A Review of The Art of Frugal Hedonism

books, reading

Contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb’s book The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More is not so much a book of “why” frugal hedonism is best, but one that describes “how” to go about it. It is a quick-read with fifty-one short chapters providing tips for how to incorporate frugal hedonism in your own life. Some chapters are only about a page long. The book is meant to “be [a] primer for a life less dependent on the comforts of consumption, and more focused on extracting maximum pleasure from the most essential parts of being human.”

The Australian writers describe an early taste of simple things that prevented them from ever being too consumption-focused. Both describe early childhoods of that feature parents moving up in lives and how much they missed the original simplicity they were born into. I get it – this is all fine. But I think sometimes Raser-Rowland and Grubb miss the mark as to why someone may “want to move up” in the first place: i.e. security (at times they seem to take for granted that it is only a keeping of the Jones’ mentality – more, more, more). Granted, that is not the main point of their book, but there is a big difference in living the “simple life” because you have to (and what that might even look like) versus because you want to.

Most of their advice is fine but repetitive. They themselves even acknowledge that they tend to repeat the idea of eating a packed lunch instead of ordering take-out. Most of their suggestions are fairly common. For example – they recommend not buying drinks out at restaurants, take care of the things you already own, have an open relationship with recipes, and figure out what you really enjoy spending money on. Other habits such as “relish” were a little too twee for me. It kind of feels like it has been done before, though not with Raser-Rowland and Grubb’s hipster whimsy. Most of the chapters could have used more description, instead of just a quickly expressed idea.

That said, there were a few interesting ideas in the book. For example, suggestion no. 11 “beware fake frugal” is one to keep in mind. They describe fake frugal as “cheap to buy, but at the expense of someone or something else.” Examples they provide are kitchen products you constantly replace (like can openers) or buying white bread instead of the better, healthier wheat bread just because it is cheaper. This is something I always have to remind myself – one-time last year, Bruno and I decided we were spending too much money on groceries, so decided to change out some of our lunches for ramen. I still think ramen is delicious, but it really is not an actual lunch. Lesson learned.

One thing I did appreciate about the book is that Raser-Rowland and Grubb provide plenty of charts and numbers. I never thought I would be the type to appreciate charts and numbers, but it is interesting to see how consumptive habits have changed over the years. In the 1950s 75% of food was made in-home, now it is something like 50% (I was actually surprised that it was still half – I expected it to be lower). Their numbers relate specifically to Australia, but I can’t imagine that it is much different here in the states. When it comes to the history and data around buying habits and happiness, these two know their stuff.

I did really struggle with the style of writing. I suspect this has less to do with the book itself then who I think it might be written for. I made a comment that this is a book with all your usual tips, but with hipster whimsy and that just is not appealing to me. It is a personal preference, but I am not sure that advising me to “relish” or “not be a snooty bum-bum” are things that I find particularly helpful, or cute. I suspect it is a taste thing, but it is not helped by the fact that for the most part there is not much substance there.

I think this book is fine for neophytes on living frugally (that is this concept is completely new to them — although, I’m not sure how many people that would actually be), but for everyone else looking to enjoy life while save some money it will be nothing they’ve never read or heard before. And if you are really frugally-minded, there is nothing in here that you would not be able to find for free on the internet.

 

Taking it Easy During Pregnancy Work-Outs

crossfit, lifting, pregnancy, running

Full disclosure: I am insanely jealous of pregnant women who can work-out throughout their pregnancies. I continue to see women on my instagram log double-digit mile runs close to their due dates. That said, I am lucky to be able to do what I can — which is still a lot compared to most people. For the most part, I was able to run most of my second trimester and CrossFit 2-4x a week throughout the entirety of my pregnancy (including the horrible first trimester). Though I can tell I’ve lost a lot of aerobic fitness, I can also tell I am getting stronger even if I have not pushed myself to the max. The human body is a crazy, amazing, and beautiful thing. If you want to see my work-outs click here.

That said, as I mentioned the other week, I decided to take it back just a bit for the rest of the third trimester. I had been fairly consistent on going to CrossFit 3-4x a week and even took part in my first open. I was feeling great until I didn’t, so the new plan is to wod only twice a week and try to add a day of rowing. Yes, that means less work-out time, but I do think the best thing I can do for myself is relax a little bit more.

How did I come to that decision? Well — nothing dramatic happened thankfully. I think it was mainly based on how tired I would be after the wod (work-out of the day). I would feel absolutely fine in the during — well, as fine as you can possibly feel while working-out. Then, I would go home and be utterly shot for the rest of the day. I’m a nooner, so this means after one I was completely useless. Even with a nap, it was hard to recover the energy spent.

