Things I’ve Been Doing Instead of Blogging

Prior to this post, I had not even logged in to WordPress since my last post on July 17th. Woah.

Pineapples are clearly the new peonies. For some reason, I find that these look way more “Here’s my pineapple. I’m trying too hard” than a picture of fresh flowers.

N tried (key word, TRIED) to veto Spice Girls “Wannabe” from our wedding playlist. Oh hell no.

I became a notary. I’m super official.

I made grilled cheese (results here) and hash browns in my waffle maker. Both were Next up: waffle brownies.

I’m having an intense love affair with Philadelphia. I may have even said “I’m never leaving”.


I haven’t finished a book in a very long time but I have re-watched all of New Girl and the whole season of Odd Mom Out. It rocked, in case you were wondering.

I finally watched 50 Shades of Grey and seriously, what was everyone complaining about? Not bad. Not bad at all. [Please don’t judge me.]

I’ve joined the cult that is Pure Barre. I wanted to not love it but then I did. I’m 10 classes in. Let me know if you’d want a review.

On that note, I’m not sure about how I feel about blatantly being my stereotype. Last weekend I walked to Pure Barre wearing black leggings, a top knot, drinking an iced coffee, and I could not have been any more basic if I tried. Now if only my leggings were Lululemon and not Marshalls sale rack…

Complete with dog hair.
Complete with dog hair.

I don’t know how people work full-time, exercise regularly, maintain a blog, and have children. Like totally clueless. I can’t even handle the first three. Obviously.

My exercise routine is really A+ right now. I’m on my third month of regular exercise. 18 days in June. 18 days in July. 8 days so far in August. BOOM.

My super official, purple check mark tracking system.

I’m 27 and I got bottle service for the first time last weekend. Note: bottle service is ridiculous, overpriced, but still really fun.

I spent at least 6 hours (this is not an exaggeration) scrolling through the Rent the Runway app before I took the plunge and reserved something for an upcoming black tie wedding. Fingers crossed that the dress a) gets to me on time and b) actually fits.

I’ve decided to go nearly platinum blonde. I figure if I’m going to be the palest person in the room, I may as well have pale hair to match. I’ll let you know on August 29th if it was a terrible idea.

Still confused about what people find stressful about wedding planning. I’ve been told by several people that it’s “all the little, last-minute details” that gets stressful. I kind of think that its only as stressful as you choose to let it be.

We sent out our Save the Dates today. You can check them out here. The hardest part was making sure we spelled the names of N’s family members right. Persians love their vowels.

I’m over playing the blogging game. My blogging inspiration has always come in waves but it’s never been non-existent like it is now. I just cannot bring myself to care. I don’t want to write a list post. I don’t want to stage an Instagram photo. I don’t want to sit in front of a screen each night, sitting next to a man who loves me and deserves my attention far more than strangers on the internet (sorry, guys). I don’t want to go to bed past midnight and spend the whole next day exhausted just because “I have to get this post finished”. I’m not sure how I’m going to do this in the future but it won’t be the way I was doing it. It was too consuming. I’m working on doing this crazy thing where I try to live my life more. Maybe it’s the summer or maybe blogging and I just fell out of love. I guess we’ll see.

Our Engagement Photos

I didn’t really want to do engagement photos. I really didn’t. I mean, if you’re not sending Save the Dates, what’s the point?

But (and there’s always a but with wedding stuff, isn’t there?) our wedding photographer Ashley includes them for free and since free is my favorite price, I thought, eh why not?

Then I realized that this was a great opportunity to have photos of our whole family i.e. DOG PHOTOS. So I asked Ashley if Archie could come along. Ashley said “of course!” because she’s a dog lover too.

Plus Archie improves every photo he’s in and immediately becomes the center of attention so it was definitely a good move for us.

Philadelphia Engagement Photos with Dog

^ If it wasn’t a super cheese ball move, I’d totally send this picture with a note from Archie: MY PARENTS ARE GETTING MARRIED! Love, Archie.

Doesn’t he look so happy? Oh gosh I love him. I LOVE N TOO, obviously.

BRB gotta go love on my pup for a sec.

….10 minutes later….

Philadelphia Engagement Photos

^We love our city. This one is a strong contender for our favorite.

Philadelphia Engagement PhotosPhiladelphia Engagement Photos with Dog

Philadelphia Engagement Photos

^A little beginning of the session coaching. Archie just wasn’t so sure.

Philadelphia Engagement Photos 13Philadelphia Engagement PhotosPhiladelphia Engagement PhotosPhiladelphia Engagement Photos with dogPhiladelphia Engagement Photos

^Let’s be honest. This one is going to be my Mom’s favorite.

