Sunday, July 31, 2011

Leg Day & Almost Pool Time

Gym Day
Today was gym day - legs and shoulders. I got my friend to meet me at the gym for the workout. Of course, it was semi-trickery. She's been avoiding Sunday Leg day since the first let workout. LOL I told her I wanted to do a boxing workout. She eagerly agreed and then it dawned on me that she thought that's all we were going to do.

Did I text her back...well hell no (evil laugh). We started with the same shoulder giant set I did last week then legs. Everything is 3x8.

GS
Upright rows
Incline rear delt flye
Overhead shoulder press with barbell

SS#1
Squats with low-end pulse
Plie squats

SS#2
Stiff-legged deadlifts
Calf raises (toes turned out)

SS#3
Some funky band walks she decided to toss out at me
Alternating front lunges

She ended up not sticking around for the boxing workout - Cathe's MMA Boxing. I did the first segment then the abs before stretching and calling it done.


Attempted Pool Time
My friend and her husband were going to run a few errands then come by for some pool time. It was deserved after all right? I just chilled out for a bit while Jason did yard work. Oh yes, he waited until the index was a nice 105.

My friends showed up around 2 and then the clouds promptly arrived as well. We floated around for a bit then came the thunder...then the lightening. We've been waiting on rain for days. Had chances of rain for days. Well, it finally showed up today while we were trying to enjoy some pool time. Hello rudeness! 

Oh well, can't win them all I suppose. We did still enjoy about an hour at least before the bottom fell out. At least I don't have to water the dying yard though.

Not sure what the dinner plan is going to be. Something simple sounds good to me actually. Of course, I don't do simple very well so we'll see what really happens. I am planning on just chilling out and enjoying the very last bit of the weekend though. I hope you all do the same!

Daily To-Enjoy List
  • Pool time (cut short)
  • No makeup, hair fixing day
  • Catching up on Big Brother

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Running, Lunching, Hugging

8 Miles
This morning started off with a run. I didn't get up as early as I would have liked, but it is Saturday after all right? However, that just meant a hotter run with the sun fully up. I hit the pavement at 7:30 and it was already 80 degrees. I was thinking it felt less humid though with a slight breeze (humidity was "only" 74%).

I went into the run thinking I would just shoot for 6 miles. It was hot, I had only had part of a banana, it was hot, I was tired. Anyway, enough whining right. Just get in there and get it done. I actually felt great once I got going. The breeze helped keep the sweat out of my eyes for the most part, my legs were on my side this morning. Everything was just clicking.

When I hit the turn around that would have given me 6.2, I thought I'd just go to the next turn around, then the next, and so on. Until I managed to extend the run to a nice 8-miler when all was said and done. If it had been just a a little bit cooler and I had another bottle of water, I think I could have cranked out 9 to be honest. I felt that good. The GU even went down better today. Sometimes I can get a little dizzy right after I take it. Anyone else?

I was grinning like a fool all the way home (and sweating like one too). I did try to roll out extra long on my Triggerpoint kit as my IT band was sort of throbbing, not bad, but I could feel that twinge. I am probably a little hypersensitive to it now. But better safe than sorry in my book.

I've decided that the absolute ultimate way to recover from a long run is to float in the pool. I mean, what can be better for tired muscles than weightless floating in cool water to reduce any swelling. Yes, it's a reach, but work with me here ;-)

Ladies Who Lunch...For 3 Hours
After floating around for about 2 hours, I got myself ready. I needed to hit up Whole Foods and treated myself to a trip to the mall (which was insanely busy, like Christmas busy). I brought an ice chest with me because I knew I was getting cold items that wouldn't survive the 100+ degree temps and I was going to be out and about for a while.

After the short trip to the mall, it was on to a very very late lunch with 2 awesome ladies. It was sort of to celebrate my dearest friend's birthday, which was the 18th, and also just an excuse to get together and have a good time.

