Freshman year all over again

Hi Everyone! I am blogging on a break from my class so I’ve got to be quick. This ACSM class for Certified Personal Trainers is making my head spin! I don’t know what I was thinking when I thought I could take the test within a few weeks of taking the class!

12.11 ACSM slide

Just check out this crazy slide! I haven’t taken a class in soo long – I swear I don’t even remember how to study. I feel like a Freshman in college again.

Before leaving for class this afternoon, I hopped on the treadmill for a brand new running routine! Yes, I think I’ve broken out of my rut – here’s what I did:

  • 5 Min walk at 4.0
  • 2 Min run at 7.0
  • 3 Min run at 7.4
  • 2 Min run at 7.6
  • 2 Min run at 7.8
  • 2 Min run at 7.0
  • 2 Min run at 7.4
  • 3 Min run at 7.6
  • 2 Min run at 7.8
  • 2 Min run at 7.0
  • 2 Min run at 7.6
  • 2 Min run at 7.4
  • 2 Min run at 7.8
  • 2 Min run at 7.0
  • 2 Min run at 7.6
  • 5 Min walk at 4.5

Total 30 min run and 10 min walk!

Wow, this workout kicked my butt! I was sweating so bad at the end too, and I only covered about 4.5 miles! Burned a ton of calories though – whew, thank goodness 😉

I’m about to head back to class after eating my yummy $3.50 salad…

12.11 Dinner Salad

See you all tomorrow night!

"The Office" Holiday Party

As I mentioned last night, today was my office holiday party. Each year there’s a different theme or piece of entertainment to go with the party – this year, it was literally The Office holiday party. Our whole office arrived at the steakhouse around 11:30 AM to find little bobblehead Joe dolls on the table…

Dwight Bobblehead

I was soo excited to find Dwight at my table! I know he is the antagonist of the show, but I think his character is hysterical! It turns out that one lucky person at our table would actually get to take that bobblehead home – it was my boss! However, since he has NEVER seen the office, I offered to take the doll off of his hands, but then so did several other people. Being the fair guy that he is, he offered to pick names for the winner. Unfortunately, I was NOT the winner (I’m still bitter – don’t ask) and my winning co-worker promptly traded Dwight for an Angela at the next table…

Bobblehead Angela

I seriously can’t believe she chose Angela over Dwight – Dwight epitomized the bobblehead! Bitter I tell ya, just bitter.

Anyway, before the main lunch was served were enjoyed a few appetizers and cocktails and then all settled down to our salads…

12.10 Green Salad 1

A fresh and leafy green salad, a perfect way to start the meal. For our entree, we could choose between a filet of salmon or beef or risotto. I do not eat beef or salmon, so I had the very tasty spinach and mushroom risotto…

12.10 Risotto 1

It was served on HUGE plate that dwarfed the rice, but there was actually more in the bowl that I thought. I ended up eating the whole thing (minus a few overwhelming mushrooms) and I was really full.

12.10 Risotto 2

12.10 Risotto Name

Just prior to dessert, they held a raffle, that included cool prizes like 1-2 night stays in downtown Chicago hotels, gift certificates to Borders, etc. No, I didn’t win – but one of my team members won 6 dozen bagels and gave everyone on the team a coupon for a free dozen bagels – it’s all about sharing the wealth baby! I’m still not crazy about bagels, but they are a little more tempting when they’re free.

Dessert was slightly disappointing. Seriously, there were 2 bite-size brownies, 2 small cookies, 2 tarts the size of a silver dollar, and a 2 oz ramekin of creme brulee – this was for 4 people! That’s not dessert, that’s a snack! My boss and I kept waiting for something else to come out – actually hoping for something to come out – but it didn’t.

12.10 Creme Brulee

I’m not a creme brulee fan normally, but I decided to try it today. It was good, but my boss and I were still contemplating a Dairy Queen run.