I think this problem was further exacerbated by how much my sleep quality has declined (I know, I know. Every time I mention this, someone has to say, “Just wait until the baby is here!”). Energy-wise I think I was running on empty. I would go into work-out already exhausted and then would completely deplete myself again. Not to mention, I’m also expending a lot of energy growing a human. I think it proved to be too much.

The other reason is that it was taking me so long to recover, like first starting CrossFit recovery time. I tried to make sure I was doing all the right things, eat right after the work-out, stretch, nap. But I would be sore for days after a single work-out that before I would be a little sore but fine. I would put my level of soreness combined with the lack of energy at comatose, quality time with the couch levels. Sometimes, I just could not move.

I can say with two times a week and a day of rowing things have been going well. I cherry-pick, which is not something I would do normally (for example I skipped a work-out that was basically all burpees and jump-rope last week). My energy levels are better and I feel like I can put more into the work-outs I actually do. I make sure to go to all the strength days, because I feel like I have more control over how difficult it will be. I had a great front squat work-out last week that I’m not sure I would have been able to do if I had did the crazy difficult wod the day before (as much as I really wanted to).

One unexpected benefit I’ve noticed about the new routine is less Braxton-Hicks contractions. This is not a small thing, because they would be extremely painful. After showering I would have to lay down for a bit to wait for them to pass. I tried to drink more water, change positions, walk around — whatever, but nothing seemed to make them any better. I just figured I would be stuck with them until the end. They are still around, but less severe. I do not think it is much of a coincidence.

I’m hoping that I can keep this up until the end. As I said above, it is hard not to feel jealous of other pregnant women who are able to do so much more. Part of me wonders am I just being lazy? I like being the type-A goal-oriented person and this step back is against my nature. At the same time, I am grateful to have energy and not have my breath taken away by Braxton-Hicks. Taking a step back can be the best of both worlds — allowing myself to move, but also allowing myself to recover so I have the energy to prepare for other things, like, you know, having a baby.

Were you able to work-out throughout your pregnancy? Did you have to take a step-back? How did you feel?

 

 

Monday Miles : April 1 – 7, 2019 (31 Weeks Pregnant)

crossfit, lifting, monday miles, pregnancy, training

Monday started the worst way possible: sans-coffee. We forgot to buy coffee at the grocery and ran out. Horror of horrors, it is near 9am and my two-cup-a-day fix has not yet been satiated. Sometimes I try to persuade myself I am not addicted. Other times — like today — I know that a coffee-less life is not my best life, nor my best self.

I mentioned in my April goals my plan was to start taking it easy in CrossFit, row when I need to and try to wod at least two times a week. I’ll admit I was hoping that I was over-exaggerating my fatigue, but last week I only felt good enough to wod twice and even my rowing was a little shifty. But I never felt wiped out after the work-out. I did not feel like all the energy was being suck from me, so that is good. I’ll call this week a success. Plus, I even hit a new PR in my front squat!

4 – 1 : Rest.

4 – 2 : CrossFit. Front squats. In whatever form, squatting is my favorite. 2 – 100 lbs.; 4 – 100 lbs., 6 – 95 lbs., 8 – 90 lbs., 10 – 85 lbs. — with four minutes between each round. Fun fact: the highest I have ever front squat before this work-out was 73 lbs. I don’t think in my almost year of CrossFit that I’ve ever done a front squat alone strength work-out. It has always been part of a back squat work-out or a faster wod where I would use a much lower weight. I felt so good, I probably could have gone higher for those first two, but it was more of a question of should.

4 – 3 : I think I had something going on this day, but I can’t remember what. Rest.

4 – 4 : Row – 30 minutes. 5546 meters. I just was not into it this day. I don’t get bored quickly on the rower (the bike trainer is a whole other story), but within five minutes I wanted off. I felt out of breath even though I was going slowly. I think it took me about twenty minutes to warm-up and the last minutes I could plug along, but man was I happy to get off that rower.

4 – 5 : CrossFit. Back on the rower today, but only because I cannot run (three more months…maybe?). For time – Row 400m, 21 dead-lifts; row 400m, 18 dead-lifts; row 400m, 15 dead-lifts; row 400m, 12 dead-lifts; row 400m. I don’t know my exact time, but I finished just under twenty minutes. As much as I love squats, I do not love dead-lifts. No matter what, no matter what, they hurt my lower back. This is only exacerbated by baby. I have improved in weight in almost all my movements, except for this one. 75 lbs.

