Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Outfit, projects, equipment, schedules.

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sweater: The Limited via Discount Fashion Warehouse
sleeveless collared button-down: New York & Company
khaki skinnies: Old Navy
boots: gifted (Old Navy)
necklace: giveaway win

Yeesh. End of January, where did you come from? I feel like lately, I think that every month will be easier than the last...only to find out that it's not. "Oh, once the holidays are over, things will settle down." "Oh, once I finish these photo shoots, life will be calmer." "Oh, once this freelance deadline is passed, I'll have some free time." But then I realize that after the holidays, and the three newborn photo sessions, and the writing deadlines, I'll still have about eight bajillion wedding crafts to finish. So...June? Yeah. Once June hits, I'll be able to take a breather. Possibly.

In other news, these are the last indoor photos you'll see with my curtains and a bar cart as a background! I used some Christmas money and a gift card to buy what essentially is a beginner's indoor portable studio. There's a lovely white backdrop, and a mediocre light kit. It's great in that it has two umbrella stands and a naked bulb stand, but it's not so great in that you can't really angle the umbrella lights...you can only adjust the height. Still, for a first set (and for how little I paid), I can't really complain.

The new setup means my newborn photo sessions went wonderfully; I have two of them finished and am just trying to find time to upload the photos to my portfolio site. I'll be sure to share a link when I do because these kiddos are ADORABLE. I love babies. Especially tiny little newborns. They're so precious!

Anyway, yeah. Tangent much? I have no idea what I really wanted to say about this outfit/life in general this morning. Other than maybe, is there anything easier than throwing a collared shirt under a sweater and adding a big necklace? I am digging this look lately and I swear I wear some variation of it at least once a week. Yeah nope, still super random/tangental. I'm trying to get back into the habit of waking up early to do some yoga and mini projects (like more frequent blog posts, ahem). Sooo my coffee hasn't quite hit my brain yet, I guess? Yeah, let's go with that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Weekending in Greenville, South Carolina

Oof. I always have such a hard time settling back into routine after a little break, even if it's just a long weekend to visit my sister in South Carolina. To be fair, SC in January is a huge departure from Columbus, Ohio, in January. I'm talking near-60-degree highs and tons of beautiful, beautiful sunshine. It felt like paradise. I flew out Friday after work, landing just before midnight, and left super early Monday morning. (Gotta love having those bank holidays off, amiright?)

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I have a thing for aerial shots from planes. Especially at night.

Saturday, Abby and I woke up early and did our race, then stopped by her house for a shower before going out for a huge, delicious, boozy lunch. Thanks to a server error, we got a free round of enormous sangrias, so a nap was basically inevitable after that. Then we got pedicures before dinner and more drinks at her house with some of her and her husband's friends.

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Nothing celebrates a great day like a great meal and some good bourbon, no?

Sunday we slept in before grabbing brunch at my favorite restaurant in Greenville: Liberty Tap Room. If you're ever in town, seriously go there for brunch. They give you a basket of complimentary mini blueberry muffins instead of the normal basket of rolls or whatever! Plus the food is seriously to die for. We split an order of chicken and waffles, and I got an order of eggs Benedict, aka my favorite breakfast food in the world.

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Later Sunday, we went to the Greenville Zoo. It's a tiny little thing, and it's basically the perfect size for an afternoon stroll. I loved it! The Columbus Zoo is great and all, but it's just so dang BIG and overwhelming. Definitely not something you could tackle in an hour, or even a half-day.

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Then we went shopping (I found shoes for my wedding after a 10-month search!) and grabbed dinner at a down-home, real Southern/country restaurant. No pics of that food because while it was absolutely delicious, it wasn't presented fancily. Real Southern food generally ain't ;)

Overall, it was such a fabulous weekend. I almost didn't make the trip, what with my crazy wedding and freelance schedules right now. But I'm so glad I did!

What did you get into this weekend?

Monday, January 19, 2015

How I did it: Couch to 5k in 4 weeks

I would like to start this post with a massive, huge, can't-be-missed disclaimer! Here it is: I am not a health or fitness professional. I am not a doctor, a trainer or any other kind of health/fitness expert. I am not trained to give health or fitness advice. This is just a post about how I personally did something that, quite honestly, seemed utterly impossible. I'm proud of what I accomplished and I figured I'd do some humble-bragging on my blog about it :) If you're interested in running a 5k or doing any kind of new exercise, you should consult your doctor or a fitness professional before you begin. Don't get injured and try to come sue me because 1. I have no money and 2. This disclaimer basically tells you to not take any action based solely on what you're about to read.