We met at a place called Canon Grill. It's not just super grand, but they have good food, good atmosphere, and all-day Saturday happy hour. Of course the meet up started with a round of hugs then on to non-stop talk for 3 hours. And to be honest, we could easily still be there chatting it up.

Kori (birthday girl) is my oldest and dearest friend. We've known each other for 32 years easily. I went to school with Wanisia, a super sweetheart of a person. I typically don't regret not living in my hometown until I realize that I miss getting to spend time with friends like these 2 ladies.
Waitress sweet, but terrible photographer

Me and Kori

Kori and Wanisia

Me and Wanisia

Hugging
Speaking of not getting to spend time with friends, Jessica and Jolene live in in the Boston area, obviously nowhere close to me. They posted a picture on Facebook hugging and made the comment about how they rarely hug. They've mentioned that before so it wasn't news to me. But seeing that picture made me think of my sister and our hugs. And ladies, when I see you two next month, you better get ready for one hell of a hug!!

Not much makes me happier than a sissy hug (which is what we call it). I find myself (and tell Sarah too) missing my sissy hugs. Sometimes, on a bad day, I will email her and let her know that I need a sissy hug in a bad way. There's just something about hugging each other that is hard to explain. It's love full force. I smile just thinking about it, can almost feel her hugs.

While running today, I started thinking about all the different types of hugs and how much meaning such a simple gesture can have. Hugs can convey so much support. Sometimes all you need in the world is a hug. Here's what I came up with:

  • Sissy hugs - unrivaled, deep down, support, love, admiration, honest
  • Husband hugs - support, earnest love, comfort, can make the world right again
  • Mom hugs - I can feel the love and pride in my mom's arms
  • Dad hugs - Again, pride, respect, joy
  • Friend hugs - Kori is one hell of a hugger I must say. I feel so much love and support from her. No words needed
  • Congratulatory hugs - these are those one armed hugs that indicate a high five or slap on the ass, atta girl
  • Love you anyway hugs - that hug from someone who is determined to make you smile, to make you not so pissed off, they melt away icy anger 
  • Reunion hugs - when you see that friend you've not seen in ages, all past memories are just wrapped up into that hug somehow
Do you think hugs can heal the world? Are you a hugger? 

Daily To-Enjoy List
  • Long run
  • Pool time
  • Shopping
  • Lunch with friends

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fun Facts Friday - You Know You're a Runner When...

Today is a much-needed rest day for me. My legs feel like lead weights today. My biceps are still yelling at me from Wednesday. And quite frankly, I don't want to do a darn thing. Tomorrow I hope to get out for a run as long as the storms hold off for me.

This morning I was emailing with my good friend Jessica (who knocked out an awesome 11 miles this morning - oh and her sister, Jolene, a nice 10 miles) about running and sprinklers and such. In one of her emails she said "You know your a runner when..."

That got me thinking about all the ways you might know you're a crazy runner. I mean come on, we are a crazy lot ;-) So it seemed like a fun list for Fun Facts Friday.

You know you're a runner when...
  • You know exactly when certain sprinklers will be on vs. off (courtesy of Jessica and sooo true)
     
  • You get up crazy early to go run even when you're not a morning person because otherwise it'd be too hot (or you wouldn't have time)
  • You don't mind if it's raining, it's really kind of fun to run in the rain actually

  • You get overly excited when your fave shoe is on "sale" for a mere 80 bucks - must order multiple pairs at that point

  • You find that perfect shoe and don't care if it's 10 shades of neon as long as they have it in your size, your good
  • You have a drawer full of GU packets, chomps, shot bloks, etc
  • You know that bananas and peanut butter are the ideal pre-run snack
  • You have socks that are ONLY worn for running, and you might just wash them on the gentle cycle
  • You check out other people's running shorts and/or outfits with envy
  • You don't mind snot and sweat mixing on your face, who can tell the difference anyway right?
  • You own multiple tools of torture for rolling out and stretching (foam rollers, tennis balls, triggerpoint kit, resistance bands)
  • You have more water bottles in your cabinet than regular glasses (almost a true story)
  • You know what BodyGlide is and swear by it
  • You proudly sport crazy tan lines (hello cute sports bra top with nifty cut out in the back)

So, how do you know you're a runner? And if you're not a runner, how do you know you are a body builder, cyclist, or whatever your sport of choice is?


