Archives for August 2013

Interview Tips ‘n’ Tricks

As I announced earlier this week, I recently was offered and accepted a new job in Chicago!

Unless you’re a Kardashian or someone else completely unqualified for any line of work, you will have to interview  – probably multiple times – before being offered a job.

job interview 1

Yes, it’s awkward and inconvenient and stressful and all sorts of other things that you’d rather not experience but it’s just the way the game works and you have to play along.

Now, I’m not an expert on interviews or getting jobs but, if I’m allowed to do some bragging here – I guess I’m not really asking because I’m just going to start telling you all how great I am… ahem… – I am pretty damn good at interviewing and I’d like to contribute this skill to Target.

interview 4

I obviously had to interview to get into the company but here’s the thing with Target, if you want a promotion, you have to interview for it. And it’s not just a simple little interview. No no no no – of course not, that would be too easy! No, it’s at least 3 long interviews with anyone from a potential direct manager to directors to senior managers.

Just wait, it gets better, before you even get to the actual interview process, you have to participate in these things called “mock interviews.” Yep, you get the joy of practicing interviews which are often more awkward than the actual interview itself.

So where am I getting with all of this? Let’s do the math… I had 3 promotions during my time at Target and had a minimum of 3 mocks and 3 real interviews for each of those promotions, so I have interviewed no less than 18 times in the past 3 years.

Needless to say, I’m considering myself an interview expert today and want to share my brilliant expertise with all of you.

Whether you’re getting ready to graduate, looking for a change in your career or just want to freshen up on your interview skills, this post is for you!

Let’s jump right in…

1. NETWORK! (This actually comes before the interview process, I thought I’d start at the beginning.) I cannot stress this tactic enough. Companies get thousands upon thousands of applications for each job listing they post <– True story, I was told this by a recruiter in the Chicago area! Basically the only way to get your foot in the door to even be considered for an interview these days is to know a friend of a friend of a friend at the company or organization. It’s sad that this is the way it is but that’s life so here’s how to work around it.

A few months before you’re ready to look for a job let your friends and family and every random person on the street know that you’re interested in a job at X company or in Y location. Bring it up in every conversation (I’m not kidding!) – See someone with a company badge on the commuter train? Ask them what they do for the organization and show your interest. Grabbing a quick drink after work? Let the bartender know that you’re looking to make a career change. Make new friends at your gym and ask them where they work and where their friends work. Update your LinkedIn profile and start reaching out there as well. Soon enough you’ll find someone who has a connection at your desired company.

Make sure your resume is updated and available at this time too in case you’re asked for it. It would also be beneficial to have a 30-second elevator pitch – a quick summary of your accomplishments, career experience, your future career goals and how you can make a positive impact for the company. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for the company.

job interview 2

2. Be yourself. I mean this in a professional manner. Don’t you dare step into an interview after a few glasses of vino wearing your favorite lululemon pants. Please no. I mean be yourself in the way you speak, in the way you act, in the way you answer questions. An interview is just as much your time to learn about the company as it is for them to make sure you’re qualified and good fit for the team and organization. If you’re not yourself, you could end up in a job that doesn’t fit your personality and both you and your team will be miserable.

There will be times you go into an interview thinking that you would LOVE to work for a company and then realize that it’s totally not your style. Guess what – that’s 100% okay! It is so much better to realize this before you commit to a job (think of interviewing kind of like dating, you want to get to know them just like they want to get to know you!) and then hate it for the next few months until you find a new gig.

undervalue

3. Be confident. Yes, be confident even if you’re not a confident person. This is one of the few times I’ll actually promote the phrase: “Fake it ’til you make it.” (*Cringe*) YOU know your resume and your experience better than anyone else so own it and show it off! Did you start a new process for your current team? Did you save your last company millions of dollars? Are you awesome at telling compelling stories with data? Yes? Then do a little bragging and find ways to bring it up in your interviews. Your interviewer will not know how awesome you truly are unless you tell them.

Be loud. Be proud. Be confident.

job interview 3

4. Have the “leg up” in the process. Let me remind you that YOU are the one looking for the job here. Yes, the company is looking for an employee but let them need you more than you need them. I know, I know… this is hard to do when you have bills to pay and don’t want a blank time period on your resume but trust me, it will work out in your favor.

Not that I know from experience or anything, but do not tell them that you’re already planning on relocating. Don’t tell them that you are already planning on quitting your job. Don’t tell them anything that might give them the hint that without them, you are going to be in this desperate, I need a job right now kind of state.

By holding this “leg up” or playing hard to get (c’mon ladies, don’t pretend like you don’t know how to do this…) – you will naturally come off as a confident, self-supported individual that doesn’t need them to succeed which will make them want you even more!

Let them think that you love your current job. Let them think that you make an amazing salary. Let them think that you’re only interviewing because the opportunity became available. Let them think that you’re happy just the way things are. And remember this when we discuss negotiations :)

be awesome

5. Be conversational. Guess what, we’re not living in the 1950’s anymore. Shocker, right?

An interview shouldn’t feel like the interviewer is doing all of the questioning and it shouldn’t feel intimidating. You shouldn’t be sweating profusely and you shouldn’t feel like you’re on trial. You shouldn’t feel anything of these things if you’re doing it correctly.

But that’s the thing, most of us don’t know how to do it correctly.

Like I said above, an interview is just as much about you learning about them as it is them learning about you. So, be conversational.

Yes, they’re going to ask you some behavioral questions and some skills questions but there should also be some “get to know you” questions as well. Make that time as conversational as possible. Ask them about the team. Ask them about their current projects and their passions at the company. People LOVE talking about themselves so take advantage of this and have a conversation with your interviewer. When they start talking about something they are passionate about at work, ask deeper questions. Get to know this person because they might be your coworker in the future!

