Thursday, December 13, 2012

CHRISTMAS!

I am unbelievably excited for Christmas this year. I've been marking the days off of my magnetic advent calendar with increasing enthusiasm; now that only a day stands between me and vacation I feel like I'm about to explode! I'll fill you in on more Christmas details soon, but I wanted to kick off the season with a tribute to my all-time favorite holiday songs. I'm kind of a Christmas music junkie, and from Thanksgiving to New Years I'm content to listen to holiday music non-stop. If I had to pick my top ten, here's who makes the cut:

10. "Mr. Grinch"- Thurl Ravenscroft (I had no idea who sung this song until about 2 seconds ago. Who knew!?). It makes the list because it's such a juicy compilation of insults. I love it! "Your brain is full of spiders, you have garlic in your soul..." them's fightin' words.

9. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"- Mariah Carey. Say what you will about me, but I really am burnt out on "All I want for Christmas is You." Please, it was my favorite song in 1999 when I got the Mariah Christmas CD, but now it's totally overplayed. Someone needs to recognize her other Christmas songs.

8. "Christmas all Over Again"- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom Petty does Christmas and it is everything you hoped for and more.

7. "Wonderful Christmas Time"- Paul McCartney. This song is so peppy, it really makes me want to go shopping. Take note, retailers.

6. "Old Toy Train" - Raffi. Are there any other children of Raffi out there? He is the greatest, and I will force feed him to our future kids, whether they like it or not. His Christmas album gets two thumbs up, but this song is one of my favorites.

5. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"- The Pointer Sisters. This is the first song on A Very Special Christmas, and will forever remind me of being hopped up on the Christmas spirit as a child. The best part is right at the beginning: "I want a BICYCLE!"

4. "Jingle Bell Rock"- Hall and Oates. Because I love Hall and Oates and I love Christmas. If you have an extra minute or two, this video is really a gem.

3. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"- Judy Garland. I swear I get weepy-eyed every time I hear this. A definite classic.

2. "Christmastime is Here"- The Peanuts. Ok, really the entire Peanuts Christmas album is to die for, but this one has to be my favorite. The Peanuts are timeless, and so is this song. It only got better for me when I watched the Arrested Development episode where all the characters are moping around to it.

1. "Little Drummer Boy"-  Bob Seger. While I love each and every rendition of this song, Bob just has a way of making me really feel for that poor little drummer boy. Plus, how can you not like a song that allows you to sing "pa rum pa pum pum" repeatedly? I rest my case. Clearly, the makers of this video agree with me.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Cat is Out of the Bag

Hi!

As many people know by now, I have very exciting news. I found a new job!

Let me rewind a little bit to share the not-so exciting, somewhat embarrassing part of my story, so you can all appreciate how thrilled I am about my news. For months now I've been moping around because of my job*, dreading each week as it was about to begin, and convinced that there has to be something better for me out there. I've been living for the weekends, for time spent with friends, and for the evenings when I could hang out with Carl, the dogs, and binge on Netflix to forget about my day. Except a lot of times I couldn't forget about my day. I'm the kind of person that, when something bad happens or somebody does something particularly mean, it weighs really heavily on me and I carry it around far longer than a normal person should. An easy solution would be if everyone could be nice to one another (or civil, at the very least) but alas, we are living in a bully's world. And working in a customer service job has exposed me to a lot of the bullies.

I read this article about how people, by nature, will endure a certain amount of misery without taking action. If you have a small headache, chances are you won't drop everything and rush to the hospital.  The same holds true for our jobs; people will work day after day at jobs that they don't like because their unhappiness hasn't reached a degree that would justify giving up reliable employment. Something extreme needs to happen before they'll throw in the towel and look for another job. This is exactly the situation I found myself in. To be fair, I had a lot of good moments at work that made the rest of it much more tolerable. But did I really want to be the kind of person who is just tolerating their job?

Perhaps I'm too young to know any better, but I truly believe that it's possible to get up in the morning and look forward to your work day. So I decided to quit my job, not because anything extreme happened, but because I felt it was necessary to pursue happiness.

Here's where the risk-taking begins, which is really uncharacteristic of me, but when you're going through a quarter-life crisis a few risks are just par for the course. I gave a four week's notice at my job. I knew I was exposing myself to the potential of being let go early, but I also knew that it would be in their best interests to keep me there as long as possible. My conscience wouldn't allow me to only give a two week's notice. I wanted to leave on good terms, and I didn't want to see my coworkers punished by my selfishness. Luckily, my gamble paid off and I am about to begin my fourth and final week.

I arranged our finances such that I could potentially be unemployed through the end of February without having to dip into savings or become delinquent on any bills. Two and a half months seemed like plenty of time to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life. I envisioned myself meditating in the mornings, taking the dogs on long walks, cleaning our house from top to bottom, and then having the answer to my life's happiness fall into my lap one day during this time of joblessness.

But then I had a rude awakening. On the drive home from Columbia on Thanksgiving Carl's car started making some crazy noises. We were fortunate enough to make it all the way home without issue, but weren't quite as lucky when we got the estimate on the repairs. It would have cost more than the car was even worth, so we decided it was time to buy Carl a new car. Something about this experience completely changed my outlook on what I was doing. While at first I thought I was being courageous in walking away from a job that makes me unhappy, I realized that I was being somewhat stupid in willingly walking away from my source of income. Most people don't have the luxury of just quitting their job in this economy- why did I think that this was a good idea?

And so my job hunt began.

And then it ended, almost as quickly as it started. I felt as though the stars and planets must have aligned perfectly for me (that, or I had some good karma coming my way) because I submitted my resume to the hiring manager on Tuesday night, received a response on Wednesday, applied and interviewed on Friday, and three hours later got the job offer. I'm still in shock. I'm pleased to say that starting January 2nd I will be working in the mortgage department of a small, local bank. I'm delighted to be embarking on something new and fresh, and even more excited that I did not have to become an unemployment statistic.