Daily To-Enjoy List:
  • Rest day
  • Cooler temps (finally below 100)
  • Happy hour with friends

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Finally a Run and Simple Stir Fry Dinner

Holy Hell - A Miracle Happened
Well I finally did it! I finally got my rear out of bed for an early morning run. It was a bit by mistake I'll admit. At about 4-ish, I rolled over and reset my alarm for my regular wake-up call...or so I thought. At 5:20, the alarm went off. Not sure what I switched, but it wasn't my alarm time apparently.

I will admit to resetting, thinking I could just doze for an hour. But I was awake and knew there was no way I'd go back to sleep. I took it as a sign and got up and got ready.

It was so hot and humid already. The minute I stepped out of the car, I knew it was going to be a tough run. There was not a bit of breeze to be had. It was already 80 degrees with 80% humidity. Thankfully the sun wasn't out yet at least.

I started my run just a little before 6. I promised myself 4 miles because I was sort of struggling at the beginning. Apparently leg day topped off with 3 days of spin equals sort, tired, heavy legs. Who knew? Luckily, my legs did actually loosen up around 2 miles into the run. That helped tremendously. Then all I had to do was focus on keeping the sweat out of my eyes. I was soaked, looked like I had probably swam in the river rather than run near it.

Mentally, it was a good run for me. It felt so great being outside, watching the sun come up. Definitely a great way to start off a day. I ended up with a grand total of 5 miles. Not too shabby for someone who was trying to reset her alarm huh?

When I got back to my car, the sprinklers were going still. I swear it was like hitting the jackpot. The only problem...they weren't spraying very high up - only hit about shin height. If no one had been around, I very well might have squatted down and splashed myself. I thought people might think it a bit odd if I started rolling around in the sprinklers the Big Dam Bridge though. ;-)

Super Simple Stir Fry
The one downfall of an early morning run is feeling like you've hit a wall by early afternoon. The endorphin rush can carry you only so far, then it's naptime. Only problem? Not exactly ideal to nap in one's office. I think that adults should get the naptime, not the kids. But that's just me.

I really wasn't feeling super energetic to get cooking this evening. We're starting to run low on a few things here and there, so meals require some thinking. I found some homemade seitan in the freezer and we had some fresh veggies to use. Jason suggested stir fry, so that's what we had.

I threw together a super simple sauce: soy sauce (used low-sodium), chili sauce, plum sauce, peanut butter, ginger, and a little bit of water to thin it out.

Just whisk it all together well and there you have it. You can make it as spicy as you want with the chili sauce or if you prefer sweeter, even add in agave nectar.

I chopped up broccoli, squash, zucchini, red bell peppers, and carrots and tossed in some frozen peas at the end. Super simple and didn't heat up the kitchen because I have my handy dandy electric wok.
 

We served it over some rice udon noodles rather than rice. They take all of 5 minutes to cook, so they fit perfectly with a fast stir fry.

Daily To-Enjoy List:
  • Morning run 
  • Watching the sun come up
  • Getting my hair done
  • Painting my nails

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Repeat but Tasty Spaghetti Squash Dinner

Spinning Again
I feel like a broken record this week. Once again, set my alarm for an early morning run. Once again, I reset and went back to sleep. Once again, I hit up spin instead. And it kicked my booty - or quads I should really say.

Honestly, I'm feeling oddly guilty about not getting out and running. I know there is absolutely no reason at all to feel guilty. I mean, I'm not in training mode. I've been running for fun anyway. And if I can't tear myself out of bed and it's too blasted hot after work (car thermostat read 109 ouch), then so be it right? So why the guilt? Anyone else ever go through this?

