spread the word: best reads of the week vol. 1

I do a lot of reading. Yes, I wish I meant Great American Literature but I actually mean anything remotely related to 36broadway scattered across the world wide web.

So I’ve decided to start sharing my top reads each week. Picks will always be from sites that I find to be highly credible and inspiring, and those I personally look up to. It’s my way of sharing content relative to my site while giving a big shout-out.

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week:

Tiny Buddha – Let Go of Control: How to Learn the Art of Surrender. Are you a control freak? I am. Well, I’m recovering and only thanks to a slew of inspiration from Tiny Buddha. This is one of Lori’s guest posts from Dr. Amy Johnson from Modern Enlightenment. Here, she speaks about the root causes of control and attachment and how to free ourselves for a unburdened and more peaceful existence. Yes, please!

Thrive Personal Fitness – The Reward Factor. I can’t count how many times I have seen food suggested to be used for rewarding yourself after a tough workout or sticking to a plan. And we’re not talking about a celery sticks. In this post, Pamela of Thrive Personal Fitness discusses how developing a mindset that it’s ok to incent yourself with high calorie foods in order to get fit can be detrimental to your health and progress. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a repeat offender to the weekend diet-derailer, but this puts it in perspective and I can see how some may take it a bit too far, especially those just starting a wellness program.

Fit Sugar – Vegan Snack Recipes.  I’m a sucker for a slide show of tasty, nutritious, and quick anytime snacks. Fit Sugar get’s it right with 10 yummy take-anywhere options that incorporate filling fiber, good fats, and protein. I especially like the Apple & Nut Butter Sandwiches and Edamole – what great ideas! Perfect for the girl-on-the-go.

Momentum Gathering – A Simple Guide to Remembering Who You Are. This is one for me. A simple but powerful reminder of how it’s important to remember and recognize who we really are amidst the chaos of our lives.  When I shift my focus and let myself ‘feel’ me, I find myself in some of my most content times, regardless of what else is going on. I know with a full-time job, this site that I just love sinking my teeth into, along with obligations to family and friends, it’s easy to move furiously from one thing to the next without a much purpose or a sense of self. Learn how to stop, look, and listen to the one that does it all.

What inspired you this week?


4 practical ways to stay calm in stressful situations

Feel yourself on the verge of a full-on freak-out? Turn to these four simple and easy ways to stay focused and make tough situations more bearable.

 

Say this to yourself with a deep breath ‘Stay Calm, Carry On.’ It sounds silly, but just say it and you’ll see.

Read about meditating. I’ve never officially meditated, but I’ve come across enough articles about meditation and breathing techniques to know the objective and imagine the feeling you’re left with. The idea is to do enough research to find ideas that you can relate to and focus on that feeling of inner calm and deeper mindfulness when you’re at the end of your rope. Make a conscious choice to be still instead of stressed.

Remove yourself from the situation. We are taught in life that we will only accomplish great successes if we grin, bear it and never give up, but there are many situations where it does you more good to leave than it does to stay.

Hold something (like a pen) in your hand and squeeze hard. Envision all the tension flowing from every part of your body to your hand and into the object.

 

What ways of staying grounded work for you?


how to score a sweet deal on an expensive item

I’ve got expensive taste. I think it happened in college. I was never materialistic in high school – I used to wear Birkenstocks and never shopped anywhere but American Eagle. But once I left Small Town, Connecticut I lived among fancier fashionistas and was sucked into the Juicy Couture/7 jeans/Louis Vuitton bag craze that swept the early 2000s. Although I’ve never fully looked back, over time I’ve learned to control it.  Or at least be smarter about it.

And by smarter, I mean finding the deal of the century on high priced items I decide I can’t live without.

A recent example: Tory Burch. A few months ago I was obsessed with owning a Tory Burch handbag.  As soon as I got familiar with her brand and style I decided she was the perfect fit for my place in life and who I wanted to be. Sort of what Juicy Couture was when I was 19.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no position to head out and stock up on full blown TB wardrobe, but I became determined a Tory would be my next big bag investment – and they run you from $400 up. I hemmed and hawed at Nordstrom and Saks selection online for quite a while, nothing totally wowed me but I had my eye on a couple styles. I wanted to wait for something sure to change my life.

