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(the more you know)
Snow storm! Wow, this is not a normal amount of snow for North Carolina. We got several inches yesterday, so today I dug out my cross-country skis and got moving!
I've had editing deadlines for 8 days straight, so I've been feeling a little cooped up and stir-crazy. I like to stay active because it makes me feel good, but that can be hard when I'm having a busy work week.
I've written previously about the back pain I've been having ever since I switched over to a desk job. I used to be a researcher and worked in a lab on my feet for hours a day, but when I began my editing business I found myself sitting for eight hours a day instead. My back hurt, my shoulders hurt, and I could feel myself ever so slowly gaining weight due to the decreased activity.
Yoga has helped me a lot to deal with the back pain and build stronger muscles, but the silver bullet has ultimately been one really great Black Friday purchase that has made marathon editing and writing just a little more bearable.
Yep, I did it. I invested in a convertible standing desk. I'm actually typing at it right now.
As you can see in the pictures, it raises and lowers, so you can easily switch back and forth between sitting and standing (which I've found is best - if I stand too much, my feet start to hurt).
If anyone's interested, it's actually called the "Halter ED-258 Preassembled Height Adjustable Desk Sit / Stand Desk Elevating Desktop" and it's on an even bigger sale now than when I bought it (d'oh!). I think I got it for $299 (down from $599) on Black Friday, but right now it's on sale for $239!
This is one of those rare purchases I would make again in a heartbeat (and we all know howI feel about shopping). I use it every single day, switching back and forth from sitting to standing about every other hour or so. My back pain has completely gone away and the minor weight gain has been slowly creeping back off again (as it should, slow and steady is the way to go).
So if you have a home office, or you're just looking for a convenient way to incorporate a standing desk into your workplace, I would recommend this standing desk 100%.
You can see from these pictures that the convertible desk is pretty big. There's a lot of room to put your monitor, computer, keyboard, etc. on it. My actual desk is fairly old and narrow (found it on the street years ago), so the convertible desk hangs off it slightly, which isn't ideal, but it's a fairly heavy device and the center of gravity is shifted further back, so it's not tippy at all. Just something to be aware of. The actual base that it sits on is about 23 inches deep and 28 inches wide.
I've gotten to the point where I prefer to work at my desk standing up now. I have to make some minor adjustments in the raised position to the height of my keyboard using some books, but it's really not a big deal. And I don't know, that might just be me. I seem to have issues finding a desk that fits my size.
Is this an issue that other women have? I feel like most desks are designed for a man. So for example, I've always had to use a little foot rest, like this one, beneath my desk so my legs don't dangle from the necessary raised height of my chair. (As you can see in the images, I still have to use the foot rest when I'm sitting.) It makes me feel like an old lady, but it's better than getting sciatica, which will REALLY make you feel like an old lady (I speak from experience).
Anyway, the desk struggle is real, which is why I thought it was worth it to invest in a convertible standing version. It helps make writing/editing feel less sedentary. Also, and I don't think this is a coincidence, but I've been writing more since I started using it. Based on that alone, I'd call this purchase a win.
Have you ever used a standing desk? They are surprisingly addictive. A few years ago, my Dad got one that doesn't raise or lower (it looks like this) and he swears by it. I think that version is less expensive too. Maybe a nice way to give it a try.
I've never had much success with New Year's resolutions...except for one.
A few years ago, I decided I wanted to feel more "put together." I wanted to feel better in my clothing (this is along-standing issue I've had about dressing sloppily).
But instead of resolving to "dress better," I decided I would make one very small change: to always wear matching underwear. Nothing fancy. But my top and bottom would match.
I achieved this by throwing out all the random underwear I owned, especially the ones with goofy patterns and colors from Victoria's Secret, and then I went to Macy's and bought 5 pairs of black underwear and 5 pairs of nude at one of those sales they periodically run. I already owned two black bras and two nude bras. Then when I got dressed each morning, it was a snap to either choose a matching black or nude "set."
5+ years later, my underwear still matches using this same system, and even though no one else can tell, it does make me feel slightly more polished.
I think what made this "resolution" succesful was that I framed it as a small, concrete change that I could make in my life fairly easily. Apparently, making a decision as convenient as possible is one of the best strategies for establishing a habit.