Plus, if your conversation goes well, it’ll mean fewer scary interview questions for you ;)

believe

6. Do NOT apologize. Lord help me if I ever find out ANY of you utter the words “I’m sorry” during an interview. No. Do not do this.

The only time you should apologize is if you’re late (call ahead if this is going to happen) or you burp really loud during an interview (if you do this, please tell me – I could use a good laugh!).

They want you. Besides the obvious (you’re awesome!), how else would they have selected your resume and experience from the thousands of other applicants? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Therefore, no apologies.

Do not apologize if you’re not a Microsoft Access guru. Tell them that you have a bit of experience with the application but are a fast learner and will be ready to jump in if offered the position. Do not apologize if you ask them to repeat a question. You’re nervous, it is totally normal to need to hear a question again.

Remember #4 above? Apologizing will not give you a leg up in the process so just don’t do it.

priorities

7. Ask for what you’re worth. This is where negotiating come in. Oftentimes HR will ask you what your salary requirements are prior to providing you with an offer. (This happened in my most recent scenario.) Because of this, you need to do your salary research ahead of time.

Figure out the cost of living difference if the job would require you to relocate. Figure out what you’re worth in your current job – it is possible that you might be underpaid or even overpaid (if you’re a lucky one). Figure out what dollar amount it would take for you to accept this position.

Once you have all of that determined – be brutally honest (plus a few thousand). Yep, I went there. You need to ask for a bit more than you think you’re worth. Companies are notorious for “under-bidding” you. So say you think you’re worth $10,000 (obviously this is super low and unrealistic so just go with me here…), ask for $12,000 and you’ll probably get $10,500.

And once you tell HR your numbers, like I just previously mentioned, DO NOT APOLOGIZE. You’re worth every damn penny that you just asked for so do not back down.

If they bring up something lower say something along the lines of, “Before this conversation, I performed quite a bit of market research and for someone with my experience, background and knowledge I expect the salary that we discussed earlier.” Then leave it at that. Most likely, they’ll respect your terms and be impressed by your negotiation skills.

And if they don’t, they don’t deserve your awesome self.

true to you

8. Speak in terms, not questions. This goes hand in hand with #7. Don’t say things along the lines of “Oh, well I think I’m worth $10,000, what do you think?” or “Well, I’d really like to have 5 weeks of vacation time every year but what do you normally offer?”

Nope, tell them what you expect and what you’d accept and leave it at that.

When I negotiated my most recent contract, I was very happy with most of the offer but I did need more vacation days for the remainder of 2013 than they had originally offered. I replied back and told (see that, I told them, I didn’t ask) the company that I needed a few additional days for 2013. And guess what, I got them.

I wasn’t rude. I wasn’t demanding. I didn’t ask for anything outlandish. I told them what I needed and they obliged. That’s the thing, if the company wants you, they will give you what you want – you just need to make what you want clear to them!

what you're worth

9. Be polite. Just because you can’t apologize doesn’t mean you can’t be nice and polite.

Say hello. Say it is nice to meet you. Say thank you. Be as courteous to your interviewer as you would be to your grandparents.

It’ll show that you can be mature and thoughtful when working with clients outside of the organization and they will appreciate the gesture.

be nice

I could go on and on with little interview tips but I think I’ll leave it at this because this post is super long!

What interview and negotiation tips do you have? Do you have any specific questions you would like to ask me about interviewing? I am willing to do a Part 2 if there is an interest!

Treat Yourself Tuesday?

Happy Thursday lovers!

It is Thursday, right? I seriously have no idea what day of the week it is at this point… The club’s group fitness schedule is the only way I determine whether it is a Monday or a Thursday ;)

I want to bounce a little idea off of y’all today – feel free to shout it from the rooftops or bury it alive – you won’t hurt my feelings!

As women, I believe that we often feel the need to put others before ourselves. This isn’t always a bad thing – it is important to be a great friend and mother and employee and wife/girlfriend/spouse – but we also need to remember the importance of taking care of ourselves and of our own physical, mental and emotional health!

This is how my Treat Yourself Tuesday came about – I felt like I was giving, giving and giving some more without doing anything special for myself.

Now, I make it a priority to do something special for myself every Tuesday. It could be a manicure or a long walk with Mitchell or allowing myself extra time in the morning to just sit and enjoy my coffee – whatever it is, it gives me peace of mind and allows me to be a better person to everyone else in my life!

So hear me out… I have been receiving a lot of positive responses to my Treat Yourself Tuesday posts – a lot of you are already joining in and others of you are saying that you would love to join in on the treat yourself party, so how about a link up?

I know there are already TONS of link ups in the blogosphere so I don’t expect or want you to dedicate an entire post to what you did to treat yourself throughout the week – unless you feel like rockin’ out an entire treat yourself post! If so, then go YOU! BUT if you want to mention something in a post about how you treated yourself to a glass of wine or a night out with girlfriends and would like to link up to see how other fabulous women are treating themselves, I am considering doing a link up!

I obviously need to figure out the whole link up thing and create a fabulous “Treat Yourself Tuesday” image (of course!) so I would probably start the posts the week after Labor Day.

Again, treating yourself doesn’t need to be on a Tuesday and it doesn’t need to be a specific activity like an expensive massage or a fancy new purse or shoes (although I’d be down for that!). Treating yourself can be something as simple as setting aside time for yourself to meditate or splurging on a pumpkin spice latte on a random Thursday or turning off social media an hour early so you can enjoy some time with your family. Whatever makes YOU happy!

So, what do you think? Would you want to participate in a little treat yourself link up? Yay? Or is this the dumbest idea you’ve ever heard? AKA – NAY…

#4 WIAW – A Gym Day

Happy Wednesday!

Today is my fourth time joining in on the What I Ate Wednesday {WIAW} party that Jenn hosts every week.