So hopefully you'll be hearing more from me, blog-wise, because I vow to no longer come home from work and immediately put on my pajamas and wallow in my sorrows. I will be seizing the day, grabbing life by the horns, etc. etc. Be back soon!



*For professional reasons, I'm not going to divulge exactly where it is that I work or what it is that I do; plus, I'm sure most of you know already.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stepping out of my Comfort Zone

Hello, and happy almost-October to everyone! I'm ecstatic that fall is upon us; every year I think I love fall more and more. I wish I had the time and resources to host a fall-themed party every weekend, complete with apple bobbing and costumes, a huge snack table, and fall decor to the nines. As a recent new member of Pinterest I've discovered about a zillion crafty and/or yummy fall things and am hoping I get to try some of them out- I'll keep you updated. Please follow me on Pinterest, I think it's so much fun! I tried for about a half hour to get the "follow me" link to post on the blog with no success, but search for Allison Bussells and you'll find me. Even better, if you are tech-savvy and know how to get the link to post let me know!

Lately I've been really focused on my fitness plan, and am proud to say that I've made it to Week 14. It's so uncharacteristic of me to stick with something for this long so I'm going to pause a moment to pat myself on the back.

Okay, I'm back.

Along with my ever-expanding collection of workout dvd's (I've got some new ones to share reviews on!), I've been stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit and trying this crazy thing called running. I have never ever ever been a runner. I don't know what it is about it, but every time that I've attempted to run in the past I've felt like I was without a doubt going to die after about 30 seconds. Cardio workouts just aren't my cup of tea but finally, inspired by people who weigh twice as much as I do on The Biggest Loser, I decided it might be worth it to give it another shot.

It all started when Carl and I took the dogs to a nearby trail a few weeks ago and after walking it, Carl triple dog dared me to run it with him. I really didn't think that I could but he yelled at me like Jillian Michaels until I had no option but to kick it into high gear. It was only about a half mile from start to finish but to me it was a pretty huge deal. Although I didn't die I felt truly awful and so from that point on made it a goal to get to a point where I could run and not be worried that I need medical attention. Melman didn't fare so well either. I didn't get any of the good stuff on video (i.e. him repeatedly throwing himself onto the back seat of the car in what I think was an effort to cool off), but here's the poor little guy panting up a storm, which is just how I felt:

video

Determined to hold myself accountable- and get in better cardiovascular shape than my overweight pug- I downloaded the Nike Running app on my phone. I got it to help track my progress but it's also proving to be a huge motivator. Each run I try to push my limits by either going faster or further and it's so rewarding when I do, if not painful and exhausting. If you break a record, the app will congratulate you at the end of your run. I love it! Today I pulled out all the stops and decided to run the bridge with Carl. For those of you who don't live in Charleston, here is the Cooper River bridge that goes from downtown to Mount Pleasant:

taken from http://ravenelbridge.net
The pedestrian/bike portion is 2.4 miles long- what you don't see in the picture is the uphill slope on each side, yikes! Every time I drive over it I feel a mixture of admiration and spite for the joggers, and have always assumed that I could never be one of those people. This morning I proved myself wrong, though. Carl and I ran the entire way over, walked a little over halfway back, and then ran the last mile. I took pictures to document the occasion but they are truly horrendous, so I'll spare you all and share my screenshot from the Nike Running app instead:


 I DID IT!!!

Another cool thing about Nike Running is your home screen- it gives you a summary of how many miles you've run, calories burnt, and average speed. You can tell I'm a newbie, but here's my progress so far:

Nobody is allowed to laugh at how slow I am. Running is tough!

I'm making it a goal to run 100 miles by the end of the year. Do you think I can do it?

Be back soon- I've got another cool app to share. Happy October!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sleep is Not for Wusses

I have always been an exceptionally sleepy person. I'm told that I developed a strict nap schedule at a very young age; my biggest issue with going to kindergarten (aside from being painfully shy) was having to give up my morning nap. I could- and still can- find a way to sleep anywhere, particularly moving vehicles. While I've been forced to give up naps at this point in my life I still average about 9-10 hours of sleep at night. I simply don't function well throughout the day on the prescribed 8 hours, and anything less turns me into a complete zombie. When I happen to share this with people the general reaction is disbelief and something that seems a lot like scorn over the fact that I'm wasting so much valuable time indulging in sleep. I've always been frustrated by society's views on sleep, a constant competition to see who can survive on as little as possible. When did it become the norm for us to deprive ourselves of something so essential to our well being? And why is nobody doing anything to stop it? In a recent read I came across a quote that really resonated with me:

"Sleep is a biological imperative for every species on earth. But humans alone try to resist its pull. Instead, we see sleep not as a physical need but a statement of character. It's considered a sign of weakness to admit fatigue- and it's a sign of strength to refuse to succumb to slumber. Sleep is for Wusses."*

After reading this I decided to stop being ashamed of the amount of sleep I get each night. True, I'll probably never hold a job that requires me to work more than 40 hours a week, and I'll probably be a total wreck when we have kids that wake up in the middle of the night, but I'd rather be the best that I can be on the seemingly excessive amount of sleep that I require than spread myself too thin and be absolutely miserable.

If you're a person who is skeptical of the value of a good night's sleep, consider this: memories are synthesized in our brains while we sleep. Any learning that we do over the course of the day becomes cemented over night. If you're not sleeping enough you are jeopardizing your ability to recall information! With regards to the way that memories get processed in the brain while we sleep, "negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories get processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep- deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine."**

Furthermore, in a study that involved shortening the amount of sleep in a group of adults to six hours per night for two weeks, tests showed them to be "just as impaired as someone who has stayed awake for 24 hours straight."***

WHAT!!??

