Saturday, March 28, 2015

My trainer and hair-do catch up.

Brian and I are officially signed up for the Johnstown Flood Half Marathon. We like to try to run one race a year--they can get pricey. Last year we ran the Pittsburgh Wild Trail (read about it here), which was fun once I realized there was no way the hills and trails of Allegheny County would allow me to break two hours, despite following a training schedule. However, I have hopes for the Johnstown half!
I've been trying to exercise regularly for quite a while, and I've been good at doing something most days, whether it's kickboxing, squats and abs, or running. But I knew I'd have to train with at least longer runs for the half, so I researched a feasible training schedule to get me ready for a sub-two-hour half (9:09 min/mile). I'm generally following this plan whose details can be read here. I love the variety of workouts and that I run 13 miles twice before race day. I only had 11 to train when I started, so I had to shorten it a little. I also shifted the long runs to Thursdays. Also, it's very easy to adjust the plan according to your current fitness level and goal half time. Here are the first few weeks of my plan that I customized for my goal.
I've completed every workout except one cross train day. This is really great for me but it remarkably hasn't been very hard. I seriously have come to regard this training schedule as my personal trainer. It knows how fast, how long, how hard I think I can run, and then it says, "Well, I know you ran six miles last night, but I also know you can run ten miles this morning" or "Of course you can run four miles at a sub-nine-minute pace along with three other miles!" And the best part is, it's right. I look at my schedule, and it's almost like I'm talking to it with my thoughts: Woah, it's gonna be hard to run three miles that fast in the middle of that workout. Especially after eating all this candy and not getting enough sleep. But then I do run those three miles, even faster than my schedule told me to! I already feel faster and stronger, which just goes to show that my schedule knows best. I don't even question or think about it--I just follow the schedule. And I'm happily sore pretty much every day :)

On to the hair.
Probably my favorite hair style yet because it was easy (I think I curled just the ends), fast, and beautiful! Difficulty: easy. Just take the top part and bobby pin it back and then alternate hair from each side and pin it. The previous pin is covered by the hair you pull over from the other side. Then curl the bottom! Durability: five stars. Stays in through everything except sleeping. And probably a hurricane. Time: Ten minutes maybe? Way less if your hair is already curled.

Fishtail side braid
Layers and this do don't mix. Yikes. Difficulty: Not bad, but my arms start to ache if I make it too tight and take tiny pieces. It looks cooler then though. Durability: Negative. I redid it like three times in the car to church. It just would not stay in with my layers. Time: Five minutes or less. It was nice I didn't have to straighten or curl it first--I just worked with my hair as is. Maybe why it wouldn't stay in?

 Side Messy Bun
I like how the girl on the blog did this hairstyle to work out in. Difficulty: It took me a few times to get the french  braid to look right and to go to the right place, and actually looking at the directions I didn't do it right, but it turned out fine. My bun also wasn't as messy as I would have liked, but overall it wasn't too hard. I give it three stars out of five, five being the hardest. Durability: Super durable! Time: 15-20 minutes with my redos...

 Braided bun
Love, love, love how this turned out. And I actually did it again for work one day (with less success), so you know it has to be quick and easy. Difficulty: easy! I can do simple braids and wraps them around each other! And the directions were good. Durability: really awesome the first time I did it. I must have put the bobby pins in good places. Time: Five minutes.

Upside-down Braid bun
Okay, so no, mine does not look like hers. But this was my first semi-success at doing this! I think I just need to take smaller pieces as I'm braiding up. Difficulty: hard.. Durability: very. Time: depends how many redos, but it should only take like five to ten.

 Lace braid with loose curls
Oops, you can totally see where I forgot to take hair on one part. Oh well! I like doing different things with French braids. Difficulty: easy, just only take hair from the top part of your head (aka every other time that you would normally add hair in a french braid). Curls were from the night before! Durability: Very durable. It goes into a braid that comes over my shoulder, so there was no chance of it falling out. Time: Five minutes.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

January hair and chocolate party!

So I know this is what you've all been waiting I do my Sunday hair! (Follow me on instagram @oswens for a week-by-week looksie.)

