Thursday, October 22, 2015

I Am More Than Meets The Eye

A Diatribe Against the Idealism that My Value is Determined by My Body Parts

When I was a little girl, maybe six years old, a boy my age looked at me in disgust and asked, “Are you a boy or girl?”

As a kid, I had very short hair. I was a chronic hair-twirler, and as punishment for having to get knots cut out of my curls every month, my mother had her hairdresser give me a pixie cut. I also had an odd shape when I was little. I had chicken legs and arms, but a bit of a belly and the same baby face that I’m sporting today.

A lot of boys made fun of me for the way I looked, but what can a six year old do about her image except continue to live in it?

When I was 13 years old, one of my classmates, a boy, looked at me and said, “You’d be really pretty if you were skinnier.”

This message resonated in me for longer than it should have. I had flashbacks and memories of his deep blue eyes looking into my large hazel ones, and it was as if they too were telling me I was fat and ugly.

When I was 15 years old, I was a size 10 in pants, medium in shirts and a 36B in bra size. I ran every day, did 50 crunches and 50 squats every night before bed, and drank green tea for breakfast to make room for a bagel with peanut butter at lunch.

During a make-out session in his car, an older boy from another high school, grabbed a feel of one of my bra-covered breasts, pulled away and said, “Your boobs are so small and palm-able right now. I can’t wait until you get older and really grow into them.”

When I was 20 years old, a size 12 in pants, a size medium in shirts, a size 36C in bras, and an hourglass frame, the boy I was dating picked me up by my small waist and said, “Everything is being marketed toward curvy girls now a days, you would make a killing in modelling.”

I remember telling him, “but I want to go into Public Relations.” He laughed and said, “Yeah but sweetie, in case that doesn’t work out for you, you could be the spokeswoman for a different kind of woman. Just think about it.”

While I’m all for a positive movement in body image, the idea that I contributed nothing to the world but a body shape was greatly disturbing.

I have always been treated like the man’s opinion of me was supposed to matter. I have spent nights sobbing over my image, not because someone else didn’t like it, but because that someone – who had no right, by the way – had made me feel like I wasn’t supposed to like it.

As I got older, people stopped treating me like I was insignificant because of my weight and my shape. Instead they started to bring me down for another reason – because I am a woman.

Let me quickly address the fact that I am not “today’s feminist.” I’m not here to bash how other women practice feminism, but I don’t think I’m fighting the same fight that other women are. I don’t look to celebrities to be my “feminist guidance counselor,” nor do I partake in Twitter arguments about Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump. I don’t jump at every opportunity to run around screaming, “YOU’RE TREATING ME UNFAIRLY. YOU’RE A WOMAN HATER” because someone has questioned my authority.

I call myself a feminist because I have been mistreated simply for the fact that I am an intelligent and hardworking woman who might even be attractive.

I call myself a feminist because I have been told to essentially emasculate myself since the beginning of time. I have been told how to become more of a woman and a less of a success story.

I call myself a feminist because I have been trained to believe that I am worthless to society and that my only mission is to be an object of sex, or to sit at home and blog while my pie for my husband’s office party bakes in the oven.

I call myself a feminist because I have been expected to aspire to a husband who is a doctor or a salesman. A man who kisses me on the forehead for making him breakfast, before he pulls away to work in his BMW from our four-car garage. I am expected to sit at home with the kids or take a hot yoga class, or go on coffee dates with other women of my caliber.

I call myself a feminist because I have been told how to wear my hair and makeup or what type of clothing I should wear to make myself more appealing.

I call myself a feminist because I have had young women at interviews and internships, look up to me with stars in their eyes, as if being a woman leader is some sort of feat.

In the office, I have had my opinions and my intellect questioned because I may be inaccurate.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m screaming the correct answers in someone’s face, as they are Googling their questions or accepting answers from my inexperienced coworker, who just so happens to lack breasts and an internal reproductive system.

I have been told that some male clients might not respect me because they don’t believe women should be in the work place.

I’ve been asked to create presentations for another person, a male, to give because he might have “a greater impact” or “louder voice” than me.

I have had my male peers and my superiors attempt to walk over me, because they think I’m a pushover. Because they think maybe I am too weak to fight back.

Let me be clear, I do not and will not be depreciated because history has manipulated women to be the “weaker sex.” My value is not determined by the way I wear my hair, or by my soft-spoken approach to introductions. Because I giggle and smile in business meetings, does not diminish the fact that I am there to achieve a goal and land a sale.