4 – 6 : I said I wanted to walk outside this past weekend. It didn’t happen. We took a day date to Jackson and ate at the brewery and then got some ice cream at the Parlour. All delicious.

4 – 7 : Still no walking, but I did spend some time reading about Teddy Roosevelt on the Amazon from the comfort of my front porch, enjoying the warm weather.*

It looks like some fun wods are scheduled for this week. Eight weeks to go until baby is due, so I’m hoping that I can continue to be consistent. I need to watch my sugar, because it is starting to make me feel sick, but other than that I feel great — aside from the usual stuff, of course.

Onward!

*Post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Favorite Things : March 30 – April 5, 2019

favorite things

Happy Friday! I slept in today — around 7 am. Plans for the day include CrossFit at noon (lots of dead-lifts in the wod today!) and writing a book review. The house is a mild chaos at the moment, so I’m hoping to get some pre-weekend cleaning and laundry in. Then this afternoon, I have a date with the scanner as I continue to scan and recycle all my class notes to downsize before the move. The boxes of notes just continue to stare at me. So much paper!

I don’t have much planned for the weekend (what else is new?), but I would really like to enjoy the weather and go out for a walk, even if for only a few minutes. It is strange that I can have no problem doing a dead-lift, front squat, or thruster, but walking is uncomfortable and painful. I miss being outside though. I miss listening to podcasts or music while moving. I love CrossFit, but I miss that alone time that I have with running. I’m going to go for twenty minutes, so fingers crossed.

Here are this week’s favorite things:

I’ve never heard of Sara Vaughn before. I loved this article on running, pregnancy, and post-natal comebacks. Now to go scroll through her instagram!

I found this pretty apt while we are currently on our own apartment hunt, although no apartments we’ve considered offer dogs you can rent yet.

Yes! Much agreed. #teamarugula all the way. Also — the author does not mention that it actually lasts all week in the fridge instead of becoming disgusting, soggy, and brown like spinach. I eat an arugla salad almost every single day.

I keep seeing it shared, but if you missed it, you should read this NYT article on why we procrastinate and then read Sarah Lavender Smith’s blog post on How to Get Started.

Number five can be the hardest one for me: ways to be a better listener.

The wonderful Caitlin Flanagan on the college admissions scandal — They Had it Coming.

What are your plans for this weekend?

 

April 2019 Goals : The Year of 1% Better

crossfit, goals, year of 1% better

Contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Coming up with 1% goals was hard this month (you can see my 2019 goals here). I think it is because I feel like I am in some sort of life limbo. I just ended a huge several year chapter. I finished my dissertation and after graduation will officially have my Ph.D. diploma in hand. But the next thing has yet to start. In June comes baby and in August comes the new job. The normal goals I would have – running, racing, improving CrossFit things (like double-unders!) have proven exceedingly difficult for me to do. So, I have that feeling of “now what?”

At the same time, I don’t want to just wait my life away. These next two months are real life, even if things (and myself!) have slowed down. I don’t have to wait until post-baby or post-move or post-starting the new job to figure out goals and plans for the future. But I think this is easier said than done. I keep counting down the days until the due date which means the countdown to the move can begin.

Write ten minutes a day. I recently finished reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. She recommends just setting a timer and writing for ten minutes, trying to fill a notebook a month. I have a seventy-sheet Mead notebook and the plan is to make Goldberg’s suggestions part of my morning routine. I used to love to write, but I think sometimes academic writing can be kind of a drag. I want to do something else, just for myself, just for fun. I’m four days into the month and have been so far four days consistent.

Downsize kitchen. I mentioned last month that because we were moving, I needed to start downsizing — especially before the baby arrived. Last month, I focused on my clothes. This month I will be spending some time in the kitchen. I have a few appliances I thought would be great ideas when I registered for them for our wedding almost two years ago, but have never been used. We have an excessive amount of coffee mugs and have more wine glasses that two people who don’t even really like wine need. We barely have enough room for all our stuff now and we live in a house, so I suspect that it would be all over the place if we had an apartment. Bye, bye clutter.

CrossFit WOD 2x week. I have been feeling wiped out. For most of 2019, I have been able to WOD 3-4 times a week, but I think that is starting to be too much for me. I know the difference between being tired and feeling like I just got done running a marathon and need several days to recover. I am feeling more of the latter lately post-workout. This may not be a go-getter improvement, but it is an improvement on listening to myself and what I need for now. I’d like to be able to keep 2x a week until the very end, but right now the best I can do is listen to my body. I plan on replacing at least one of the WODs with some quality time on the rower, which is less boring than a bike trainer. When will I be able to run again?