So. It all started back in November when I was planning a visit to my sister, Abby, at her and her husband's newly purchased home in South Carolina. I knew I'd have January 19 off for MLK Jr. Day, so I figured I'd use the long weekend to my advantage. In a text message about the details of the trip, Abby excitedly informed me that there was a 5k in her city that weekend and we should totally run it together.

Backstory: Abby has gotten really into running and has done a few 5ks lately. She's currently working on a sub-30 time, which means her average mile would be about nine and a half minutes. I've been really proud and jealous of her, because the last time I tried to run (two years ago) I was a wheezing, stumbling, sweaty mess on the treadmill. After about three minutes. I've completely exactly two 5ks (Color Runs in 2013 and 2014), but I walked the entire way on both of them.

At first, I was really reluctant. But Abby is persuasive, and I've always been pretty susceptible to peer pressure/had a healthy little sibling rivalry with her, so I caved. Then I realized I had just over four weeks to train for a race that I was fairly certain I could never do. I have exercise-induced asthma, which means that even a bit of moderate physical activity can leave me wheezing. I also have bad knees and a tendency to roll my ankles. But I checked with my doctor to make sure a few extra hits of my inhaler would be okay (they are), invested in some good knee braces and looked up ways to best prepare my ankles. I also researched four-week 5k training plans, eventually settling on this one. (More on that in a minute.)

I followed the cardio portion of the first two days of that plan during my first week of training. In the second week, I tackled the third training day...and decided to push myself to run for a solid five minutes instead of three. It sounds minor, but it was an incredible accomplishment in my book. I hadn't run for five minutes in about 13 years, and my pace was better than it had been in my middle school days. The next run in that second week, I pushed myself further: I ran continuously for a solid mile. I had never done that before in my life.

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That day, I decided to abandon the chosen running plan and instead focus on increasing my runs by a quarter-mile each time. With a few exceptions (running after a huge brunch, running without my knee braces after leaving them at home, running without eating any dinner), I was been able to do exactly that. I began running for 15, 20, 30 continuous minutes at a 12-minute-mile pace. Again, I know that pace isn't really anything to brag about. It's slightly more than a relaxed jog. But for me, it's incredible. It's unbelievable.

The race was this Saturday. I was super nervous the morning of and had trouble getting breakfast down, but I knew that running on an empty stomach would spell disaster. On the way there, Abby offhandedly mentioned that the course was a little hilly, which I hadn't prepared for. Nerves on nerves on nerves. I knew I was physically capable of running 3.1 miles without stopping on flat terrain, but uphill? My personal goal to not walk at all in the race was suddenly much harder.

As it turns out, the first mile of the course was a long, steady uphill slope. It wasn't terribly drastic, but it was enough to wind me and force me to walk near the top. Once we crested the hill, I caught my breath and we took off again. Another shorter, steeper hill slowed me down a second time, but I found a burst of energy near the end and we flat-out sprinted the last tenth of a mile or so. Abby was great throughout the whole thing, pushing me to run just a little bit farther when I wanted to walk, telling funny stories to keep my spirits up, and cautioning me to slow down when I started trying to run a 10-minute mile instead of the pace I'd trained at. Despite the fact that we walked a small portion of the course, our overall time was 36 and a half minutes, which works out to just under an average pace of 12 minutes per mile.

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I think the best part about this whole experience is how it's completely changed my outlook on running. It's turned an activity I hated into one that I actually kind of enjoy; I'm already looking up races in Columbus (where, I might add, the terrain is nice and flat) and contemplating when I might be ready to tackle a 10k.

Of course, I owe everything to Abby. If it weren't for her motivation and encouragement, I never would have even attempted this. It was she who told me that the next step after my five-minute run was to go for a mile. Who convinced me at the beginning that it wasn't impossible, even for me. Who pushed me during the race itself, when all I wanted was to just walk for five minutes. Thank you, seester. You're amazing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Eats: Balsamic-glazed steak with orzo risotta and green beans

This Christmas, Matt's sister and brother-in-law gifted us a fantastic Chicago Cutlery knife set. (It was on our wedding registry, which is even cooler if you ask me.) We'd been working with two hand-me-down knife sets that we'd each had since getting our first apartments in college, so...seven or eight years now? Crap. We're old. Anyway, I was so excited at the prospect of finally working with some stellar knives that I looked up a meal that involved a ton of chopping, slicing and cutting so as to test out as many of the knives in one go as I could. I was not disappointed with the balsamic-glazed steak kebabs and orzo "risotto", both in terms of taste and knife-using-requirements. We even busted out the steak knives, despite the fact that the kebab pieces were small and tender enough to do without. It was just too much fun!