All my life I have been told how to be the storybook woman. And all my life, I have fought to be respected. I’m not accepting defeat. I will never succumb to defeat just because I look a certain way or express myself genuinely.

It is key that as a female, I determine and establish my self-worth. It is important I make it known that I am not less of a person because of my God-given gender. It’s necessary to disregard the opinion of someone else if they aren’t conducive to my personal growth and development. I know myself, and I know my worth.

I am not my hair. I am not my weight. I am not my body shape. I am not a door mat. I am not weak.

I am strong. I am intelligent. I am a leader. I am caring. I am friendly. I am extremely passionate and horribly loving. I am goal-oriented and motivated. I am hardworking. I am a threat. I am a woman.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Slowing Down a Busy Girl

The past 11 months have been extremely busy for me. I would wake up early and work out or babysit, go to work, go to a rehearsal, go to bed, wake up and repeat.

It was fun at first, but then doing five shows from August to December, followed by two in April to July, you get kind of wiped out.

Plus, little things pop up - annual appointments and routine checkups, out of town meetings, family things... life tends to get a little exhausting.

Everyone used to say, "Wow Adele, you're so busy, I don't know how you do it!"

And the truth is, I didn't know either. However, I did know it would all catch up to me eventually. I found myself getting less than four hours of sleep each night, while trying to lead a happy and productive lifestyle. Food and caffeine became friends - my means of survival, while sleep and exercise sat on the back-burner as "less important."

On weekends, I'd try to sleep-in as much as possible, but work must be done on these days, too. Grocery shopping, laundry, house work that gets put off during the week, commitments I should not have even made... not to mention going to a movie or to get a drink or four with some friends.

It really all just catches up to you.

So here is some advice to the busy girl who can't seem to keep up.

Learn to say "no." 

There is nothing worse than knowing you could have free time, but instead you have to be at a bridal shower that you RSVP'd for last month. Or knowing you could be laying in bed, but you picked up a shift for the girl who always works for you the days you want off.

Believe me, I have been there more times than I care to admit. I always get myself into these pickles where I know I could be sprawled out on my couch with a jar of cookie butter, but I don't get to because I over-committed my time. You have to start saying "no." If you know with all of your heart that adding on a new task will stress you won't, don't do it. Will your loved ones or friends be mad at you if you say "no" here and there? If they know your situation then most likely not.

I'm sure they would be more upset if you bailed last minute or pouted in misery, instead of just not committing at all.

Budget your time. 

So you already have your commitments lined up - now organize them by how long it should take you to finish them. Plan your days around them. Finish what you can in that time frame and then move on to the next project, even if the first one isn't finished yet.

Kind of get my gist here? So on weekdays, I babysit from 6-8am. That means I wake up at 5:30am, get my belongings together, sometimes bathe, watch the little one, get to work for 8:30am, work until 5:30pm and then high tail it out of there for around the house chores. I have to leave at 5:30pm exactly - whether or not my work is done.

Unless there is a very specific and tight deadline, I do not stay later than I need to. I budget my time. I once read somewhere that work is exactly what it is, work. It's continuous - it's not meant to be done. So during my workday, I give myself a schedule. If I don't finish something in its allotted time frame, oh well, it has to get done tomorrow. This helps a lot with allowing myself time to do the following.

Find 30 minutes to meditate.

SLOW DOWN. Give yourself just a little bit of time to relax and meditate. Some people think, "Meditation? I don't have the time nor the flexibility for yoga!" That's great that you think yoga is the only way to truly be centered with yourself, but that theory is incorrect. I haven't taken a yoga class in years, and I don't even remember any of the poses for self-practice.

The point is though, you need 30 minutes to relax. Sometimes, I take 30 minute rests up to 3 times a day. If the child I babysit is still sleeping in the early morning, I take that time to blog, or read, or rest my eyes while I think about my future. Not the future that is about to happen, as my anxiety likes to keep bringing up, but the future that you have been working hard and stressing yourself out over to build. Girl/boy, you are strong! You'll get there.

I take mini breaks throughout the day to stretch and to let my brain forget about the abundance of projects stacking up on my desk. This time is used to just sit on the floor or at my chair, to rest my eyes or think about puzzling pieces of the universe - "Have I been so angry at so/so because of sleep deprivation? Is there a retrograde happening right now? Why are antioxidants so good for you?" Things you normally wouldn't think about.When that 30 minutes is done, my energy is refocused and I'm ready to work.


Physical activity keeps the brain moving - and once the endorphins are released, you're automatically in a much better mood than you were earlier. Personally, I have found that my best days and best mornings occurred after working out at some point.

