Bowling counts as exercise, right?

When Brandon and I first met and started dating, both of our social lives revolved around hanging out with friends at bars. Catching up over a beer (or two, or three) was the norm. I consider myself a pretty social person, and love meeting up with friends throughout the week and weekend to balance work and time spent at home. I found myself at a point where I was drinking far too much alcohol during the week, which I know was affecting my health negatively.

Slowly, Brandon and I started taking steps to get healthier (and save money!). We joined a gym, started eating out less and began cooking more healthy meals at home. The hardest change of all was to drastically reduce our drinking. It wasn’t difficult because we missed alcohol per se, but because drinking is the social activity of choice among our group of friends. We quickly realized doing the standard bar meet-up while being the only ones not drinking was too difficult. Instead, we’ve tried to find other activities that will be fun sans alcohol. We’ve had lots of game nights and bowling nights, and we’re looking for more fun alcohol free activities.

Since we’ve been spending a lot of time at home in lieu of going out to bars when Brandon’s brother invited us bowling Wednesday night we decided it would be a fun way to break up the week. I had planned on going to the gym in the evening, but sometimes you just need time to socialize! It’s all about balance, right?

Before we left for the bowling alley we ate one of our favorite snacks.

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Grilled artichokes! The sauce on the side is a mix of mayo, sriracha and capers (sounds weird but it’s so good!).

We headed up to the bowling alley to meet Brandon’s brother Mike, his girlfriend Abby, and a few of Mike’s friends.

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I must say, the shoes at the bowling alley near Mike’s house are not nearly as nice as the ones near ours. But they’re neon, at least! My bowling game is improving and I broke 100 again. We played two games and had fun chatting with Mike and Abby.

I was planning on getting up early in the morning to squeeze in a workout, but after getting home late I decided sleep was worth it. I think it was a good decision, but I will definitely be going this evening.

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Fitness Goals

Joining the gym a few months ago totally transformed my views of health and fitness. Prior to becoming a “gym rat” I did the bare minimum, and while I wasn’t overweight I definitely wasn’t in shape either. As I’ve slowly increased my fitness routine I’ve become stronger, more confident, gotten sick less, and had a huge boost in my mood. While the benefits have been huge, I know I’ve really only dipped my toes in the fitness water. Recently, I decided to develop some short-term fitness goals to help me expand my exercise regime in the right direction.

Fitness Goals
Try a few new machines
Try a group fitness class
Train for a 5K
Get on a fitness schedule (either all morning or all evening workouts)
Extend my cardio sessions

I’m already working on a few of these goals. Last night before I did my regular cardio workout, I tried a machine I’ve been eyeing but hadn’t yet worked up the courage to try:

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The rower! I don’t know why this machine intimidated me so much because once I hopped on I found it fairly easy to maintain good form and I worked up a sweat almost immediately. I didn’t spend too long on this machine because I wanted to ease into it, but I’ll definitely be incorporating it more often.

A few months ago I signed up for my first 5K, which will be on November 2nd.

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Running is possibly my least favorite form of exercise, so by signing up for a 5K I hoped that having an end goal would motivate me to run more. I’ve run on the treadmill a few times, but kept my cardio workouts mostly on the elliptical. With a month to go before the 5K, I need to step it up and get in a few more running workouts each week.

Another goal that is easily attainable is extending my cardio workouts. For this, I need to devote a little more time to the gym. A slightly more difficult goal will be getting on a consistent schedule. Right now my workouts are scattered between getting up early on the weekends and trying to get up early before work (this has been far more difficult than I’d hoped hah) and going really late at night when my morning workouts fall through. Does anyone have tips for getting on a schedule?

Trying a group fitness class will also be a little more difficult since my gym is pretty tiny and doesn’t offer many. I have quite a few friends who are into Power Fit and Cross Fit, so I may try a class with them (eek!).

I hope that the above goals are reasonable enough that I can make small steps towards them in the near future. My overall goal is to slowly increase my fitness routine until I reach a higher, but sustainable, level of fitness.

Wild Goat Bistro

I had the best weekend! It was full of quality time with friends and my two favorite guys, Brandon and Harrison.

Work on Friday was kind of rough as I felt like I was coming down with something. I decided to take the night off from socializing and rest, and woke up Saturday morning feeling a thousand times better.

I squeezed in a great workout at the gym before heading up to Petaluma to meet a few girlfriends to see Don Jon. I didn’t really know anything about the movie before seeing it, and it probably wouldn’t have been my choice. I do love Joseph Gordon Levitt, but this was a really unusual role for him and I found a lot of moments in the movie a little disturbing.