Why aren't we listening to all the doctors and scientists who recommend that we sleep more?

At the risk of over-simplifying the issue, I think a lot of the world's problems could be solved if we all  stop what we're doing and take a big nap. Otherwise we're just a bunch of grumpy, forgetful, and dysfunctional people.

With that, I'm off to bed.




*Taken from  Nurture Shock, page 44. I haven't read this all the way through, but it's incredibly interesting and entertaining. If you liked Freakonomics then this is right up your alley.

**Nurture Shock, page 35.  ***page 44.

Concerned English major that I am, here's the full citation:

Bronson, Po, and Ashley Merryman. Nurture Shock. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

All Grown Up

Today marks my 3 year anniversary with the bank, or the way I see it, three years of being a real adult. Once I got my big girl job after college my parents more or less cut me off from the bank of Allison that had kept me afloat during school, I moved in with my first craigslist roommate, and I bought my first pencil skirt. All superficiality aside, I was reflecting on the past three years today and realized how much I've grown; I'm pretty proud of myself.

-  I am tough now! I've got much thicker skin than I did when I entered the workforce. An angry customer no longer brings me to tears, and I've been forced to develop the ability to keep cool under stressful situations. It's kind of sad that I've had to adapt to cope with all of the bullies in the world, but hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

- I'm much more resourceful than I used to be. When confronted with a problem I make a phone call or turn to Dr. Google (sometimes I even know the answers off the top of my head!) instead of thinking the world is about to end.

- I've actually become somewhat outgoing. Talking to strangers comes a lot easier than it used to for me- this from a girl who once cried when my mom made me go ask for my own sweet and sour sauce from a McDonald's cashier... I think I took "stranger danger" to the extreme.

- Hopefully Carl agrees with me on this one, but I think I've gotten better at leaving work at work and not allowing a bad day to ruin my night. I used to come home a huge grump, ready to rant and rave about whatever injustice I was met with. I'm sure a lot of married couples struggle with the challenge of leaving the day on the doorstep when they get home, but whew, it's tougher than it sounds!

- I am an excellent multi-tasker. For instance, right now I'm writing this blog post, watching Biggest Loser, drinking a smoothie, and playing phone games all at the same time. Talk about success.

It's hard to believe that it's been 3 whole years since I graduated college and became gainfully employed, but it's nice to say that I'm a productive member of society now and really getting the hang of being an adult. Who knows where I'll be after another three years!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Throwin' it Back

Happy Labor Day! There's nothing I love more than a 3-day weekend (except a full week of vacation, of course). I don't really have anything exciting to say, but I did want to take a moment to bring everyone back to the days when the internet seemed so ripe and new. Does anyone else remember the hamster dance? I can't remember what year this became popular... sometime in the late 90's or early 2000's. Either way, it reminds me of the era of dial-up internet and online chat rooms. Who knew we'd be so evolved now? I don't care what anyone says, I still think those hamsters are really funny. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Catch-Up

I am really terrible at blogging every day. I was doing so well until Wednesday rolled around and I found myself stuck at work until 9- yuck! By the time I got home I had no desire to eat dinner, which meant that I didn't make the salad I had planned and I skipped my post. On Thursday I ended up getting dinner with some friends visiting from out of town; catching up trumped my original salad plans but, in a completely unprecedented Andolini's moment, I did manage to order a salad with my pizza.


Friday and Saturday were salad-free, but I tried to make up for it today by making two special salads. Here's lunch:

Curried tomatoes and chickpeas on a bed of romaine lettuce.

This recipe came out of one of the daily recipe emails that I get from Real Simple. A lot of times I ignore them because they're not vegetarian or have way more sugar than I need to consume, but they do send out quite a few good ones. I love that they are quick and easy to prepare and generally have a short list of ingredients. 

For dinner we had my favorite: bean cakes. This time I made a really big batch so that I don't have to get depressed when they run out after a day. 


Bean cake salad with peppers, cucumber, corn, sprouts, and spicy chipotle dressing. Delicious.

Not only was today a day of salads, but also a day of workouts. I had to catch up on the two days that I missed to finish out Week 8 (yay!), and I was also dying to try one of my new Bob dvds. I had a morning session- Jillian Michaels yoga, Firm Express cardio, and Jackie Warner abs, which was about an hour total. Then, before dinner I did Bob Harper's Pure Burn Super Strength. I have a feeling I'm going to be in a world of pain tomorrow from this one. It was just over an hour long and worked every single muscle in my body. The only part I didn't like about it was Bob's backup talent, Stephanie, who was performing the modified version of all the moves and looked like she was about to die at any given moment. It was hard, I'll give her that, but she needed to get a grip- especially since she was doing the easy version. I really like Bob's teaching style and the fact that the workout was comprised of fairly simple moves that still managed to kick my butt. I can't wait to try the rest.

Hope everyone has a wonderful start to their week!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Week of Salads: Day 3

I think it's no secret that I have an unnatural love for Mexican food. I could eat Mexican all day every day. One of my favorite places to go is Moe's, but I always end up mesmerized by their crazy soda machine and tempted by the queso. No bueno. In the spirit of salad week and to help curb my Mexican cravings I decided to make a healthier version of the nachos I normally get- no chips and no cheese, but still delightful:


This salad was made up of romaine lettuce, various peppers, carrots, corn, black beans, and avocado. I substituted salsa for dressing and the whole thing was absolutely delicious. My nose is actually still running from the spiciness. The best part was that it only took me about 10 minutes to prepare and half of a Biggest Loser episode to eat. Looks like I'm right on schedule for my 9:00 bedtime.