To Bonus or Not To Bonus

And now – the moment we were ALL waiting for – Bonus Time! We anxiously awaited to get our holiday cards – the vehicle for our bonuses. Although I was pleased to still get a bonus, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed because it was lower than last year. I shouldn’t complain though – most people do not get bonuses. Considering the economy, I think it’s very generous for my company to still keep this tradition.

It’s Personal…Training That Is!

Tomorrow afternoon, I start my very intense personal training class. At one point, I thought I could skim through books ahead of time, take the class, study for a couple weeks, then take the test. I have officially comes to terms with the fact that this plan is NOT going to happen. Of the two books I have to use as study materials, the one book is about 3 inches thick. OMG, I nearly passed out when I started reviewing the anatomy section! I’m giving myself a new goal of taking the test by the end of February/early March, but that’s even a crap shoot.

OK, gotta get some rest so that I am ready to go to my class. Take care everyone!

Please, No Jelly-of-the-Month Club

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Hey All!

OK, did anyone else but Chicago get slammed with snow today? I really should be used to the snow by now after living in the Midwest my whole life, but the first big snow of the season always seems to catch me off guard. 

I didn’t know what to expect from the roads this morning, so I ate a quick breakfast of cereal and granola and headed out the door…

12.8 Cheerios with granola

Almost forgot, I enjoyed a lovely pear too…

12.8 Pear 1

It took me about an hour to get to work – which is not extremely long given that it usually takes me about 40-45 minutes. Of course, when I arrived at work, everyone was talking about the snow. It seems the only things that we can discuss at work are the weather and people’s kids. We eat a lot of food – but we don’t talk about it – it’s the unwritten rule. Strange, I know.

The rest of the day went like clockwork with me trying to get ahead before I take my 10-day vacation at Christmas – woo hoo! Can’t wait for that! 

Dinner was a makeshift meal – a concoction of Newman’s Own Mushroom Marinara, Italian sausage, and broccoli…

IMG_0876

Not too bad for dinner on the fly. Scott’s contribution (other than shoveling all of the snow this morning!) was some awesome Texas-toast style garlic cheese bread…

IMG_0878

Ahh Yeah! It was so good, I had two pieces!

Tomorrow is my work’s holiday party. Each year, a different department plans the event, which is usually held off site at a restaurant. The party typically includes entertainment – a game, a slide show, a crazy gift exchange, etc. The plans are all very hush hush until about a week before the event – don’t ask me why, that’s just the way we roll.

I’ve mentioned before how my office loves food. Well, we also love to drink – and not soda if you know what I mean.

Cosmopolitan: http://www.flickr.com/photos/94537838@N00/2749705651

I have yet to attend a work party that did not include alcohol and lots of it. Hmm…are they trying to tell us something?? The problem is, the holiday parties usually start at 11:30 AM and go until 2:30 AM. I haven’t started drinking that early since College – or at least when I’m on vacation in Hawaii. I usually only have a drink or two – after all, I DO have to drive home after.

The holiday party is also the time when everyone gets his/her holiday bonus. Unlike the for-profit world, this does NOT mean thousands of dollars. But, it is a nice surprise to open your holiday envelope and find crisp cash inside 😉 There are talks of cutbacks in bonuses due to the recession, etc. I just hope they don’t pull a Clark Griswold and give me a jelly-of-the-month club membership instead 🙁

OK, gotta hit the sack to get some Beauty Rest!

Have a great night everyone!

Finding My Life's Purpose in 7 Questions

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Hello Everyone – 

Last night, Scott sent me a link about how to find your purpose in life, by asking yourself a few simple questions. Both of us have actually been struggling with what we want to do in our careers – for me, it’s more about whether or not I want to go into business for myself (writing, editing, fitness advisor, etc). I thought it couldn’t hurt giving these questions a try. So, here it goes…