Philadelphia Engagement Photos Philadelphia Engagement PhotosPhiladelphia Engagement Photos with DogPhiladelphia Engagement Photos 12

^Get a room.
Philadelphia Engagement Photos

And just in case you think I’m getting too full of myself, here is my absolute favorite photo of N (it’s his real smile!) with my DOUBLE CHIN on full display.

Philadelphia Engagement Photos

I’ve been told I could probably ask Ashley to edit it out but that seems a little unfair to my chin, now doesn’t it? It was just trying to get in on a good laugh.

I didn’t think I was going to love these as much as I do. It’s probably because Ashley was so fun and easy to work with (Seriously check her out if no matter where you are located. She loves to travel!) and I feel more prepared about what to expect on our wedding day (just like she said). But now I’m that girl looking at her engagement photos all googly-eyed and trying to keep her inner bridezilla in check. I love it.

If you want to see more photos from our session, pop over to Ashley’s blog. There’s more Archie. I know you want to.

p.s. Now we’re sending Save the Dates. OOPS.

My Simple Wedding Fitness Plan

Right now I’m really ramping up my diet and exercise in preparation for our January wedding. I don’t want to be trying to lose weight last-minute, so we started really working on a change in lifestyle about a month ago and it seems to be sticking.

You see, when I went shopping for my wedding dress, I was indecisive. I tried on 75+ wedding dresses. You guys, it was fun. I figured I’d wind up with some flattering A-line or something. Instead, I ordered my perfect dress and later found out it’s technically a “sheath” dress. Like literally two layers of fabric. I knew it was curve hugging when I tried it on but somehow the word “sheath” makes things seem so much less forgiving.

So I’m getting in shape.

The truth though? I’m scared I’m going to be one of those girls that gets in super good shape for her wedding and then immediately gains 10 pounds after. It wouldn’t shock me because I struggle to find motivation. Right now, the wedding is that motivation. Hopefully after the wedding, I’ll like how I look enough (or it will have become enough of a habit) that I just keep going with it.

I do not need to lose a drastic amount of weight but in order to be clear about my goals, I’d like to lose about 10lbs. by January. Slow and steady, nothing too crazy.

Here’s what I’m doing now.

My Simple Wedding Fitness Plan |

1. Daily Workouts

I had not set foot in a gym since we moved to Philadelphia last October. I’m not proud of this but we just never found a good routine since we moved. The good news is, I have a fairly active job and I regularly walk 5 miles in the hospital and climb 30 flights of stairs (thanks iPhone 6 for tracking that for me).

These days we’re hitting the gym every day after work. The goal is to do something. Because if I have any workout mantra it is takeout and Netflix is so much better something is better than nothing.

I’ve been wanting to try Barre workouts but since my gym membership at work is $10 and Barre classes are $185/month (WHHATTT??), I turned to my trusty fitness instructor, YouTube. I go in to the studio area, set up my iPhone with the video, and do my own fitness class.

Here are the videos I’ve been loving:

On days that I don’t do videos, I alternate between cardio machines at the gym. I wear my Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor because it really helps me push myself to keep my heart rate up. I swear I work harder when I’m wearing it.

As we get closer to the wedding, I plan on increasing my cardio and hopefully by then, I’ll be showing a little more toned muscle.

2. Increase my protein and never starve

I usually drink coffee and call it breakfast. I realize this isn’t the best plan and usually by lunchtime, I’m ravenous.

I was recently sent SlimQuik Pure Protein (c/o SlimQuik) and began drinking it right when I get to work (around 9am) and again at about 4pm (an hour and a half before my workout).

The idea is that if I refuel with a little protein, I’m never starving and therefore don’t overeat and have more energy for better workouts. I’m shocked by what a difference it has made, particularly with the boost in energy for my workouts.

Since I’m a vegetarian and I don’t usually make much of an effort to be mindful of my protein, the additional 20 grams of protein are also helpful as I try to build muscle.

As a side note, if you mix the SlimQuik Pure Protein in Vanilla with vanilla soymilk or almond milk, it tastes shockingly like cake batter.

3. Continue my healthy diet but cut back on takeout

I’m not good at diets because I love food and I lack self-control. That said, my regular diet is pretty healthy. I eat a ton of vegetables and rarely eat heavy carb dishes. I’m lucky that the hospital cafeteria offers an abundance of healthy options and every item has the nutritional value listed (they even have bar codes with every item, so you can scan it right in to MyFitnessPal).

Frequently made recipes:

I like to eat a lot of colors because different colors = different nutrients = happy body.