Peas and Crayons

For those of you new to WIAW, here’s the scoop according to Jenn:

“What WIAW isn’t about — Comparison – Judgement – Restriction – Guilt

What WIAW is about — Celebrating one of the glorious things we all have in common: We all eat!

WIAW is about food and fun! It’s about making new friends, breaking out of a food rut, noting changes in your diet/lifestyle, inspiring yourself & others, embracing fruit & vegetables, nourishing your body with the foods that work for you, finding new ways to eat your favorite foods, and so. much. more.”

Are y’all ready for a Treat Yourself Tuesday par-tay??!

Kyle and I had a huge dinner on Monday night so when I woke up yesterday, I wasn’t very hungry. Instead of breakfast right away, I took Mitchell on a walk, grabbed some Dunkin’ (obviously, #treatyoself) and then came back home with a growling stomach that was finally ready for breakfast.

wiaw dunkin

On the menu for breakfast was two pieces of Ezekiel toast smeared with Laughing Cow cheese and topped with smoked salmon. I also had part of an avocado!

breakfast

I did some cleaning and more organizing around the apartment and then headed to the gym for a spinning class! I was planning on trying out body pump but I was super sore from my Buff Yoga class the previous day so I decided to wait on pump. Well, I read the schedule COMPLETELY wrong and I was 2.5 hours early for spin – ugh! Instead of walking back home in the heat, I decided to try out a stretching class because my muscles totally needed it.

I somehow ended up in a different studio (oops) and by the time I realized it wasn’t a stretching class, it was too late to leave! I ended up taking a Pilates-Barre-Ballet class that kicked my booty. Wowzers that was hard!

Since I still wanted to stick around for my spinning class, I hit up the juice bar to refresh since it was Treat Yourself Tuesday (hehe…) and ordered a Mambo Smoothie – fresh strawberries, pineapple and coconut mixed with a bit of orange juice. It was SO good!

wiaw smoothie

After my spin class (that was super sweaty and difficult – seriously, I think a 70 year old man was biking faster than me…), I came home around 1:30 totally ravenous. I had two, yes TWO – I told you I was hungry!, pieces of Kyle’s mom’s quiche and a side of cherries.

WIAW 4 Collage

After a quick shower, I hit the bed for an hour-long nap. Apparently Pilates + a spin class tires a gal out ;)

For an afternoon snack, I reallllyyyy wanted froyo. Like I was ready to walk a mile in the extreme heat to get some all by myself. Then I realized that the heat must be making me crazy so I attempted to make my own at home ;) I topped a little bit of plain Greek yogurt with melted peanut butter, Nutella and a few chocolate chips and it hit the spot. Plus, it was A LOT cheaper than my HUGE bowl of froyo would have been. I can never seem to make any froyo purchase less than $8. #sorrynotsorry It’s just so delicious and I need every topping in the place!

homemade froyo

Since it was Tuesday, it was again movie in the park night! This time, the movie was in a park a block away from our apartment – SO convenient! And what made it even better is that The Hunger Games was playing! Kyle and I met up with some friends and enjoyed beer and cheese and crackers and some fruits and veggies while watching the movie.

movie wiaw Collage

Since it was so freakin’ hot (have I mentioned the heat yet in this post??!) yesterday, none of us were hungry for a real meal so little nibbles in front of a movie was the perfect dinner!

What’s your favorite type of beer? How did you treat yourself yesterday?

Confessions + An Announcement

1. Confession – I joined the most expensive gym country club fitness club in Chicago yesterday. It’s like a country club but fitness style. #oops

Kyle wasn’t too keen on the monthly fee (especially since we have a gym in our apartment…) but I justified it since the monthly membership fee is only $40 more than the CorePower Yoga membership I was paying in Minneapolis AND it includes so much more than CorePower did! I have yoga + body pump + cycling + pilates + zumba + kickboxing + ropes training + core classes + barre + SO MUCH MORE. The gym even has 5 pools, a gigantic weight room, an even larger cardio room, a spa IN the locker room, a salon, 2 restaurants, a juice bar, free valet parking (I can walk so I won’t be using this…), a sun deck/fully stocked bar for the summer months, a golf driving range, tennis courts, basketball/soccer courts… I’m sure I’m forgetting something here… Anyways, it’s pretty much my piece of heaven here in Chicago and it is going to be worth every single penny!

gym

I attended a “Buff Yoga” class yesterday and I’m fairly certain my inner thighs are going to be sore for the rest of my life.

2. Confession – I kinda fell off the marathon training bandwagon. I doubt any of you are surprised to be reading this. I haven’t provided a weekly training recap in, well, weeks and I have mentioned that my stress levels were not very conducive to running. Kyle and I still have our plane tickets to California and I am still running every week just not as far as I need to be for the whole 26.2 miles thing. I’m  planning on running at least the 13.1 miles and then running/walking every other mile after that. We’ll see how it goes but the last thing I want to do at this time is put physical stress on my body and have more hair fall out. I’d rather have hair than be a marathoner ;)

run

3. Confession – I freakin’ love Chicago. Minneapolis never really felt like home the 4ish years Kyle and I lived there. Maybe it was because we knew it wasn’t going to be our forever home or because we didn’t have any family there or because we moved there without knowing a single person in the city but regardless, I am so happy to finally be somewhere that I feel like I belong. Plus Chicagoans are SO much nicer than Minnesotans (sorry friends but it’s true!). I’ve already met more people in the 1.5 weeks I’ve been in Chicago than I did in Minneapolis all 4 years. And they’re all nice and actually invite you to do things. Amazing.

