Lena Dunham: Body Shaming Poster Girl

I will be the first to admit that when I saw this hot mess at The Emmy’s, I cringed a little.

I couldn’t help but think: why can’t she ever just be normal? The hair is juvenile, the makeup is heavy handed, the dress is unflattering and needs to be tailored. John drew the comparison that she looked like The Albino from The Princess Bride (which I will admit made me laugh). But for Lena, this is her normal.

She doesn’t look like a “Hollywood woman” – bronze tan, slim, tall, statuesque – so why on earth would we expect her to dress like one? If she wore a couture gown like the women pictured below we’d still be belittling her style choices, calling her an impostor, a fake, and out of her league for even trying.

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So because she looks different, and doesn’t fit the mold of what Hollywood says a woman on the red carpet should look like, we shame her body – saying it’s unattractive, boyish, dumpy, too fat. It’s because she isn’t curvy like Sophia Vergara or pencil thin like Heidi Klum or flawless like Beyonce that we feel the need to attack her appearance and call her out on how much she doesn’t not belong.

Thing is, Lena Dunham doesn’t give a shit if you shame her body. In fact, she doesn’t even care if everyone in the world sees it naked. (When asked why her character Hannah Horvath is naked so often, Lena said “for no reason.” And followed with “It’s because it’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive, I think. And I totally get it if you’re not into me. That’s your problem.”)

Unfortunately Lena being Lena doesn’t shine a light on how far we’ve taken body shaming though, it just shines a brighter light on her own flaws. The tables never turn; no one talks about how unattainable the “Hollywood woman” look is or how physically unhealthy some of these women are. It’s just one more reason, on top of a pile of reasons, why beauty standards in our country are fragmented, unrealistic, and biased.

But this is also why Lena is the perfect body shaming poster girl. She will force you to look at her normal, real, imperfect body every single time she is photographed or filmed without apology. She represents a real twenty-something young woman who has something to say about her generation in a thoughtful and deep way. She will not conform her looks or her style to what Hollywood demands. She refuses to let superficial red carpet walks become bigger than what is truly important, the reason she is at the Emmy’s in the first place: her unique and incredible creation, Girls. You can shame her left, right, and center and she will never care. And that’s why she is the perfect representative for all of us real women, with real bodies, who have been shamed for looking “different.”

Lena wore this cray cray pink dress to the Emmy’s because no matter what she does or wears, people will talk shit about it because it’s not “normal,” it’s “quirky,” she’s “offbeat.” She might as well take a risk, wear something ridiculously fun, and make herself happy, right?

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The Burden of Blog Burnout

I have to admit something I don’t really want to admit – I’m burnt out on blogging.

I’m burnt out on writing and reading blogs actually. Lately I’ve been questioning how and why we bloggers put so much work in and what we truly get out of it.

As a reader, I am so tired of blog posts apologizing for the authors’ lack of blogging. I’m tired of blog posts where the author justifies scaling back their blog to, you know, focus of real life. I’m tired of bloggers making excuses as to why they succumb to paid aids and sponsored posts. There are several blogs in my RSS feed that I love so deeply that I don’t even notice if they are on a blog schedule. I see that they have a new post and light up inside, eager to devour whatever they’ve written (Daily Garnish, The Everywherist, Back To Her Roots) – and yet all three lately have made posts about the aforementioned topics. It makes me sad. These women are so engaging, real, and unique – why do they have to justify their shortcomings as the focus of an entire blog post?!

Blogging has become such a scrutinized thing. It’s like, if you don’t blog for internet fame, money, or so you can become a full-time blogger and quit your day job, then you’re doing it wrong. But we created this pressure. It’s completely unrealistic to be a full time blogger and full time authentic person. I still can’t believe how much time it takes to be a blogger – thinking up original content, taking and editing photos, writing the posts, tweaking and editing, and lining everything up on a schedule. It’s another dark side of blogging: it’s back breaking work and no one ever talks about how hard it is. So ultimately it ends up looking easy and effortless, but it’s not.

As a writer, blogging is recreational but it’s a love/hate recreation. I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to keep it up and to keep my posts relevant, timely, and on a set schedule. But then I resent it because it takes me away from living and keeps me constantly focused on content.

I found myself stressing a few weekends back (after 48 hours completely unplugged due to camping in the woods) that I should have snapped some pictures, I should have written down something about it to share, I should have planned a blog in advance about camping – I should have, could have, didn’t. And then I realized that none of that matters – I was surrounded by dear friends, out in nature, playing board games. Living life and filling the well. And then I realized that the things that have made me the happiest this summer I haven’t taken pictures of or blogged about. Things like reading, hot yoga, camping, napping with my cat, working on me, journaling.

Someone recently asked me – What hobbies do you have that you do just for you? Just for the pure joy of doing them? – and do you know I couldn’t think of one thing. I feel like so much of what I do is out of obligation – to work, to this blog, to this mythical idea of perfection I seem to stupidly strive toward. It feels really inauthentic lately. I want to live my life for me and do things just to do them and not experience them through some lens of obligation or social media hits and likes and retweets and recognition.