We are humans, we get it. Sometimes you just can't workout in the morning. Getting out of bed to move around physically and get covered in sweat is the worst thought in the world. However, getting up and immediately working out is the best way to start your day. You feel powerful after a workout, you feel energized, and best of all, the long term benefits of working out are amazing. Personally, I have discovered that the mornings I've done some strength training and jumping jacks, have been the days I've gotten the most accomplished.

Make sure you find the time to do cardio and get your heart racing. Do a few 10 minute exercises in your room after you roll out of bed. Take a walk on your lunch break, just get physical!

Set a sleep schedule for yourself, and meet it.

20th Television / Via
One of my biggest issues was that I didn't go to bed at the same time every night, and I most definitely wasn't waking up at the same time every morning. I love my bed more than anything, we share a bond that I don't share with anyone else. I've truly connected with it on a deeper level. However, there are times where I find it hard to drop what I'm doing to "call it a night." 

Your body knows when it's time to rest, listen to it. I am the culprit of postponing sleep until the last possible second. I have argued with my body more than I care to admit, but once I finally committed to a sleep schedule, it felt like I was a new person. I was a lot happier, I was much more focused during the day, and I found myself to be a lot healthier in general. 

I can't tell you how much sleep is appropriate for you to get or what time you should go to bed based off of your schedule - these are variables that differ for every person. I CAN suggest that you find something that works and stick to it. Stay in some weekends and sleep. I can't stress it enough - listen to your body. 

Though you're extremely busy, if you invest in your mind and body, you will find you might not be as overwhelmed as you thought you were.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Loss and love: Grandparent's Day

Let me preface this by saying: I lost 3/4s of my grandparents at a very early age. I hardly knew the lot of them.

My maternal grandmother Adelina, whom I named after, suffered a stroke before I was born and never really came back from it. I spent a majority of my younger years visiting her in a nursing home, wishing she could respond to me. My two older cousins had wonderful memories of her, taking them for walks, allowing them to indulge on chocolate cake for breakfast, and much more. My memories revolved around her in a bed, trying to speak but words were lost behind cry-like sounds.

They had memories of sharing hugs with grandma Zgainer, but I did not - nor would I ever. She passed away in 1999.

My maternal grandfather Edward, terrified me. When I was really little my mom took me to the nursing home to visit him, and my only memory of our relationship was him shaming her for taking me to a place full of sick people. He passed away in 1995.

Dr. James A. Stewart, Jr.,  my paternal grandfather, was an inspiration to many. I only wish I could have known him the way many did.  In 1974, he was the recipient of the Fred C. Klutz Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Health. He was a 2002 Honoree for the Spirit of King Award, which was established by the Kingsley Association, the Pittsburgh Pirates & the Port Authority. He founded the Alma Illery Neighborhood Health Center, which became the first in a series of community-based clinics of its kind.

We lost Dr. Stewart very early on. I didn't know him beyond his accomplishments.

My paternal grandmother Ethel, was the closest relationship I had with a grandparent. To this day, she is one of the most influential people in my life. She stuck around for a long time, and I spent many days and nights at her house as I was growing up. Some of my fondest memories were sitting beside her in her king sized bed eating candies and Trefoils (her favorite Girl Scout cookie). I enjoyed sitting in her little red car with her as we went to visit old friends, other family members or go to the grocery store. She would make me sandwiches for lunch but would always forget that I didn't like Miracle Whip or bologna, but I suffered through those Miracle Whip and bologna sandwiches without batting an eyelash because my grandma made them for me. She was a brilliant pianist and I found myself picturing her playing in Carnegie Hall or the organ at an old church, instead of watching where her fingers hit so I could mimic her playing. In her younger years, she was an English teacher. One of the best.

Despite my years of schooling, I would never have a better teacher than her.

Watching Ethel suffer from Alzheimer's disease was like watching an ancient artifact crumble to the ground. It didn't happen over night. One minute she was fine and the next, we were driving through the streets of Pittsburgh trying to find the street she had lived on for over 60 years. It only got worse. One day I was looking at photos in her room and came across one of myself when I was five years old. She walked up to me and said, "That's my granddaughter Adele. She's five." I was 16 at the time and could feel my heart shatter. She had no idea who I was, the teenager standing directly beside her in her bedroom. I would never be older than that five year old in the photo to her.

When my father, her son James Stewart III passed away in 2007, she asked me if I knew Jimmy. However, she sat next to me at the funeral and held my hand through the entire ceremony. A little piece of her still recognized and understood that we shared a connection with him, with each other.