4. Confession – Kyle’s mom brought us a “housewarming” quiche since we don’t have room for a gift in our tiny apartment and it is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It is cheesy and egg-y and is FULL of summer squash. I may have had it for every meal since breakfast yesterday. Remind me to get the recipe from her…

quiche

5. Confession – I love summer but I am ready for the hot weather to be gone and for cooler, fall days to arrive. I am over being coated in sweat the minute I walk outside and I want to be able to take Mitchell for a walk without worrying that he is going to get heat stroke. I’m also kinda over the pool… I know… Ask me how I feel about this confession come January but I honestly get kind of bored just lying by the pool. I think this means I need to work on my relaxation techniques ;)

pool

6. Confession – I’m addicted to Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s happened y’all and it ain’t pretty. I was anticipating some delicious coffee here in Chicago but Dunkin’ has taken it to the next level.

dunkin mug

Thankfully, I drink my coffee black or I’d also need to be buying some new pants considering how much coffee I drink every day! I’m also addicted to lululemon and may have ridden my bike 10 miles in 100+ degree heat to get the last Sand to Savasana Duffel bag in the Chicago area yesterday. I needed it, obviously ;) I also got a new top to reward my biking efforts!

lulu Collage

And now for the announcement! I promise this will be my last announcement for a long, long time – I’ve just had so much change happening in my life that I have needed to have a life-changing announcement every other week ;)

Drum roll, please…………..

I was offered and accepted a new job in Chicago! (insert big, proud smile right here)

Although I’d do a great job playing the part, it isn’t to be part of the next Real Housewives of Chicago series ;)

I will be working for a large retailer (I’m not sure how they feel about blogs so I’m keeping the company private for now.) here in the Chicago area and will be doing something similar to what I was doing for Target. I’ll be between a few of their offices but when I am at their downtown office, I will be able to walk to work. YES – my downtown office is about the same distance as my old condo was to my Target office in Minneapolis – I am so freakin’ excited!

The company actually called me about 30 minutes before I was getting ready to board my one-way flight to Chicago. Talk about perfect timing! I was able to negotiate a later start date (and more vacation time – details on interview/negotiation tactics will be in a future post…) so I will be starting on September 23rd.

I am so excited to have a job and to have a little bit of time off to allow myself to learn my new city and to relax before jumping right back onto the 9-5 bandwagon.

I took my drug test last Thursday and as long as I pass it (I’ve never done a drug in my life so if I don’t pass, someone laced my pee!), I will be good to go :)

Mini-Confession – I actually felt guilty for a few seconds after receiving a job offer. (Ridiculous, right?) I know of SO many people my age (and other ages) that cannot find a job and there I was – just sorta looking and a perfect job falls into my lap. I quickly realized that I worked my tail off at Target and my resume reflected that. I also rocked my interviews and allowed myself to be relaxed about the entire situation so the guilt went away and I allowed myself to be happy and proud.

So, take this as a life lesson my fellow ladies – Do NOT feel guilty about your great accomplishments! YOU deserve them and you deserve to be happy about them.

Tell me one of your confessions. 

Triple Chocolate Nutella Bites

Before we get into the meat chocolate-y Nutella-y goodness of this post, let’s talk about baking utensils.

And not just any baking utensils, let’s talk about the spatulas and the scrapers and the mixing bowls all coated in batter-y and dough-y deliciousness after the baking is complete.

Nutella Bites 1

Being the charming and wonderful and beautiful (oh stop it, Becky – you’re too kind!) wife that I am, I always offer Kyle the spatula to lick after I’m done baking. But guess what.

HE ALWAYS REFUSES THE UNBAKED GOODNESS OF MY OFFERING!

The first time he did this, I thought he was just being nice so that I could enjoy the brownie battered spoon (which I did, obviously…) but after the second and third and fourth times, I realized that he just doesn’t like leftover unbaked goodness.

Nutella Bites 3

Umm… what??! I’ve never heard of such a thing!

So, while I was mixing up my TOD (treat of the day, kind like a WOD but – let’s be honest – so much better!), Kyle and I got to talking about licking mixing bowls and spoons and spatulas. Yeah, we’re kinda weird but I like it :)

He claims he doesn’t need to taste the remnants from the baking process because he has this thing he likes to call “self-control.” Pssshhhh… That thing called control is definitely something I do not want if it means no licking of my baking spoons.

Nutella Bites 4

Self-control? I’d rather have chocolate and Nutella and brownie batter all over my face than wait for the oven timer to signal that my treats are ready to be enjoyed.

And now that we’re talking about Nutella and chocolate again, it’s time for today’s TOD – Triple Chocolate Nutella Bites.

Oh yes – three kinds of creamy, rich chocolate (including the Nutella, of course) all rolled up into a bite-sized treat and then sprinkled with sea salt.

Self-control? Where’s the fun in that?

Nutella Bites 5

Triple Chocolate Nutella Bites (Adapted from Butler Life)

Makes 20 “bites”

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup Nutella
  • 12 oz dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup + 1 TBSP heavy whipping cream
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • Chocolate almond bark
  • 2 TBSP sea salt

Directions

In a medium mixing bowl, combine Nutella and chocolate chips. Meanwhile, heat heavy whipping cream and butter on stove until it just reaches a boil. Pour cream and butter over Nutella and chocolate chips. Do not stir but let sit for 5-7 minutes. Once the time has passed, stir mixture until a creamy, delicious (yes, you must taste this!) spread is formed. Cover and place in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. Once firm, form into tablespoon-sized balls. If the Nutella mixture becomes warm during this process, place the bites into the freezer while melting the almond bark. Dip Nutella bites into melted chocolate, place onto pan to cool and sprinkle with sea salt. Store in refrigerator and enjoy!

Nutella Bites 2

You have to promise me one thing when you make these, however. Please promise that you’ll forget ALL about self-control and lick the bowl clean ;)

Do you lick baking bowls and spoons clean after (or during) baking? What’s your favorite batter to taste raw?

Weekend in Photos

I don’t know about y’all but we had a great weekend here in Chicago. Plus it was our first “official” weekend in our new city – yay!