Westminster Abbey

7 Questions to Finding Your Life’s Purpose 

  1. What do you love to do? I love to travel and also plan trips for myself and other people. Discovering new places makes me so incredibly happy! But, figuring out a way to fund my travel adventures makes me very unhappy. I also love helping people live healthier lives – knowing that I made a difference in keeping them healthy is a big plus.
  2. What do you do in your free time? I do a LOT of research for my blogs, as well as vacation spots. But, I also try to sightsee locally (Chicago). Of course, running/exercising is also a huge part of my free time.
  3. What do you notice? I notice how fit people are and I especially notice if a person is a runner, or not. Don’t ask me how, you can just tell. I also notice people’s accents, whether they are from the South or England or Israel. I love hearing different accents and trying to guess where people are from (in my head, not outloud!)
  4. What do you love to learn about? I love learning about new ways to get and stay fit/healthy. Likewise, I love to learn about nutrition and overall wellness. Aside from those things, learning about travel destinations is something else that I love, although it makes me a little sad thinking that I may never get to those places.
  5. What sparks your creativity? Travel – plain and simple. Whether it’s an overnight business trip or a week-long vacation, going on any sort of trip somehow makes my life become clearer. After my trip, I usually feel empowered and more confident about the challenges ahead.
  6. What do people compliment you on? I often receive compliments on my dedication to health and fitness, particularly running, but also my strong public speaking/presentation and writing skills. These skills may or may not be apparent on my blogs, but writing is about 50 percent of what I do at work.
  7. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Take a year hiatus from my current job to become a travel or health/fitness writer/review – ie. a cross between Samantha Brown and Gabby Reece. But know that I could get my old job back at the same pay with no problem.

Travel Writer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/60843921@N00/23094429

Where do I go from here? I’m not really sure, but these questions sure make you think. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – I love my employer and what I do in my current career, but I KNOW deep down that I am meant to do something greater than this.

So, I charge you, fellow food and fitness bloggers, to step back for a moment, and ask yourself, what do YOU really love to do? Because, if you love writing for your blog more than you do your 9 to 5 job, it may be time to make a change.

Holiday Wrapping Anxiety

Evening everyone!

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Around 11 AM, I was soo wanting a little something sweet. I walked into the staff lounge to find not 1, not 2, but 3 big coffee cakes! Apparently, it was a coworker’s birthday (the woman who sits next to me to be exact – shows you how much I’m clued into those things 🙁 ) Anyway, I debated on whether to have a sliver of the apple, the pecan, or the chocolate.

12.7 Chocolate Coffee Cake

And Chocolate it was! Oh so yummy, especially with a big cup of Tazo Awake tea to wash it all down…

12.7 Tazo Awake Tea 2

For lunch, I brought a salad that I premade last night before going to bed. I love to make my lunch ahead of time because it saves me SOOOO much time in the morning. And it also prevents me from going out to eat, aka spending money.

12.7 Chicken Salad

I think I overdid it on the lettuce a bit because this salad turned out to be HUGE! However, the chopped parmesan-crusted that Scott made last night tasted awesome in the greens!

I made it home from work first so I was in charge of making dinner – Turkey Tacos!

12.7 Turkey Tacos 1

I did most of the chopping and prep work last night, so making dinner was snap. I accidentally filled my tortilla WAY too full and could barely pick up the monstrosity up without having it fall apart…

12.7 Turkey Tacos 2

My ONE monster taco was enough to fill me up – along with a few chips and guac. 

Post clean up, I debated on whether to completely throw myself into my personal training book to study, or tackle the mound of presents that I need to wrap. Hmm. maybe a little of both.

12.7 Crate and Barrel boxes

I started with the gifts for coworkers – all from Crate and Barrel. I obviously like shopping there if you can’t tell. It was very dangerous when they opened a huge store 5 minutes from my house! Anyway, having C&B so close does come in handy around the holidays. I was able to pick up a duo of these shiny tealight holders for everyone on my list…

12.7 Crate and Barrel tealight holders 2

They came in a bunch of different colors so I made sure everyone had a different color set – pretty snazzy I think 😉

Does anyone else buy their coworkers gifts? 

