Sunday, July 27, 2014

Leaving for Chi-Town and other updates

Hey! I know it's been a minute. How are you? Here's what I've been up to, and why you haven't been hearing from me:

Blue Eyes Messy Hair will be relaunching soon. I've got myself a new design and even a new URL (to be announced), but there's a lot of work to be done around transferring the old content from this website to the new one. So far, it sounds like this has to be done manually, which means… I need a nice chunk of time to get it done. But this is exciting! More details to come, but until that launch, expect content on here to be a little haphazard. :/

The Chicago move is just days away. We are really getting ready. In fact, Michael is officially moved out of his place, and last week we signed a lease on an apartment. Then yesterday we had a going-away party, which was just oodles of fun. Michael will be moving our stuff up (thank you, best boyfriend) in mid-August while I stick around Houston to keep working. Then we'll meet up in Austin for a good friend's wedding, blow it out that night, and fly to Chicago the next day. Peace out, Houston!…ish. I just found out I'll then be working here until early October. Ah, the consulting life.

We got robbed. Actually, home invaded - the difference being that a "home invasion" happens when the robber enters your house while your'e in there. In our case, this meant while we were sleeping on a Wednesday night. Long story short, WE'RE OKAY and that's what matters. And he took a lot of gadgets, which can all be replaced. Weirdest of these is that some of these gadgets (cell phones, iPad, etc.) were sitting right next to us while we slept. Yes, it was crazy. Yes, I've been able to sleep through the night since. At this point (a week and a half out) it mostly feels like a dream.

I've been launching myself into extra-curriculars, and it's been stressing me out. I generally like stacking my plate a little too high, but lately it's been too much. It started when I committed to a new workout schedule, which has been incredible. It ramped up when I signed up for a certification test for work, thinking I could just knock it out after a few week's of study. (Wrong.) It escalated from there with a short but intense writing class (that I highly recommend!), which ended just as a photography class got going. Yikes! I'm actually a little mad at myself for committing to so much in such a short time, while I'm supposed to be moving and also, you know, doing a good job at work. I'm honestly ready for everything to be over. Get me to Chicago, let things calm down.

I hope you have a great rest of the summer! I'll write again when things are a little calmer and hopefully will do so on the new site!!
Continue reading>

Monday, June 30, 2014

Defining a Workout Schedule

I always reminisce about the height of my health. It was senior year of college, and that year I decided to make health a priority. I cooked all my meals, I didn't procrastinate when it came to studying, and I kept a really regular workout schedule. Four days a week, the same classes every time. I felt great, and I got good at them. I got in great shape, and I had energy to spare.

Then I moved to New York, which threw my schedule off. Then I became a teacher, and suddenly working out took a back seat to lesson planning, grading and commiserating with my coworkers after hours. Cut to five years later, and with the exception of marathon training, I haven't nailed down a reliable workout schedule. 

The problem with not having a schedule is this: Even if I do manage to get in a workout 3-4 times per week, because there’s no schedule to it, I find myself, almost every single day, wondering whether I’ll work out. Mentally assessing my energy, both physical and mental, looking up yoga classes, determining whether the weather would make for a nice run. Then coaxing myself into it.

If you hadn’t guessed, that takes a lot of mental energy that I could be spending elsewhere, and all of that deciding whether to work out gives me the choice.

In a Vanity Fair profile on President Obama, I was struck by his day-to-day routine. Because the President has so many decisions to make in a day - real decisions, about whether to invade foreign countries, work with or around congress, and respond to Russian threats - he has eliminated the little decisions from his life, like when to eat or work out. Better to focus on the task of running the country. Here's an excerpt from the article:

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [the President] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

When it comes to my workout routines, I don’t want a choice. I want a habit.

So taking heed of Obama's example, I finally sat down, pen to calendar, and mapped out my week. I made a list of all the workouts I could do (long run, short run with plyometrics afterward, hot yoga, vinyasa yoga, circuit training, etc.), then mapped out the ones I love. In my case, these turned out to cover three days: my Monday morning bagel run, Tuesday night vinyasa yoga with my favorite teacher, and Saturday morning hot yoga. From there, since I've always found that four workouts per week is my sweet spot, I chose one more: circuit training. I decided that it would be easiest for me to do on Sundays, since I can’t always depend on getting out of work at a reasonable hour. And because I love my long-runs-listening-to-podcasts, I penciled in a completely option guilt-free-if-I-miss-it long run on Thursday nights, podcasts in ear.