Since it’s late (yes, it is a sad day when I consider 8:30 to be late…) and we did SO much this weekend, I’m going to share my weekend via a photo recap :)

Thursday kicked off the weekend with an afternoon Cubs game with my favorite guy <3 Oh the perks of “early” retirement!

Cubs Game Collage

Friday started out with a quick workout and then a trip to Ikea and Ulta (and maybe a few other places, shh… don’t tell Kyle!) with my girlfriend Nicole. A stop to rehydrate and refuel at California Pizza Kitchen was necessary after spending 2 hours in Ikea!

Girls Shopping Collage

Kyle and I stayed in on Friday night – he made a delicious and healthy pizza (recipe to come!) and we put the first Chicago wine cork into our collection!

Fri Night Collage

After some dog parking and IKEA assembling (thanks sweetie <3) – We hit downtown Chicago and the Lake on our bikes!

sat AM Collage

Biking 7ish miles left us sweaty and thirsty so the obvious choice was to stop for lunch and refreshments at the North Avenue Beach restaurant that has amazing views of the lake. For a minute, we imagined as if we were on spring break again ;)

saturday lunch Collage

The rest of the afternoon involved some pool time, some napping and then getting ready for a nice dinner out with my new Stella & Dot jewelry at Carmichael’s Chicago Steak House. Kyle loved it, I thought it was just okay (I just wasn’t in a steak mood)… except for the wine. Kyle treated me to a bottle of Cakebread Cabernet! A wine that I’ve wanted to try for years… alright, maybe only 10 months but still ;) It was amazing!

saturday night Collage

We walked Mitchell to Millennium Park this morning to get his photo with The Bean but they don’t allow dogs in the park (boo!)… After a quick run we brunched on Dim Sum (Chinese brunch) in Chinatown with Kyle’s mom and then headed to his dad’s for his step mom’s birthday dinner! I made some mouth-watering Nutella treats that I will be sharing with you all tomorrow :)

sunday Collage

This was also the first time that we’ve ever been able to meet family for a meal or for an afternoon and not have to make a weekend trip to visit. It’s so easy and convenient – I love it! Now, I just need to convince my parents to move to Chicago ;)

The rest of the evening is going to be filled with blogging, video games (for the Mr.) and cuddling with the pup <3

What did you do this weekend? Did you bake or eat anything delicious? Have you ever had Dim Sum?

Women and Hair Loss

Today brings a more serious post about a topic that I have found importance in very recently. If you’re the blog reader that reads for great photos and images, you should probably leave now because I have no photos today. This topic is too important to import photos from Google or Pinterest. #sorryi’mnotsorry

I want to start out with saying that in no way or form am I bald or even close to being bald. Yes, I’m still losing hair but no one except me can tell that I am shedding more than normal. Except for maybe Kyle because he sees my hair all over the shower ;) My hair does look thinner but it isn’t noticeable to random people I meet.

I also want to let everyone know that I am not a doctor and everything I’m posting here is all based on personal research (that I believe to be valid) and personal experience. So don’t get any crazy ideas and start calling me Dr. Becky… that would be bad for my ego ;)

Okay, now that we have all of that out of the way, we can talk about hair loss and it’s impact on women. I originally was not going to post about this but the more I talked with friends and friends of friends, the more common female hair loss became to me. I would mention the fact that I was losing hair very quickly and my girlfriends would jump in and mention a time that they or one of their friends had experienced something similar. I think it is a topic that all women need to become familiar with because all of us – at one time or another – are likely to experience this devastating symptom.

Yes, devastating – I am not being overly dramatic here. Before my hair started falling out, I always hated my hair. It’s never never been a great physical quality of mine. It’s kinda curly, kinda straight in that annoying, I don’t know what to do with you kinda way. Let’s just say that I’ve never had great hair. Nowadays, I couldn’t care less if my hair was green and sticking straight out of my head, I just want hair. Hair can be styled and colored and finagled but only IF you have hair.

Ya get my point?

Society values hair. It is a big part of what we consider to be beautiful when it comes to women and femininity. And yes, blah blah blah… there are things that are more beautiful when it comes to a woman than her hair or her physical attributes but what does our society notice first? Yep, you got it – the physical things. The face, the breasts, the stomach, THE HAIR, the legs, etc.

If you don’t have hair, everyone is going to start judging you and assuming negative things before they have a chance to even speak with you. It’s not normal for a woman to not have hair. You can have a chubby stomach or your breasts can be larger or smaller than average – heck, you can even have tree trunk legs (like myself) and that won’t impact someone coming up to talk to you at a bar or a social event… but no hair? That, my friends, THAT – the situation of having no hair – will have a major impact on your life and how others view you.

Before I started losing my hair due to stress, I was very misinformed about the causes of hair loss for women and sadly (and regrettably) oftentimes judged women when I saw that they had thinning hair. I had the idea that it was because they were unhealthy and didn’t take care of their bodies by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly.

Was I ever wrong! SO many different factors can cause hair loss and I want to share those with you today. I want you to be informed the next time a girlfriend or a family member is suffering from hair loss. I don’t want you to be one of “those girls” that stares sadly and pitifully at the “bald” girl at your office. I want you to go up and make friends with this beautiful woman who is most likely looking for a friend! Yes, she might have cancer or a thyroid disease or heck, she might just be stressed out of her mind but she’s a woman – just like you – who is longing for a friend and for someone who won’t judge her for her looks.