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Sometimes I post full recipes here, but this time I'm just going to link them. Mainly because I followed the recipes to a T and didn't really improvise or adapt them at all. I like to follow recipes exactly the first time or two I make them, then tweak as needed if the dish makes it into our regular rotation. I highly recommend both the balsamic-glazed steak kebabs and the orzo "risotto". The orzo came out a bit thicker (and honestly, more risotto-esque) than the picture on the original site, but it was delicious nonetheless. For the green beans, I just threw them in the steamer and set it over simmering water for, I dunno, five minutes? Seven? I like my cooked veggies crunchy, so adjust the cooking time to your preferences. I then just tossed them with a little butter and salt. When you have that many other flavors going on, you need one side to stay semi-simple.

I promise at some point I'll do a post on all the cool photography gear I received/bought this Christmas season. Right now I'm swamped with photo shoots that have allowed me to use said gear, a couple freelance writing deadlines for the bridal magazine, and of course eight billion wedding crafts. I decided to save all the wedding craft posts for after the wedding, partly to help keep an element of surprise for readers who also are attending the big event (hi, Aunt Kathleen!) and partly because I feel like I barely have enough time (less than four months!!) to do the crafts themselves, let alone the photographing/writing that's needed to do posts on them. But just so you have an idea of what to expect: There will be fabric flowers! Wine-bottle vases! A birdcage veil! Pocket invitations! Probably some other stuff that I'm forgetting at the moment! DIY brides for the win, amiright?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Brrrr!

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sweater, slacks: thrifted
short-sleeve button-down: New York & Company
flats: Target
necklace: gifted (Kate Spade)

Welp, you're looking at a pretty close approximation of my outfits all this week: sweater, a layer under it, warm dress pants and flats that are easy to throw in my bag while I wear my heavier winter boots. Because all week, temps have been in the teens or single digits, with negative-degree wind chills. Yesterday morning, the actual temp was -6 Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of -22! It's not okay, guys. I'm too delicate for this bitter winter clime.

But I haven't been letting the chill get me down too much. I layer fleece-lined leggings under my pants for the walk home from the bus stop. (Matt, who works second shift during the week, is a saint who drives me to work every morning in his well-warmed-up car.) I have my rated-to-20-degree boots that perform well enough even when the temps are below 20. And I have a killer long down jacket I got at the end of last winter from Burlington Coat Factory. I'm even managing to make it to the gym most evenings! If you know anything about me, you know that's a feat even in nicer weather. So I guess I can't complain too much.

In other news (cue abrupt subject change), our wedding is exactly four months from today! I still have so much to do...cutting wine bottles for our centerpiece vases, making the flower-petal candle holders for our other centerpieces, assembling all the flowers we made, making my veil, doing my dress fitting(s), designing and printing our invitations and other miscellaneous stationery, doing final meetings with the few pros we did hire to confirm all the details...eesh. It's gonna be a very busy four months. I can't think about the big picture too much, or I get super stressed out and panicky. I just have to take things in baby steps: This weekend is devoted to bottle-cutting and editing some photos from a newborn session I had the other weekend. Keep it small and manageable, that's my motto :)

How do you deal with massive projects? And while we're doing the whole ask-questions-at-the-end-of-the-post-to-encourage-feedback thing, are the temps abysmally cold where you are, too? How do you even handle that? (I'm thinking of you, Sydney, up in what I can only assume is the frozen tundra of Canada. I'm shivering just thinking about it.)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Wedding shiz: The Columbus Bride Show

Morning all! I'm never really sure how to dive back into my "regular" content after a heavy post like last week's. Usually I start off a new year with photos of my NYE outfit, but this year Matt and I counted down to midnight during a quiet, chill evening at home with a couple of friends. It was actually kind of nice, and I didn't have to freeze my hiney off in a short dress and heels. The second our friends left, I turned to Matt and shouted "GUESS WHAT!" And he said "GUESS WHAT!" And then we both said, "WE'RE GETTING MARRIED THIS YEAR!!!" He's basically perfect.

Which is an excellent segue into the actual topic of today's post: The Columbus Bride Show, which took place this weekend. Basically, the magazine I used to work for and still freelance for, Columbus Bride, puts on the area's biggest bridal show each January. Something like 120 vendors, I think? Anyway, I went last year, but I wanted to go again this year because there are lots of chances to win free stuff. Also, my sister Ellen just got engaged, and even though she's getting married in northern Ohio I figured she could at least start brainstorming ideas. And some of the vendors had locations in her area, so she actually wound up getting a great deal on tuxes for her fiancé and his groomsmen. My mom and another sister, Anna, also came down to join the fun.

We started with brunch at Northstar (which I've written about before) because it's awesome. And what better way to have an awesome day of bridal things than by having an amazing brunch?