Week 1: Piece-by-piece bun
So I don't know the real name for this hairstyle, but it's basically a ponytail where you leave a bit out on one side/the front, and then you take pieces from the ponytail and droop the ends over the base of the ponytail and secure it with a bobby pin. You'll see in the sixth step she uses I teasing comb--I don't own one of those, so naturally I didn't do that. 

Difficulty: I love that I didn't have to curl or straighten my hair first. I probably should have redone it to make it look even better, but I think two tries and you're good to go. Durability: Not so great. All of church I was like, I wonder what it looks like now... I had to fix it before we took the picture. Time: about twenty minutes

French braid to one side until you get to your ear, then just normal braid until it reaches around the back of your head; secure with a bobby pin. Then grab a front section from the other side, smooth it out, and tuck it under the braid.

Difficulty: I can never get my french braids to look like the ones in the picture, so I had to try that one a few times. I also had to curl the bottoms of my hair to make it look like the picture. Overall simple though. Durability: Pretty durable, and easy to fix if the part I tucked back fell out. Time: about twenty-five minutes (mostly curling my hair)

Week Three: Twisty Bun
Looks so easy! I had saved it for a day when I had a meeting early before church so that I could sleep in a little. Just gather your hair like you were going to do high ponytail, twist it around until it coils up, and secure with bobby pins!
Difficulty: I can never get my hair smooth on top and bottom for these buns. Also, my hair is way to thick to be secured only by bobby pins. And I didn't do it nearly high enough. So I think this is hard for me although the idea is very simple. Durability: my hair was escaping everywhere! From the sides, the top, the back especially. Not super durable. Time: I only spent ten minutes on it. Probably should have spent more...

Week Four: Headband Chignon
Get a headband that's not loose and put it straight on over your hair; mine came within like an inch of my forehead. Then take the hair underneath the headband and wrap it around. Keep curling and curling it until it's all around the headband. Secure with bobby pins if needed.
Difficulty: I've done this hairstyle before, but this was probably the best it had turned out. I have a serious problem with my hair not poofing up when I first put on the headband; here I just bobby pinned the front poof down and it ended up covering up the headband, which was great. This one takes practice, so I'd say medium difficulty. Durability: Always falls out by the end of church. I can kind of curl it all back in, but I need bobby pins on hand to keep it secure for any amount of time. Time: Can be as quick as five minutes! More like ten though since I redo it.

So there you have it! 

Brian and I also hosted a little chocolate tasting party. We got chocolate from ten different countries and taught people how to listen to the snap, look for white blemishes, and get the full taste by letting it melt. Super fun!!

Sparkling water, crackers, and bread to cleanse the palette between tastes.

Guest of honor: Jack's first party!! And yes, those are
mustache pants

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lessons from the flu.

So I don't actually know if I got the bonafide influenza, but whatever I got, it laid me out for five days, and I continue to have a horrific cough and sore throat (ghost tonsils, I swear). While I was bed-ridden, I had lots of time to think between four hour naps and drug-induced hazes, mostly about my resolutions for the new year.

I have a ton of resolutions, so I won't bore you with all of them, but shout out to Ellen at Running with my High Heels on because she has some awesome goals! I was initially discouraged that my sick body could not possibly keep up with the highly productive schedule I had envisioned for 2015, but I've come to be grateful. I spend so much time flying around getting things done that I don't appreciate what I've done or what others have done for me. Right now it's all I can do to pick a single task when I get home from work and slowly go about accomplishing it. Yesterday it was making dinner and then cleaning up after. Normally I'd be making dinner while simultaneously unloading the dishwasher, mopping the floor, and straightening up the living room. But when I walked out of my clean kitchen last night after Brian did the dishes and I wiped down everything and swept, I thought it was a job well done.

While I was visiting Ashley and her family, she mentioned something she had heard about reducing everything we do by 10%. (This actually came in a conversation about how in England, they have automated toilet paper dispensers that only give you a couple squares, but I digress.) Applied to how much I get done, my gut reaction is, "No! I can't do less and still feel good about myself!" But the truth is, I can do less and I should do less. President Uchtdorf said, "We would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most." I always thought my optimum speed was as fast as I could go. But thanks to the flu, I'm figuring out my actual optimal speed, one where I can enjoy life and progress without feeling overwhelmed.