See y'all tomorrow!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Week of Salads: Day 2

Happy Monday! I think at one point in my life I swore to myself that I would never be one of those people that fits into the whole hatred of Mondays cliche, but it has totally happened. I'm sorry, younger Allison, I didn't mean to be lame. It's gotten so bad that around dinner time on Sunday I start getting truly depressed at the thought of another week. Mondays at the bank are no fun; we seem to pay a heavy price for being gone over the weekend. Does anyone have any good tricks for coping with their Mondays? Maybe I need to start my day with a good pillow fight or something.

At least I had my lunchtime salad to look forward to:


This was a bed of spring greens, which I'm convinced were the weeds that some farmer picked out of his field and laughed at the thought of somebody actually purchasing and eating. Look closely at the bottom left corner. Weeds, I'm telling you! For toppings I had cucumbers, tomatoes, a sweet yellow pepper, and goat cheese, all topped with Brianna's Real French Vinaigrette. I highly recommend Brianna's dressings. They've got really simple ingredients so I don't have to feel like I completely ruined the integrity of my salad with some skanky dressing. I've been on kind of a goat cheese kick ever since I had it on my salad on Saturday while babysitting. It was so good that I knew we had to pick some up at the grocery store. Holy smokes, that stuff is expensive! After getting home and reading the packaging a little more carefully I discovered that this particular goat cheese came from Johns Island which means that there's a very real chance that it comes from my little goat friends. All in all, this was a deliciously fresh (and colorful!) salad and I'll probably have the same thing for lunch again tomorrow. Don't worry, I've got a fun one planned for dinner.

Right now I'm waiting on pins and needles for my Amazon order to ship. Like a highschool girl, I took my babysitting money from this weekend and used it on an impulse buy. Instead of 3 tubes of lip gloss and The Notebook on dvd, I bought workout videos. Big shock, I know. I think I may be developing a problem. I got 3 Biggest Loser and 2 Bob Harper workouts and I'm super excited to try them out. According to the reviews they're all very tough, so I look forward to having my butt kicked. I'll keep you all posted- if I like them then there's a bunch more on my wish list that I might just have to try.

Be back tomorrow with another salad!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Week of Salads

I realize that the title to this blog post sounded a lot more exciting in my head, but you know what, I'm sticking with it. 

Salads!

I decided that this would be the perfect week to give my diet a little tlc in the form of at least one salad a day. I don't know about anybody else but I tend to easily tire of eating the same type of salad over and over. I have to switch up my dressings and toppings pretty regularly in order to keep wanting to eat salad. It takes a lot of plan and preparation, which is why I tend to fall off the bandwagon, but I know I can commit to at least a week. After a mega trip to the grocery store today I've got an exciting line-up that I'm looking forward to sharing (and eating, of course). 

Tonight's salad was Greek-inspired: romaine lettuce with a healthy portion of sprouts, diced tomatoes, falafel, and homemade tzatziki sauce.  


I felt so fancy when I sat down to eat this, but it actually took very little effort to prepare. We bought the falafel pre-prepared in the "healthy and somewhat obscure vegetarian foods" section of Harris Teeter, and all it took was 10 minutes in the oven to cook before adding it to the salad. 


The falafel was both inexpensive and delicious, so I definitely plan on getting it again. I found a simple recipe for tzatziki sauce and was able to make it in the time that the falafel was cooking. Well, kind of... I'm not a big fan of yogurt but Carl has been really into Greek yogurt lately and had picked some up that I was going to use in the sauce. He thought he had gotten plain, but just as I was about to add the processed cucumbers and spices to the yogurt I happened to dip my finger in for a taste and realized that it was strawberry flavored. Whoops! I know, I know, it's just a thrill a minute in the Bussells house. I CAN'T believe that we mixed up yogurt flavors!!!! Carl was sweet enough to run back out and get the plain variety, and I'm sure that without the delay I could have whipped it up in 10 minutes. Gotta love quick and easy.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's salad! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Holy Yum

I think I mentioned in a previous post that my sweet tooth has been out of control lately. If not then here it is, full disclosure: my sweet tooth has been out of control lately. I've been caught with Reese's in bed, searching the drawers at work for hidden candies, and finding any excuse to eat dessert. To try to curb my cravings after my workout this evening I decided to make myself a little treat that wouldn't completely destroy the efforts of the past half hour. What happened in my blender was truly a miracle (so I immediately rushed to my computer to share it with you all). I swear on Melman's life that this smoothie tasted just like a McDonald's milkshake:

Please excuse our creepy utility closet in the background. 
Look at that pretty pastel green! Here's what went into it:

1 banana
1 very ripe pear
1 cup spinach
2 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk and water
9 ice cubes (because 10 would have been too many)

The only thing slightly unhealthy about this smoothie was the peanut butter. I would love to say that it was an all natural brand but in all reality it was just Jif. Compared to a fast food milkshake this version is infinitely cleaner and just as delicious- plus, no guilt and no funny tummy syndrome afterwards. I just wish that I could have one handy for whenever people act disgusted by my regular green smoothies. I think that even the most skeptical of skeptics would enjoy this!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Killer Buns and Thighs

Oooooh lordy, my butt is killing me today. Yesterday I did level 2 of Jillian Michaels' Killer Buns and Thighs and I am paying for it. The upside is that I know I'm getting stronger because I probably wouldn't have made it through even 15 minutes of this workout about 4 weeks ago. As it was, I thought I might die when I made it through the third circuit thinking it was the last one, only to find out that there was a fourth- which included one-legged burpees. ONE-LEGGED BURPEES!! Even my belly button was sweating. I recommend this workout to anyone who is up for an extreme challenge. Every single muscle in my lower body is so sore that I don't even want to know what level 3 is like.