Things to work on from previous months: I checked instagram and facebook several times while writing this post. My January goal of keeping social media to Saturdays has completely collapsed this month. I did ok in February, then it got a little worse in March, and then at some point this morning I realized I lost an hour and a half to scrolling. I am renewing the focus on my January goal and will hopefully do much better this month.

What are your goals for this month?

 

 

A Review of Jennifer Fulwiler’s One Beautiful Dream

books, pregnancy

Contains Amazon affiliate links.

I’m not necessarily a mom yet, so mom-guilt is not something I have (yet) experienced. I grew up in a house where my mom worked. She was an engineer and my siblings and I went to daycare and a local babysitter. But as I have made preparations for the future — Bruno and I accepting teaching jobs, getting childcare for the new baby (yes, we’re doing daycare), and just thinking about what life will be like (I won’t say planning, because I know how that goes) – I have noticed the quickness with which people are willing to make frankly judgmental general comments and how it often can lead to, at least in myself, a lot of self-doubt.

Most books about working and motherhood seem to go either all in one direction (how to be the big bad career woman while being a mom) or completely in the other (careers are bad, you must stay at home to be a good mom). But what about the person in the middle? The person who wants to work (in this case, for me, be a teacher) but has no desire to be at a Sheryl Sandberg-level in anything (I wouldn’t have time to mom, let alone run, read, write, make sourdough bread — my own version of a “beautiful dream” — you get the picture). Jennifer Fulwiler’s book One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both came at the right time for me.

Fulwiler writes about the period of time when she started writing again and wrote her first book Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It (I have yet to read it, but after this book it is definitely on the list). During these time she juggled writing and childcare and the guilt that comes with both putting off your goals and the fear that you are putting effort into your personal goals at the expense of your children. Though she determines you can have both, I don’t think she means you can have both in the way that the infamous Anne-Marie Slaughter article declares is impossible.

I think this book is a great antidote to the idea that you can only have one or the other — motherhood or personal passion, or even the way “having it all” is encouraged today. It does this through common sense. When feeling guilt about not spending all her time with her growing family, Fulwiler writes, “Now I suddenly realized that mothers throughout history never did this; they never had time. Children’s primary sources of entertainment were outdoor play and other kids, not their mothers.” Reflecting back on my own family, this seems true. My paternal grandmother had fifteen children on a dairy farm. I highly doubt her day was spent catering to my aunts and uncles. She had a lot of work to do — cows don’t milk themselves, you know. Granted, milking cows is not the same as following a personal passion (well, unless you are my father) — but I suspect the time given to running a farm is requires more time away from your kids than that of the latter.

The image Fulwiler presents is a sort of happy chaos. There is no separation of family and writing. It goes better when they are all together. Towards the end of the book, when Fulwiler is finishing her manuscript, she describes a great scene where she is driving around with her kids. She parks to write while they keep the baby entertained. When the baby gets fussy, they drive around again and repeat the process. It turns out to be one of the best chapters. I’ll admit my German love of order opposes everything about this (this love of order will certainly get a shock to the system in two months), I think it recognizes an important truth. When you get rid of the standard of perfectionism, what you love can work together.

There’s a very simple line in the book that did stick with me. She writes, “I walked back to my car with no answers, only a strong that somehow, it would all work out.” We tend to tell each other it will work out all the time to the point of cliche, but also, for the most part, tends to be true. Fulwiler presents no solutions, no plans, no seeking of perfection, just an assurance that pursuing motherhood and pursuing personal passions can work out. This future mother who has an abundance of personal passions hopes she is right.

March 2019 Goals : How did it go?

dissertation, goals, graduate school, year of 1% better

Contains Amazon affiliate links. 

If you’re new here, I declared 2019 the Year of 1% Better. You can see January goals here and outcomes here, February goals here, and February outcomes and March goals here.

I started last month feeling burnt out post-dissertation. I’m happy to say I feel much better now. I’m not ready to go get it yet, but March featured some big changes. We know we’ve moving. We know we have jobs for next year (a big relief). I still feel tired, but this is more physically because of being in the third trimester, not from stress and mental exhaustion. Of course — I’m still stressed. Who am I kidding? But at least the stress is about different things and not well, the big D-word (dissertation).

I did begin to downsize. I donated two trash bags of clothing to my little sisters, packed a fair amount of clothes I knew I probably would not be able to fit into for awhile yet, and am starting another trash bag of clothes now. We started bringing up boxes of books from the basement to go through and determine what to donate. All primary texts are safe, classics we thought we would read have to go. I actually expected to be more attached to my books, like “oooo, I totally want to read that” but I guess my self-expectations have become more reasonable, because when Bruno held up Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, I responded, “Yeah, get rid of it.” Sorry, Waugh. This moving vehicle will have no room for good intentions.