And voila! No more choices! It’s been four weeks and I’ve stuck to it thus far.

Wish me luck!
Continue reading>

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cheap versus Frugal Living

When I first started this blog, I caught a lot of flack for my seemingly conflicted new year's resolutions. I had goals for myself that included, among other things, adhering to a strict budget and eating more quality foods.

“I guess Whole Foods is off limits!” people would smirk. Because I was putting myself on a budget, they assumed there was no way I would be able to meet my food goal, which admittedly would require me to spend a little more on my sustenance. (Even in my own family, Whole Foods is sometimes referred to as "Whole Paycheck.")

But it didn’t have to be that way: My goal of sticking to my budget and eating quality were not mutually exclusive. You see, the people who made comments about my inability to buy quality foods were overlooking something really important: the difference between being frugal and being cheap.

Hi. My name is Abby and I try to be really, really frugal. (Hi, Abby.) I live in a small apartment, I almost never buy clothes, and I stick to a list when I shop at places like the grocery store and Target. I also use every little dollop of soap before I buy more, and I freeze herbs I don’t use so I don’t have to see them go to waste.

Eek! What a horrid life! You might say. Never buy new clothes?

And to that I say… I've decided on my priorities. By being frugal, last year I was able to travel to Israel, Turkey, New York (4x), San Francisco, and Oregon. I also shopped at Whole Foods and the famers market every week.

…And more than that, I saved 16 percent of my income.

My ability to do this came down to the difference between being frugal (me!) and cheap: A frugal person saves money by eliminating waste and maximizing value. A cheap person saves money by not spending it or spending as little as possible, no matter the item.

This difference gives us frugal people a bad rap. As a frugal person, I don’t begrudge spending on the necessities for my health, like doctor’s appointments and a yoga studio I know I’ll use. I also prioritize my wants so that my money is maximized – I want to get the most happiness for my buck. In my case, my dollars are well spent when I buy high quality food and get to travel to fun places. 

And while I’m not going to lie – it would be great if I could by new clothes all the time – my money just doesn’t stretch that far. So I’ve prioritized! It's like a game - determining which thing matters more to me, so these dollars aren't wasted. And the unintended benefit - the best part  of this game - is that when you are forced to choose, you enjoy the heck out of what you've chosen.

Wondering whether you’re cheap or frugal? Here’s a chart to help:

Continue reading>

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Over Memorial Day a group of my friends went on our second annual camping trip (see this post for the inaugural trip to Big Bend), this time on the Buffalo River in the northern part of Arkansas. Here are the pictures to prove it...

BBQ stop near Texarkana

stopping at a scenic overlook on the way to the park

Here are some things it turns out I like: 1. sitting around 2. making dinner and 3. drinking wine with friends. The hikes around the Buffalo are mild (but beautiful!), so this trip was much more centered around the campfire, which I really loved. Woot!

dessert, before it was roasted over the fire

more dessert, roasted just the way I like

I wish I could remember the name of this hike :/. It was about four miles round trip, and landed us at this incredible overlook.

fiyah wood

On Day 2 Michael and I ventured down this creek bed looking for a trail we never found. We did, though, make it up a bluff on our own (scratched and sweaty to tell the tale).


On our last day we canoed from Steel Creek (our campsite) to Kyle's Landing, about 8 miles and four hours later.

See you again someday, Arkansas!
Continue reading>

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Investing 101: Buy Low, Sell High {via The Rich Life}

*Each month I contribute a personal finance column to The Rich Life, an online community devoted to the practice of living a rich life with less stuff. Here is this June's contribution.

My favorite finance professor in college once gave me the sagest of advice: When it comes to investing, buy low and sell high.

So there you go – that’s it! 

Okay, I’m just kidding… kind of.  Let’s talk about that. People get really nervous when it comes to investing. They think to themselves, “I don’t know anything about the market – I can’t invest! That’s for professionals.” And while it’s true that there are plenty of professionals out there to help you (for a nice fee), it’s not true that you can’t do it for yourself. I’m looking at you, Ms. English Major: You’re perfectly capable of doing this for yourself.