I recently discovered that all of the seasons of Biggest Loser are on Netflix and have become completely obsessed, which means that every time I do a Jillian workout I feel like a contestant on the show. It's actually been a huge motivator for me because if people twice my size can workout for 4 hours a day I should absolutely be able to put in my 45 minutes. The only disappointing part is that I don't lose 10 pounds a week- in fact, I weighed myself this past weekend and found that I've gained 3 pounds. Life is so cruel sometimes! I'm not going to let it get me down because in all fairness I haven't really done diddly squat to improve my diet. I haven't been eating fried twinkies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but my diet could use a little work (aka less pizza, more salad).

This week the PGA tournament is being held out on Kiawah, something that all of the residents and merchants have been bracing themselves for these past couple of weeks. For me it means the potential to sit in traffic for hours and possibly meet a few golf celebrities at the bank. Although, let's be honest, I probably wouldn't know if a famous golfer was in my midst, except for maybe Tiger. I also get to fulfill my lifelong goal of becoming a bartender! In all seriousness I've always thought it would be really cool to bartend but I think my hearing issues would prevent me from ever succeeding. It always amazes me that bartenders get drink orders right with music blaring at what can only be a damaging decibel level. Lucky for me this is going to be sort of an outdoor oasis with limited drink choices, only moderately amplified music, and the use of tickets instead of cash and credit cards- the perfect opportunity for me to make my big break.

I'm going to be absolutely exhausted by the time this week is over working two jobs, so I'm really glad I was able to enjoy a relaxing weekend with my family. My mom and Lauren flew down from Iowa and Nick popped down from Clemson for a lovely lake weekend with the Bussells. All we were missing was my dad, but he just started a new job (congratulations, dad!) and had to sit this one out. We floated in the cove for hours on end, did a little shopping, ate too much food, and squeezed in some Olympic viewing. Being with my family always makes me wish that they lived closer; a visit every 6 months is nowhere near enough!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Charleston Eats

We are truly spoiled by the abundance of delicious, unique, and high quality food in Charleston. It is the reason we cry over our bank accounts at the end of the weekend and the main contributor to our lack of weight loss. I tend to take more pictures of food items than actual people, so when I was going through my camera roll earlier today I decided it was time to share a few.

Earlier this month Carl and I went to Mustard Seed on James Island for my birthday dinner. We enjoyed a half-price bottle of wine (yay!) while I drooled over their impressive selection of vegetarian entrees. Moments where I scan a menu and realize that there is absolutely nothing meatless for me to eat are few and far between these days, but it's still refreshing when the vegetarian section of the menu consists of more than just a handful of overly cheesy dishes. I decided to order the sweet potato ravioli and it was truly life changing. It was served in a creamy sauce with goat cheese, pecans, and spinach. YUM. I got giddy when I went to pack my lunch the next day and remembered that I had delicious leftovers.

This picture was sort of an afterthought once I took a break from shoveling raviolis into my mouth at lightning speed, so I apologize for the bad quality. It comes nowhere near to doing it justice. 
My sweet tooth has been somewhat out of control lately, so I have it to thank for leading me to the discovery of the Closed for Business ice cream sandwich. During a recent happy hour there I happened to notice that a homemade ice cream sandwich was featured on their specials board. I immediately ordered one and I know that it's only a matter of time before my taste buds lead me back because it was so stinking good. Here's a really flattering picture of me digging in:

Manners seem to fly out the window when good food is involved. It's just so much more effective
to bring the plate to your face!
Speaking of delicious desserts, I have a pretty serious love affair going with King of Pops, a fun little popsicle company that has stands set up at various events and locations in Charleston. I'll be here waiting while you follow the link to their list of different flavors.

Clearly these popsicles are far superior to any others. The best part is that the ingredients are all natural, making it the ultimate guilt-free snack. The only way I can think of to improve them would be to use the sticks with jokes printed on them. So far I've only had the chocolate sea salt, bluegrass, and key lime pie, but I'm making it a personal mission to try as many flavors as possible before the summer ends.
Here's the key lime pie. It even had graham cracker crumbs!
I've made myself hungry in writing this post, so I'm off for a little bedtime snack. If only I had a personal supply of those popsicles...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Taking Time to Smell the Roses... and Baby Goats

As far as 40 minute work commutes go, mine could be a lot worse. Most of my drive is under a gorgeous canopy of oaks and other trees that I don't know the names of, passing farm fields, marsh views, and an interesting mixture of enormous houses and shacks, expensive cars and hitch hikers. It gives me time to clear my head after a long day or drink my smoothie in the morning (if, of course, I've woken up early to make one- not going to lie, it's been a while). This is my most recent smoothie fiasco:

I was glad that the mess was confined to my center console but holy cow, that was hard to clean up!
This morning as I was driving to work, wallowing in my Monday sorrows and the fact that every radio station decided to go to commercial concurrently, I looked up just in time to notice a field full of dozens and dozens of baby goats- kids, if you will. I think I like the term baby goat better. Something about those baby goats was just so breathtakingly cute that I knew I couldn't possibly have a bad day. On the way home I planned on stopping to snap a few pictures, but those goats had been moved to a different field further away from the road and I wasn't really in the right mood for trespassing. I'm hoping they'll be back out tomorrow. My lack of goat pictures prompted a half hour long Google search of baby goat images and I think I've almost convinced myself to go into animal husbandry... minus the animal killing aspect.

Look at the baby!