Although it is a day late for my March goals, I did resubmit my “revise and resubmit” for an academic journal yesterday. I really struggled with procrastination on this one. I probably could have had everything done much earlier, late February or early March, but I dreaded working on it. I would set a half hour timer and persuade myself, “Ok, just a half hour. You can do a half hour.” And I would go from there. This was sort of the last big thing hanging over my head, so now it is done I can say I feel free. Until, the next thing of course. I’m considering getting another article ready to send out before baby comes, but given that my future career decision kind of means leaving the academic rat race, I’m not sure.

Did I relax? Define “relax.” Ok, ok, it is true, I feel much better than I did at the start of the month. I spent a lot of time reading, which was great. I began thinking about post-graduate school goals. Also, great. When I was tired, I slept. I start trading out rowing for wods. So yes, I would say I relaxed, but I still think it is something I need to work on. A lot of my relaxing time, I found myself scanning through facebook or instagram. Still, less than I used to, but more than I want to be on those websites. I’ll just keep working.

How did your March goals go? We’re a fourth of the way through the year, is 2019 going strong?

 

 

 

Monday Miles : March 25 – 31, 2019 (30 Weeks Pregnant)

crossfit, lifting, monday miles, pregnancy, training

Every Monday marks one week closer to my due date. We are currently at nine weeks to go — 63 more days. I’m both impatient, but also overwhelmed by how little time left there seems to be. Nothing baby is set up in the house, although I am in full nesting/getting ready to move mode. It mostly has involved getting rid of as much stuff as possible.

I took it a little easier this week, I think. It ended up being for the best. On Monday I was still shot from 19.5. The WOD called for the Chief, but I knew it was not going to happen without me feeling even more beat up than I already happened to be. It ended up being for the best, because I was really happy with the rest of my work-outs for the week. I do have some things to improve one — mainly, I haven’t been doing anything on the weekends. It hurts to walk for a long period of time. I’ve tried to yoga, but everything seems to be in the way, so it is more uncomfortable than relaxing. This is the part where I tell myself to harden up and do it anyways. Though it is funny that the only exercises that has been “comfortable” has been CrossFit. Maybe it is because wods are always uncomfortable, so I don’t notice?

Anyway — here are my work-outs for this week, which I think are pretty satisfactory for a 30 week pregnant lady.

3 – 25 : I did the warm-up with everyone else at CrossFit — 2 x 10 ring-rows; 10 knee push-ups; 10 good-mornings; 10 air squats; 30 second plank hold; 30 second bike. I followed it up, however, with 30 minutes on the rower. 5667 meters. About ten minutes of mobility work afterwards.

3 – 26 : CrossFit. Increasing kettle-bell swings and box step-ups for 7 minutes (ex. 1 swing, 1 step-ups; 2 swins, 2 step-ups, and so on) – I made it ten rounds plus 3 kettle-bell swings. I used 20 lbs. for kettle-bell. Every 2 minutes for 10 minutes – Sumo Dead-lifts.  3 x 85 lbs., 95 lbs., 100 lbs., 100 lbs., 100 lbs. I don’t love regular dead-lifts and I do not think I like the sumo variety either. Bruno rolled me out — torture.

3 – 27 : CrossFit. Row sprints intervals – 1000 m : 4:43 minutes; 800 m – 3:36; 400 m – 1:50; 400 m – 1:52; 400 m – 1:45. I was happy with this work-out went, especially because my last 400m interval was the fastest. That said, everybody else was running, it was beautiful outside, and I was jealous.

3 – 28 : CrossFit. Every 3 minutes for 9 minutes – 3 x strict press + 3 green band pull-ups : 40 lbs., 45 lbs., 50 lbs. Every 3 minutes for 9 minutes – 3 x push-press + 3 green band pull-ups : 55 lbs., 60 lbs., 65 lbs. Every 3 minutes for 9 minutes – 3 x push-jerk + 3 green band chin-ups : 70 lbs.; 75 lbs.; 80 lbs. I think all three push-jerks were PRs. I was happy with how I executed this work-out, starting really low on the strict presses and adding five pounds until the very end. This work-out was also helpful for educational purposes — I always get the push-press and push-jerk mixed-up. Now I know.

3 – 29 : Rest.

3 – 30 : Rest.

3 – 31 : Rest. See what I mean? I should do something in these three days.

Totals: 3 hours CrossFit; 30 minutes rowing. 3.5 hours total.

Onward!