Whether you choose to get help or not, investing is a must. It’s the only way your money has the chance to grow significantly. We’re not talking just keeping up with inflation, we’re talking making a return that will give you a healthy and stable financial future. 

And yes, there is risk. The greater the risk, the greater the potential reward. That’s life, and that’s also why any money you invest should be money you’re comfortable not seeing for at least a few years – my general rule is five. (For a recap on your option for investing in the short term, revisit this post.) And now, the rules… (read the entire article on The Rich Life)

Continue reading>

Photo Review: 7.18.2014

I feel like something is off when I haven't combed through my photos in a few weeks. When I haven't retouched and organized, sorted and deleted. There's something really methodical and satisfying about going through this process, keeping this neat record of events, no matter how small or significant. 

The record, over the last few weeks...

Just a little light reading on what the Midwest will be like. :)

I honestly had no idea how easy cooking corn is - the whole process takes about 10 minutes and leaves you (at least in summertime) with luscious, sweet, fresh corn. I can't believe I've been using cans for so long!

Making Gwyneth's Mexican Chopped Salad. She can be annoying to read, but the salad was delish!

An incredibly acute allergic reaction to what turned out to be the chemical paraben left me downing loads of prescription antihistamines the entire month of May. These left me woozy and dizzy and pretty tired, and turned out to be unnecessary. At least now I know. :(

Pretty downtown Houston, I'll miss you.

Overnight oats and espresso… Mmm.

Jeep weather!

The only time I order chicken tenders… and double up on fries. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

My golden birthday came and went, and Michael helped me start the day out right with a run. In the last ten minutes the clouds parted and we got drenched.

fantastic Revival breakfast, as usual

Summer reading: One More Thing, Think Like a Freak, and The Body Book. I already inhaled The Body Book, which I loved. Looking forward to reading the other two soon!

The best coffee in Houston, cinnamon-infused Guadalupana coffee. I'm going to have to bring this stuff with me to Chi-Town.

Peach grilling for a peach-mozzarella-arugula salad, and bacon-wrapped turkey to boot. Woot!

After a hot yoga class, this was the perfect meal: Radical Eats' avocado salad and verde enchiladas… vegan and fantastic.

Have a hot and happy week!
Continue reading>

Sunday, June 8, 2014

When Life Happens: Reassessing Your Budget {via The Rich Life}

*Each month I contribute a personal finance column to The Rich Life, an online community for the practice of living a rich life with less stuff. Here is this May's contribution.

Moving is a funny thing. There’s the excitement – that’s real. And the determination to make the most of it: new friends, new bucket list, new brunch spots… sign me up. Then there’s this cool thing I hear the river does in March, when it turns green to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, and city-dwellers come out en masse, crossing their fingers for an ease into spring. All right, Chicago, I’m in.

But there’s also the anxiety: Will I make friends? Is rent in the Windy City sky high? What exactly is a “down” jacket?

And, of course, the logistics. Little stuff, like changing your address with the bank, and larger, looming tasks, like packing up your kitchen.

Fortunately, it’s taking care of this logistical stuff that eases my anxiety around all things down jacket. There’s nothing like taking care of what’s in my control to feel like the rest will fall into place, and one of my largest tasks over the next few months will be to accurately reassess my budget (read the entire article on The Rich Life)
Continue reading>


So the cat is almost 100 percent out of the bag, and that means it's time that the Internet can… hear the cat, too? 

Michael and I are moving to Chicago.

So that's it! We're moving, and that's the long and short of it. It's practical (Michael is getting his MBA at Northwestern, in Evanston, and I'll likely transfer to my company's Chicago office.), it's exciting (We're moving in together!), it's scary (Polar Vortex and the need for a down jacket), and so many other things that the only thing I can really say about it is… it's happening. 

Phew! Glad you know now, too. :)

Continue reading>

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Roasted Broccoli and Lemon Tahini Dressing

I can feel it in the salty sweat on my skin …Summer is coming. 

Oh, blessed summer! How I love you for your sun, your care-free attitude, and your insistence that I spend all my time in flip flops. I love you for your heat, which rejuvenates me. You make me feel alive, and happy, and deserving of nothing more than treating my body and my spirit right. 

