Exercise, for real

Anybody who knows me knows that I don’t enjoy exercising. Like, at all. I like playing some sports (tennis, soccer, etc.) but am rarely very competitive. I like swimming and to some extent running, but get tired easily. And I hate going to the gym. To boot, I have asthma and haven’t worked out consistently since my sophomore year of high school, so I’m far from in shape. All of this is to say I’m definitely not the poster child for promoting an exercise routine.

But it is super important to exercise at least semi-regularly. When I still had PE five days a week in high school, I cut my mile time by almost 3 minutes over the span of a few months. I played tennis once a week for almost half of college, and even tried surfing for a semester (it’s brutally hard, but also the best back workout you will literally ever get). All of it kind of fell by the wayside when I graduated.

I posted a while back about facing weaknesses and mentioned that I’d given myself a significant asthma attack after running through the airport to catch a flight. For me, that was kind of the tipping point. For exercise-induced asthma, you can build up a tolerance in your body through consistent workouts and basically make it so your lungs don’t freak out as easily. I was tired of my lungs underperforming, and knew that exercise was the only solution.

I committed to working out twice a week, and knew I’d have to be okay with starting small. Right now, I stretch, run a loop in my neighborhood that’s roughly 3/4 mile, walk for a few minutes, stretch again (and use my inhaler if I need it), then do a little workout circuit that consists of 20 sit-ups, 40 seconds of planking, and 10 push-ups for as many rounds as I can.

It’s not much. And I’m actually not gonna tell you how to make your own workout plan because my friend Melina already made a killer post about that on her own blog. But taking care of your body is part of being an adult. I want mine to last for a long time, and I don’t want to come up short in small challenges, like a good point in tennis or running to catch a flight.

But exercise isn’t just about being physically healthy or building strength. Consistent exercise (even if it’s small amounts) can help you sleep better, boost your mood and benefit mental health, and makes your body better equipped to handle the crap that life will inevitably throw at you — especially stress.

Obviously, a ton of us are super busy and it can be difficult to fit exercise into that. If it’s a priority for you, make it work. But also don’t expect something you know isn’t realistic. That’s why I committed to only two days a week. They can be any two days as long as there’s a rest day in-between, and yes I did take last week off between an unusual work schedule and thanksgiving. I didn’t want to get back into the routine this week. But I care about the goal, so I’m following through.

Different setups work for different people, and it’s important to find what works for you so you’ll stick with it. Maybe that means cardio, or sports, or hitting the gym with a friend. Maybe it just means really intense yoga. Whatever it ends up being, your not-even-old-yet body will probably thank you, as will your older self. What exercise tips have you found most helpful? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

Gifting season

Thanksgiving is now over, and Christmas season has begun — and unless you are way more proactive than most of us, that probably means you have some shopping (or making) to do. Some people are really easy to come up with gift ideas for, and some people, well, aren’t.

For the record, I do not have the gifting thing all figured out. There are a minimum of 10 people I get gifts for every year (this year will be 12 or 13), and every year someone’s gets left until the last minute. But between a big family and a lot of years of trying different things, I’ve come across a few tricks to make picking out presents easier.

For your sake, set a budget. Usually I set a rough budget for each person’s gift because otherwise I’ll struggle to cap my spending. This year, I’m trying something a bit different and setting an overall budget; this makes individual gifts more flexible, but keeps little bits of overspending from accumulating. (I usually keep it between $15 and $30 per person, but sometimes a particular gift demands more.)

Keep a list of gift ideas going. If you see something a few months early that’s perfect, get it. But if you’re in the car and they happen to mention needing or wanting something, or you just think of something great, write it down and go back to that list for later. There are a few people for whom I have a running list of ideas and when present time comes up, I just choose an item or two that feel most fitting.

Ask people what they want. For some people this effort will be fruitless (you know who you are), but a lot of people will actually give you an idea or two. And even if you can’t make the ideas they offer happen, it can spark another idea.

If people tell you specifically what they want, be sure to get that exactly. For example, my best friend is insanely helpful and because she knows I can struggle with gift ideas, will mention something she wants and where to get it, and usually sends out an organized, itemized, hyperlinked interactive PDF of her Christmas wishlist to the people who ask her for ideas. Then it’s exactly what she wants, and there’s no awkward waiting in the return line.

Go practical. Last Christmas, my mom and I were shopping for my boyfriend and we got him a couple of nice dress shirts and new ties since job interview season would be coming up fast. It’s not super exciting, but it’s useful, and something that is inconvenient to buy for oneself.