Here's to finding a way to escape the pressures of our days- whether it's smelling the roses or getting a little too excited about young ruminants. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Oh, Friday Night

Hello, all! I hope everyone had a wonderful week and has exciting plans for the weekend in the works. Nick and Caroline are coming in to town tomorrow for a little wedding planning fun, so I'm looking forward to living vicariously through Caroline as I fondly relive all the thrills that go along with the process. We're also going to be paying a little visit to the farmer's market downtown in Marion Square, which I'm pretty excited about. It's so easy to avoid the downtown like the plague, but it also means that we miss out on a lot of the events that make Charleston such a cool city. If we don't have to battle a half hour to find a parking spot I might be tempted to go two weeks in a row!

Meanwhile, tonight I am a walking, talking feminist's nightmare as I sit and watch Grey's Anatomy, shovel chocolate cake into my mouth, and get embarrassingly weepy-eyed. What is it about this stupid show that makes me cry before the theme song even plays? Clearly it's not because of the way that I so easily relate to struggling young doctors or dramatic romance. Who knows- at any rate, Carl is off fishing so I figured a little girl time was in order. Next up: a workout video to round out week 3 of my 16-week workout binge. Things are still going really well, and I'm actually starting to notice a little more definition in my arms and legs. Everything but my pesky tummy. Curses.

I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Workout Plan #36,518

Since about mid-March I've had little to no motivation to work out. Or eat healthy. Or be a productive human being in general. I was doing so well with the ABC's and then I hit a wall and quit doing anything remotely good for myself. But something about swimsuit season and my ever-growing love handles made me decide it was time for a change. I cooked up yet another new plan that will hopefully be easier to succeed with than the ABC's, and is a little more structured than a plain old workout tally. Check it out:


Admittedly, I probably went a little bit overboard. Carl walked in on me cutting out 64 little colorful squares and made fun of me for about 10 minutes for finding a way to involve arts and crafts in my workout program. Make all the fun you want, but it really does help motivate me and I think that's what matters most. Here's the plan:

16 weeks of workouts-
Week 1: 7 workouts
Weeks 2-3: 6 workouts
Weeks 4-6: 5 workouts
Weeks 7-10: 4 workouts
Weeks 11-13: 3 workouts
Weeks 14-15: 2 workouts
Week 16: 1 workout

Every week has a square with the name of a workout video, and I get to put a color square on top of each one as a means of checking it off once I've completed the workout. Once I reach the end I'll have a beautiful hodge podge of colorful squares! Let's not talk about the fact that I have enough videos for a 16 week program... in my defense, some of them are included twice.  The weeks with less squares have harder, more muscle-intense workouts (those killer Jackie and Jillian videos), whereas the longer weeks in the beginning involve more cardio than muscle training. Since it seems like I start to lose motivation to work out hardcore once I start seeing any sign of results I decided to make the program get progressively easier in terms of time commitment. As you can see, I'm 1/3 of the way into week 2, and so far things are going great. I'm thrilled to already have the hardest week behind me. Wish me luck, and I'll keep everyone posted on my progression. I've already lost 5 pounds!

Okay, that's not true. But I feel like I've lost 5 pounds, even if the scale is a stupid jerk. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Allison Bussells

This afternoon was a pretty big one for me. I said goodbye to almost 25 years as Allison Wonus and finally got switched over to Bussells. That's right, I'm officially a Bussells! I bit the bullet and paid a visit to both the Social Security office and the DMV. Let me take a moment to discuss the fact that the SSA office in Charleston is only open between the hours of 8:30 and 3. What the heck!? That's all well and good for all the retired elderly folks out there collecting their benefits but for anyone with a job it's really the pits. Luckily, I had the afternoon off and rushed on over to stand in line and make this marriage official. When I took my ticket and the estimated wait time was 100 minutes I got somewhat discouraged, but they kept things moving at a nice pace and it only took about a half hour. I figured I'd try my luck and hop on over to the DMV to get my license changed while I was still feeling motivated and again, it was miraculously quick. I didn't get yelled at, spat upon, or anything! (I'm always a little intimidated by the disgruntled employees at these type places).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th of July! Aside from the sweltering heat wave that typically comes along with it, July is one of my favorite months. For one thing, it's my birth month- I'll be 25 in 5 days, yikes! Plus there's usually lots of trips to the beach, cookouts, fireworks, and tomato sandwiches:

I've had a least one of these every day of the past month. They never get old!
July 4th is also pretty near and dear to me because on this day 5 years ago I brought Melman home. I gathered up some of my best Melman pictures to share, so enjoy!

Melman was born May 12, 2007. Here he is with one of his sisters, just a few weeks old.
I'll be honest, I'm not really sure which one is him...
This was maybe two weeks before he got to come home. What a precious little angel. 
Melman and Liz- best friends from the start!
He came home and quickly started a lifelong tradition of stealing other dogs' food. 
Look how little he was!
He's lucky he's cute...
...because he frequently finds his way into mischief.
This is one of his lesser offenses.
Melman and Riley have always been best buds. I think they would have been devastated
if Carl and I hadn't gotten married.

Ah, true love.
Here's to another 5 years with Melman! I promise not to dress you up in silly costumes anymore.



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I'm Alive!

Helllllooooooo, long lost blog! I can't believe it's been two whole months since I've been on here. I'm a little ashamed. The problem was that every day that went by without updating meant that I needed to have something a little bit more exciting to say than the previous day in order to make up for such a long absence. According to that rationale this post had some big shoes to fill, and so the whole thing quickly spiraled into a big, slightly terrifying ball of procrastination as the task grew ever more daunting. The good news is that we've had a pretty exciting summer so far and I've got lots to share (pictures, pictures, pictures!). Here goes nothing-enjoy!