Let's treat ourselves right. Let's make broccoli.

First, ingredient-gathering. I love it when the only thing I have to add to my grocery list is nutritional yeast. (Oh! And don't forget the broccoli.)

Next, we roast. See those brown edges? That broccoli is crisp.

And while it's roasting, let's combine those wet ingredients and blend. I used an emulsifying blender. You can use a food processer. It's all fair game.

We drizzle.

And then serve. This broccoli has a lemon/tangy kick that's not to be missed. Mmmmm!
Roasted Broccoli and Lemon Tahini Dressing
(Recipe from Shutterbean)

Servings: 2-4


1 lb. broccoli, washed
olive oil
sea salt
lemon tahini dressing (see below)


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Slice broccoli into long steaks.
3. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and arrange flat on a baking sheet.
4. Bake for 10-15 minutes, tossing half way through.
5. Serve drizzled with lemon tahini dressing.
6. Enjoy!

lemon tahini dressing


1 garlic clove, smashed
1/4 c tahini
lemon juice from 1 1/2 large lemons
3 T nutritional yeast
2 T sesame oil
sea salt to taste


1. Combine ingredients and emulsify, using an emulsifying blender or food processer.
2. Add water or more lemon juice to taste.
3. Blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Enjoy!

Continue reading>

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Perfect Week: A guide to setting up for an easier Monday - Friday

I don't float through weeks; I wish I did. Instead, I tend to attack my work weeks, cramming as much as I think I can handle into five days, then either winding up pretty exhausted by Friday, or totally elated that I had a great one.

I want to talk about those great ones: those weeks when everything gets done and I still have time for myself. When I eat well. When I work out. And when I spend some qt with my family and friends. 

They're the best! And they don't happen by accident. In order to set myself up for a great week, I very purposefully prep my apartment, my food and even my work clothes, so that come Wednesday, when work keeps me late or I just don't feel like doing anything, I can rest assured the critical business of living is taken care of.

Here are the steps I take each weekend to make sure my week runs smoothly…

First things first, I clean my apartment. Because let's face it, that won't happen M-F. I actually really enjoy cleaning - I play podcasts and generally feel like I'm getting good "me" time. Here are my current favorites:

- the Totally Laime series (Comedian Elizabeth Laime hosts three podcasts devoted to comedy, marriage and motherhood. She is hilarious and I'd really, you know, like to be her best friend some day.)
This American Life (a classic for anyone who loves good storytelling)
Freakonomics (The authors of the eponymous book dive into fascinating social economics topics.)
Joy the Baker (My favorite bloggers, Tracy Shutterbean and Joy the Baker, host this podcast on a variety of topics and answer reader questions. Really, though, it's just fun to hear about life through their friendship.)

Every Sunday I sit down with paper and pen (or an electronic notebook like Evernote) and plan what I'll eat for the week. Here are the steps I take to do this:

1) I take a refrigerator/pantry inventory and make a list of what I have on hand already. This is an excellent way to cut down on grocery costs, and I waste less. Win-win!

2) I use cookbooks or Pinterest to plan a few meals I'll make, and plop them into my daily meal planner. Here's where I try to find recipes using the ingredients I have on hand. I also don't plan for every meal of the week, since I've found that tends to leave me with leftovers.

trying to find a recipe to use up my black beans (I ended up making the Mexican Chopped Salad)

my Evernote daily meal planner

3) I make a grocery list of the ingredients I still need (and check off the ones I already had).

4) I do the grocery shop…

5) …and then prep what meals I can. This may mean prepping dinners for the next few days, but it always means prepping breakfast. Since I'm always pressed for time in the morning, it's important to me that I can grab breakfast and go. 

prepping overnight oats for breakfast all week

Prepped and stored!

If I have to pick out an outfit in the early hours of the morning, you can bet I'm going with the least common denominator - the black work pants and the top that never wrinkles. Maybe a nice pair of earrings to make it look like I tried. And flats.

Prepping this stuff on Sunday and giving myself time to iron means I'll get a little more creative and wear my non-go-to clothes, too. So! …First I lay out my outfits and iron them, if needed.

…then hang them up in the order I'll wear them. Voila!

I hope you have an easy week this week!
Continue reading>