The Little Things in Life

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This week has been full of reminders that sometimes, it’s best to take a step back and take stock of your life, and find joy in the little things. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern where everything seems mundane. Instead of doing that, I’m thinking out loud about a few of the moments I’ve recently had that brightened up my day and made me feel like everything’s going to work out in the end!

Sunrise over the East River

Sunrise over the East River

 

Yesterday, watching the last moments of the sunrise over the East River as I jogged up to meet everyone at November Project, I was reminded again how shockingly beautiful nature is. Unadorned and unaltered by mankind, it’s bigger and brighter than all of us (and we should work hard to keep it that way!)

 

 

 

Puppies preening

Puppies preening

 

Later in the morning, I saw a group of the cutest puppies on my way out the door. If you can believe it, dog-walkers in New York handle twice as many pups as this at one time – this was the group for the left-hand leash! It’s so nice for the dogs that the weather is better, they can run and play in the park to their heart’s content without worrying about salt in their paws.

 

 

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Thinking Out Loud: Shopping Mindfully

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This Thursday, I’m sharing my thoughts with everyone on a little challenge I set myself earlier this year. In February, I resolved not to buy any new clothes, shoes, or accessories for a month. I realized that I have so much already, and that no matter how many times I clean out my closet, it always seems like there’s a collection of items I never wear gathering at the back. And although I’m conscientious about thinking through purchases before swiping my credit card, online shopping has definitely made me more prone to impulse buys. So I wanted to give myself time to take a step back and prune the piles once and for all, and also to give my student wallet a break!

 

I've got an extra Minnie's Bakery Rice Krispies Treat, a shiny medal, and a pair of Mickey kicks to keep me going until the next race!

My Mickey kicks – so worth it!

The last time I purchased any wearables was Friday, January 9. The day before the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, I found a cute pair of Mickey sneakers at Disney and made them my one non-running souvenir of the trip. So I started February with a few weeks logged. And then February turned into March. I didn’t consciously make the decision to extend the challenge, because it turned out not to be much of a challenge. Rather, in the days and weeks after I decided not to buy anything, I just wasn’t putting myself in shopping situations much anymore.

 

 

Not much need for fashion over here

Not much need for fashion over here

 

It was freezing and snowy outside, so my friends and I weren’t hitting Bloomingdales for frozen yogurt and a spin on the shoe floor. And my daily uniform of leggings, boots, and cable-knit sweaters, covered by a parka, hat, and gloves, wasn’t exactly inspiring me to think much about fashion. But I wasn’t really paying attention to online sales or anything either – shopping just sort of fell off my radar. There was never a time I felt like I had nothing to wear. Instead, I found myself picking up a top I hadn’t worn in months (or even a year) and heading off feeling like I’d scored a find from my own closet.

 

 

 

 

Welcome arrival for my ponytail

Welcome arrival for my ponytail

My decision to make the first purchase back wasn’t a big deal either. I was finding myself looking at spring and summer running gear after a long winter. I went through a phase of losing most of my hairties (which happens to the best of us). So last Friday, April 3, I went to Twistband’s website and bought a bunch of new hairties. Not big-ticket items, but things I needed. I could have gone to Duane Reade for regular black hair elastics, but the Twistbands don’t break my hair when I ponytail up for runs, so I save on haircuts? And they’re just more cheerful. I feel like there’s a good balance between saving and spending, and allowing yourself a few little luxuries here and makes life more colorful.

 

 

 

Twistband snag-less success

Twistband snag-less success

I think the takeaway from all this for me was more mindfulness when shopping. I will definitely take more time to think about why I’m buying something, and likely end up bringing home less in quantity but more in quality. I’ll still make running-related purchases, both when I need to replace my shoes or shorts and when there’s something I’d really like to wear on the go – because some new running gear can really brighten up a regular workout!  The key is to decide what is really worth your time and energy, since that’s what money is. That stuff is special for me, so it’s worth it!

 

 

With all the time I saved shopping, I also managed to figure out Twitter and Pinterest! Follow me at @Runner Girl 1991 and Renaissance Runner Girl on Pinterest. And that’s all for this Thursday!

What do you think about your own shopping habits? Any tips and tricks for thinking through purchases?

 

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

A Breakfast Is Born

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First things first – my initial thought I wanted to share with all of you this Thursday was one of thrills and thanks! (Yes, I like alliteration.) Yesterday’s WIAW post meant the first day of the month was also the first day my blog received over 500 reads. It’s not why I blog, but I’m so happy that people are interested in what I have to say, and I welcome any input on what you might like to read in future. More recipes, or ramblings on life, just post in the comments below!

