Sometimes I Wish…

Warning: (I think) most of you guys read TCL for fun stories, recipes, and (perhaps one of two of you for) outfit posts. This post is random and rambling, so if you’re looking for the usual blog post here, you may want to skip this one.

I apologize for being a little MIA over the last several days. I’ve been feeling…overwhelmed…just with everyday life. I wrote the following when I was having a low moment last Monday morning. You know that feeling you get after spending a long period of time (weeks, even months, if not years) of running yourself into the ground resulting in you feeling so stressed and fatigued that you find yourself wanting to cry for no reason? I’ve hesitated posting this because it always seems to read much more dramatic than it actually is, but maybe I’m thinking about this too much? Hopefully, you don’t think I sound like too much of a drama queen…

Sometimes I wish I weren’t so stressed.
I wish I didn’t blog at midnight or 1 am because that’s the first time I’ve had all day to do it.
I wish I had more days with more than 1 hour of free time. Even when you’re doing mostly fun things, it can be stressful to not have any downtime.
I wish I didn’t leave my laundry in the dryer (or in the laundry basket in my living room) because I desperately need clean clothes but don’t have time to fold it once it’s done.
I wish I were better at saying “no”.
I wish I didn’t run around my house in between getting home and going to my next to-do, tossing things around like a tornado.
I wish my work weren’t so demanding.
I wish I had longer than 15 minutes of break time (yea that includes/is my lunch break) in my average work day.
I wish I didn’t cry at my desk at work.
I wish that I didn’t lay on the couch for just 15 or 30 minutes at the end of the day because it gave me a false sense of relaxing when I really should be heading straight to bed.
I wish there were more hours in the day. More days in the week. Or at least more days in a weekend.

But through all of this, I do my best to level set and reality check. I know there are many people struggling much worse than I am. I know this exhaustion is the sign of a gift because it means I have the ability to do (or at least try to do) all these things. It means I have a husband (and dog) to love, family to visit, friends who want to hang out with me, creative outlets, an exercise that is not a burden but a joy to do, the ability to teach Zumba, and a job…oh a job in this economy (no matter how stressful) is indeed a good thing. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I am.

The more straightforward solution to the stress is the one that hubby keeps suggesting – downsizing. But, exhausted as I am, I love everything too much to let anything go (ahh, so stubborn…I know). Some people have suggested that the blog is what’s taking up so much of my time, but I haven’t posted in a few days now and didn’t post a couple days before the poetry post. And you know what…I don’t feel any less stressed. In fact, after I published that poetry post, I actually felt…better. So, looks like the show will go on here on TCL.

Things are a little hectic right now, but I appreciate you coming along for the ride.

Thanks for reading,
Diana

Reader question #1: Do you ever feel overwhelmed by everyday life?
Reader question #2: Have something to get off your chest? Fill in the blank: Sometimes I wish________________.

Poetry Slam Judging

This weekend, I attended my first ever poetry slam. It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen recently.

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But since this blog has been a bit food sparse, let me show you some random eats photos before we get to the slam dets. Once again, a noodle bowl saves the day. This one served as lunch and was made completely with things I scavenged from around the kitchen – spelt soba noodles from my pantry and veggies from my freezer. Who needs time to go grocery shopping, right? jk

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I also enjoyed my first pumpkin oats of the season.

I like candy corn around Halloween, peppermint around Christmas, but I like pumpkin around fall. And adding canned pumpkin to oats is one of the easiest ways I like to enjoy it.

This bowl was drizzled with maple syrup and topped with some sliced almonds. Yum!

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Anywho, back to the slam. I was invited to the poetry slam with Slam Charlotte by my friend Talicha (click to check out her blog) who was competing in the event. Wondering what a “poetry slam” is? It’s basically a poetry competition where people perform their poems and are judged/scored. Higher scoring poets move on to next rounds of the competition till one winner is selected.

I actually used to write poetry when I was in school, just for fun (ok, as a creative outlet for deep feelings), so I was really looking forward to hearing from some new poets and seeing them perform live.

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The event was kicked off by Jamaal St. John who was visiting from New York.

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He shared a few poems, letters, and stories. The most memorable line from his performance was from his poem on loving thick girls where he said “a waist is a terrible thing to mind.”

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Bluz is the current slam master, and he did a fabulous job keeping us entertained between the various performances and rounds. He’s also introduced me to my new favorite song, which I’d like to use for almost any occasion, but will most likely prove useful as an anthem to play during a particularly tough work day. I’ll have to share it with you guys some other time…or maybe just on my Facebook wall.