I lost the only grandparent I have ever known a few days before my high school graduation. It was a great loss to me, but I knew I had lost her long before that.

Although I never knew Adelina, Ed or Dr. Stewart the way others have known their grandparents, I'm grateful to know they brought my amazing parents into the world.

I know have received gifts from all four of them:

1. Adelina's humor and ability to take over the kitchen.
2. Ed's stubbornness but hardworking attitude and devotion.
3. Dr. Stewart's passion for success and for others.
4. Ethel's creativity, brains and leadership skills.

My grandparents have given me all of these gifts and more, and although they are not physically here, I am aware of how much love they continue to give me. I wouldn't be half the person I am today without them.

Happy Grandparent's Day to my four inspiring grandparents and to yours, too!

My cousins John and Edward, Grandma Zgainer and myself

My Grandfather Zgainer, my cousin John and baby me

Grandpa Stewart and I

Ethel always made sure to keep me classy.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Homemade Brunch and Saturday Productivity

Weekends call for brunching, right?

I had every intention on waking up early and getting waffles and pecan coffee with my friends... but I had a little too much fun by firelight last night, and wound up sleeping until noon. I even missed my family taking off for a day adventure to find burgers, fries and root beer floats.

No big deal, though. I don't mind staying home and doing 12 loads of laundry while sorting my mail and RSVPing to weddings, while also coming up with Facebook content and editing all 16 pending posts in the Urban Cashmere blog.

I guess I really was meant to get shit done today.

I made a cup of coffee and added a tablespoon of this amazingly delicious new vegan coffee creamer I found. The brand is Califa Farms and the flavor is Pecan Caramel. It's actually everything I have ever needed it to be and more, and it tastes so good in coffee and hot tea.

As I sipped my coffee, I paced around the kitchen wondering what I could make that would be brunch-y and all around delicious? I started to settle on a piece of toast and an egg when I realized I had one BOCA Burger left AND an avocado. I then put my creative brain to the test and off we went.

I also made a delicious Chocolate Cookie Butter smoothie which I devoured way too quickly. It was supposed to last me through my editing, and it made it through this sentence.

Amazingness on Toast

1 piece of homemade bread (or whatever you eat for bread)
1 egg
1 BOCA Burger
Half of an avocado
Vegan cream cheese (or not vegan)
Cheese (optional)

1. Crack egg over small cooking pan and let cook, try to strategically flip it without getting yolk everywhere. I fail at this constantly so I eat my eggs sort of hard, though runny eggs are so delicious.
2. While this is cooking, cut up your avocado, toast your bread and heat up your BOCA Burger.
3. Put cream cheese on toast, throw egg on top, strategically lay burger on top of the egg, followed by avocado and sriracha. Add cheese if you're feeling crazy.
4. Eat with fork and knife.

Chocolate Cookie Butter Smoothie
(Not pictured, but freaking awesome)

1 banana
Half of an avocado
Half a tbsp of cocoa powder
2 tbsp of Biscoff Cookie Butter (Trader Joe's makes a good copy cat version)
1 cup of almond milk
Half cup of ice
Vanilla sugar (optional)

1. Put everything in blender of Ninja and blend it. Then drink it and weep.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


I promised myself I would never revisit this part of my life ever again, but I've been feeling kind of down lately so I felt that it was imperative to acknowledge who I was just a few short years ago. 

The first photo was my freshman year of college when I had absolutely no cares, was full of self-confidence & could drink my current self under a table. The middle photo is from one of the worst years of my life, junior year of college, when I allowed life to walk all over me. 

Middle me is a perfect example of how to deal with stress in the wrong fashion. When life gets hard, the worst decision you can make is to take it out on your body. Though comforting, alcohol, overindulgence and laying around every day are NOT the answers you're looking for. I completely lacked self respect during this time period. I hated myself and my misery made it easier to hate others just as much. I lost a lot of relationships when I was this person, and unfortunately I let it last a lot longer than I should have (2011-2013). 

But you know what? The third picture is right now and even though I could be in better shape, I am so, so happy with the progress I have made. I lost relationships two years ago, but I've built stronger ones since. I lost a lot of self respect before and I am just now getting it back. I can truly say that even though some days are so hard, I've overcome so much. I'm still a work-in-progress and that's okay, I'm a lot further than where I was before. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, when life deals you a bad hand, give yourself a day to wallow and then pick the deck back up and play again. Don't get caught up in the misery of it all, or you will lose yourself. 