I do know that I am going to run this weekend come hell or high water. Around here, it's going to feel more like the heat of hell unfortunately. Not even sure what water or rain looks like any longer ;-) But, I'm missing running. I'm missing being outside. I'm missing the feel of my feet on the pavement, the movement of my body, and even the pouring sweat.

Despite missing all that comes with running, I still can't seem to drag my rear end out of bed in the morning to get the run in. This week I'll chalk it up to Chicago Recovery. Next week...no excuses. 

Spaghetti Squash
Tonight I really wanted another no-brainer kind of dinner. I thought about stir fry but failed to press any tofu. I went wight my Plan B meal using spaghetti squash.

I made Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes & Spinach based off my Spaghetti Squash with Garlicky Tomatoes, Kale and Chickpeas. I didn't have fresh tomatoes or kale, however, so I made more of a sauce with canned tomatoes and used spinach as well as artichokes. It's an easy and versatile type of sauce you can use any other types of veggies and it's good over pasta as well.

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes and Spinach
Ingredients:
Spaghetti squash, halved, de-seeded

3 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 1/2 cups chickpeas
1/2 can artichoke hearts in water, diced
1 can no-salt diced tomatoes (with liquid)
1/4 cup white wine or vegetable stock
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
Spices to taste: salt, pepper, parsley, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place spaghetti squash insides down on baking sheet. Bake approximately 35-45 minutes until easily shreds. Shred and set aside.

In a large, non-stick skillet, saute onions and garlic until begin to soften. Add in remaining ingredients and allow to cook until liquid begins to thicken. Stir in the spaghetti squash, reseasoning if needed.

Note: if using fresh herbs, add at the end of the cooking.

 

This really is a simple dish to toss together. The whole dish took about 45 minutes from start to finish. If you don't want to heat up your kitchen, you can even bake the squash in your toaster oven (which is what I do).

Daily To-Enjoy List:
  • Spin class
  • Another simple, but tasty dinner
  • Time reading

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spin & Super Salad

More Spinning
I had every intention of waking up early and going for a run. I had my clothes set out. I had the alarm set. Then I slept very poorly (up at least every 2 hours). At 3:45 I made the executive decision to reset the alarm for my normal time. If I just happened to wake up early enough, then I'd go. If not, it'd be spin or a rest day.

I packed my gym bag in case I decided to hit spin. I wasn't really sure what I'd do or not do to be honest. I noticed a nagging pain on the inside of my right ankle area that started this morning. Apparently a good thing I didn't run after all. I did hit up spin. I desperately needed the break mid-day. My co-workers that went to the training classes with me and I were taking our certification test today.

So, after 2 hours testing, spin was a welcome break. I decided to get in biceps before class. I went with a giant set of 3x8:

Alternating curls
Hammer curls
Incline curls

Then it was off to spin - aka Sweatfest. It was a good class actually. I haven't taken from this instructor (happens to be the owner) since they switched from Group Ride back to "home grown" spin classes. It was very similar to Group Ride though - no crazy low-ceiling hovers thank goodness.

Easy Dinner
After class, it was back to testing. Suffice to say, my brain is absolutely taxed today. I went with a no-thinking dinner tonight: Roasted Tempeh & Veggie Salad. I would have grilled, but the heat index was 105. Um, 105 plus heat from grill...Don't think so.

I roasted up sweet potatoes, green bell peppers, red onions, squash, zucchini, portobellos, and tempeh. I did marinate the tempeh in some balsamic vinaigrette before baking along with the veggies. And, I added in jarred roasted red bell peppers as well. I'll admit to being rather frugal with my fresh red bells. They're not cheap, so when I can use the jarred, that's what I do.
 

I really think I could eat roasted or grilled veggie salads most days of the week. Maybe I could alternate the salads with pizza. Yep, I'd be one happy camper.