In many ways I have changed a lot this year. Actively and with purpose. And I’ve learned a lot about habits and beliefs that have been ingrained in my brain for my whole life. Stuff that is misplaced or just plain wrong. Stuff like only doing things if I can get credit, upholding some unbreakable image of perfection, living in a world of unrealistic ‘I should’ statements, creating the look of a life I want to live rather than just living in what is real (and flawed and not picture worthy and not Pinterest-perfect). How can it be healthy to live my life around this blog and not the other way around?

This is not to say that I don’t appreciate readers. I do, I so do. You guys are the only reason I’ve kept this up for so long and I’m still amazed you are all here. And I want to continue to blog – just in a happier and healthier way for me.

So what does this all mean? It means I want to feel good about what I write here; I want to  really be proud of it. I don’t want to churn out fluff just to get hits or to adhere to a schedule. I want the posts I write to mean something. So things around here may start to look different but I hope they will look better, with the real me fully behind them.

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Top 10 Songs For Doing Cardio v 4.0

Despite the fact that this may be my favorite quote from Pitch Perfect, I still do cardio 4-5 times a week (related: I think I’m gonna buy this shirt for the gym). This means my cardio playlist changes a lot! Without good music, I don’t keep up the energy and speed I want to on the elliptical and just get plain old bored.

I’ve recently made a bunch of new additions to my Best Cardio Songs playlist on Spotify. Some of the original tunes have stayed (from my firstsecond, and third playlist posts), and some have changed – but the following new group of 10 have all been added. Hopefully this will kick start your current cardio playlist!

Do It Again – Röyksopp & Robyn (listen)

Beat Down – Steve Aoki & Angger Dimos, ft. Iggy Azalea (listen)

Dreaming – Smallpools (listen)

Kall Me Kubrick – Say Anything (listen)

Let’s Go – Tiesto ft. Icona Pop (listen)

Where Did The Party Go? – Fall Out Boy (listen)

Who Gon Stop Me – Jay Z & Kanye West (listen)

F**k Love – Iggy Azalea (listen)

Turn Down For What – Lil Jon & DJ Snake (listen)

Get Lost – Icona Pop (listen)

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Recipe: The Most Magnificent Carrot Layer Cake

I make carrot cake once a year for John’s birthday. Every year I research for weeks to try and find the best possible recipe for his precious birthday treat. This year I happened to catch America’s Test Kitchen’s Great American Classics episode, which featured the following carrot cake, just before John’s birthday. What a lucky break! This is the recipe to end them all; it’s perfect.

The Most Magnificent Carrot Layer Cake (original recipe by America’s Test Kitchen here)
For the cake:
1.75 cups AP all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1.25 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 & 2/3 cups shredded carrots (4 carrots)
2/3 cups dried currants, raisins, or golden raisins (I used golden raisins)
2 cups pecans, chopped
For the frosting:
16 tbsp. butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
12 oz. (1.5 bricks) cream cheese
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Like all carrot cakes, and layer cakes too for that matter, making them can be tricky because there are a bunch of steps and it’s a little labor intensive. The key is to prepare beforehand and make sure you have plenty of time to complete each step.

Start by making the cake batter. In a big bowl or stand mixer, mix together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. When that is combined, mix in all of the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices). When the batter is combined, mix in the raisins and shredded carrot.

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Line an 18×13 baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease the paper and any parts of the pan that are showing. Spread the cake batter evenly out onto the baking sheet. It’s ok if it doesn’t fill the entire pan, it will spread out while baking.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until the middle of the cake is firm to the touch. Remove the cake from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool. Cool the entire cake completely before proceeding.

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While the cake is cooling, make the frosting (it’s super simple). In a big bowl or stand mixer, mix together all of the ingredients starting with the sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt, and dropping the cream cheese in piece by piece until the frosting is smooth and uniform. This can stay at room temperature until you’re ready to use it.

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When the cake has cooled, cut it into four equal pieces (I used my pizza cutter for this).

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Now it’s time to frost! The original ATK recipe calls for buttermilk powder in order to keep the frosting smooth and easily spreadable. I didn’t use this because I hate buying one esoteric ingredient just to use a tiny bit of it and have the rest sit in my pantry forever. In hindsight, I’m sure it would have made the frosting as spreadable as they promised (it was a little unwieldy without it), ATK has their recipes down to a science and they are always right. Still, I couldn’t be bothered with the buttermilk powder and the results were alright.

Start frosting by placing one quadrant of the cake on the dish/platter/plate you plan to serve the cake on. Take a small scoop of frosting and spread on top of the cake – you want just enough frosting to cover the top of this layer. Repeat with each layer. When all four quadrants are stacked on top of each other, frost the entire outside of the cake. This is where things got tricky for me. I’m terrible at frosting and the cake did start to crumble on me. Still, I got the whole thing frosted and didn’t run out of frosting. However, the cake looked like a hot mess.