A healthy mind really does make all the difference in having a healthy body. 

I'm no counselor, nor do I have any certifications in any health behaviors, but I am a huge advocate for self-help and self-love. If you're struggling with life, I will gladly be the ear that listens, and can give you as much advice and love as you can take.

Peace & love & all that jazz.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Peach Pie and the Best Crust Ever

I've been craving a homemade pie as of late, but the biggest issue I have faced when baking them is that my crust is typically awful. I shouldn't say awful, it's not awful per se, but it isn't necessarily the tastiest. In fact, my crust has always been thick and chalky and I have had the worst time finding a solution for it. I received a few pointers from some fellow pie-bakers who had some great tips - use half regular flour and half quinoa flour, or use piping hot water instead of ice cold. These were all good ideas, but the best solution I found was a recipe on Pinterest that required butter. 

I've probably mentioned this before, but I have a dairy allergy. I'm not lactose intolerant, so I won't get a stomach ache if I eat something with lactose. I have an actual dairy allergy. I experience apprehension - my heart races and I feel like I'm panicking, I get heavy eyes and I feel foggy, and sometimes I break out into hives or a rash. One time, after eating something buttery, I wound up having to get steroids injected into my throat because everything began to tighten and I almost stopped breathing. Aw :)

With that being said, I wasn't sure if my vegan butter would be an ideal substitution for this pie crust, but I was willing to try.

This weekend I bought a boat-load of peaches with the intention of baking a peach-blueberry pie, but I literally forgot the blueberries were in the fridge when I went to bake, so peach pie it was.

I have to say that as I began baking this pie, I was extremely impressed with the pie crust. By the time I had flattened it, I knew it was going to be the crust that would change my life. As I put it in the freezer to firm it, I thought to myself 'I think this just may be the answer I have been waiting for'.. and it was.

Although a piece of my top crust got stuck to the wax paper while I transitioned it over to the pie, thus making one side of the pie look like a murder scene, the pie still turned out better than expected. NOTE: I roll my dough between two pieces of wax paper, hence why the "stuck." The crust was exceedingly flaky and the peach filling was sweet and gooey. 

Trust me kids, you will want to try this recipe at home.

All regular flour, shortening and Earth Balance Vegan butter sticks

Perfection wedged between two sheets of wax paper.

Hand peeled, hand sliced - went a little beyond the 6 cups recommended because... look at them.

I'm so in love.

Added an extra touch of flour for maximum firmness.


Gorgeous. [not pictured: Pie's bad side]

Below is my recipe for amazingly banging peach pie!

Pie Crust

2 1/2 C flour
1/2 C vegan butter
1/2 C shortening
pinch of salt
ice cold water, add teaspoon by teaspoon until you form the right consistency

1. Place flour, salt, butter and shortening in bowl.
2. Use your hands to combine ingredients until small pebbles form
3. Add cold water a teaspoon at a time until the dough begins to hold together and form a ball.
4. Do not over handle the dough. Dough should be soft, moist but not wet.
5. Divide dough in half.
6. Place ball of dough onto wax paper and flatten. Place another piece of wax paper over the top and roll out the pastry into a circle. If your pie pan is 9 inch make sure your circle is bigger than 9 inches so you have enough for the edging.
7. Remove the top layer of wax paper and place pastry into pie tin. Remove other piece of wax paper and press pastry into pan. Use your fingers to crimp the edge of the crust.
8. Freeze for 30 minutes to firm up the pastry. This helps prevent pastry from shrinking during baking.
9. Prick the bottom of crust to prevent bubbling during baking.
10. If pie calls for a baked crust bake at 400 degrees. For the first 10-12 minutes keep the edges of pie covered with foil and then remove for the last 15 minutes. Bake until golden brown.

Peach Pie Filling

3/4-1 C sugar (depending on how sweet your peaches are)
4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
6 (or more) cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches
2 tablespoons butter (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add to peaches and mix lightly (not too rough).
3. Fill your crust - dot with butter, if you'd like
4. Add top crust; make edges look nice.
5. Bake in oven for 45 minutes, or until juices are bubbling and crust is browning.

Make sure to share your pie recipes with me in the comment section below!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

10 Songs for Focusing

Whether you're studying for a big test, typing up analytic reports for work, catching up on the latest PLL theories online, or performing any task that requires your undivided attention, you're going to need some focus music. As someone who is obsessed with creating 8tracks playlists, I feel that it is my duty, nay, my calling to share with you songs that have helped me calm my nerves during some stressful typing sessions.