PS--One of my resolutions is to try a new hairstyle for church every Sunday. We'll see how long that lasts, especially with church at nine now. I'll usually be instagramming them, but maybe once a month I'll blog about the last month of Sunday hair with little comments about difficulty, durability, and time it took me. Here was this past week's do:
We'll work on Brian's hair photography skills. I didn't check to see if it was a good picture. Please disregard the messy home as we had just gotten back from Rochester and I had the flu.

This triple inside out ponytail was inspired from here, although I didn't do the three ponytails first. I just did the top one, flipped it, gathered half the remaining hair and the tail of the first into a pony tail, flipped it, and then the rest of the hair and the tail of the second into a third bunch and flipped it. I used those tiny rubber band hair elastics. I hair sprayed everything at the end because I have more flyaways than you would believe!

Difficulty: super easy; only one try. Durability: lasted all day at work! That's better than a normal ponytail for me.
Time: > 5 min

Throw your hairstyles at me!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The kitty life.

So I got a new job, but more importantly we rescued a feral kitten!! For anyone who knows me, I detest all things cat. For anyone who knows my brother, you'll know it's because I had a really, really, really scary dream where a cat controlled my arms to make me fight another cat. Scarring. I've hated cats ever since, which is unfortunate when I'm married to a man who always grew up with several cats lounging, meowing, and scratching around. I don't like when a cat kneads me. I don't like when a cat "love nips" me. I don't like when they rub their hair off on me, stare me down, or bring dead animals to my door step. I don't like cats.

I was taking the trash out, which involves walking to an alley on the side of our building that borders a decrepit house with a big stinky garden in the back. I'm serious, I think they fertilize with human feces. I'm holding my breath as I walk toward the dumpster, and I hear this meow, meow, moew. I toss in the bag and dodge the disturbed swarm of flies, and I look over into the back yard and see the most pitiful little kitten meowing with every exhale. I snap a picture (to Instagram of course) and push my conscience down, thinking that the neighbors don't take care of their house or cats. As I'm getting picked up to make seven freezer crock-pot meals at a friend's house (a whole nother blog post) I do text Brian and tell him that if he still hears the kitten meowing, he should probably rescue it.

I come home later to a quiet parking lot; no meows. Brian didn't even get my text, but we decide to go over and see if the kitten is still there. The flashlight beam reveals a tiny white furball huddled under the porch stairs, mouth opening but no sound coming out. Brian proceeds to spend the next hour trying to coax the kitty out while I hold the flashlight. Even at this point, when Brian has finally pulled the kitten close enough to me that I can reach between the porch slats and pull her out, my fear of cats nearly stays my hand. But I reach down and grab her.

And thus begins our kitty life. For the first 24 hours she meows constantly. We finally get the right kind of kitten milk that she can drink (kittens get explosive diarrhea with lactose), and we get a little tiny bottle, and she finally latches on, and she can eat! We're relieved.

Brian is paranoid of fleas since his mission when he had an apartment with fleas, so we give her a bath in dish soap (which is supposed to kill the fleas). It didn't quite kill all of them, but we pulled at least twenty fleas, dead and alive, off the tiny kitty. She struggled at first but then submitted to the flea comb and tweezers. I felt much better about petting her after that. We also had to make her go to the bathroom at the beginning, but now she either goes on my mat by the kitchen sink or in her kitty litter. She's learning.

She's super playful! She'll roll over on her back and then claw and bite at your hands when you pet her tummy. I don't like it but Brian does. We're constantly warning the other to not step on her because she moves around silently. She always passes out after eating. She's just learning how to scamper and she looks like a little bunny hopping around. She loves sitting on feet.

All around it's like having a little baby that we don't have to pay for day care for and whose development is sped up into a single month where she takes a bottle, goes to solids, and learns to use kitty litter. We hope that by the time we hand her off to a family in our ward in a month that she'll be litter trained and fully weaned.

