the week leading up to Halloween, but in the end it was totally worth it. This costume was SO expensive to make, and while it wasn’t uncomfortable, it wasn’t exactly easy to wear – the cape was super warm, and the wig didn’t really fit properly on my gigantic head. I held onto the whole thing and will definitely reuse it at some point in the future, but it’s retired for the time being.

I’m in the process of making this year’s costume – the Queen of Hearts. I originally considered Alice to take advantage of my straight blonde hair, but 1) I don’t own a blue dress to serve as the foundation of the costume and 2) Alice is boring. as. fuck. I love a villain and I love a diva, and the Queen of Hearts is both of those things. I’m recycling the red sequin belt from last year, and I’m making most of the other costume elements – a headpiece (I LOVE a headpiece), a royal scepter, and a tutu. I’m crafting some flowers from playing cards using this tutorial, and I got rose beads to serve as the center. The head piece will be made from silk flowers and glitter craft foam for the crown, and the scepter will be made from playing cards and more craft foam. The tutu is a work in progress – it’s incredibly easy and involves NO SEWING (I learned my lesson last year), but when I tried it on halfway through the process today, I realized it extended a full two feet in front of my body. Not. Good. So I’m restarting and hoping it’s a little less full if I use a single layer of tulle instead of double up.

I want to look cute on Halloween just like any girl, but for that to happen, I have to put in a hell of a lot more work (and time, and money) than most people. It’s just not possible for me to walk into a party store and leave with a flattering costume. Luckily, I consider myself to be pretty crafty and creative, and I don’t really mind the time it takes to make these costumes happen — but I just felt like I needed to acknowledge that it is a process, and sometimes it is kind of a pain in the ass. And if I woke up tomorrow and had magically shrunk to a size 6, you bet your ass I wouldn’t be spending my time in line at Joann’s waiting for the fabric cutting counter. I’d be at Party City picking up something premade and enjoying my newfound free time leading up to October 31.

Friday Roundup: 10/24

I have to say, these Friday Roundups might just be my favorite part of the week! All week long I mentally save things to put in this post. This has been a trying week (more family health drama!) but looking forward to writing this post has helped me to keep a positive mindset.

I’m going to be traveling through Wednesday of next week for work, so posts will be sparse for a few days. I will try to sneak something in while I’m gone, but I make no promises! Apologies in advance – I promise to be a better blogger in November. Now, on to the good stuff!

Kitchen Excitement: New Lasagna Pan & Cookbook

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I have to say, surprise presents are definitely the best presents. A box showed up on my door yesterday containing this gorgeous All Clad lasagna pan and Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian CookingConfession time: I adore Italian food. It’s my favorite food to eat, yes, but it’s also my favorite cuisine to cook as well! Americanized Italian food (think chicken parmesan, with fried chicken cutlets drenched in melted cheese) is definitely not even remotely healthy, but true Italian food can actually fit really neatly into a clean eating meal plan, as long as you seek out high quality ingredients and are careful to keep your macros balanced. Marcella Hazan is credited with introducing classic Italian methods and cuisine to America, and I’m really excited to dive into this cookbook. Nerd confession time: my favorite cookbooks aren’t filled with glossy photos perfected by food stylists. They’re books like this one, light on imagery but heavy on history. This cookbook is filled with explanations of where recipes originated and detailed information on various ingredients – it aims to teach so much more than just the recipes. I’m also pretty giddy about this pan. It’s branded as a lasagna pan, but it’s a perfect size for roasting vegetables and smaller cuts of meat – I’m thrilled to not have to break out my gigantic turkey roaster whenever I want to roast something. So thank you, Uncle Richard – one of my most loyal blog followers from day one – for this wonderful, thoughtful gift. I promise that a proper written thank you note is on its way, but I also just had to share my excitement here on the blog, and I can’t wait to share some recipes!

Fitness Steal: Les Mills Pump On Sale!

pump edited

Before I joined Studio Poise, I had a membership with Boston Sports Club. I wasn’t the best at sticking to a workout schedule, but the one class I attended regularly was Les Mills’ Body Pump. I absolutely loved the workout, and I have to say that while I love everything about my SP classes, I do miss Body Pump. So I was totally pumped (I couldn’t help it…) to see that the at-home DVD and barbell set was on sale for 40% off, and contemplated the set for all of 30 seconds before placing an order. The photo above shows everything that came in the basic set – the DVDs, a nutrition guide and a program guide, plus the barbell and weights (two 10 lb plates and two 5 lb plates; I also added two 2.5 lb plates to my order). I’m psyched to add this into my ever-changing rotation of at home routines!

New Music: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

1-2-3 honesty, I’ve typed and deleted and retyped a paragraph about this album more times than I can count. I’ve been a fan of Andrew McMahon’s music for a long, long time – from his first band, Something Corporate, through his time headlining Jack’s Mannequin, and now am so excited to see his work as a solo artist. I could gush on and on about his music and completely embarrass myself, but instead I’ll just say this: trust me when I say that you need to give this album a listen. If you want to download the MP3s, you can order the album through Amazon, but it’s also available to stream through Spotify. 

Holiday Fun: Halloween Adventures

I’ll be honest, Halloween has never been my favorite holiday, but I can’t help but get excited when I see how seriously some of my friends take the holiday. (Don’t believe me? Check out Sandpaper & Glue – I would never show up to her Halloween party without a costume!) I hemmed and hawed over what to dress up as this year, because I refuse to buy a costume. For one thing, store bought costumes tend to be insanely expensive for a flimsy bit of cheap polyester; but more importantly, they all seem to be made for women who are significantly smaller than I am. No thank you! I did, however, find a costume online that inspired me, and I decided to dress up as a minion. I already own a denim dress that is reminiscent of the minions’ overalls, and I’ll wear it over a yellow long-sleeved shirt and yellow tights. Add in some craft store projects for the accessories and I’m pretty psyched about my homemade costume! I will share pictures after my Halloween parties over the next week or so, but if you follow me on Instagram you might get a sneak peek. And yes, I absolutely will be wandering around those parties speaking only in Minion-ese.

What’s your favorite cuisine to prepare – any healthy twists on favorite classics?
What are you dressing up as for Halloween?
Let me know in the comments!