Me and the Chicago Bean

I just booked my room at the Congress Plaza Hotel for the Healthy Living Summit! I’m so psyched about going to HLS. I wasn’t able to go to the event last year for the simple fact that I could not afford the trip to Boston. Luckily, I was able to attend Fitbloggin, which was totally fun – the sessions and meeting all of the fabulous blogger girls. When I heard that HLS was going to be in my city, I just couldn’t miss it.

That’s right, I live in the Chicago area and have for the last 10 years. I love Chi-town and can’t wait for all the girls (or guys) at the HLS to experience this great city. The restaurants are fantastic – which is great for all of the HLS food bloggers who are coming. Anyone for tapas? I know Pickley Pear is in, who else?

Plus, the hotel is literally right across the the Art Institute of Chicago which is amazing! Too bad the Matisse exhibit will be over by then. The Congress is also very close to Millenium Park – home of the Chicago “Bean”, a reflective thing (for lack of a better word) in the shape of a bean (reminds me of a funhouse mirror). See the pic of me and the bean above. Not the best photo of me – but the bean looks great!

I could go on and on about Chicago, but I’ll save that for another time!

New iPhone – Need Help Choosing Apps!

I just ordered the new iPhone last night! Well, technically, Scott ordered it for me. He’s had one for over a year and never leaves home without it – seriously. I used to make fun of him (well, I still do) because he’s always on the iPhone. But, I am very happy to say that I have jumped on the iPhone bandwagon. I’m so geeked about it for many reasons, one being that I will officially be a part of the elite iPhone club at my work. All the VP’s have them, so of course, I want one too!

Now comes the hard part…figuring out what apps to get. Ahh, decisions, decisions. This is where I need your help! I would love to get your input on your top 2 or 3 favorite iPhone apps for:

  • Running and yoga
  • Health and fitness
  • Nutrition and food
  • Fashion and Beauty
  • Music
  • Travel

I’d prefer them to be free, but I’m not opposed to paying a few dollars here and there. Please, please, PLEASE, help me! There are so many iPhone apps out there and I don’t know how to break through clutter.

Thanks, in advance, for your suggestions!

New Chip On The Block

Last night, I came home from work to find that Scott had went to the grocery store. We were out of everything that I would consider essential – like peanut butter, Luna bars, vegetables, etc. Aside from getting our staples, he also surprised me by getting a new product – popchips. I’m sure many of you have already heard about this snack, but this is the first time I have consciously heard about them. I vaguely remember seeing them in the store and reading about them in a magazine. Scott said the chip was ranked very highly in his triathlete magazine as well as Real Simple.

I will completely admit – I am a chip person. If chips are in the house, I will eat them. And, I won’t just eat them with a sandwich or at a meal, I will snack on them like crazy. In other words, I don’t like chips being in the house! Most of the time, chips are loaded with fat and calories and practically zero nutrients. But these popchips are a little different. They are not fried, not even baked – they are popped. Apparently, they are pressurized so much that they just pop into a chip. Because they are not made with oil, they have just 120 calories per nearly 20 chips and they have less than 1/2 the fat of fried chips. Plus, they are all natural – no preservatives or artificial ingredients. Maybe I would actually feel good about eating these chips. But, how about the taste?

OK – sold. I tried them.

Hmm…to my surprise, they were actually good. The consistency of the chip was a little strange at first, kind of like eating a very thin rice cake. Still, in a very strange – I can’t eat just one way – they were very good. However, I will not go as far as saying popchips will be making regular appearances in our house. Seriously, most potato chips – all potato chips – even popchips – have very little nutrients in them. And, if they are a snack food or even a mealtime food, then you would be eating nutrient shallow food, which equals filling up on needless fat and calories.

True – I would not hesitate to pick them over fried chips, but in all honestly, I just need to cut down on my chip habit in general.

Red, White, and Blue Breakfast

I continued my quest to be the ultimate weekend warrior. Well, it’s not really a quest, but I seem to be doing a lot of weekend projects lately. I knew the day was going to be a busy but good day. My 7-mile run was kick-ass, ended up running it with 8:10 minute miles, woo hoo! That is faster than I ran on Friday when I ran a 5-miler. I felt so energized after my run too, probably because of the cool mist that followed me on the road.

Next was breakfast – a bowl of 16 g of fiber! In other words, I had a cup of Kashi Go Lean crunch with a full cup of raspberries and blueberries. It was a very patriotic breakfast, don’t you think? Plus, I finally got to open my brand new box of Mighty Leaf tea! After trying the citrus flavor last weekend, I’ve been on a mission to find Mighty Leaf’s version of English Breakfast. I went to both of my local grocery stores, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and Target – no luck. But yesterday, after I met Anne B for lunch, I made my way to Nordstrom for shopping. I just happened to pop into the cafe where, there it was – Mightly Leaf Organic Breakfast in a box!! Who would have thought I would find my treasure at Nordstrom?