The next time you meet a woman who has thinning hair, consider the following causes of hair loss in women and try to step into her shoes for a brief moment…

  1. Illness and/or medication – So many illnesses can contribute to hair loss including thyroid illnesses, stress (yes, this is an illness), anorexia or extreme weight loss, autoimmune diseases and PCOS. If you notice that you are losing hair at a faster rate than normal, your first step should be to head to your doctor to confirm that your iron and thyroid levels are normal as both of these are common factors in women’s hair loss. (I had mine checked and both were normal.) Hair is an external factor of the conditions inside your body. If something is awry inside, your hair, skin and nails will be less than ideal on the outside. Medications that can cause hair loss include chemotherapy and birth control. Now, if I have you all worried that your pill is going to cause you to go bald, first stop worrying and then go here to check to see which types tend to cause hair loss. Mine has the lowest chance of all of the pills so I’m not worried about it!
  2. Childbirth – Yes, in addition to bringing home a screaming, poopy infant that you do not know how to care for, that probably also gave you stretch marks and hemorrhoids, that is only allowing you to get maybe 30 minutes of sleep per day, you are also likely to lose your hair after giving birth. Sounds like a party that I don’t want to join… And y’all wonder why I haven’t had children yet! ;)
  3. Stress – Anywhere from 6 weeks to 4 months following a stressful situation, women have an increased chance of losing their hair. This is where my issue falls. To be honest, I never felt super stressed but I think my body was freakin’ out on the inside and I was just trying to ignore it. Having your husband and child (yes, Mitchell is my baby but he didn’t get me any stretch marks ;) ) move to a new city for 5 weeks without you, selling your home, leaving your first job without a new job lined up and moving to a brand new city is a lot of stress to handle in a short (less than a month) time frame! Unfortunately, when stress-driven hair loss occurs, the damage is already done by the time you notice your hair falling out. Basically, I can’t do anything about the hairs that are already leaving my head but I can stop stressing to prevent more hairs from resting (entering the telogen phase).

So what I am doing about my hair right now?

  1. I’m not worrying about it. The damage has already been done and there is nothing I can really do about it. Worrying is only going to cause more of my hair to enter the telogen phase. Yes, more hairs are going to fall out and it will probably get worse before it gets better but at this point, I’m just hoping the shower drain doesn’t clog and overflow to the floors beneath us ;)
  2. I’m getting excited about all of the baby hairs growing in! I can see a bunch of short (an inch-ish) baby hairs coming in near the front of my hairline. I am hoping that this means they are growing in all over my head! Obviously hair grows super slow so they’re going to be short for awhile but hairs coming back means that my hair loss is not permanent. Although, I think I could pull off the 2007 Britney look fairly well ;)
  3. I’m staying positive and looking on the bright side of things. My hair used to be super curly. Like ringlet curly and I think after years of styling, I kind of killed the curl. I’m hoping that it will grow back nice and curly again! I’m also thankful that my hair loss is only due to stress. I could be going through chemotherapy and suffering from cancer while losing my hair but I’m not. I’m healthy and happy and even if I’m bald, that is what is most important!
  4. I’m not styling my hair. About this… I look like a mangy lion half of the time but I’d rather have bad looking hair than no hair at all. Blow drying and straightening my hair only makes it fall out quicker so I’m going all natural. It’s actually nice to not have to worry about taking the time to do my hair and I can usually pull off a cute pony! If you see me over the next few months, please don’t judge my lack of hair style ;)
  5. I’m using biotin shampoo and conditioner. I wanted something more gentle to use on my hair and scalp, especially when it is sensitive at this time. Kelly recommended biotin shampoo and I found Mill Creek Botanicals shampoo at GNC. It uses mostly natural products and the peppermint smell is so refreshing! I’m not sure it is actually working but I’m willing to try anything at this point. Plus it is cheaper than the stuff I was using before – I’ll take it!
  6. I’m taking a boatload of supplements. Like woah y’all. I always took a daily multivitamin and Phyto Phytophanere Hair and Nails supplements but now I’ve switched up my multi for a pre-natal vitamin (they supposedly aide in hair growth) and I’ve also added ResVitale Keratin supplements. My body is stuffed full of biotin and other hair growing vitamins which I am contributing my baby hair growth to. Even if it only has the placebo effect, I don’t care. I think it is working which is what matters! Speaking of supplements, I also considered going off of the pill based on the knowledge I shared above. Then I rethought the situation. No birth control + my body being filled with healthy vitamins and foods could only result in a disaster. And by disaster, I mean a baby ;) (And no, a baby wouldn’t be a total disaster – I know many of you out there are struggling to get pregnant and I am not trying to push that aside! I will be very happy and grateful when the time comes… – but obviously my body needs to recover from all of this stress and I need to learn my new city and Kyle and I need to be ready for a baby before it happens. But if one does come, we’ll adjust to be ready although we’d rather wait a bit longer…)
  7. I’m adding a lot of healthy fats and proteins into my diet. I’m eating avocados and walnuts and eggs and salmon and chicken and beef (I never eat beef but I’ve actually been craving it…) and peanut butter and honey and flax seed and Greek yogurt. I’m most likely eating too much right now (thankfully my clothes still fit…) but I’m okay with it. My body needs to heal from all of the stress and if I gain a pound or two during the process because of healthy foods, I’m sure it’ll easily come off when my body is back up to 100%.
  8. I’m still showering and washing my hair as usual. Yes, showering makes your hair fall out quicker than normal but guess what… I work out almost daily and I sweat like a pig. Like y’all, I got the sweat gene. After a fitness class I look like I just jumped into a pool with all of my workout clothes on… sexy. And I’m not willing to give up my fitness for a little bit o’ hair. It’s going to fall out eventually and if it falls out faster because I decide to get my yoga on or get my boot-ay kicked in a kickboxing class then so be it. Again, I’d rather be bald and fit and happy than have a full head of hair and be unhappy :)

So, are y’all with me?

I hope you – at least – learned something via this post. Again, I obviously don’t know it all but I hope I enlightened you to one new scientific fact today!