Then, the stars aligned. One of the handbags I liked but previously decided was too expensive went on sale at Nordstrom. Sweet! I also had a gift card from Christmas. I decided to go for it – and ended up with a $500+ handbag for $300. So now I have a timeless piece I love, at a price that makes me VERY happy.

Maybe your thing isn’t fashion accessories. Maybe it’s shoes. Maybe it’s jeans. Perhaps it’s electronics like my boyfriend. Whatever gets you going, paying full price on expensive items is delusional. Especially with all the competition on the internet today. Here are a few tips to help you get the best price. Or at least a price that makes you feel great!

1. Search, search, search. Open a Google page and search for the exact product name or number. There are so many websites selling everything you can ever imagine, all of which are dying for your business. This means great prices people! It can also mean sketchy so do your homework and read customer experience reviews. If the site checks out and your gut isn’t screaming ‘scam’ – go for it. If something goes awry, you can always file a claim with your credit card company. I’ve been quite close to buying the exact designer sunglasses I was looking for on an online-only site.

2. Comb the sale sections on high-end department store sites. If you’re not looking for a specific item, but rather something general like a nice dress for a party, give yourself some time and check the sale department at designer sites like Saks, Bloomys, Neimans, Nordstrom, etc. over the course of a couple weeks. The more often you check, the more likely you are to catch exactly what you want before anyone else does!

If you’re looking for something electronic like a GPS, computer, or TV, this approach can also work. Many times sites like Best Buy have better online prices or more selection than in their stores. Also, items like this can definitely be found for way cheapo at Walmart or Target online.

3. Bookmark websites designed around high-end picks at reduced prices. This may be my favorite tip. Most online-only retailers base their value props selling the most value at the lowest price. Sorry to keep using fashion as an example, but it’s what I know best. Anytime I’m about to buy anything that will cost me over $100, I always check sites like Bluefly, ASOS, and Tobi which are good examples for clothing related needs. Limited-time sales sites like Ruelala, Ideeli, and Groupon are getting a lot of hype these days and very well should be with deals as much as 90% of retail on a multitude of goods. Some are by invite only so make sure to mooch an in off a friend. Yes, please, and thank you!

4. Don’t always rely on the internet. If you’re looking for a specific item, say a particular digital camera, you may be able to find the best deal locally. Always check flyers in your area before taking the plunge. If there’s not much difference in price, consider extra costs you’ll save buying in a store, like shipping.


to do or not to do, that is the question

I’m not even two weeks into 36broadway. I’m like a newborn in the web nursery of user created content. I just about had a seizure when I hit 100 views.

In this short time, I’ve had a spectrum of emotions…excitement, purpose, motivation, optimism mixed with feeling a bit overwelmed, discouraged, and confused. My original intention was (and still is) to do this for me. No one else. To create something that is 100% Amanda – some people have hobbies or play sports. I wanted to find an outlet to document my life, my challenges, and my progress. And share my inspirations on the road to a life of balance, freedom, and wellness.

But what if I want to do more?  Take it to the next level, inspire others, and some day build a brand? As I learn more and more about this world, the more overwhelmed I am to think about standing out among the crowd. Especially when it’s filled with those who have been out there for years and are really, REALLY good at it.

I was reading something earlier on Tiny Buddha that was a bit discouraging. Then I took a deep breath, reminded myself of my purpose and that no one else can be me or do exactly what I’m doing, and found this inspiring post. And it was just what I needed.


help! my wardrobe is bigger than my ego

I have way too many clothes. Well, maybe not according to most people’s standards, but certainly mine. And I keep getting more. It’s like when I’m out shopping I black out and forget my huge, overflowing closet back home.