I'll pick up where I left off, which was the end of April. That weekend we had our good friends Nick and Caroline visit us from Columbia for Nick's birthday jamboree (another congratulations to them on their recent engagement!!!!). Poor Caroline was having some serious wisdom tooth issues but powered through it like a champ and we had a blast! The highlight of the weekend was this fun little festival that we happened upon called Bunnies and Bluegrass at the Firefly distilleries on Wadmalaw Island. Somehow I had absolutely no idea that Firefly was based out of Charleston, so it was really neat to see the whole set up about a half hour from home. We were able to sip on local muscadine wine and enjoy live bluegrass music and great company.

Photo Recap:

Out to birthday dinner Friday night at El Bohio, a yummy Cuban restaurant on James Island.
In front of the muscadine vines at Bunnies and Bluegrass. Had they been fully ripe, I think
we may have lost Carl for good.
Caroline, Meaghan, and I- about to start lounging on our picnic blanket with the delicious wine.

The next weekend was Cinco de Mayo, which we celebrated on Folly Beach with Liz, Katherine, Alex and a few of their friends and friends' friends. The more the merrier! It was a beautiful day and the beach was packed so I was somewhat surprised at the amount of weddings we witnessed that afternoon. Everyone loves a good beach wedding but for the life of me I could not figure out why so many people wanted to get married among the drunken masses that are inevitably involved with Cinco de Mayo. There was literally a break-dancing competition not a half block away from us that has to be in somebody's wedding video. Not to mention, Carl's creepy mustache was enough to make any innocent flower girl cry:

A couple of restraining orders and complaints from local schools later, and the mustache is finally gone.

Shortly after that was Mother's Day weekend. We packed up the dogs and headed to Irmo, where Julie and Ernie had rented a boat for us to have a lake day! It was a wonderfully relaxing weekend and so nice to get out on the lake, even though the water was still quite chilly.

Julie, Caroline, me, and Liz enjoying a Mother's day mimosa on Lake Murray.
Next came my much-anticipated Boston trip for Jessica's graduation. It was a whirlwind of sleep deprivation, sight-seeing, and some serious celebration. It's hard to believe that 3 years have gone by since we graduated college and Jessica started law school. Everybody send her well wishes as she spends a sickening amount of time preparing for the bar exam. Here's a few pictures from the long weekend:

Boston. I crack up every time I see this picture because it looks like I just photo-shopped myself onto a postcard.
There aren't even any cars on the road!

With Jessica at one of the bars right next to Fenway Park.

Me and Liz in front of the capitol. 

At Jessica's graduation party
The next weekend was Memorial Day Weekend. We packed up the dogs again and this time made the trek to Sunset Beach, NC, where we stayed with our friends Ted, Pearman, Findlay, Becca, Marshall, and Beth. It was a gorgeous and awesome weekend, but somehow I neglected to take any pictures except for this one:

Patriotic and tropical jello shots, made by yours truly. 
Whew! That brings us to June. The amount of time I've put into this massive recap is enough to teach me a lesson about slacking off on the blog (ha! get it?). It's also made me realize how great a summer we've had- and it's not even halfway over. I have a feeling we'll look back on this one with nostalgia when we're old and arthritic, cursing ourselves for abusing our bodies and not taking quite enough pictures.

The weekend before last we flew up to D.C. for some quality Louis and Aditi time. I think that they are secretly professional tour guides on the side because we managed to see absolutely everything, all in the span of about 56 hours. My calves were so sore by the end of the trip from hiking all over the city and I was exhausted for the entire following week, but it was completely worth it. Aditi has most of the good pictures to herself on her camera, but here were a few that I managed to snag off of Carl and Louis:

The four of us in front of the main Smithsonian building (I think)

Me and Carl
Me and Aditi all gussied up on Saturday night, shortly before I got to sample my first ever Jumbo Slice- it was epic.
This past weekend we stayed in Charleston so that we could go to Charleston Beer Garden, which was pretty amazing. Our admission paid for a commemorative pint glass and pint glass coozie with which to sample beers from 10 different craft breweries. Carl and I showed up and were first in line, out of an estimated 10,000 people that showed up to the event! We are so dedicated. There was also some great live music, delicious food truck food, "beer school" classes, pretzel necklaces, and lots of other freebies. We had a blast and I so hope that they have another Beer Garden next year.

With one of our fellow beer samplers who chose to dress the part. Please note the fact that Carl is wearing his red College of Charleston t-shirt for the third set of pictures in this blog post, and my pretzel necklace has dissolved into just the string, which I neglected to remove from around my neck. We are a mess.
Be back soon, or at least before another two months goes by!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Six Months

Carl and I will celebrate our six month anniversary this Sunday- can you believe it!? October 29th feels like a lifetime ago, but at the same time it seems like I blinked and here we are. Some pearls of wisdom I've learned in the past six months:

*Marriage is nothing like it is on sitcom TV. But then again, is anything in life? I hate to say it, but we're pretty boring on a day to day basis. We've come to terms with the fact that something exciting doesn't have to always (and probably won't) be happening in order to enjoy each other's company. We also like to pull pranks... and by we I mean me. I'm already plotting my next good one.

*Changing your name is really annoying. So much so that I haven't officially done it yet. I changed it at work so I do sign Allison Bussells at least 20 times a day, but the government still knows me as Allison Wonus. The problem is that we keep buying plane tickets, and the name on your ticket has to match your i.d. The other problem is that I'm lazy. I WILL become a Bussells officially when I get back from Boston, I'm determined. But my email address and countless other usernames will have to stay in my maiden name for the time being- I'm telling you, name changes involve a lot more than they used to.

*A lot of people assume that as soon as you get married you plan on spitting out babies. And while we do look forward to having some very cute and short children one day, we still enjoy being reckless and irresponsible. Not to mention, the dogs are quickly chiseling away at the baby fund. Next time you see me and I've gained weight, don't get your hopes up. I'm not pregnant!