And can I just rant for a minute??! Yes? Great…

When us female folk stress, why can’t we lose hair from our armpits or from our bikini line??! Why must if be from our head? #thatisall

So talk to me about hair. What do you think about hair? Is it overrated? Should we all just shave our heads? Why do some women have better hair than others? Why is it okay for men to shave their heads or be bald and it is not okay for women? Also, why are women expected to groom their… er… uhh… lady parts and men, well, it can be as wild as can be and still be sexy??! 

So. Many. Questions!

Things you never knew… Part 2!

Hi friends! I have good news and bad news… The internet is finally connected in our new apartment! Woohoo! The bad news? My computer doesn’t recognize the connection. My phone connects without a problem but for some reason, the laptop doesn’t like it. Hopefully Kyle will be able to fix it sooner than later but for now I’m still stuck with the computer in the apartment’s lobby. It is so awkward to spend an hour blogging downstairs daily!

But, let’s look on the positive side… there could be worse things happening in my life so I’m okay with a slight internet malfunction for the time being :)

In addition to Amanda nominating me for the Sunshine Award, Amy AND Kelly nominated me as well! You guys, seriously, I know that I’m awesome but I don’t need all of these awards for it… I kid, I kid… ;) Anyways, I’ll be continuing Monday’s post today with more “get-to-know the blogger” questions.

First up, Amy’s questions!

1. What is the one food you cannot live without? I think we all know the answer to this question… peanut butter!! I also love chocolate, avocados, apples, coffee, wine and watermelon.

photo (12)

2. If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would it be and why? (money is no object) I have SO many places that I want to visit so this is a tough one… I mentioned that I would love to move to Italy in Monday’s post but I’d also love to see Paris and Monaco and Fiji and Australia and Hawaii. Can I have them all??! Pretty please?? :)

3. What’s playing on your iPod right now? I just downloaded a few new songs… Burn – Ellie Goulding, Roar – Katy Perry, Changing of the Seasons – Two Door Cinema Club, Applause – Lady Gaga and We Own the Night – The Wanted… They’re all great summer tunes!

4. Why did you decide to write a blog? I had been following Carrots ‘n’ Cake and Iowa Girl Eats for a while and just decided to give it a try myself! It is a great creative outlet and it has been fun to meet so many amazing women in the blogging community.

5. Who is your #1 fan and supporter? Kyle, of course! Poor guy has to deal with me all of the time (haha!) and is always there to cheer me on :)

smile

6. If you could be on any television show which one would it be and why? You guys, I have a confession… I rarely – like basically never – watch tv! When Kyle moved to Chicago at the beginning of July, the tv was still on the same channel he had left it on when he came back to help with the move. Needless to say, I am not up on all of the newest shows but I’d really like to be Carrie Bradshaw (who wouldn’t??!) so I’m going to go with Sex and The City!

7. Name three things in your purse or gym bag. Chapstick, iPhone, credit card <– for obvious reasons ;)

8. Tell us something about you that you have yet to share on your blog. Coming next week!! And no, it’s not a baby – my mom would not be happy if she found out about a pending grandchild via the blog ;)

9. Island vacation (relaxing on the beach) or adventure vacation (sights and scenes) and why?! Island vacation fo sho! I feel like I’m always go-go-go when I’m not on vacation so when I get the chance to take time off, I don’t want to do anything but sip on sweet drinks by the ocean.

Beach 2

10. What saying/phrase/idea do you aim to live your life by? Life’s short, eat chocolate and peanut butter by the spoonful – on a daily basis ;)

PB

Next up, Kelly’s questions!

1. What was the first blog you read on a regular basis? I mentioned this above but I started reading Iowa Girl Eats and Carrots ‘n’ Cake at about the same time – about one year ago!

2. What’s your favorite indulgence? Peanut butter and chocolate? Wine? French Bread? I have too many ;)

wine

3. What’s one of your weirdest habits? I’m a total weirdo at just about anything and have many weird habits! I have seemed to drop most of them with the move and not really having a schedule but I would say that I have to have the same routine in the shower. I always start with shampooing my hair and then conditioning it. While the conditioner soaks in, I soap up and shave my legs. Once that’s all done, I wash my face and scrub down with a loofa! It’s the same every day, haha!

4. What’s your favorite body part to work at the gym? My arms! I always tend to see results quickly with my guns so I like to work them all of the time. I need to start working on my boot-ay though, it could use a bit of help these days ;)

EMRF back

5. If training and experience were not an issue, what profession would you have and why? I mentioned CEO on Monday but I would love to be a group fitness instructor! How cool would it be to get paid to work out and motivate others??!

6. What’s your favorite workout music to listen to? Anything fast, upbeat and that I can sing along to! If you have any ideas, I’m taking suggestions – I am getting a little bored with my current workout tunes…

7. Do you watch sports? If so, what’s your favorite sport to watch? When forced… does that count? Kyle’s a huge sports fan so I watch everything – football, hockey, baseball, basketball. I refuse to watch games on tv (unless we’re at a bar) – being at the event makes it fun! Kyle and I are actually going to a Chicago Cubs game this afternoon – our first sporting event as official Chicagoans!

8. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich with an apple. SO dang good!

9. What movie have you seen a million times, but never get sick of? Love Actually and Elizabethtown – I love them both <3

10. What’s the coolest place you’ve ever traveled to? Maybe Greece? We went to Santorini for our honeymoon and it was absolutely lovely.

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Now it is your turn! Answer one (or all!) of the questions above :)

#3 WIAW – Treat Yourself Tuesday, Chicago Style

Happy Wednesday! Before I get into my Tuesday eats, I want to thank you all for being so wonderful during my move to Chicago! If all goes well, internet will be installed in our new apartment this afternoon and I’ll be back up and running shortly after. Love (and hopefully some new tasty cookie recipes) to you all!

Today is my third time joining in on the What I Ate Wednesday {WIAW} party that Jenn hosts every week.