I used to think the more stuff the better, but now the sum of it irks me. What Not to Wear shed new light on what a complete wardrobe means to me. First off, this show is great. They give fashionably challenged trainwrecks a complete style makeover and it changes lives. They throw out every piece of clothing and pair of shoes they own. It’s addicting, and inspiring and I’m stuck to the couch anytime there’s a marathon. But at the end, they give you a look at their new wardrobe and it’s made up of like  5 tops, 2 pants, 1 pair of jeans, and a dress. Maybe I exaggerate but it doesn’t look like much! So the point is to mix and match – 20 items of clothing = 100 outfits. But wouldn’t people at work notice you wearing the same dress 3 different ways every week?

Anyway, this does make me realize that each and every one of us are clothes hoarders. The thought of having a million things in your closet can be blissful, but also backfire. Here’s why:

1. It’s overwhelming. When you look in your closet to pick something out you have no idea where to start.

2. Think about it. You only wear 20% of what you own. This morning, I am about to put on a shirt that I think I wore last weekend, when I have a million other tops that I haven’t seen daylight in months. I have at least 15 pairs of jeans but currently rotate 3 or 4.

3. Your closet gives you anxiety. It’s messy. It’s unkempt. It’s down right overwhelming to look at. Who needs closet stress on top of all the other things we deal with?

So what do we do? Set aside a cold or rainy afternoon on a weekend to go through EVERYTHING. Take everything out of that closet and dresser, put it on the floor in the living room and sort into 3 piles: Keep, Donate, Consign. Don’t spend more than 10 seconds deciding on any item. If you find pieces you’re unsure of, put them aside and go back to them later. You’ll be surprised at how your attitude can change as you go through the process.

All of the things you have with stains, holes, rips, or that are just plain wornout should be donated. Find one of those donation bins on the side of the road. It will feel invigorating and I promise you won’t even remember those things you weren’t quite sure about tossing. Think about all that new room in your life!

You should only keep items that really get you excited. I mean the tops that you wear all the time, jeans that make you feel amazing, work clothes that you find yourself rotating every week, etc. Everything else that’s not being donated you should consider consigning. Consignment is the easiest way to make a couple hundred extra bucks a year. Google your local consignment store, they are usually all over the place and cover every budget point. If you have designer items in great condition, find a shop that specializes in selling high end, gently used clothing. If your wardrobe is a bit all over the place like mine (from H&M to Ann Taylor to BCBG and everything in between), consider selling at an average shop. They will love you for your higher-end picks and also be willing to get rid of that basic Gap tee that you can’t get yourself to donate.

Finally, you’re left with a wardrobe filled with only the items that make you feel glorious. And stuff you actually love to look at! Sort of like Forbes 100 of your closet.

I like to do this at least once a year. I still have problems with clothes hoarding but this is the only way to address it. My consignment shop starts taking Spring items soon so I better go get started!


create your own dream job from Zen Habits

Read it Here: Can’t Find Your Dream Job? Create Your Own

I’m loving his specific examples and practical, step-by-step advice in this article. Here are my thoughts:

All of us go through similar stages in life. Some stages may take longer or be more difficult for some than for others, but the ideas of growing up, becoming independent, and making a life of your own are familiar to most everyone.

I’m currently in a phase where now that I have an established post-college life and source of income, I’m itching for what’s next. How can I live my life to the fullest and maximize my strengths in order to live the life that was meant for me? Where I’m fulfilled and balanced as possible? I’m obsessed with the idea of all the possibilities the internet and this age of technology can offer, and I’m inspired by those who have taken what would normally be considered a hobby or pastime and translated it into a successful living. I don’t loathe my job, but I almost sure I’m not fully utilizing my innate strengths in the best way possible. And I lack passion. Why settle?

One of the places I’ve found tremendous inspiration is Zen Habits. I would like to share 90% of the posts on this site but that is for another day. Tonight I found the fantastic read above about how it’s possible to live, breathe, and work your passion. It’s such a simple concept – living what you love, and loving what you live. Most of us are quick to overlook or don’t consider this idea because we’re brought up to believe that making a living almost always involves doing something you hate. We end up working to live. As it turns out, when you pursue a lifestyle based on your passions and leverage the strengths you were born with, you can create your own dream job. I bet this feels pretty darn great, and of course comes with a lot of hard work. But it’s up to you to own it! Never count on anyone else to do it for you.


insanity diaries – day 8

They say it takes 3 weeks to break a habit. Or, even better, make a new habit. If that’s the case, then the first full week must be the hardest so I’m thrilled to report that I’ve successfully made it through Week 1 of Insanity!  I’ll admit that I was most apprehensive about making it through a weekend and sticking to my meal plan in situations where I could easily go overboard, but I stuck to my schedule with only a couple of exceptions so I’m feeling confident and healthy.