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Of course, I was most excited to see my friend Talicha perform. She did a fantastic job, but did not end up winning this slam. Ahhh perhaps next time? :)

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By the way, I got to be a judge along with my friend Sarah. Apparently, they like to offer the newbies judging roles. I felt really unqualified, but they told us to just vote for whichever poem made us feel good, which seemed simple enough. It was a little nerve-wracking, but we had a good time.

Overall, the slam was so impressive. I’d quote more of the poets, but I’m afraid of butchering their words. Instead, I’ll just tell you that they covered a wide range of topics – from sad, to mad, to happy and everything in between. There were poems about sex, Alzheimer’s, a cell phone, a kidnapped child, a hair stylist, and love.

I think I see more poetry slams in my future (from the audience…not the stage).

Reader question #1: Who is your favorite poet?

Reader question #2: What is your favorite poem?

Stress Dressing for Work {Outfit}

Apologies for being a bit MIA. It’s been a stressful week for me, but overall, I’m in good spirits.

The downs: This week has been extremely stressful at work. We’ve had some important projects get into full swing recently, and everyone on the team is a bit on the fritz. I’m still working with 17 Excel files and 5 databases open on my computer (yes, at one time). You knew I was a bit of a geek, right?

The ups: I’m getting back into the groove with Zumba. This was pretty much my second week of being back in the routine of things, and I’m more thankful than ever for my health. I’m hoping to continue my normal routine of Zumba about 3-4 times a week. I’m back to teaching 2 nights, and I’m loving it. Good health is such a blessing.

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In outfit news, the work stress has me pulling more comfortable clothes to wear to the office. Take for example this slightly (ok, very) oversized gray sweater. Do you ever look at something in your closet and wonder why the heck you bought it? That’s what I’ve been thinking with this sweater. It’s pretty cute, comfortable, and machine washable/dryable (which I love for convenience purposes), and I even got it on mega-sale, but it’s just so darn big. I bought it in my normal size, but I think I should have gone down one. I like oversized sweaters that are meant to be oversized, but I think this one just looks a bit like it doesn’t fit.

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I’ve also been questioning the sizes I purchase, just in the last couple months. My weight has fluctuated quite a bit over the last 10 years causing my size to range about 3-4 sizes, but while I tend to adjust my bottoms accordingly, I’ve tended to order the same size top. No clue why. I’ve started actually trying on one size smaller in tops just to see. As you know, the fit varies from style and brand, so it looks like I’m just going to have to be more careful and pay closer attention when I’m trying things on. This will suck for my new found love of online shopping. I really prefer trying things on, but I do love the convenience of online.

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Ensemble:

Black pants: Banana Republic (scored on sale and extra mark down for about $30)

Sweater: Ann Taylor Loft

Scarf: Urban Outfitters

Nude Wedges: J Crew (also seen here)

Purse: Sigrid Olsen

Pearl Studs: family gift (from my college graduation!)

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In home & yard news, here are the last flowers of 2011 for the Chic house backyard. They’re so tall and pretty. I think my neighbor called the purple ones “weeds”, but I’m enjoying them.

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And I’m waiting for these leaves to start turning tan, gold, red, and orange. Can’t wait…I love fall. :)

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Thank you so much for reading! Hope you have a great rest of the week.

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Reader question #1: Do you purchase any type of clothes in the same size every time?

Reader question #2: Do you dress more comfortably when you know you’re going to have a stressful day at work?

Reader question #3: What color are the leaves in your yard?

Gray Leopard {Outfit}

Firstly, I wanted to say thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments on the peanut butter post the other day. Those comments were some of the longest and most interesting recently, and I had a great time reading and responding to them. One of the comments even had me editing the post for clarity (thanks Rachael!). Click here to view the post.

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I recently ordered this gray leopard blouse (saw it in the store recently, but it’s sold out online) on sale from oldnavy.com. Even though we were just running errands on Saturday, I decided to take it out for a spin. The material is flowy, but not all that soft. However, overall, I think it’s pretty comfortable, and I like that it’s machine-washable and dryable.

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I originally thought to wear this top with a pair of skinny black jeans, but that seemed too safe. My overall style tends to be on the simple/safe side, and though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being simple, I’m currently working on being more a little more experimental every once in awhile. So, I decided to pair the shirt with some khaki shorts. Ooh, I know…so “daring”, but the shorts aren’t something I’d normally wear with this top. Not sure how I feel about the combo yet, but I’ll keep playing.