Now, here’s what I was thinking about yesterday when I drafted this, when a friend of mine joked that I ate more oats than anyone she knew and I should have gone to her alma mater because then I would have been a Quaker. Now, I’ve shared a lot of oat-based recipes with you, but I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret – for the first 18 years of my life, I had a major aversion to oatmeal. Crazy, right? I just had this thing about any “lumpy” foods (I loved mashed potatoes, but refused to eat them if I found even a single lump, when the fork was put down for good). Neither the color nor texture of oatmeal was visually appealing. The first time I tasted it, I was five years old and had a bowl foisted upon me by my well-meaning grandmother, who is not known for her cooking. It was lukewarm and grayish and pretty much the opposite of appetizing, and that was it. I ate oatmeal cookies, especially because even before my wheat allergy was diagnosed I had bad reactions to a lot of other baked goods, but no oatmeal.

 

A bowl of oats

A bowl of oats

 

And then I arrived in Oxford for my first year at university. The food served up in my college dining hall was mostly unappealing, as it seemed to operate on the principle of maximum calories for minimum cash – good for starving students, but not so good for a student with a sensitive stomach and lots of allergies. To make matters worse, there was a small refrigerator in the hall of my dorm, but no kitchen, and we weren’t allowed to have cooking appliances in our rooms (because of the risk of burning down a beautiful 500-year-old building, to be fair!) There was a microwave on the floor above mine but I didn’t discover it until the spring. So for the first two terms, I pretty much subsisted on yogurt, salads, cheese, fruit and veggies, and other food eaten cold, and unfortunately, more junk food (chips and crisps and chocolate) which played a role in distorting my eating habits. The saving grace of this time was my electric tea kettle – the one appliance permitted in every room in Oxford, because it was always time for tea. I could boil water, so I could make anything to which you added hot water, which meant soup, and yes, oatmeal.

 

Matriculation at Oxford with my dear friend Elli

Matriculation at Oxford with my dear friend Elli

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Marveling at the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is majestic. It is one of the most famous and foot-trafficked museums in the world, and it commands a position of respect among art connoisseurs, scholars, visitors from around the globe, and the New Yorkers who pop in every day (and who might just be the hardest to please of all those!) The Met is a place that can be many different things to each individual who strides up its steps, dashes through its doors, and lingers in its halls. Some come because it is an encyclopedic collection of art history, and they thirst for knowledge. Others come to take in the beauty of the works within. As for me? My Met is a place of reflection.

 

Moonlight, Wood Island Light, Winslow Homer 1894)

Moonlight, Wood Island Light, Winslow Homer (1894)

I’ve always loved art. Several members of my family have more than an amateur interest in art, and my parents made sure that my brother and I would value it by filling our home with objects of visual art. They would take us along to galleries during vacations on Cape Cod and in Maine, and march us through museums in Europe. When I was very young, good behavior on those gallery trips was rewarded with ice cream (in Rome, the tactics were the same, except that the treat was gelato). Somewhere along the way, it was as if a spark ignited in my mind, and instead of being taken to museums and galleries, I was getting to go. It was a privilege.

 

Growing up in the orbit of New York City, the Met was the marquee museum. I cannot say that the Met is my favorite museum of all those I’ve visited, because I cannot say that of any museum. I love the Frick Collection for its intimacy and the fact that my artistic taste aligns so closely with that of its founders and curators. For a historian intrigued by people who collect, the Barnes in Philadelphia is an overflowing fountain. Seeing Starry Night at the Musee d’Orsay or Wivenhoe Park at the National Gallery in London are magical experiences. But what I can say about the Met is that somewhere in its vast environs, there is a place for each individual who passes through to come and reflect. No matter how many eyes have lain on any given work, if you choose to make it your work, your place to come and look and listen, it becomes a part of you, and you a part of it.

 

As I wander the halls of the Met as a young adult, all sorts of memories come to mind of childhood and the first time I saw each work that I love. I walk quietly upstairs and into the galleries of nineteenth-century European paintings, and lose myself in the works by Monet, Sisley, and Cezanne. And I remember that no matter how difficult life has seemed, taking a step back, really looking at a painting, drinking in the details and willing myself to wholly engage in examination – that’s what has brought me clarity and perspective.

 

Alpine Pool, John Singer Sargent (1907)

Alpine Pool, John Singer Sargent (1907)

I’ve said that running outdoors is what allows me to mentally detach, and that is true. But before I started running, art was the only thing that brought me such peace. Now, I am blessed to draw on both sources of comfort. There is nothing quite like being out in the fresh air, the only sounds coming from nature and the pounding of my feet on the trail. But the feeling of stillness that washes over me when I am alone in the Horowitz Galleries in the American Wing, standing before my favorite Winslow Homer or John Singer Sargent, is divine in its own right.