Well, I got through two of the presents and decided I just wasn’t in the wrapping mood. I don’t actually mind wrapping presents – sometimes I really enjoy it. But around this time every year I have wrapping anxiety – where I’m afraid that I’ll wait until the last minute to do my wrapping and then have to do it ALL on Christmas Eve.

12.7 Green Present with red ribbon

I can always tell when I’m getting tired by how lax my wrapping gets. This one didn’t turn out too bad, despite being so wiped out from the day.

Now, I’m off to study. I need to get up extra early tomorrow to run because Tom Skilling – Chicago weatherman extraordinaire – is predicting quite a bit of snow in the early morning. That means a rough commute for me!

Have a great night!

Bistro Chic: Crabtree & Evelyn Holiday Giveaway

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Morning everyone!

I love waking up to a beautiful sunshiny Winter morning! After a brisk run on the trusty treadmill, I chomped on a bowl of Kashi Go Lean Crunch…

12.7 Kashi Go Lean Crunch 2

Nothing else in the bowl – just Kashi. But then again, unless you’re adding fruit, what else do you need besides Kashi in your bowl? Also had a shot glass of OJ on the side…

12.7 Kashi Go Lean Crunch 1

Here’s an idea for a great freebie! In an effort to encourage others to become more conscious about the environment, Origins will give you a sample of any of their products if you give them one of your empty cosmetic tubes, bottles, etc. It’s a great way for everyone to recycle and get a little something for it! I’ve known about this program for a while, but just took my first empty contain in to Origins this weekend. The sales associate was so polite and spoke very highly of the program. I walked away with a little sample (about the size of a quarter in circumference) of their Modern Friction facial scrub – it’s very light and leaves your skin looking amazing!

12.7 Origins Face Scrub 2

Bistro Chic Holiday Giveaway

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Gotta run for now – have a great day everyone!

His and Hers Wines With A Chocolate Mousse Ending

In a continuation from yesterday’s post, Scott and I literally shopped ALL afternoon yesterday and ended up dropping some semi-serious cash-ola on holiday gifts. Good thing this only comes once a year! For us, the key is to buy most of our gifts using our debit card so that we are not shocked when we see our credit card bill in January.

Toward the end of our shopping excursion, we had a totally fabulous dinner at a chic French bistro…

12.5 L'Eiffel Bistro

The restaurant, L’Eiffel Bistro & Creperie, is a little out of the way for us to drive, but it was well worth it. It was our first time at the bistro but we read great reviews online so I was super excited! We arrived for our dinner reservation at 7 PM and were promptly seated near the window. Then, it was time for le vin…

12.5 wine

His and Hers wine – Hers would be the chardonnay, naturally, and His the cabernet. A perfect toast to our Christmas shopping marathon!

Just curious, do you ever feel that a particular drink or food is more male or female? For instance, I usually associate white wine more with women and red with men; or chicken with women and steak with men. 

I was so hungry by this time in the evening that I didn’t hesitate to break into this tasty duo…

12.5 bread and tapenade

A little somethin’ somethin’ of crusty bread and sun-dried tomato tapenade. Oh my, I would definitely buy this tapenade if it was available in a bottle – so good!

By the way, all of these photos were taken in extremely low light, but my new, handy dandy, Canon S90 camera just so happens to take GREAT low light photos – how conveeeenient!

Next came the salad…

12.5 green salad

…a super fresh green salad with some awesome dijon vinaigrette. For my entree, I ordered a classic French dish – a warm and fluffy crepe…

12.5 Pancetta and Brie Crepe

I ordered the “country” crepe with pancetta, brie, spinach, and mushrooms. I honestly picked this crepe for two reasons: 1) brie cheese – love it, can’t get enough of it!, and 2) pancetta – close enough to bacon for me to crave it upon seeing the name in the ingredients. The crepe was good, but it had way too many mushrooms for my liking. 

And finally, what Scott had been waiting for all evening…the quintessential French dessert – none other than chocolate mousse…

12.5 Chocolate Mousse

This mousse was so thick and creamy, it reminded me of a very smooth frosting, only not as sweet. It was a fantastic way to end a meal.