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By the way, Hubby urged me to do most of my photos sans sunglasses. He said I looked like the terminator with them on. Nice. :P

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Ensemble:

Leopard print blouse: Old Navy

Layering tank top: The Limited

Shorts: J Crew

Suede booties: ASOS

Studded belt: J Crew

Bracelets: local boutique

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In cooking news, I purchased some gorgeous purple potatoes from the store the other day and decided to turn them into breakfast potatoes this morning to go with an omelet. I tried out a new method for preparing my Stuff-Your-Face Breakfast Potatoes that would use one less pot and would be simpler overall to prepare. It was pretty much a fail and got a little messy, but I somehow managed to salvage the potatoes enough to make them edible. As for the omelet…it was pretty much my first time trying to make a real omelet. I usually just make scrambles. I watched a video on how to make the “perfect” omelet as I was making the omelet (I know, I should have watched it first)…only to get halfway through to learn that I was supposed to broil the omelet in the pan, which wouldn’t work for me since the pan I was using wasn’t oven-safe. Doh! The omelet was a near-fail but ended up being pretty tasty (though not photogenic). Ahh…kitchen fun on a Sunday. Hopefully, some of you have omelet-making tips for me that I can use next time. ;)

Reader question #1: Do you wear shorts with blouses?

Reader question #2: Have you had any recent kitchen failures you want to share?

Reader question #3: What are your tips for making the perfect omelet?

Peanut Butter: Yay or Nay? {Carcinogens & Storage Tip}

So, I read a tweet the other day from blog buddy Susan of the Great Balancing Act that surprised me:

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Peanut butter? A carcinogen-containing food? Who knew. Perhaps this is common knowledge for most of you, but this was the first time I’d heard about this.

So, what is a carcinogen exactly? According to merriam-webster.com, the definition of a carcinogen is “a substance or agent causing cancer.”

Whoa…heavy stuff. I wanted to learn more about this to see if I should be concerned, so I looked for articles about the topic online. I learned that peanut butter itself isn’t a carcinogen, but there is a mold that can grow on peanuts that produces aflatoxin, which is a carcinogen. I also learned that there are ways to supposedly kill the toxin and that aflatoxin-free peanut butters exist. Read on for more…

This article (click) by Dr. Weil was pretty informative, though overall it seemed like Dr. Weil didn’t think the carcinogen levels of peanut butter were too threatening when eaten in moderation. I was thrown off a bit by this line since I usually think of health food store options as being…well…healthier:

“A few years ago, Consumers Union looked into the question of aflatoxins in peanut butter and found that the amounts detectable varied from brand to brand. The lowest amounts were found in the big supermarket brands such as Peter Pan, Jif and Skippy. The highest levels were found in peanut butter ground fresh in health food stores.”

And I actually found this statement from the Dr. Weil article most interesting (since I’m an almond butter lover):

“I still prefer almond butter and cashew butter, because they have a better fatty acid profile.”

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But back to the peanut butter discussion, according to this article (click) on discovery.com, you can actually enjoy peanut butter sans toxins if you just refrigerate it.

Here’s a good snippet from the article in relation to the snippet above from Dr. Weil:

“…don’t think that switching to the overly processed, non-organic version of peanut butter will save you because those peanuts are treated with a host of pesticides that seep right through that thin skin.”

This article (click) from OrganicAuthority.com provides the advice I’ll probably end up taking:

“The bottom line when it comes to peanut butter and your health: Buy organic to prevent pesticide contamination. Refrigerate your jar to prevent fungal growth. And if you’re particularly concerned about aflatoxins, buy from top-notch natural brands like Arrowhead Mills, which claim to be completely aflatoxin-free.”

Anywho, these are just three articles from what could be a very large number. Have you heard anything about peanut butter and carcinogens that I’ve missed? Please share your info, links, etc. in a comment.

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Either way, I think I’ll stick with almond butter most of the time (I do like peanut butter and other nut butters every once in awhile) . I know almond butter is really trendy now, but I actually just prefer the taste of almond butter over other nut butters. But, if you’ve never tried almond butter before (or if you tried it once and hated it), it’s worth me mentioning that not all almond butters are made the same. I’ve tasted some that were flavorless, bland, and basically horrible, so don’t give up after trying just one.