That's about all I've got! And in case you missed it on Facebook, we made a little splash on The Wedding Row as well as Reese Moore's blog. Here's the various links:

http://theweddingrow.com/allison-carl-thomas-bennett-house/

http://reesemooreweddings.tumblr.com/post/20583551616/allison-and-carl-on-the-wedding-row-another

http://reesemooreweddings.tumblr.com/post/20392663294/love-these-boys-how-can-you-not-adore-these

http://reesemooreweddings.tumblr.com/post/20694747666

http://reesemooreweddings.tumblr.com/post/20825708570/allison-and-carl-with-allison-and-carls

Here's to another wonderful six months, and hopefully by the time a year rolls around I'll have gotten my act together and changed my name!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Great Friends and Good Reads

Hello! Hope everyone is having a great start to their week. This past Friday I got off work a little early and booked it to Greenville to spend a weekend with some good friends. I've never actually been to Greenville, aside from driving through it on my way to Clemson, and I wasn't let down. I didn't have a single bad meal, all the bars that I remember going to were fun, and of course I was amongst great company.

Out celebrating Katherine's birthday! Katherine, Liz, Alex, and me.
On Saturday we went to the Upstate International Festival of Beers, and it was truly life-changing. Carl was a little bummed that he missed out, especially since my brother, Nick, made the trip down to crash our girls weekend (he had no idea what he was getting into!) and enjoy the beer fest. Basically you just pay to get into the festival and are given a little sampling mug to take to the various brewery tables and pick which one of their beers you'd like to try. It went something like this: stand in line, sip, stand in line, sip, dance, eat pretzels, stand in line, sip, sip, sip. I was a little shocked to see multiple people with babies in attendance- what the heck, get a babysitter! Between the loud music and a huge crowd of drunk people, those poor babies will probably scarred for life. There were also a few pregnant ladies, but Nick pointed out that they were probably DD's for the day. Still, that seems like torture. Let it be known that when I am pregnant, any person who dares drink beer in my midst will feel my wrath.

Here's us, towards the end of the festival if you can't tell.

See my little sampling mug?
I definitely plan on making another trip to Greenville soon. What a fun weekend!

Aside from visiting new places, I've also been a busy book reader lately. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I finished The Book Thief, which was amazing. Maybe it's because I  felt gipped in the World War II history department all throughout school, but I've always had an interest in any and all World War II fiction. The Book Thief is about a little German girl and the impact that Nazi Germany had on her childhood, as narrated by death, or a grim reaper-esque character. Sounds really uplifting, right? It actually had a surprisingly perfect mix of sad moments and laughable scenes, especially given such a heavy subject matter. Two thumbs up.

I also read The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory, the author of The Other Boleyn Girl. I'm sure there's a lot of criticism about her interpretations of history, but I really enjoyed this book. For all of the Shakespeare and accompanying history that I was force-fed as an English major I somehow couldn't remember learning about Mary, the queen of Scotland (aka the other queen), who was held captive in England throughout the middle years of Queen Elizabeth's reign, when it was up in the air as to whether she would ever get married and have a son to be heir to the throne. Whenever I read books about royalty I can't help but think how lame it would have been to be pretty much everyone else back then. If you weren't some sort of nobility you had to slave away your entire life for someone else, only to get beheaded or hanged or die at the hands of some disgusting disease. I guess we've got it pretty good now!

Last night I finished Jodi Picoult's Lone Wolf, also a great read. I've always been a big Jodi Picoult fan, although the last few books of hers that I've read have been somewhat similar in terms of the story being told from multiple perspectives and hinting at some plot-twisting secret that doesn't come out until the very end. I will say, the ending is never what I expected so she's got me there, and her subject matters are always different. She also does a thorough job researching her book topics and shedding light on flaws in the legal system as well as sticky moral dilemmas. In this book two children are forced to decide whether or not their father, who suffered severe brain trauma in a car wreck, should be taken off of life support or kept alive in a vegetable state. He had dedicated his life to the research of wolves, hence the title, which meant that I learned a lot of cool wolf facts along the way. Definitely a tear jerker- don't read it in public.

Whew! I feel like I just wrote three very incomplete book reports. I didn't want to give too much away, though- there's nothing worse than starting a book and knowing how it ends. If you have any good book suggestions, let me know... unless it's Twilight. I refuse to read those books.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Beach Day

As a resident of a coastal city, the amount of time I actually spend at the beach is something of a disgrace. It's about a half hour drive from our house without bad traffic, so by the time I make it out I feel obligated to spend at least an entire afternoon there, which is a pretty valuable chunk of weekend to dedicate to wind, sand, and water. This isn't to say that I don't like the beach, just that a lot of the activities that I so enjoy partaking in at the beach can also be done at our neighborhood pool or backyard or on the couch (ahem, day drinking). Yesterday, however, the stars and planets aligned just right and we packed up the Subaru for its first trip to the beach:

Look at the trunk space!
Carl manages to go to the beach all the time with just a surfboard and towel, but for some reason my involvement makes things a lot less simple. Two beach chairs, two beach bags, a cooler, a bocci ball set, a surfboard, some road rage and 3 stops later we arrived at the beach! 

I hunkered down with a jumbo bag of boiled peanuts:


Once the sun came out we started up a game of bocci ball:

The boys all called each other before hand and agreed to wear their red shorts.
And then the thing that you always hope doesn't happen at the beach (but statistically has to), happened to poor Carl:

Seagull poop to the face.
The reason he doesn't look as upset as you'd expect is because even though I scrambled to get my phone to capture the moment (such a good wife I am), the shock had worn off and the poop wiped and when I said, "act like you just got pooped on by a seagull," he took a little light-hearted offense. So really what I captured was his reaction to my obnoxiousness. 

All in all it was a great day! If sunburns were a measure of beach day success then yesterday is a chart-topper.