One thing I must also add is that the service was amazing!! From the server right down to the gentlemen who cleared out dishes – they were all extremely polite and prompt. I think this restaurant is now my new favorite date-night spot 😉

Have to run for now. Must read over my new and more expensive insurance plan from my work -there goes $300 more a month from my paycheck – blah!

I may see you all again before the day is through 🙂

Breakfast with the Angry Banana

Hi All! I had such an awesome Saturday! And, it all started with this comment from my husband…

That is one ANGRY banana!

Hmm, I thought. But then, I realized what he was referring to…

12.5 crazy banana 2

Apparently, this banana is the leader of a tribe that is very cranky. I wonder if he’s cranky because I let the bananas ripen too long? Guess I’ll be making banana bread pretty soon.

12.5 crazy banana 1

For breakfast, I made a big bowl of homemade oats, complete with my homemade crunchy granola and some all-natural creamy peanut butter..

12.5 oatmeal with granola 3

This bowl was WAY to big for me so I didn’t end up eating it all.

12.5 oatmeal with granola 2

After breakfast, I ran a few errands, including a stop at Kohl’s and the grocery store. I really tried to get up and out the door early in order to beat the holiday and Saturday crowds, but I didn’t end up leaving until 10 AM. Kohl’s was nuts and the grocery store was pretty bad too.

Scott and I planned on shopping for the rest of the day, but before we left, we both enjoyed a bowl of chicken and dumpling soup…

12.5 chicken and dumpling soup

We had a bunch of Christmas shopping to get done and ended up being gone for nearly 7 hours! But, there was a very nice French dinner thrown in there. I’ll reveal all the details tomorrow, but now, I’m going to bed!

But, not without leaving you with an ironic image that I saw during our shopping excursion…

12.5 Tiger Woods doll

Tiger Woods dolls on clearance. Is this a sign of things to come?

Have a great night everyone!

A Night In Holiday Velvet

Hey everyone! How has your day been? My day began with an awesome 4 1/2 mile run followed by a juicy and sweet…

12.4 Pear

PEAR! I love this photo because it almost looks like I took a picture of a picture on the wall – just wish the pear had fewer blemishes.

Early this morning, I received a package in the mail from JCrew! Woo hoo! I ordered a beautiful olive velvet blazer and a few other things. But, I realized two things: 1) the blazer was too big, even for a size 4, and 2) I just received a 25% off coupon via email from JCrew. Decisions, decisions…. So, I decided I would take my whole order back (after all, I didn’t pay for shipping) and then reorder all of my items, but try the size 4 petite. This saved me $30 – and brought the blazer down to $72 from $148. I love when I get a deal at JCrew!

Because of my meager breakfast, I had a snack attack around 10 AM so I munched on some low-cal popcorn…

12.4 Low calorie popcorn

For lunch, I grilled char-grilled an Italian sausage…

12.4 Italian sausage

I was spending a little too much time on the computer and not enough time paying attention to the grill. Oh well, it was still good, especially with dijon mustard for dipping. As you can see, I also made a little whole wheat couscous. I don’t eat a whole lot of couscous – although it’s very high in protein, it’s also high in calories. But, when I do make it, I doctor it up a bit by adding a chicken boulion cube to the water as well as a carrot sliced really thin.

12.4 Couscous with carrots

Very easy and yummy!

Later in the afternoon, I got the urge to finally make Red Velvet Cupcakes! Plus, I have been seeing them EVERYWHERE – bakeries, grocery stores, the book store, etc. I’m sure it’s just because it’s Christmas time, but I figured it was a sign that I should make them for myself. 

Red Velvet Cupcakes are my favorite kind of cupcake but I have never actually made them. For my first time, I decided to try the Dunkin Hines boxed-version. Of course, I prefer to make most things homemade, but I wanted to be sure these actually turned out good!

Dunkin Hines Red Velvet

It was pretty cool to make this mix -but also a little creepy.

Red Velvet Cake Batter

The mix looked like a big bowl of blood – icky! But, despite the bloody batter, the cupcakes turned out fantastic!