My personal favorite almond butter is Barney Butter. It’s expensive, but worth it to me for the deep-roasted flavor that just tastes so much better than others I’ve tried. I recently picked up some Justin’s Maple Almond Butter that I’m really enjoying (it’s great for the Not-So-Sweet fans out there). I usually try to purchase both on sale, and I’ve seen the Justin’s brand at Target!

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Or course, I also really like making my own almond butter. ;) Click here for my Honey-Roasted Cinnamon Wink Almond Butter recipe.

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Reader Question: What do you think? Peanut butter: yay or nay? Does the carcinogen issue scare you away from peanut butter? Do you think you’ll change how you store your peanut butter? Do tell!

Sky Top Orchard 2011 {U-Pick Apples}

After our delicious artisan lunch in Flat Rock, we headed straight to Sky Top Orchard to go pick all the apples we could carry. Or…at least all the apples we could afford since we sort of forgot that not everywhere takes credit cards. Silly city folk!

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With just under $20 in our pockets, we had to be selective but could actually afford quite a bit. Prices are pretty reasonable at Sky Top – $1 per pound of apples if you get under 15 pounds ($0.75/pound if you go over 15 pounds). The snacks were the most expensive things, but we definitely wanted to splurge on some of those!

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2011 – Our first family trip to Sky Top! The last time I came to this orchard, it was with my immediate family (mom, dad, sister), and I think I was in middle school!

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{The front of Sky Top’s main building}

Sky Top was pretty busy when we got there. There were families and tourists wandering around everywhere! Luckily, the place was pretty easy to navigate. They had one main building where you pretty much got everything – you could buy snacks, pick up baskets to take to the orchard, pay for your apples, or buy already picked apples.

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{The back of Sky Top}

Things were pretty crowded behind Sky Top’s main building, mostly because people waited here for the hay rides, which looked to be quite popular.

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After scouting out the place, we made a plan of action: get a sweet snack, go apple picking, pay, and get hot, fresh, apple cider doughnuts.

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We got a caramel apple to split and took it outside to eat.

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While we were snacking, Bailey met another corgi…

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…but that corgi didn’t seem too keen on Bailey. I love this photo, though, because it’s photo-evidence that Bailey is a lover, not a fighter. Look at that defensive move!

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Next up, we found a basket…

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…and headed out to the orchard.

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Unfortunately, hubby and I learned that we could not throw apples at each other.

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The weather was a little cool, but overall, it was gorgeous!

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We tried walking through one of the closer rows of apples, but they were picked clean.

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Hubby and I weren’t too worried since we knew they had so many pre-picked apples for sale. Picking our own would be more fun, but at least we knew we wouldn’t leave the orchard empty-handed.

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We ended up following a trail of people heading down a steep hill.

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And halfway down one row of apple trees, we hit jackpot. We found a tree with apples all over it! Hubby had to climb into the tree and toss the apples out to me, but after just a few short minutes, we enough apples to call it a day. Apple picking is pretty quick work if you find a good tree.

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Cha-ching!

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The basket was so large, it kind of made you want to fill the whole thing up. But, hubby and I were trying to be reasonable about how many apples we could actually eat.

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Since we don’t have kids yet, we (ok…I) took photos of Bailey instead…

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…A ridiculous amount of photos. I can only imagine what the other apple pickers thought. Hehe…oh well.

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Back to the main building!

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The check-out process is pretty simple at Sky Top. Get however many plastic bags you need…

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…fill em up. Get in line to check out. Pay by the weight. Can you believe hubby and I picked 10 1/2 pounds of apples! It totally didn’t look like that many to us, but we didn’t care because we still had enough money to buy apple cider doughnuts!

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We’d heard the wait for the doughnuts would be long and it was.

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But, when in Rome…

We had driven all the way out to the orchard, so we figured we may as well wait for the doughnuts, regardless of how long we had to wait.

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After 40 minutes in line, we had doughnuts!

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They were piping hot and rolled in cinnamon sugar.

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They were tender, cake-like doughnuts scented with apples. Just one wouldn’t do, so I had a second.

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And one last Bailey photo where normal most people would have taken photos of their kids. :lol:

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Soon enough it was time to hit the road and head home. Farewell mountains! Till we meet again!

Reader question #1: Have you been apple picking before? Which orchard is your favorite and where is it?

Reader question #2: What’s your favorite apple recipe (links welcome)?

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