 

 

I am fortunate to have this place to come where I can take stock of my life and reflect on what it has brought me thus far. I am even luckier to be part of the Apollo Circle, a group of young members of the museum treated to special curatorial talks and social events after-hours, because it has brought me not only knowledge but the ability to stand in the Petrie Court and gaze upon the stained glass and lampposts with few other souls around to break the silence. But the Met is open to all who wish to enter, and though nothing can replace the experience of visiting in person, it has become even more accessible online. I only hope that more people gain the opportunity to experience what I have.

 

Ive celebrated three birthdays isince 21 on the Met rooftop and had countless other fun times within its walls

I’ve celebrated three birthdays (each since 21) on the Met rooftop and had countless other fun times within its walls

 

 

To those who think that art is nice, but not really a priority, or think it’s frivolous to cherish and protect when there are so many problems in this world, I would say that art is a part of our human civilization that makes it worth preserving. We are all put on this earth for a reason, and who is to say that the creation of beauty is not that reason? Art is at the pinnacle of what the human race has been able to accomplish, just like technology and math and medicine. Ignore it, and we lose a part of our history and our selves. Embrace and admire it, and we may just find the answers we are looking for.

 

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This is my Thinking out Loud Thursday with Running With Spoons. What do you think about the place of art in our society? Do you have a favorite work of art or museum?

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Musings on Meals

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I tend to think of food as fuel, especially now that I’m a runner. Some might call me picky – my mantra tends to be, why eat something if it doesn’t taste good and give you energy? But I like to think of myself as discerning instead. I usually choose whole, fresh food over prepared or packaged goods; after all, there is nothing in the world more delicious than a perfectly ripe wild raspberry or just-picked apple!  I like knowing what I’m putting into my body (to a certain extent – sometimes it’s necessary to just enjoy a delicious meal out and not think about anything but how great it tastes!) That’s why you’ll see a lot of recipes from me in future. I enjoy taking the foods that I love and turning them into a new treat. (I also just discovered Pinterest and now I love photographing my food too. Yes, I’ve become that girl. No apologies.)

Sometimes, though, it seems as if every bite we take is being watched by the world. People feel entitled to comment on what other people are eating without any good reason, to warn them off the new ‘bad food’ (is it going to be carbs or fat today?) or lecture them about a new diet, to tell them to eat ‘this’ and not ‘that’ – it never ends. Part of it comes from body image issues in our culture. ‘Fat talk‘ is ubiquitous, sadly enough, among the general population and even more so in certain subsets. To me, the saddest part is that it runs rampant even among the healthiest people. Our collective body image is so distorted that the fittest are often those who can’t see their own reflections without criticisms swirling in their minds.

For a long time, I was one of them, struggling with body dysmorphia and an eating disorder at the same time I was an active teenager. I’m so happy that I’m past that now, but what amazes me is the depth of body commentary that remains. I no longer internalize the comments, but can hear them objectively, and the sheer number I hear every day is astounding. In the halls of a great university, on the streets of Manhattan, even by the shoe display in a running store or at the yoga studio. Self-shame is omnipresent, and not just the kind where people are really fishing for compliments. And something needs to change.

Really? A weight loss issue for what is probably one of the healthiest readership audiences around?

A weight loss issue for one of the healthiest readership audiences around?

I’ve always been a snacker, eating every few hours to keep my energy up, but running turned a lot of my snacks into mini-meals. That means that I have people telling me I snack too much, or that my ‘main meals’ aren’t big enough, or that I eat too many apples, or too much peanut butter, and if only I’d cut out carbs I could last for hours without another meal. It’s exhausting, especially since the only person who knows what works for me is me (and my doctor, but that’s it). Even more disheartening is the constant stream of ‘tips’ for runners in Runner’s World and other publications. Rules of Weight Loss for Runners, diet lists that over-generalize – it’s information overload, and most of it so pseudo-scientific it might end up doing as much harm as good. I’ll give them credit where it’s due. Some advice, like the necessity of refueling, is well worth reading for new runners. On the whole, it’s better than what you get from mainstream magazines with blaring headlines about losing a zillion pounds in two days. But it’s still confusing. Who are we supposed to believe? Whose advice is best? It can make your head spin, and take up time and energy better spent on other things.

 

So in the spirit of listening to your body, and asking what it needs, take some time today to ask yourself what your goals are, what makes you feel good, and whether those things differ from your behavior when you incorporate the ‘advice’ of the world around you. If there’s a big gap, it’s time to make like Taylor Swift and shake off the baddies. A meal is whatever you want it to be. As for me, I’ll be running and studying, having tea with a good friend, and munching on a muffin just because I feel like it.

Greek yogurt with kettle corn and dark chocolate chips - an excellent snack!

Greek yogurt with kettle corn and dark chocolate chips – an excellent snack!

 

 

This is my Thinking Out Loud Thursday. What are your thoughts on all the body-shaming and diet advice in our world? Do you eat ‘normal’ meals or do your own thing? Reply with your answers below, and see more at Running With Spoons!

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.