Red Velvet Cupcake 1

Talk about Red V-V-Velvet Goodness! I have to admit, I wanted to eat one of these as soon as it was frosted, but I made myself wait until after dinner, which happened to be my homemade potato and leek soup…

12.4 Potato and Leek soup

You got that right baby – it’s Friday and I DID cook tonight! This soup is so rich and creamy, but it’s actually low in calories (or relatively low – because it uses skim milk and not cream). But, what really makes this soup is the uncured maple bacon – because bacon makes everything taste better.

Of course, dinner, was followed by one of these beauties…

Red Velvet cupcake 2

Surprisingly, the batter is not as rich as I thought, but the cream cheese frosting I used (Dunkin Hines) was very sweet and “cheesy”.

Red Velvet Cupcake 4

I’m seeing a theme here – velvet blazer, velvet cupcakes…hmm, what’s next on my velvet radar 😉

Now, Scott and I are watching Elf – too funny! I love when Buddy bangs into things – it’s so slapstick but Will F. plays the part so well.

Have a great night everyone!

Running and the 10 Percent Rule

Ahh, the first snow of the season in Chicago! Although it barely stuck to the grass, the snow falling seemed to put everyone in the office, including yours truly, in a chatty and holiday mood. Guess it’s time to Get Jolly!

12.3 Linda and Harriett 5

Before I chit chat about my day, I wanted to fill you in on an exciting surprise! When I arrived home from work a few days ago, I was so excited to receive a small package from Linda & Harriett, maker of high-end stationary products. The wonderful team at Linda & Harriett had sent me a few samples of their new “Moose” line. I can’t tell you enough how much I like this new line of stationary! I am a stationary, particularly notecard, fanatic. Although, I have toned down my obsession a bit due to email, in my notecard heyday, I would buy new and interesting cards every few weeks, just because. Of course, I had way too many to actually use – even in a year, but I loved to take them out and look at them. 😉

12.3 Linda and Harriett 1

Linda & Harriett’s new line reminds me of the great outdoors, but with a holiday twist – a shiny red nose on the moose! This new line is perfect for anyone who wants to get a little wild with his or her holiday greetings. It’s also perfect for me since I’m going for a more woodsy theme this year for my holiday wrapping.

12.3 Linda and Harriett 3

Aside from the new moose line, they have MANY other designs that are very simple, tasteful, yet have a playful touch. I mean, who in the world would think of putting a hedgehog on a notecard? But, it works. Although they are a bit pricey as far as holiday cards go, sending a card of this quality can make someone feel extra special. Sorry – no giveaway :-(, I only received a few samples.

Running and the 10 Percent Rule

Anyway, onto my day! I had a pretty rough morning, waking up about 1 1/2 before my alarm went off. Despite being tired from waking up at 4:30 AM, I hopped on the treadmill for a 4 1/2 mile run. As I’m sure you know, I usually only do 4 miles a day during the week, but I’ve been wanting to build up my mileage over the winter. So, to do this, I’m following the 10% Rule – the idea that you can safely increase your running mileage or time spent running by 10 percent each week. I’ve been doing this on/off for about 3 weeks and so far so good 🙂

After my run, I enjoyed some of my awesome homemade granola on some Honeynut Cheerios…

12.3 Cereal with granola

For lunch today, our boss took us out to a local family diner. Although they served Diet Rite (What’s up with that? I didn’t even know it still existed!), the food was really good. I had a huge Greek salad with olives, feta, cucumbers, and grilled chicken. It was superb! Sorry, no picture – I have yet to master the art of taking food photos in front of my coworkers.

Dinner happened to be leftovers of the chicken and dumpling soup kind…

12.3 chicken and dumpling soup

This was so filling I couldn’t even finish my bowl!

Ok, off to study. I am almost finished with Chapter 3 of my personal training book. I want to get through chapter 6 by the end of Sunday – that’s a tall order because the chapters are very long! Wish me luck 😉