So this year I'm going to try the same thing.
Instead of "I will lose weight," I'm going to:
Instead of "I will save/make more money," I'm going to:
Instead of "I will write more," I'm going to:
I might add more little changes as I think of them and write them here so I can come back to this list if I'm feeling off-track.
None of these things are ground-breaking, but I think they will add up and help me achieve several goals I have for the year, which include:
There may be more, but this is what comes to mind right now.
What are your goals for this year? What small, easy changes can you make to achieve them?
Sorry, I know this is a super hypocritical post to write directly after I just blogged about practicing yoga during the holidays in order to stay healthy - BUT, I feel compelled to share the greatest party hack ever, because it's so easy and it was such a hit. It's not healthy, but trust me, it's a winner and you should try it.
I like to have friends over on occasion, and I like to feed them. My husband is all about the post-dinner party, because he doesn't like to figure out food, but I hate it when someone invites you over to their house and doesn't even provide so much as a bag of pretzels. I get hangry. I don't have fun. Sorry, but I think if you're going to invite people over to your house, you should do the decent thing and provide some food. It doesn't have to be a lot! But it does have to be something. A bowl of store-bought hummus goes a long way.
Over the years, I've tried all sorts of party foods. The aforementioned hummus is a staple. My friends always enjoy a baked brie (and it's so easy). This past Halloween I made chilli and served Frito Chili Pie, which was a big hit, but not exactly effortless.
And that's the goal - hosting a party should at least appear effortless, otherwise you risk making your guests feel uncomfortable when they see how much work you've put into the event. The logistics of the party should fade into the background everyone can focus on just having a good time.
Thus I present to you....
...the humble popcorn tin. Turns out, it is the ideal party food. Inexpensive, volumous, and awesome. I don't know if they have these things all over the world, but they're fairly ubiquitous here in the United States, especially around Christmas for some reason. So my American friends know exactly what I'm talking about, but for those of you who don't, this is what lays inside:
The three flavors are virtually always the same: caramel, cheese, and butter. The combination is addictive. Everyone dives into the sweet caramel corn first, then balances it with the almost sour flavor of that atomic orange cheddar cheese. And then when you needed to cleanse the palate, you might eat a handful of the "butter" flavor, which had almost no flavor at all. Eat and repeat.
My grandmother used to get these tins from the dollar store and give them to us for Christmas. I don't know if my parents were that happy about it, but my brother and I always liked it. During the post-Christmas break, the two of us would watch our limited VHS collection on repeat as we worked our way through the caramel and cheese flavors.
I don't think I've had a popcorn tin in over ten years, but yesterday I saw one while I was at CVS picking up some wrapping paper. Since we were having friends over that night, I figured I'd just get it and leave it out in case anyone was interested.
Best five bucks I've ever spent. They INHALED this popcorn. And everyone had happy memories of popcorn tins over the holidays, which spurred conversations, and yada yada yada, we all had a good time. I can't think of a more effortless and frankly delicious party food than the humble popcorn tin. I had no idea it would go over so well.
Anyway, just a thought for a casual get together or even a campy holiday cocktail party. Flavored popcorn. Easy and awesome. Try it out.
If you're interested, they have quite a range of popcorn tin options on Amazon, from the gourmet stuff to the more humble Coca-Cola branded cans, but honestly, you can usually find them for way cheaper at the drug store. I don't think I would spend more than five bucks on this stuff, to be honest, but if you don't have them in your area, they might be a fun gift for the family or to serve on Christmas Eve.
For whatever reason, I feel like I've solved a bunch of life problems, big and small, over the last year. Some of this stuff I feel compelled to share, because I know so many other people struggle with the same issues.