If you’re buying clothes, double check size and include a gift receipt. I know what size most of my immediate family and close friends are, but will check similar clothes in their closet (that I know they wear) for sizes if I’m in doubt.

If you don’t know them super well, food or movies. Movie theater certificates or semi-universal treat baskets (Trader Joe’s is my favorite place to put them together) are perfect and not expensive ways to get gifts for people you aren’t quite sure how to shop for but do want to gift something enjoyable to.

If they don’t need stuff, go for experiences. I’ve used this one a fair amount with people, and we’ll do dinner and a movie or a day trip to a place they really love. Then you get to spend time together and they don’t have any more stuff they don’t need.

If you’ve got a big category of people, do a category of gifts. When I was younger I would pick one craft and make a bunch for all of my grandparents every year (I grew up with at least 10 at any given time). One year it was framed prints of different photographs I had taken, one year it was super cute Christmas cookies. It doesn’t have to be crazy, but the fact that you made it helps it feel less generic even if you made a bunch.

Go splitsies. Sometimes there’s something I want to get for someone that’s out of my budget, so I’ll ask a mutual friend or family member if they want to split the gift with me. Especially since as an adult you’re responsible for more and more funding on your own, joint gifts can be super helpful.

If you suck at this, slow and steady. I am very slow to come up with gift ideas and get stressed if it’s left til the eleventh hour, so I start at least planning Christmas gifts a couple months early. This year I’m a little behind — which means one person is totally handled and three people are partly handled — but I’ll have more time than usual in December to shop, so I’m not too stressed.

I know that was a lot, but hopefully it’s helpful in the coming weeks of holiday prep. What have you found most helpful when getting presents for people? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! (I’m actually super interested, because I’m gonna need ideas.) As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

Killing the interview

Today’s post is coming to you a little early because later today I will be at a job interview (scary, right?). I am excited and nervous, and it’s much too early to discuss details, but as I was prepping for today, this seemed like a good time to post about some interview tips.

Of course, a lot of the things I’m going to mention are not new, but they are incredibly important. This list is not comprehensive, and there are other useful tips, but these are the ones that have made the biggest difference for me personally.

DO YOUR RESEARCH. Please, please do not go into an interview without having researched the company and the position you are interviewing for. It shows. At the very least, read through the entire (and yes, I do mean entire) company website, as well as studying the job posting. Other good sources include checking out the company on Glassdoor, googling their work, hiring practices, and even interview questions.

DRESS BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU SHOULD. That means business professional, unless very specifically directed otherwise. As my mom puts it, dress for the boss’s job. Also be sure that your outfit isn’t terribly uncomfortable, so that you’ll be less likely to fidget while you’re interviewing. Finally, iron your clothes. Wrinkles impress no one, and you want the focus to be one what you’re saying, not what you’re wearing.

BE PRACTICAL. This means bring a physical copy of your resume, a pen and paper, put your phone on silent from before you walk in the building, and arrive early. Also, research parking ahead of time — you do not want that to be the thing that hinders you before such an important moment. Fun fact: I once forgot to put on deodorant before an interview, but had planned for enough time beforehand that I could stop at the store and buy a new stick. Allotting extra time matters.

BE NICE. You’re nervous, obviously. But use those nerves to be even kinder to everyone you come in contact with from the time you walk up to the building to the time you leave. Remember names, smile and say thank you, and be gracious. It makes a far bigger impact than you know. (Pro tip: Sending a thank you card or email after an interview is also a great way to follow up and make a good impression.)

BE CONFIDENT. This is the one I’m the least comfortable with, and (in my opinion) the least skilled with, but it’s so important. Good posture, smiling, a firm handshake, and eye contact work wonders. It doesn’t matter if you are nervous as hell and you don’t think for a moment that you can pull it off. This is the the time to lie — to yourself, the interviewers, everybody. Psychologically, pretending to be confident will actually make you more confident, so fake it ’til you make it.

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EMPHASIZING AND EMBELLISHING. Don’t lie on your resume, or in your interview. Do talk about anything you have done or have skills in that is applicable to the position. If you can’t do something, say that — then add that you’re quick to learn and eager for the opportunity. But if you used that skill in your sophomore year of college internship, then by all means point it out.

BE YOURSELF, JUST GO EASY ON THE JOKES. Most of us have a tendency to be awkward or make weird jokes when we’re nervous — don’t. Instead of channeling your inner Chandler Bing, treat it like Christmas dinner with your significant other’s family: Be yourself, laugh when it’s appropriate, but make sure to be extra mindful of your manners. And if you’re stumped by a question or need a moment, take a moment; better to answer well and more slowly than to rush and botch it.