Basically, I’m not changing too much of my diet, though we are trying to keep our takeout habits to once a week.

Foods I cannot resist no matter what:

  • Paneer Makhani from a fabulous indian takeout place in Philly, creatively named Indian Restaurant (not joking).
  • Blue cheese on crackers with honey.
  • Half and Half in my coffee. Because life is too short for skim milk.
  • Real sugar. I don’t do artificial sweeteners. Fear of cancer and stuff.

Overall I try to stick to around 1500 calories a day or less but I don’t count calories every day and on weekends I eat what I want (i.e. freaking huge brunches).

4. Stay hydrated

Two liters a day, minimum. Usually closer to three. All I drink is coffee, water, and wine.

5. Don’t forget my daily multi-vitamin

Can we be vain here for a second? I only take vitamins to try to make my hair grow faster. And since I’m hoping for long, luscious wave by the wedding, I basically need vitamins (and a miracle).

Now help a girl out: do you have any tips for getting in shape? If you’re a YouTube fitness video fan like me, what’s your favorite?

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You Probably Don’t Know…

Cactus in the Window

1. I am required to wear a black blazer every day to work. I used to think black blazers were a fun, versatile clothing item but now I kind of hate them.

2. I think the whole “oh my gosh let me see your ring!” and me sticking out my hand thing is super awkward.

3. I’m absurdly ticklish. Pedicures are torture.

4. After months of trying to improve my Instagram and striving for those perfect (staged) photos, I finally realized that it needed it to reflect my real life more. So I’m working on that. I discovered the photo editing app Enlight and have been using it on my recent Instagram photos and I think its editing capabilities make regular life look a lot more awesome. See the photo above and check out my Instagram.

5. The hardest part of wedding planning is family related stuff that I can’t share on the blog. The wedding details are easy. The family stuff? Not so much.

6. I started Blog Brighter because I felt weird just talking about myself all the time on this blog. I wanted to write, just not about me.

7. I have a jingle for almost everything. I wrote N and Archie their own theme songs and I sing them all the time. N never complains about this because his includes the phrase “handsome man” a lot.

8. I have really terrible hearing. It sometimes really embarrasses me because I have to ask people to repeat things a lot or I turn my head to listen with just my right ear (cause it’s better than my left).

Helene in Between

3 TV Shows to Stream this Summer

Thank goodness spring weather puts everyone in a good mood (especially me) because otherwise I’d be suffering from a mild depression now that we’re deprived of new episodes of our favorite tv shows.

Every year around May as I watch all the season finales I wonder, but what will I watch? This usually means that summer is our time to find new (old) tv shows we love via streaming services and watch all the episodes, get “caught up”, and then become a regular viewer in the fall.

Here are some we’ve found recently that I’d recommend.

Best TV Shows Available Amazon Prime and Netflix


Amazon Prime Original Series

Where do I even begin with how much I loved this show? The show is about a Los Angeles family and their lives as they each discover that their father Mort is transgender and is now Maura. Sometimes the pain on Maura’s face (played by Jeffrey Tambor) was so raw, so brutal, that I’m unsure how anyone could watch the show and not feel for her. I cried multiple times but since it’s technically a dramady, it also has plenty of laughs. The entire show was just so real.

The best way I can describe it is that it made me feel all the feels the way Parenthood did but more adult content mixed in.

I feel like this show is a shining example of how television shows (or movies) can do good in the world by using fictional stories to bring light to real issues, real people. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted. Everyone deserves that.

Grace and Frankie

Netflix original series

When their law partner husbands come out as long time lovers, Grace and Frankie are shocked. These two former rivals could not be more different. Grace (played by Jane Fonda) is a high-maintenance, former cosmetics mogul. Frankie (played by Lily Tomlin) is an artistic hippie.

The two never really liked each other, though they are forced to realize that they need each other to get through this difficult time in their lives.

This show has just the right amount of serious with funny. I love the chemistry between Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. I enjoyed the evolution of their friendship as the episodes went on. I also loved Sol, played by Sam Waterston (from The Newsroom and Law and Order).


CBS, available on Amazon Prime Instant Streaming

Why didn’t I watch this sooner!? Extant came out last summer with 13 episodes. Halle Berry is the main character in this Steven Spielberg produced sci-fi drama. Yup, I love sci-fi.

Molly (Halle Berry) returns home after a 13 month solo mission to space. As the show progresses, details come out about strange events that took place in space. Almost every episode has an oh-my-gosh moment and after the first episode, I was hooked. The next season comes out this July and I can’t wait to watch.

Do you have any recommendations for shows that are available via streaming services? Please share!