So anyway, back to the tea. The tea, when brewed as directed, is a moderate to strong black tea, much like English Breakfast. I added a little milk and I was well on my way to tea bliss. What I really love about this tea, aside from the bold but not bitter taste, is the cute little sachet bag that holds the full tea leaves. Harney and Sons tea sachets are still favorite, but this new sachet is a close second.

I spent the rest of the day outside. Seriously, I was outside from about 10:30 AM to 5:00 PM. I weeded our never-ending mess of a garden (actually a combination of 5 gardens) while Scott mulched all over the place. I was not practicing the “bend at the knees” way of gardening, so I know that my back will be killing me tomorrow. But a little back pain is worth it when I know I’m going to have an awesome garden in the end! Really, just wait until you see the before and after photos!

See you all tomorrow!

I wanna be your watermelon….

Yes, I totally meant that to be a random Poi Dog Pondering reference. I used to be really good at obscure 80’s movies references – a la Breakfast Club, etc, but my husband has absolutely no clue when it comes to 80’s movies so my retro humor is lost on him.

But seriously, I have been eating watermelon ALL DAY! I know that too much of anything is usually not a good thing, but can you really have too much watermelon? It must be the hot, hot, hot weather that’s making me crave cool things. Aside from watermelon, I had an awesome spinach, feta, and chicken salad today, plus loads of ice water.

Most of my “day off” was spent outside. I did everything from cutting down evergreen branches, to weeding my huge garden, to going to the park with Mr. C and Ms. M. Oh, and by the way, this was all after a 5-mile run this morning. Between the run and  working outside in the hot weather, I must have burned like a thousand calories!

Ok, signing off for the night. I’ve got yoga at 8AM followed by a much-needed lunch with my friend Anne B. Can’t wait!

Do we really need that morning cup of coffee?

cafe au lait

Caffeine is one of the most addictive substances in the world. I know that I’m addicted to it – and many of my fellow food and health/fitness bloggers are as well. We’ve all been there – late night, early morning, and the quest for coffee or any caffeinated beverage. And, just like our parents’ generation, we need our caffeine to wake up, to stay alert, or just to give us that boost of energy throughout the day.

Well, wouldn’t you know that this idea that caffeine makes us more alert or more awake is all in our heads! Yes, that’s right. New research shows that caffeine addicts actually develop a tolerance to caffeine, and therefore, don’t really experience its true stimulating effects. The caffeine merely brings an addict back to the baseline levels of alertness, which was originally decreased due to caffeine withdrawal. Now that’s scary!! No wonder we need more and more caffeine each day to feel its effects!

Here’s a thought, next time you need your coffee, try making it a decaf and see how you feel.

Should You Run or Walk?

(Photo source)

Yesterday, I woke up early for my normal Tuesday run. Blah – it was raining! And it wasn’t even that light, sprinkly rain, it was a hard, steady rain. I usually don’t have a problem with running in very light rain, especially if it’s warm outside. But a hard rain leaves me feeling like a drowned rat – hence, I try to avoid it. As a result, I post-poned my run for Wednesday, which is my normal day off. But, instead of just going back to bed (I was fully dressed in my running gear), I went downstairs to walk on the treadmill. I emphasize WALK since I knew I was trading my Tuesday running day for Wednesday. Besides, running on the treadmill in the summer just…well, sucks!

As I was walking, I got to thinking about how some people are walkers, while others are runners. Walking is a very low-intensity, low impact sport that doesn’t require much practice. On the contrary, running is a high-intensity, high-impact exercise that often requires consistent training. Both exercises are very good for you, especially for cardiovascular benefits. So, why would a person – like me – choose to walk over running when walking just seems so much easier?

For many people, including yours truly, whether to walk or run really comes down to time and calories. Running is one of the fastest and most efficient ways for you to burn calories and lose weight. However, there has been some debate about this in recent years – let’s take a look…

Old School Rules: For decades, the old school of thought was that a person would burn the same amount of calories in one mile, whether that person walked or ran the distance. It would just take the runner half the time to burn those calories.

New School Rules: New research indicates that running actually does burn more calories per mile than walking. In 2004, researchers from Syracuse University found that both women and men burned 2x as many calories when they ran a mile compared with when they walked the same distance. But why? Well, unlike walking, running produces a more intense impact on our bodies. When running, we are completely airborne in between strides. The impact of our foot hitting the ground puts a tremendous amount of force on our feet and our legs. The greater force we place on our bodies the more calories we need to expend to absorb the force.