ASK BACK. Make sure that you have a few questions to ask at the end of the interview. Good standbys are: asking about company culture/core values (especially if you cite them and ask how they play out), the interviewer’s favorite part of working at the company, upward mobility and opportunities to grow, the training process if applicable, and — always last — what the next steps are.

RELAX. I also really suck at this one, but try not to stake your whole future and hope on it. For me, I try to tell myself that if it works out, great, and if not, then it was quality practice for whatever time in the future things do work out. It doesn’t take all the nerves away, but it helps. This may also mean having a drink or a night off ready for afterward.

FINALLY, PRACTICE. Practice interview questions (and more importantly, your responses) with a friend or family member before your interview. You don’t have to stick to a script, but you should have anecdotes that answer a variety of questions and key words in mind for what you want to say when you’re in the room.

Job searching an interviewing can be a grueling process, but eventually it pays off (at least that’s what I tell myself). Progress means risk. At the risk of being incredibly cheesy, ad astra per aspera. Through adversity to the stars.

I hope these interview tips were helpful, and would love to hear what job interview advice you’ve found most helpful. Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

Recipes: Crepes

I know the holidays are coming up and most people are trying to find places to cut calories, but let’s just say that’s not my life. So I’m bringing y’all a recipe that I wanted to learn how to make for a long time, and spent *several* Saturdays (often with help) hammering out the recipe.

The goal was the intersection of delicious and simple because I like to eat but I do not often want my food (especially breakfast food) to be particularly high effort. It feels fancy without actually being hard to pull off.

The majority of this recipe will be spent on the crepes themselves, but I’ll have a small section toward the end about fillings/toppings. Also, as a disclaimer, I make small crepes because I am not an Advanced Crepe CookTM and for the same reason usually top them instead of filling them. It’s less legit, but no less delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4-5 tbsp. butter, melted

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Instructions:

  1. Combine ingredients (order doesn’t matter much, but it needs to be blended well — I use a large fork because the contents can get stuck inside of a whisk, but you can also use an electric mixer). If you’re not sure if it’s combined enough, it should have no chunks and a consistency slightly thicker than eggnog
  2. NOTE: So far every time I’ve made this the butter has shown up as little flecks in the batter, perhaps because of something in the way I melt it. It looks weird, but doesn’t affect the cooking or flavor
  3. Warm a good nonstick pan over about medium heat (depending on the stove), and lightly grease it. A little butter swirled around works best
  4. Pour about 1/3 cup batter into the pan, and swirl the pan around to encourage the batter to spreadIMG_4674.JPG
  5. Let it cook until your spatula slides in easily underneath, or the whole crepe moves when you shake the pan (usually 3ish minutes on my stove)
  6. Here’s the fun part. CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE: To fill the crepe, proceed to step 7. To finish the crepe without filling (toppings can still be added), proceed to step 8.
  7. Add filling into the middle third of the crepe when it’s cooked for a couple of minutes. Allow it to cook a little longer, then fold the other sides over it, and voilá!
  8. Flip the crepe over — brownie points if you can do it without a spatula (I can’t)
  9. Allow it to cook about a minute, then fold over into thirds (see picture below)img_4676.jpg
  10. PRO TIP: Since these are a one-at-a-time kind of creation, heat your oven to like 200ºF and store the finished ones in there until they’re all ready
  11. If not filled, or even if they are, top as desired and serve!

Filling/topping:

There are lots of easy things to put on top, like powdered sugar, nutella, syrup, or whipped cream. But there are also a variety of topping/filling options that raise the bar. Here are some of my favorites:

  • chocolate chips and fresh fruit, especially berries
  • cheese and bacon (best as a filling)
  • homemade fruit compote — this is the one I always make, with a variety of fruit. In the pictures, I just heated and spruced up some of the leftover filling from my mini apple pie recipe, but often I’ll take small pieces of fresh fruit and a little honey or agave syrup and set it to simmer on low before starting the crepes. Stir it occasionally, and thicken it with a simple rue (1-2 tbsp. flour mixed with a few tsp. of water). By the time the crepes are done cooking, it should be a sweet fruit mix to top or fill crepes!

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Cost about $7* (without topping/filling), makes 10-12 crepes

I really hope you guys enjoy this recipe as much as I have. What are your favorite breakfast treats, or have you found a better way to make crepes? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy eating!

*Cost was again a real rough estimate because basically all of the ingredients are regularly stocked in most houses. Sorry if the cost is off, but the point is it definitely isn’t pricey.

‘So what are you doing with your life?’