Our post-movie lunch was far better! We walked around the corner from the movie theatre to Wild Goat Bistro. I love everything about this restaurant–the food is amazing and the restaurant is in the Great Petaluma Mill which adds a touch of history.

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Both the pizza and salad were out of this world. The pizza had a really unusual combination – a fig spread for the sauce, topped with prosciutto and arugula. It was truly one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. The tuna salad had chopped spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, egg and a lemon dressing that made it really fresh and flavorful. We each drank a glass of champagne along with our lunch and enjoyed some quality girl time.

In the evening Brandon and I went over to a friend’s house for BBQ and board games. I tried to keep dinner healthy by sticking to lean chicken and veggies. Our friend Jason always cooks great food! After dinner we played a really fun game we dubbed “The Train Game” which consists of building railroad lines to connect to the destinations you’re given.

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A crazy Saturday night, for sure. 😉

Sunday I spent the day with my other favorite guy, Harrison. He was excited to have me to himself alllllllll day long.

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Can’t you tell? We spent the day cleaning (a.k.a I cleaned like a mad woman while he followed at my heels and got in the way as much as possible) and cuddling. It was fantastic!

Since last week was light on the workout front with only two trips to the gym and one hike, I’m hoping to step things up this week with a bigger focus on clean eating and exercise.

Nighttime Hike

Last night, I accidentally went on a nighttime hike. When I say accidentally, I mean that I keep forgetting we’re transitioning to fall and that the sun doesn’t stay up until 9 p.m. anymore!

My friend Krista and I wanted to get together and catch up yesterday, and wanted to do something a bit healthier than the typical “dinner and drinks” catch up session. We decided to go hiking, but by the time she got to my house the sun was already on its way down. We grabbed a flashlight and my headlamp (my favorite camping accessory!) and forged on light or no light.

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We hit the trail right at dusk and managed to hike the majority of the trail before the sun disappeared. There is something really magical about hiking through the trees in dim light. Plus, the leaves have started to change colors so it really felt like fall! We had a great time catching up while doing something active. I only know of two hiking trails near my house in Novato, and I’m sure there are quite a few I don’t know about. I need to do some research!

Dealing with setbacks

One topic I’ve been thinking about lately is how to best deal with setbacks. When something you’ve worked hard for falls through it can be difficult not to let disappointment and frustration take over.

For the past year or two I’ve worked at switching gears in my career to something I love, and I have dealt with several setbacks. Though these challenges have been disheartening, I feel like they have helped me learn how to deal with disappointment and have made me more resilient. There are a few techniques I’ve used to deal emotionally with the frustration from experiencing a setback.

One thing I have always admired about my dad is his ability to stay positive no matter what the circumstances. I can’t even count the times he’s said, “let yourself dwell, but not too long.” When I’m feeling really down about something that has fallen through, I try to set a time limit on how long I’m allowed to dwell on it. This might sound silly, but it’s really helpful because a) I don’t feel bad for dwelling or feeling sad during my allotted time and b) I have a mental time set by which I need to put my disappointment behind me.

Another thing I try to do when feeling really down about a setback is use my frustration to come up with ideas on either another way to attain that goal or reframing the goal into something new. I used to stick to my goals doggedly and then get very discouraged when my chosen path didn’t lead directly to attaining that goal. Now, I’m more flexible in choosing another path or changing my ideas on what I want to achieve.

Finally, I try to stay in the moment and not pin my happiness on a future achievement (i.e. when I have X career, I’ll finally be happy). I’m typically a pretty happy, in the moment person from day-to-day but maintaining this mindset is infinitely more challenging when facing a discouraging setback. When this happens, I try to focus on the things in my life that are great right now.

What techniques do you use to deal with setbacks?

Karaoke Saturday

Another week begins! Brandon and I were mostly hermits this weekend, except for Saturday when we managed to leave the house and socialize. We’ve been trying to cut down our spending and save for a house, so I’ve been finding myself at home more nights than usual. Being a fairly social person, I’ve never considered myself a homebody but I’ve really grown to love nights at home.

True to form, we stayed in Friday night after picking up a few salads at Whole Foods for dinner and watched about 5 episodes of Breaking Bad. Seriously addicted!

I have really been missing the gym, so Saturday morning I made sure to get in a workout right after waking up. I did a 30-minute cardio workout and then targeted my core with some oblique and back strength training. I felt like a whole new person when I left the gym, and after some prompting from a friend I finally left the house for a girls day with my friends Lisa and Machelle. Lisa dubbed the event “Champagne Saturday.” As you might imagine, Champagne Saturday involved an afternoon filled with champagne and girl chat and a little cheese and crackers as the cherry on top.