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The recipe calls for chopped pecans to be pressed on the sides of the cake but since mine looked a little crazy, I just put nuts all over the whole thing. Voila – all mistakes covered and no one can tell!

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You can slice immediately or store the cake in the fridge until you’re ready to serve!

This seriously was the best carrot cake I have ever had! Just carroty enough, moist, and with the perfect ratio of frosting to cake. I have enjoyed these years of finding the perfect carrot cake recipe for John’s birthday, but I’m equally happy that the search is over! And hey, with a recipe this good, maybe I’ll make carrot cake more than just once a year.

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The Monday Mix

Here’s The Monday Mix for this week! To visit past mixes, click here.

MondayMix

SNew

Are you getting excited for TV this fall? It’s when all of our favorite shows return and all the new shows are rolled out. If you haven’t done your homework yet, check out this Fall 2014 TV preview. I can’t wait!

SDelicious

I’m weirdly intrigued by these Tomato Soup Cupcakes by Bakers Royale. She describes them as like a spice cake, not like a straight up tomato cupcake. Hmmmmmm…

SBrain

Have you ever asked your doctor to read what they’ve written in your medical record? If you have, has it increased your understanding of your care and your overall health? This article shares some pretty interesting findings about what happens when patients read what their doctors write.

SFun

Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet? I loved it! Even better is that the mixtape playlist format soundtrack – Awesome Mix, Volume 1 – can be streamed on Spotify here!

SCrafty

Aren’t these broken pots turned into DIY fairy gardens just precious?

SReal

2013 was recorded as California’s driest year in history, with 2014 continuing on with more severe drought. That said, it’s absolutely insane that a lot of the bottled water distributed in the US comes from drought zones like California. This includes spring water but also the treatment of municipal water supplies. Check it out here; this is really something you need to see for yourself.

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Recipe: The Easiest and Tastiest Simple Summer Cole Slaw

I always find store bought cole slaw to be off somehow – it’s too soggy, too dry, not fresh enough, overdressed, too sweet, etc. I prefer to control the ingredients but haven’t been able to get the dressing just right – until now. This recipe is great because it takes a little help from a pre-made bag of cole slaw mix while gaining all the benefits of a homemade dressing. Definitely my go to recipe from now on!

Domestocrat’s Easy and Tasty Simple Summer Cole Slaw (yields 4 big servings or 6 smaller servings)
1 bag (3 cups) pre-made cole slaw mix
1/2 green apple
For the dressing:
1/2 cup mayo
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Pinch of salt

This recipe is called simple for a reason – there’s really only two steps: thinly slice the green apple and make the dressing. Mix the sliced apple and cole slaw mix in a bowl. You can skip the bagged cole slaw mix and chop up your own cabbages if you want, totally up to you!

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To make the dressing I simply whisked together all of the dressing ingredients, then poured on top of the slaw mix and mixed everything together.

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That’s it! This cole slaw is the perfect side to any summer cookout or barbecue, as a simple side for weeknight dinners, or special topping for something like fish tacos or a pulled pork sandwich. A must try!

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Recipe: Fresh Summer Orzo Salad

The best summer salads are ones with fresh ingredients but also bright, enticing colors. This salad is definitely that. I love this recipe because it’s made of half fresh ingredients and half pantry staples. It’s a great addition to a summer cookout or barbecue since there is no mayo (read: it can sit outside and not go bad). And, this recipe is vegan! So many reasons to make this, am I right?

Domestocrat’s Fresh Summer Orzo Salad (yields 15 servings)
For the salad:
1 1-lb. box of orzo pasta
1 tomato
1 red pepper
1 english cucumber
1 small red onion
1 can corn
1 can black beans
1/2 cup marinated artichokes
1/2 cup pickled peppadew peppers
2 tbsp. basil, minced
For the dressing:
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup EVOO
3 tbsp. dijon mustard
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. black pepper
Pinch of salt

Begin by cooking the orzo pasta. It should be just al dente – this salad is no good if the orzo is overcooked and mushy. While the orzo is cooking, prep all of the vegetables – wash, peel, and chop – and rinse the corn and black beans in a colander (definitely don’t just pour the cans into the salad!).

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So pretty and fresh!

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Add the chopped artichokes and peppadews – since these are usually marinated or pickled you don’t need to rinse them, in fact their juices add to the flavor! Sidenote: I’m obsessed with Trader Joe’s Marinated Artichokes and TJ’s Hot & Sweet Cherry Peppers so that’s what I used for this recipe. Add the basil on top and give everything a good mix.

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Once everything is mixed together, set the salad aside and make the dressing. I just put everything in a mason jar, shook for 30 seconds or so, and tasted for seasonings. Adjust to your preferences.

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Dress the salad with the dressing and stir thoroughly. If you’re making this ahead of time, you can mix in half of the dressing up front and the other half right before serving so the dressing flavor stays fresh. Totally optional though – the dressing gets absorbed by the salad and it’s super tasty either way.

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Store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Can be made up to 24 hours in advance and kept in an airtight container int he fridge. This was such a good addition to our most recent BBQ. I can’t wait to make it again!

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