In case you weren’t already panicked, the holidays are quickly approaching. Or, if you’re like me, you’ve been near-constantly aware of this fact for the last several weeks and are just trying to remain calm. Don’t get me wrong — I love the togetherness and goodwill that a lot of holiday traditions bring, and I really do love the chance to spend extra time with my family and friends.

But the downside of all this, especially for emerging adults, is hearing the same exact questions over and over and over until you just want to snatch a whole pie and run for cover.

For most people, the list of questions runs something like this:

  • (If you are in school) So how’s school? What are you studying? What are you going to do with that?
  • (If you aren’t working) So have you found a job yet?
  • (If you are working) So how’s work? What do you do again?
  • (If you aren’t dating) So are you seeing anyone?
  • (If you are dating) So when are you getting engaged?
  • (If you are engaged) So when are you getting married? This is often followed up by assumptions regarding details and unsolicited input
  • (If you are married) So when are you having kids?

Of course the people asking all these questions (often pointedly, whether that is their intention or not) do care about you and are just interested in what’s going on in your life. Maybe they’re unaware of how the question comes across to you, or don’t realize that you’ve already had to answer it six times this afternoon. In some cases, you may have discussed all of this clearly and they frankly just didn’t listen. But loved ones are who they are, so sometimes different tactics are needed.

In the cases of a lot of stories friends and acquaintances have told me, these questions are unfortunately often coupled with projected expectations, approval or disapproval, and a note at the end of the question that sometimes feels like it’s asking the person answering to prove that they are somehow doing enough for wherever they’re at.

So here’s the advice: If you’re an emerging adult dreading these questions, have stock answers prepped. I have a little cache of stock answers I give to people for all the usual questions I get (which is about half that list). The answers are honest with some detail, but not too much, since I don’t love to discuss my life plans in-depth. Having answers prepped ahead of time also helps me, as an introvert, feel less caught off guard — and therefore less put off — by the questions. Still, as off-putting as they can be, try to be polite. Part of being an adult is handling junk that annoys you maturely. In general, these people really are trying to be nice and not to make you uncomfortable. That said, if someone is completely disregarding your feelings, you also don’t have to take crap. Be polite, but clear.

If you’re one of those friends or family members who might be asking the questions, please think about whether you have asked before. If you aren’t sure, then just say that. Honesty is welcome, but listening attentively is also important. Additionally, keep in mind that while yeah, these are milestone kinds of things, a lot of these questions are also deeply personal. The person you’re asking might not be ready to talk about it yet, or not in that setting. They also might not be happy with the answer. For example, I really don’t like being asked about job searching, but understand that it’s a relevant and reasonable thing to be asked at gatherings; I don’t like talking about it because things aren’t where I want them yet, plain and simple. So some of the discomfort in the situation may be due to that. But if someone has made it clear that they don’t want to talk about something, or has had to repeat themselves to you several times, please respect their answer.

Finally, for everybody in the room: Give some grace. Give grace to yourself for asking a genuine question or not wanting to give an answer, and give grace to your friends and family for being a little overeager to ask the same questions on a loop or being less than enthusiastic about them.

Remember what the holidays are about, and try to laugh at the moments life throws at you — even when it’s the same questions over and over. Then, rinse and repeat.

Just for fun, if you’re willing, I’d love to hear some of the least favorite questions you’ve been asked or heard of others being asked at gatherings. Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

Recipes: Pico de gallo

Hey all! Happy Sunday, and I hope the weekend has been relaxing. Mine has been really positive, albeit a bit of a whirlwind. I have a new recipe for you guys, and this week is super duper simple: pico de gallo.

If you have no idea what that is, it’s the mild salsa at Chipotle. More accurately, it’s the most common version of a Mexican dish, and also called salsa fresca. Unlike most salsas, it isn’t very liquidy, but instead just a medley of fresh chopped ingredients that brighten up other dishes or can be eaten with chips. Fun fact: The name translates to “beak of the rooster,” which is generally believed to come from people eating it solo by picking it up between thumb and forefinger.

One last note: This is usually the size batch that I will make for a party, so it really does make quite a bit. I usually save the leftovers to use throughout the week or give some to friends, but you can also adjust the recipe size as needed. With that said, let’s go!