Exception to the Rules: Research also noted that higher intensity walking (such as race walking at speeds of 5.0 mph or higher) actually burned the same amount of calories as running. But, unless you’re walking at very high speeds, it appears that running burns twice the amount of calories in half the time.

Run or Walk?

If you’re on the fence about whether to walk or run, consider your goals and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I running/walking for weight loss?
  • How much time can I dedicate to exercise?

Why Run? If you’re pressed for time or want to maximize calorie burning, then give running a try. After all, if you only have 30 minutes a day to spare for exercise, 30 minutes of running will burn significantly more calories than 30 minutes of walking, which can mean losing weight faster.

Why Walk? If you’re not into high-intensity exercise and time isn’t an issue, then walking may be a better choice for you. Keep in mind that walking can still help you lose weight slowly and it is a great, low impact way to improve or maintain your cardiovascular fitness.

Whether you choose to walk or run, the most important thing is to find an exercise that you like and that you will do consistently each week.

(Please note: this has been adapted from my Bookieboo post from earlier this year!)

Are You A Tea Snob?

I attended a conference over the weekend and had the extreme fortune of trying my first ever Mighty Leaf Tea. As you all know, I am a tea-loyalist, with my faves being Tazo Awake, Harney and Sons Paris tea and English Breakfast. But I have to admit, Mighty Leaf Tea really threw me for a loop – the chamomile citrus was fantastic – so fantastic that I actually swiped an extra one to take home with me! Like Harney and Sons tea sachets, Mighty Leaf uses whole leaves in their cute little sachets, which makes the tea rich with flavor and very classy. Mighty Leaf also carries organic brands of tea which I think is very cool.

I’m actually headed out to Whole Foods today to see if I can find the English Breakfast sachets. Wish me luck!

By the way, do you consider yourself a tea snob or tea loyalist? What’s your favorite tea?

Jen

Keeping Your Motivation to Run

After yesterday’s fast 7-miler, I decided to slow it down today with an easy 4-mile run. Post-run breakfast was a bit of Kashi Go Lean and a full cup of a blackberry/blueberry mix – fantastic!

Scott is teaching class this week which means our schedule is totally crazy. In order to run before he leaves for work at 6:45 AM, I must be up by 5:30/5:45 AM and out the door for my run by 6 AM if not sooner! Although I am a morning person, getting up this early is not always easy. Sometimes, I have to psych myself up a bit before a run because I’m so groggy. But, on any given day, I rely on many different motivational strategies to keep me going. Here are some of my favorite ways to motivate myself to run:

Running Motivation

  • I set my alarm at least 20 minutes before I know I need to head out the door. This gives me time to wake up a bit.
  • I get all my running clothes ready the night before so as soon as I wake up, I see my clothes sitting there – almost beckoning me to put them on. I also try to have all of my work-related things ready the night before – clothes, lunch, bag, etc. – so that I have no excuse to skip a run.
  • If I really need motivation, I plan a new route to take. Planning it out and then having to actively think about where I’m running (not just zoning out) helps the time pass faster.
  • And, for those really bad days, I tell myself that if I run, I will reward myself with a treat during the day, whether it’s Starbucks or a muffin. I know it kind of defeats the purpose of the run, but it works every time!

How do you psych yourself up to run or exercise when you really don’t want to?

A French Sangria Night

Last night, Scott and I had the “night off” from parenting. We took advantage of our time alone and headed to a local French bistro. Although I love going out for French food, I don’t usually stray too much from what I normally eat – salad, chicken, fruit, etc. Of course, we started with drinks – mine being an awesome French sangria made with a splash of Grand Marnier – that’s what makes it French. The GM made all the difference in the world with this drink – fabulous! Who knew French restaurants offered Sangria? Notice the plate that Scott strategically placed behind my glass.

When you’re drinking, it’s good to soak up some of the alcohol with food – I think that’s what French bread was made for and this was some of the best I’ve had! I am sooo glad that they did not put a big basket of this bread on the table – it was delivered in individual pieces by a “bread server” – I seriously would have eaten the whole basket, complete with the olive and red pepper tapenade that it came with.

I was going to pass on the appetizer but then I saw this cute little cone-shaped holder on someone’s table – ahh French Fries! Yes, I did get them, but only because they were served in the traditional French metal holder with a piece of “newsprint” to soak up the oil.

I was not in the adventurous mood (no cow tongue or snails for me!) so I opted for an eggplant and goat cheese crepe. Not gonna lie to you, it was just ok – rather uninteresting and blah by crepe standards. I decided not to waste the calories and only ate about 1/2 of it. Last but not least, Scott and I shared his dessert fave, chocolate mousse. The mousse was divine and I kept my tastes to just two bites – that’s really all you need with super rich mousse.

The best thing about this dinner was that I did not have to eat it with a 2-year old sitting on my lap. I’m all about sharing the love but not when I’m eating!