I left the girls at Lisa’s house to meet up with some friends for dinner at Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park. My friend Ben is moving to Virginia to be closer to his girlfriend, so we had to give him a sushi send off! The sushi was fantastic, one of the best options in the North Bay for the price.

After sushi I heard from the girls that they wanted to keep the party going! I called Brandon to come meet us and together with Machelle, Lisa, and Lisa’s husband Jason we headed out to a bar in downtown Cotati called Friar Tucks.

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The girls from left to right…Machelle, myself, and Lisa.

We were excited when we arrived and realized that Saturdays are karaoke night! Brandon and Lisa signed up for songs right away. Brandon sang “Breaking the Law” by Judas Priest and Lisa sang “Billie Jean”. Both were awesome and I was very impressed with how comfortable they were singing in front of a group of people! I took more convincing, but eventually decided to sign up to sing “Don’t Stop Believin” in a group.

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Brandon entertaining the crowd!

To stay healthy and save a bit of money neither Brandon and I drank at the bar. While we felt like old people (the bar is a college hangout and popular drinking spot), we had a blast and didn’t feel terrible on Sunday. Definitely a win! I haven’t sang karaoke in years and I forgot how much fun it is, especially when the crowd gets into it.

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Cheesy couple photo. 🙂

Yesterday was spent with my butt glued to the couch. We watched the first Wolverine movie, which I thought was really good and then continued our Breaking Bad marathon. I went to bed super early and even woke up before work this morning to get in a workout! It was a great start to the week.

Yoga Meltdown

I have really slacked on going to the gym this week. I went Sunday and then didn’t go again until Wednesday. Yesterday I wanted to spend time at home with Harrison until Brandon got off work and we met up with some friends, but I also really wanted to get in a work out. I pulled out a DVD I purchased months ago but haven’t tried yet, Jillian Michaels’Yoga Yoga Meltdown.

I started with Level 1 and oh.my.goodness. It is only half an hour long but it kicked my butt! Before I joined the gym, my main work out was yoga at home and this is by far the best yoga video I’ve done. My main reason for joining a gym was that even when I did yoga cardio videos I felt like I never worked up a sweat. I find Jillian’s no excuses attitude motivating, and by the end of the video I was a sweaty mess. My legs are pretty sore today too.

After Brandon got home we headed up to Rohnert Park to hang out at a friend’s house where we ate a pretty hearty meal of chili and jalapeno cornbread. After dinner we played Bohnanza, a card game that involves trading, selling, and planting beans. Sounds odd, but it is so much fun! It was a fun night!

I’m looking forward to the weekend! We have no plans, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m hoping to squeeze in a few good workouts, and hopefully a hike on Sunday afternoon. Have a great weekend!

Creating your own happiness

You’d think with a blog name like My Happy Place it would be easy to write a blog post on happiness. However, I’ve found in reality it’s quite the opposite. Happiness is not only difficult to define, but it’s difficult to quantify. Is happiness a fleeting feeling of joy? A lasting feeling of contentment? How happy am I on a scale of 1 to 10?

This topic has been on my mind since I read Julie’s post on determining your own happiness at Peanut Butter Fingers .

This post struck a chord with me since I went through a very rough time in my life a few years ago where the happiness that had previously come so naturally was something I had to create. Since I had always considered myself an inherently happy person I had no idea where to begin.

Slowly over the past few years, I learned how to create my happiness. For me, happiness means that I experience a feeling of contentment on a day-to-day basis. I am satisfied with where my life is at and where it is headed. I am not as affected by external surroundings as I once was, but have an inherent sense of self-worth. Sure I have days where I feel pretty down, but I have more days where I feel incredibly optimistic and blessed.

The two main techniques I’ve used to create my happiness include identifying and filling my life with things I enjoy, and changing my thought patterns.

Things I’ve added to my life:
A healthy relationship
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Lots of play time with Harrison
A focus on nutrition (including taking a Human Nutrition class!)
More time with good friends
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Frequent exercise and yoga at least once a week
Weekend activities like kayaking, wine tasting, camping, hiking and more
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Lots of downtime during the week

The much more challenging aspect of creating my happiness has been changing my thought processes. I know for a lot of people the idea that our thoughts are something we control and not something that “happens” to us is a foreign one. It was foreign to me not too long ago. When I finally decided to change my negative thought patterns it required a lot of work. I realized I was letting my thoughts run rampant, which sometimes directly caused of sadness or anxiety. I decided to pay attention to what I was thinking. Then when I realized my thoughts were creating a negative pattern, I made a conscious effort to frame them in a more positive way. This process became easier over time, and eventually changed my life immensely.