Peas and Crayons

For those of you new to WIAW, here’s the scoop according to Jenn:

“What WIAW isn’t about — Comparison – Judgement – Restriction – Guilt

What WIAW is about — Celebrating one of the glorious things we all have in common: We all eat!

WIAW is about food and fun! It’s about making new friends, breaking out of a food rut, noting changes in your diet/lifestyle, inspiring yourself & others, embracing fruit & vegetables, nourishing your body with the foods that work for you, finding new ways to eat your favorite foods, and so. much. more.”

The past few weeks I have been focusing on reducing my stress levels and staying calm (haha, right…) throughout the moving process. I have also been making an effort to relax and have deemed Tuesday’s as Treat Yourself Tuesdays! So, this post of WIAW here on ONW is going to be the Treat Yourself Tuesday, Chicago Style edition – Get ready for a stress-free and nutrient-filled food and fun par-tay!

Since I am not currently working – outside the home that is… I am working my tail off at home! – I have a more flexible schedule when it comes to eating which I love. Sometimes I’m not hungry in the mornings but feel that I still need to eat or else I’ll be starving on my commute to work or in my morning fitness class but now that I can work out in the middle of the day and eat whenever I want, I don’t have to worry about shoving food down my throat upon waking up!

banana

Yesterday I woke up around 6:30 (I’m still waking up when Kyle gets up for work) and was just a wee bit hungry to I grabbed a banana and a hard boiled egg and took Mitchell out on a long walk. It’s been super hot here in Chicago so we have to get his walk in early or the poor guys roasts because of his black fur!

walk

After strolling around the city for 45 minutes with my co-pilot, my stomach started to growl. I had to run a few letters to the Post Office for Kyle <– see, I’m a great housewife, hehe! – and there is conveniently a Dunkin’ Donuts right next to our closet USPS. Plus I had a coupon for a free donut, it was fate! I ordered a decaf coffee and a chocolate frosted sprinkle donut, my favorite :)

donut

Mitchell may or may not have tasted a bit of the cake part of the donut. No worries though, he didn’t get any of the chocolate frosting!

After inhaling thoroughly enjoying my donut, I headed to my apartment’s gym for a 40-minute elliptical workout. Our new gym is just okay so I toured one of the nicest gyms in Chicago yesterday (treat yourself?) which actually isn’t that much more expensive than my CorePower Yoga membership was in Minneapolis! The gym is only a few blocks from our place so I think I’m going to head over there and join today :)

Taco

My stomach was growling during my entire gym tour, so as soon as it was over I headed back home and enjoyed some watermelon and a leftover taco for lunch. We normally use ground turkey in our tacos but Kyle really wanted ground beef so we changed it up last night! I still used my Homemade Salt-Free Taco Seasoning for some added flavor and taco spice though – it is too delicious to pass up!

watermelon

I also had a spoonful (okay, two…) of this creamy goodness after my taco. This stuff is better than Nutella – for real!

PB

Next up on the agenda was pool time! I figure that I may as well take advantage of my new pool while I can :) It was hoootttt out yesterday so a little dip felt quite refreshing.

pool

I spent the rest of the afternoon organizing, cleaning and blogging. A red delicious apple was enjoyed in the middle of my cleaning spree – I forgot to get a photo of it but here’s one of Mitchell devouring the core :)

apple

Tuesday evening we had plans with some friends to see a movie in the park! How fun :) So, after a dinner of my BBQ Tofu Pizza, we walked about a mile to meet up with our friends.

pizza 1

We all shared a bottle (or two) of wine and some snacks – chips, hummus, cheese and crackers – and watched Hugo. Next week, the park that is showing the movie is 2 blocks away from our apartment – I can’t wait!

Although this Treat Yourself Tuesday didn’t involve a spa day like my previous ones, I was still able to treat myself to a donut, time with Mitchell and a fun night out with friends.

How did you treat yourself on Treat Yourself Tuesday? Have you ever been to a movie in the park?

Sweet Corn and Tomato Summer Salad

I think it is safe to say that we’re in the dog days of summer.

Hot, sunny days followed by even hotter nights.

This time of year there is very little chance that I can be convinced to turn on my oven for dinner. No way, not with the bright sun already heating up my little apartment – I won’t even turn it on for a frozen pizza. Sad, right?

Salad 1

Because of this, I’ve gotten a little creative in the kitchen over the past few weeks and my local farmers’ market has come to the rescue.

Thankfully, this time of year also involves fresh and local EVERYTHING in the midwest – Cool, juicy watermelon, crisp spinach leaves, bright red tomatoes, fresh herbs and – one of my summer favorites – sweet corn. Because the amazing, healthy bounty of a midwest farmers’ market only exists for a few, short months, I take full advantage of this time and soak in the deliciousness of picked-straight-from-the-garden produce.

Today, I’m going to share one of my favorite summer recipes. It encompasses all things farmers’ market and all things delicious, plus there is bread involved. Who doesn’t love bread?

Salad 2

Gorgeous yellow sweet corn combines with cherry tomatoes, crisp baby spinach and big ol’ chunks of French bread. The delicious mix is then drizzled with a heavenly glaze of olive oil and balsamic.

This salad captures the essence of the last few weeks of summer – it is so good and so ridiculously easy, you will savor every tasty morsel, not wanting it to end.

Sweet Corn and Tomato Summer Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 ears sweet corn, cooked and cut off of the cob
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup French bread, cubed
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Directions

Mix corn, tomatoes, spinach and bread together and split between two plates. Drizzle each salad with desired amount of olive oil and balsamic. Sit back with your favorite glass of wine and enjoy!

Salad 3

This salad is so refreshing and light, it might be the reason you never want summer to end…

What is your favorite recipe for the dog days of summer? What is your favorite produce to snag at your local farmers’ market?

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