On the subject of eating, I think the biggest challenge for me is being at home and hungry, especially unsupervised.  I don’t mean to sound like an over-eating shut-in as I’m writing this but really what I mean is I am used to borderline starving myself all week so when the weekend arrives, I see it as an opporunity to reward myself and I can go a bit crazy with the snacking. It had become routine for my boyfriend and I to load up on mostly healthy snacks each weekend (all natural tortilla chips, organic salsa, whole wheat pita chips, natural frozen coconut pops, dark chocolate bars, etc.) and we would basically munch our way through Saturday and Sunday. Usually with one or two meals out in between. What I’ve learned is this can easily add up as extra, unnecessary food intake and sabotage all the good I’ve done all week. Technically, the weekend represents up to 30% of a week so if your eating habits are spotty like mine you may not see the results you hoped for.

And I’m not even going to get into alcohol. Yikes.

So this past weekend I wanted to be extra disciplined and plan out my days as much as I could so I could take a couple of opportunities to indulge, if  nothing more than to reward myself for completing Week 1 of Insanity and make sure my body had an opportunity to replenish any nutrients I may have missed during the week. I ate flawlessly until Saturday night when I ate out with my mom at an Italian restaurant. This could be sabotage but luckily I ordered a dish that was very buttery so I only ended up eating some chicken, spinach, and a piece (or 2) of Italian bread. Believe me, I am usually a lot worse. And I only had one glass of wine. This was on top of a fairly light day of eating and also the workout of the day Pure Cardio which is a real burner.

Sunday and Monday (Presidents Day Holiday) followed suit – 80-90% good eating, 10-20% cheat. I think this was due for the most part to planning meals and snacks ahead of time and having something substantial (300-400 calories) to eat every 2-3 hours.

I had my first Rest day on Sunday and boy I needed it. My calves no longer feel like knots and I was eager to jump into Week 2 yesterday. So far I have completed all the workouts that I’ll be alternating during the first 4 weeks of the program (with the exception of Cardio Abs which I add on Day 14). Today my scheduled workout was Cardio Power & Resistance and I think it’s my least favorite of all. The name makes you think it may be a bit  of a break but it’s not and the actual workout is segmented by 3 intervals of 4 power moves and it doesn’t seem to go by as fast as the others. Tomorrow will be my second go-round of Pure Cardio so I’m starting to mentally prepare myself. If you read Day 5 you will know why!

Overall this week I have been feeling strong, slim, and light. And I’ve noticed I don’t feel as hungry or off-balance as I did through Week 1. It seems last week there was an adjustment period where my body was getting used to a higher intensity workout every day and also a shifted diet plan. But my advice to those trying to push through is that it will be no time until you’re past it and feeling amazing. It feels like my body has switched to overdrive and is accepting of the activity level and efficient on the amount of calories I’m having each day. Big difference!

My only reservation at this point is that I will not be running for the next 8 weeks. Actually, during our week in Florida I will have plenty of consecutive days of running but I have built that around my Insanity schedule. Running to me is the epitome of fitness level, perhaps since that’s where I started a decade ago. If I can get through a couple miles of straight running then I am on the top of my game and improving. A successful workout plan without running feels foreign to me, almost like swimming with your clothes on. I guess I just need to get used to the idea and hopefully I will see what results I can get without a minute in the gym. Prior to Insanity, I have incorporated interval training into my running days and seen an encouraging difference in endurance and speed. I suppose the downside to Insanity is that you may set aside the other fitness goals you have set for yourself, but I’m optimistic that the results with this program will out-do anything I could do on a treadmill.