Ingredients:

  • about 9 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1-2 cups fresh cilantro
  • 3-4 limes
  • serranos or jalapeños as desired (honestly I skip these because I don’t care for the flavor, but they are part of the traditional dish and add a good kick)

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Instructions:

  1. Dice tomatoes and onion into small chunks, ideally about 1cm x 1cm (I also highly recommend getting/using a board scraper, as they make the transfer process a lot easier, and serrated knives work best)IMG_4810.JPG
  2. Pick stems off cilantro and chop as finely as you possibly can
  3. If desired, mince peppers — make sure to wash your hands with soap after!
  4. Add diced onion into tomatoes until it’s just below a 3:2 ratio, meaning you want slightly more than half to be tomatoes
  5. Stir in cilantro enough cilantro that you know it will be in every bite — see picture above if this is way too vague, and apologies because I really do make this one by feel
  6. Roll, halve, and squeeze limes into mixture (pro tip: rolling them beforehand makes the juice a little more *juicy*)
  7. This makes a big difference: Let it marinate overnight. The acidity of the limes and the tomatoes will soften and break down the onion, and all of the flavors will jive better
  8. Serve on tacos, with chips, on eggs, mole, or honestly just eat it straight. In any case, enjoy!

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Cost about $6.50, makes about 12-15 servings (really depends on how eager people are)

I don’t make this one super often, but it’s an inexpensive and healthy way to contribute to a potluck or feed a lot of people, and it’s always a hit. Giving it time to marinate is the key factor for me, so whenever possible I make it the day before I need it, and the leftovers just keep getting better.

Alternate ingredients include tomatillo, jicama, shrimp, or avocado. It also pairs excellently with guac. What are your favorite appetizers to make? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy eating!

NaNoWriMo

For those of you that don’t know, I love writing. As a kid, it was rare to find me without a book in my hand, and that spilled over into writing. I used to write a lot of stories, have been semi-regular about journaling since junior high (the photo above is all my journals), and now do this blog, but in college realized that my favorite thing to write is actually poetry. I’m always reticent to tell people that because caring about it deeply makes it feel personal and vulnerable (not things I’m often big on), but I’ve been trying to work on the part of adulting that means being willing to step outside my comfort zone. I’ve also been working on goals.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Traditionally, writers across a whole lot of the Western hemisphere will all band together to jointly motivate each other, and each person will write an entire novel (or 50,000 words) within the 30 days of November. I have a friend who is participating this year, and asked if I wanted to as well. I didn’t exactly have a budding novel idea on hand, so my friend — who knows my writing well — said I could just write poems instead.

For the record, the last 30 poems I’ve written were done over the course of about 16 months. So 30 in a month felt pretty intimidating. But I wanted to try. And so far, it’s been going well. I’ve written seven poems and one short prose piece, and it’s felt really good. Of course, writing isn’t everybody’s thing, so instead I’m going to break down the process as general goal-setting and accomplishment — useful in any adulting journey.

Step 1: Prep

For me, this meant going through about 5 years’ worth of phrases I had collected, writing them on index cards, and pinning them to a corkboard in my room. I now had 50-something prompts from which to choose, so that ideas would never be a problem. I also set up parameters for myself: one poem per day, any length, any style, and it has to be “done” but not perfect. For any goal, make sure you have the tools and logistics taken care of ahead of time so that you have fewer roadblocks and fewer excuses.

Step 2: Tell someone

Full disclosure, I waited to post about this on the chance it fell through and I didn’t keep up with a poem a day. You don’t have to tell the whole world about your goals from the get-go. But do tell someone, so that they can keep you accountable. I told a few close friends and family, but most importantly one friend offered that we could do the challenge together. Now we keep each other accountable, and get to see/enjoy/improve the other person’s work.

Step 3: Start

It sounds silly, but that is a really big and often scary step. You just have to do it. Getting off the ground is the hard part because you don’t have any momentum yet. But once you start, you’ll start building a practice of working toward your goal, which will make a lot of efforts seem easier.

Step 4: Give yourself some grace

When I started this I thought I was going to write the poem every morning. Turns out, that’s not super practical for me. So I still make sure that I pick a prompt every morning and can think about it throughout the day, but if I don’t have time to write in the morning or feel creatively stuck, I let myself walk away and come back later. And that’s okay, especially since a lot of research has shown that you actually need time away from a problem/project in order to let your subconscious mind work on it.

Step 5: Push through the lows

If you’re just in the drudges of something, keep going. It’s easier said than done, but it’s something you’ll be really proud of when you accomplish your goal. As another example, I’ve been working out a couple mornings a week, and yesterday ran in 41 degrees with asthma and a couple cramps. It sucked. But I did it, and my lungs are (slowly) starting to build up a tolerance to exercise.

Step 6: Be proud of yourself

You don’t have to show or tell what you did to everybody you meet, but tell a couple people who care about you. Be proud that you accomplished the thing you set out to do. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my poems when the month is up, but I do know I’ll be really happy I accomplished the goal.

What goals are you working toward, and how do you stay on track? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!