So here it is: my quick list of life hacks and solutions:
1) Sulfur soap and sulfur balm really does cure acne, even adult hormonal cystic acne, like the kind I've been dealing with off and on for the last 5-10 years (and prior to that, just your standard teenage acne). I used to be on spironolactone, a drug which also cures hormonal acne really well, but when I turned 29, I decided I wanted to get off it in case I got pregnant (spironolactone works by blocking testosterone receptors, so you really cannot take it if you are thinking about having a kid). Since then, I've tried a few different methods of curing my acne (low glycemic index diet, zero-dairy diet, the eating nothing but salad and meat diet, honey masks, zinc supplements, salicylic acid/benzoyl peroxide combo, etc.) and absolutely none of it worked. Then I tried the sulfur balm, and boom, my acne was gone. Even the red marks from my past acne are fading really rapidly - I've never seen anything like it.
Sure, it dries out my face a bit, but not too bad. And frankly, I don't care. I'd rather have a few flakes here and there than deal with the constant monthly flux of acne.
So as someone who has had acne problems since she was 12, please trust me when I say you should try sulfur soap or sulfur balm. It's cheap, and I think it will work for you, because I was one of those people who thought nothing could cure my acne except serious internal medication - and now I stand corrected. (None of these links are affiliated, by the way.)
2) A great way to avoid getting embarrassingly drunk and then hung over the next day is to alternate your alcoholic beverage with flavored seltzer water. I know, this isn't groundbreaking, but I'm late to the seltzer water game. I never liked the stuff before, but I finally tried those flavored La Croix drinks and found they weren't half-bad. Then I switched to generic flavored seltzer water, and though it's not quite as good as La Croix, it's still pretty refreshing (and about half as expensive). We've been swimming at our friend's pool at his apartment complex a lot this summer, which has been awesome, but it's also meant we've been generally drinking too much. So these past few weekends, I just replaced half the beer we brought with flavored seltzer water. Now I'm drinking a reasonable amount (2-3 beers), and staying hydrated (I realized thirst was the primary reason I was drinking too much). Plus, you still feel like part of the party when you're drinking seltzer water. I think it's something psychological about holding the can.
3) I've gotten back into running again this summer, after a long hiatus since we got our dog. I'm one of those runners who has plantar fasciitis problems (a pain across the sole of the foot, concentrated more so beneath the arch/heel area). It happens when the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot gets damaged and inflamed from overuse (usually from running too much). Several years ago, I had plantar fasciitis so bad that I had to stop running for over a year in order to let it heal (at the time, I was a really serious runner, it was by far my favorite activity, so that year was really hard). I eventually got over it, but it's always been close to coming back. I can feel the pain kind of tugging at the base of my heel sometimes, especially when I've taken a long break from running and then started back up again straight into my former mileage rather than slowly increasing it like you should.
And then I learned a stretch that keeps the plantar fasciitis from developing. Basically it's a wall calf stretch, except you bend your knee a little so you feel the stretch more at the base of your calf. You can see how it's done here. Apparently, tightness along the back of your leg, and particularly your lower calf, pulls the foot's connective tissue (the fascia) too tight, which leaves it prone to micro-tears. The fascia are notoriously hard to stretch, but stretching those leg muscles that are indirectly connected to the bottom of the foot can keep everything flexible, so you won't inadvertently damage the fascia.
Now whenever I'm feeling that familiar tightness along the bottom of my foot, I just stop running for a day and do these lower calf stretches (I believe it's the soleus muscle) and the plantar fasciitis doesn't develop any further. It just disappears. What I don't know is how effective this stretch is if you already have full-blown plantar fasciitis, but it can't hurt to try.
So there you go, three life hacks for acne, over-drinking, and plantar fasciitis. I know I've spent many hours googling for answers to these problems, particularly about my skin and feet issues, and it can be so hard to find accounts of people finding solutions that work for them. Way too much of the internet is one big echo chamber of the same non-helpful information. For example, I don't ever want to hear again how my "bad diet" is the cause of my acne. There's no realistic way I could have "improved" my diet more without developing an eating disorder (seriously, I already eat really well), so I'm tired of hearing that's why I have bad skin. I just don't think it's healthy to eat nothing but vegetables and meat - you'll go crazy and binge on junk, plus, as far as I can tell - it doesn't actually cure acne to eat so restrictively! I've come to the conclusion that bad skin is just genetic, and that there are topical treatments and pharmaceuticals which can get rid of it, but you wouldn't know that based on what you can typically find on the internet.
Therefore here's my account, and I hope it can help you.
Writer, editor, scientist.