We did find out that the mom is a neighborhood cat and had three other kittens under the porch in a storage place, near where we found our kitty. The guys that found the other kittens said they see the mom there sometimes. I'm not sure what's become of those little kittens; I hope they're all right.

So we have her for a month! Brian is more patient with her and nicer to her, but I'll feed her and cuddle her. I love her purr. I was so happy the first time I heard it after so much incessant meowing. If you're in the area and want to meet her, stop on by!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The ALS ice bucket challenge.

So I did it. It took me more than 24 hours, so I think that means I'm supposed to donate, but who's to say I didn't do both. Also, I felt obligated to actually learn something about Lou Gehrig's disease before I absentmindedly passed on the challenge (to Brian, Corinne, and Mom). I love the idea of a grassroots movement creating such widespread awareness (who thought such a thing would take off?), but I didn't want to dump ice water on my head and donate to something that could just be the  misspelled acronym for American Sign Language. To me, implicit in the challenge was the requirement to actually learn about the disease, to become aware of it. So I did a little research.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a disease that causes the motor neurons in the brain to degenerate. While patients muscles atrophy and they struggle to swallow and breathe, the thinking part of their brains remains unaffected. About 30,000 Americans are diagnosed; median survival time after diagnosis is thirty-nine months. There is no known cause. There is no known cure.

I just spent the last hour or so lost in stories of those suffering with ALS. They are heartbreaking. While I don't know personally know anyone with ALS, I have seen the effects of other chronic diseases on people I love and their families (note my Camp Kesem shirt). They need more love from the world. Here are a two first hand accounts of ALS:'s%20Story_one.htm

I had been dreading getting nominated. I didn't want to video myself (I don't like hearing myself talk), I didn't want to dump water on my head (I don't like having wet hair), and I knew I'd have to spend a couple hours researching before I felt like I had actually fulfilled the challenge. But I'm glad it happened. Now, at least, I can understand somebody's suffering a little better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

DIY part II.

By what I consider a miracle, ever since getting married I've turned into a self-proclaimed domestic goddess. Okay, not really, but I did go from never cooking or doing any DIY projects to being obsessed with them. I recently turned down a job offer because I'd have to work 12-8:30, and that would have really cut into my dinner preparation time. Can't have that. I remember thinking when I first got married that I wished I had cooked with my mom more because I was super intimidated by recipes I found online. Luckily, as Brian can attest, once I had finished school and actually had time to delve into recipes and experiment, my meals turned out pretty dang delicious. It's very gratifying to turn out a delicious, healthy meal that my husband and I can enjoy together after a long day. Yum. 

My DIY adventures have had a more mixed success rate. Some projects were easy and beautiful, like the fabric-covered bulletin board, the little saying I made for our room, and the burlap wreath. Others have been laborious and much harder than anticipated, like the polka-dot wall and the mason jar storage. Future projects include refinishing a free dresser Brian and I acquired, making tissue-paper pom poms to accent a big empty wall in our bedroom, and making a busy board for Mila's first birthday. But I wanted to pass on some of the knowledge from the few projects I've done so people don't make the same really stupid mistakes that I made. 

Fabric-covered bulletin board
B+ for easiness. Directions from Chelsea are fantastic and straightforward. It doesn't get an A simply because it takes awhile to get all the thumbtacks in, and your dominant thumb gets really sore. Also, I got my thumbtacks from Staples, fyi, and I needed two boxes of 200 for my 3X2 board, although I had probably 75% of the second box leftover. I also got my fabric on sale, so total cost was <$7.

Calligraphy sayings
A for easiness. So I literally found one I liked on Pinterest (similar quotes here) that wasn't too cheesy, made it big on my screen (or the size I wanted) and copied it. I'm sorry, I'm not even close to artsy enough to write that kind of cursive and then bold it in those certain places. I probably tricked some of my instagram followers though, eh? Anyways, I love how it turned out. The frame is from IKEA. Total cost: $0.