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I am terrible at across-the-table selfies. Left side: My mom and Ellen, who insisted on posing like this. Right side: Anna and me.

Then we headed down to the convention center for the show. It was pouring rain and gross, but once we got inside we forgot all about the dreary Ohio weather. Because bridal stuff! I got way too excited about cakes because that's the only thing that's not 100% finalized for us. (My generous friend and bridesmaid, Hayley, is making our cupcakes and cutting cake.) Soooo that's about the only thing I managed to take pictures of. Womp womp. Everything but the last two photos are from Capital City Cakes; the last two are from Jan Kish of La Petite Fleur.

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"I'm not touching it." (The top half is a dress form, but the skirt is entirely cake. And all the decorations/embellishments are fondant/icing. Incredible.)

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There in the background is Jan Kish herself. I'm not exaggerating when I say her cakes are the best in the city. She literally makes art out of sugar. And they taste as incredible as they look!

I also saw some adorable cake pops, but I can't remember what booth they were at. Sorry, nameless vendor!

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Last year, I took a lot of photos at the fashion show. This year, though, I was a little underwhelmed by the styles. Maybe I'm just too in love with my own dress, but I just couldn't get excited about any that were being modeled this year. Ellen did get some really nice ideas for when she goes dress shopping later this month, so that's good! She also took a selfie of us with our mimosas. At this point, she's a better blogger than me, haha!

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After the show, we all went shopping, natch. I did my annual "spend all my month's budget at Forever 21" blitz, and got a bunch of nice, basic pieces...including some skinny jeans in a smaller size, woot woot!! Then my mom and sisters went home, and I spent most of Sunday catching up on photo edits from a recent shoot and trying to figure out how I'm going to finish all the remaining wedding tasks in the four months I have left. Quite the busy weekend, I'd say! How was yours?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A resolution for allies everywhere.

It goes without saying that New Year's Eve is a time for resolutions. For new beginnings. For starting over.

As this year draws to a close, I've found myself drawn to the story of Leelah Alcorn. Born Josh Alcorn, Leelah was a transgender teen in the Cincinnati area who took her own life on Sunday. She wanted only to be accepted for who she truly was -- a female born with male sex characteristics -- but was rejected by many people in her life, including her own parents. (The link above has more details on this, if you want a fuller background.)

My heart breaks for Leelah. As painful as it is to read her final words to the world, I think it's important for us as a society to share them. Maybe it will bring some understanding to other parents who are struggling with the idea of having a transgender child. Maybe it will help us as a society gain a greater understanding of the hardships and difficulties that transgender people face every. single. day.

I know that discussion of transgender issues can become heated. I know there is a severe divide in our society about whether or not transgender orientation is "real." I'm not trying to start a debate. I'm just trying to show my support. It may seem futile, but I want all transgender individuals out there to know: you might feel completely alone, but that is not true. You have at least one ally. In reality, you have hundreds, thousands even. But right here is one that you can give a face to. My name is Emma Frankart, and I support you.

If you are a transgender ally, I urge you to come forward as well. Make it your New Year's resolution to help spread the word. Post a Facebook status. Send a tweet. Write a blog post. Make a flier. It doesn't matter what you do. Just make it known. Maybe if Leelah had known how many people support her, she would have been able to hang on long enough to move out of her toxic home environment and start fresh.

I also want to take a moment to touch on the topic of depression as well. I've been pretty forthcoming here on the blog about my own struggles, past and present, with depression. Depression is the most isolating thing. When you're depressed, you feel as though you are stranded, completely alone on and island of yourself, unable to reach or be reached by anyone. This, too, is not true. Leelah's comments about friends who don't care about her really resonated with me, because I had those same feelings (albeit for different reasons). But if you're stuck on that island too, I promise you, those feelings are not reality. They are the lies that depression feeds you. Don't swallow them.

Please. If you are considering suicide, please know that it is NOT your only option, no matter how convinced you may be otherwise. It isn't. I'm not going to shove the "it gets better" stuff down your throat, because when you're depressed, there is no hope for better and the sentiment only comes off as trite and impersonal. An easy response. But if you are to the point where it seems things will never get better, just do one more thing before making a final, irreversible decision: Ask for help. If you don't have a trusted person close to you, call a hotline. It takes almost no effort; certainly less effort than any act that would end your life. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is just 10 digits long. You push more buttons when you're channel-surfing. (800) 273-8255. There will always be a person on the other end of the line who wants you to live.

I'm sorry to wrap up this year with such a sad post, but some things just need to be said. I've already started on the resolution I'm urging all allies to take. Now it's your turn.