One example from my life is something with which I struggled for a long time. I had a tendency to be critical and distrusting in relationships. Quite honestly, being in a healthy relationship that I wanted to keep healthy and positive is what pointed me in the direction of addressing the way I think in the first place. I realized when I was upset about something in the relationship, it was often because I was attributing negative intentions to my significant other which in turn lead me to look for other things that were “wrong.”

I was thinking negatively about a fantastic person who loves and cares about me and who wants to make my life better. What sense does that make? Reframing the way I think has completely transformed our relationship among other areas of my life. It is still takes daily effort, but I hope to remember the lessons I’ve learned about creating happiness throughout my life.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy hump day! This week has been flying by! I can’t believe it’s Wednesday already.

Brandon had the day off yesterday and called me shortly before I got off work to say he had a surprise for me. I walked in the door and was hit with a delicious smell…he baked cookies! Consider me shocked and amazed. 🙂 He actually really enjoys cooking, but I handle most of our meals since I get off work earlier and I have never seen him bake before. He made Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and they were so amazing I had three within minutes of them coming out of the oven. He didn’t really measure ingredients, just threw things in a bowl. These aren’t healthy by any means, but I thought I’d share the ingredients!

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Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Oatmeal
1 can of pumpkin
Handful of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Sugar
2 eggs
Butter
Cinnamon

After eating my weight in pumpkin cookies, I took Harrison out for some playtime.

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Happy dog! After playtime I threw on some workout clothes and headed to the gym. I did a quick elliptical workout and then some arm strength training. I’m signed up for a 5K (a color run!) in November and would like to start training for it soon. However, running is my least favorite sport of all time so it’s something I’m working up to. I need some running motivation! Maybe a new playlist?

After working out, the rest of the evening was spent watching way too many episodes of Breaking Bad. Brandon just got hooked two days ago and he is already almost done with the first season. I watched the first few seasons a long time ago but it’s fun to refresh my memory! Lately things have been so hectic that I’m really enjoying TV marathons in the evenings. As long as I get a workout in and give Harrison exercise and attention, I don’t feel too guilty for relaxing for a few hours. It’s all about balance!

I have some fun plans tonight! I’m meeting a friend for dinner and then we’re attending the open mic night at The Hopmonk, a popular bar and music venue that opened within the last year in Novato. Should be entertaining!

A busy weekend

Monday again! Is it just me or do weekends keep getting shorter and shorter? Maybe it just feels that way because my weekend was packed with activities.

Last week was really busy, and when Friday evening rolled around I was tempted to stay in and relax. However, a big group of my friends were going to a comedy show in Cotati at the Redwood Café and I absolutely love going to comedy shows! They’re definitely hit or miss, but when the acts are good it’s worth it. Since the show was only $10 I was a bit skeptical but three out of the five acts were hilarious. My cheeks hurt from laughing so hard.

I spent Saturday morning working out and cleaning and on Saturday evening my friends gathered once again to celebrate my girlfriend Jaime’s birthday. We met at La Rosa in Santa Rosa for cocktails and then headed across the street to Torch of India for our main meal. This was one of the best Indian restaurants I’ve tried, and there are quite a few great ones in the area. A few scenes from the restaurant:

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My beautiful friends Jaime and Noelle (who are also sisters!).

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Jaime blowing out the candles.

We ordered enough food for a small army and almost called it a night after dinner since we were so stuffed. After letting our food settle, we decided to keep the party going across the street at a new club called Space XXV. Maybe I’m just getting old but the music was awful. We couldn’t hear each other talk, I’m pretty sure my entire body was vibrating from the music pumping through the speakers, and I lasted about 10 minutes before I had to call it quits and headed outside. Everyone soon followed and we went elsewhere. Gettin’ old, for sure!

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Me with Noelle and Roseanne.

It’s funny because our group used to go out all the time and party it up, but at some point in the last year everyone started gravitating towards fewer bar trips and more activities like BBQs or comedy shows. I guess we’re growing up?

Yesterday I spent the morning cleaning and when Brandon got off work we headed out for an afternoon hike near our house in Novato. I stumbled across this trail last year when I visited the dog park and I was excited to share it with Brandon.

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I have no idea what type of plant that is but I’d love to know! Brandon claimed it is an Indian Paintbrush but after we got back to the car a quick google search proved him wrong.

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There’s an awesome creek that flows next to the hiking trail. We climbed down next to the creek and had a great time exploring and turning over rocks. It was a great way to end the weekend.