This also shows the dresser we want to refinish

Burlap wreath
B- for easiness. Everyone on Pinterest said this was so easy! I had to try maybe seven times before I got it, and that was while watching a video. A lot of places say use wire or hot glue to hold the initial burlap weave in place; I never bothered because I knew I was going to mess up my first few tries, and then by the time I got it, it wasn't unraveling, so I left it as it was. I used extra pieces of fabric I had around, which were irregular lengths and widths, so that made it a little tricky. Even now it isn't perfect, but it's on top of a bookshelf, so I'm not too picky. I think it adds a lot of height to the room., especially with the mirror behind it. I just needed the wire wreath, which I got from JoAnn's. Total cost: >$4.

Polka-dot wall
C for easiness. The idea is super simple: use liquid starch to make fabric stay on a wall. (Lifehacker's site with directions gives a really ugly example.) However, cutting a shape or design you want out of fabric, especially if you want a repeating pattern of that shape and your wall is huge, can take FOREVER. I went super simple and traced a duct tape roll circle onto some thick paper (like an ad on cardstock I got in the mail). Then I cut the fabric in small squares roughly the size of the circle. Then, attaching the cutout circle to the fabric using sewing pins, I cut out the circle. None of them were perfect, so if you wanted something more complex, I hope you have a friend with a laser cutter. Spacing was a nightmare, and while I initially had started marking where each circle went, it would have taken forever to plan it all out, so I eventually eyeballed the majority of it, and it worked pretty well. I made my liquid starch out of water and corn starch (directions on site above), and my first batch was perfect, but my second batch was really bad, so all I can say is make sure you mix it a lot. And all of this is after my original problems determining how much fabric I would need, which I, of course, ended up grossly overestimating (by about 200%). Anyways, three months after starting, I'm nearing completion. Thank goodness it looks fantastic. Total cost: fabric was about $12 (considering I only used half of the $24 I bought).

Mason jar storage
C for easiness. Again, easy idea. Get a board, attach pipe clamps, attach mason jars to pipe clamps. Alas, as I suspected, attaching pipe clamps to the board was not easy. Brian's drill couldn't drill through the metal. We couldn't start the hole by hammering a nail through. So we took it to a friend's house where he used a wood clamp to hold the pipe clamp down and then used a bigger, sharper nail to hammer through it. I would suggest using a thicker piece of wood than the quarter-inch thickness we used; we had to use tiny screws and it means the mason jars are a little wobbly. It doesn't look nearly as great as I wanted it to, but maybe that's because the stuff in mason jars is ugly. Oh well, it's functional.
So many failed attempts...

So there you have it. Slowly but surely, my DIY repertoire grows. Oh, and here are some cards I made for people I love. 


Monday, August 4, 2014


I've been thinking a lot about how to write this experience, but maybe that's the problem. So here goes.

I'm a runner. My knee-jerk reaction after writing that is to qualify it. While I can run and I do it regularly, I consider myself slow--a plodder, if you will. I can plod along for miles, but anything with speed doesn't really work with me. My large thighs reflect both my endurance and slow pace. I'm a ten-minute-mile girl, and I've accepted that about myself. 

A couple weeks ago my family gathered for a reunion. My sister Camille is training to qualify for the Boston Marathon and asked me to go on a run with her. She was running two 7.5 mile loops, and I agreed to go the first half with her with the qualification that we wouldn't go "too fast," and Camille assured me that I'd be fine. 

So we ran. It was a cool morning and a flat course. Camille read out our mile times from her phone as we went. 9:14, 8:48, 8:43, 8:38... was this happening? I, Olivia Swenson, stuck in my ten-minute-mile ways since sixth grade cross country, finished a 7 miler with an average of 8:45-minute miles.

Maybe it's silly to admit, but that run made me realize something very fundamental and incredibly important: I can do so much more than I think I can. This glimpse at my potential has made me realize areas in my life where I am selling myself short. Poo poo, you may say, running caused such an epiphany? Yes, and I am so grateful for it. My incredible (for me) long run and being with my amazing family for a week really helped me see how I can  be better, try harder, serve more. And instead of feeling intimidated, I feel empowered and inspired. 

happy as a clam with Julia at Bug Light