Daily To-Enjoy List
  • Getting my User Analyst test done - officially a Certified User Analyst woohoo!
  • Spin class
  • Roasted veggie salad for an easy dinner
  • Some couch time - catching up on Big Brother

Monday, July 25, 2011

More Kitchen Time - Lentil & Quinoa Loaf with Peach Salsa

Back to Reality & Spin
Today was definitely a more difficult Monday than most. Being out of routine for a week and a half will do that to you though. It was so hard to believe that I actually had to get out of bed this morning. I felt like I needed one more day of recovery.

Thankfully, my inbox wasn't nearly as bad as I had anticipated. But I did start off the morning having to get my password reset. Good times.

Since there was no chance of running this morning, I hit up spin instead. There was a little voice in my head saying, "take the day off," but I knew getting to spin would be good for me, especially since it's been two weeks since I've been able to go.

While my legs were tired from Saturday's workout, I knew that the sweatfest would do me some good. And it did of course. My legs were cursing me the whole time, but I ignored them and pressed (peddled) on.

Back in the Kitchen
Jason picked up some peaches the other day along with extra jalapenos (used only half of one for the Tofu Banh Mi). I decided to make a Peach Salsa (just like the Pineapple Salsa only using 2 peaches in lieu of the pineapple). I had wanted to serve it over homemade seitan cutlets. But,I didn't have any cutlets, not even any store-bought.

The last time I went to Whole Foods, I had my bulk bag of vital wheat gluten, but it didn't make it home with me. I apparently sat it down and left it. So, no seitan. I ended up deciding to make a Lentil & Quinoa Loaf as I had frozen lentils on hand. I mostly based the recipe off my recipe for Lentil & Quinoa Sliders.

Lentil & Quinoa Loaf
Ingredients:
3 cups cooked lentils
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup water
1 large or 2 medium carrots
1/4 white onion
1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp hot water)
1/2 cup oat flour
To taste: salt, pepper, chili powder, parsley, garlic powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare a loaf pan.

Cook combine the quinoa and water in small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer approximately 10 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

In a food processor, pulse the carrot and onion. Add in the lentils and seasonings and blend until smooth with some lentil pieces still visible.

Transfer to large mixing bowl and add in oat flour, flax egg, nutritional yeast flakes, and tomato paste. Combine and reseason if needed.

Transfer to your loaf pan, smashing it down tightly. Cover with foil and bake approximately 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 30-40 minutes until firm.
 

I served this with the Peach Salsa, roasted carrots and roasted broccoli. The salsa turned out really well. It would be great over a salad as well.

Daily To-Enjoy List:
  • Spin class
  • More cooking

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Back in the Kitchen - Tofu Banh Mi

Sunday Gym Day
This morning I really had to force myself out the door to the gym. I would have much preferred a run outside. But, I chose sleep instead. This meant it was too hot by the time I got up to get out for a run. Thus, another gym day.

Thankfully, I do have the gym option, and once I got going, I was all good. It usually happens that way. I started with 15 minutes on the elliptical before working back and triceps. I went with giant sets of 3x8 then two burn out exercises at the end done to failure just for fun ;-)

GS#1
Underhand barbell row
Pullover
Single-arm row

GS#2
Lying triceps extension
Double-arm overhead triceps extension
Double-arm kickback

Assisted chinups
Triceps dips

I did another 15 minutes on the elliptical before calling it quits.


More Lazy & Time with Friend
A dear friend was in town - the same one I had a late lunch with a few weeks back. She was back in town one more time before she leaves to head home (East coast) tomorrow. She stopped by the house with her two kiddos for a short visit before meeting up with another friend. I had not had the chance to meet her kids yet. Well, I did see her oldest once when she was just a baby, but that was it, and that was about 9 or 10 years ago.

Her daughter was in love with Heath, and I think the feeling was mutual. She was laying on the couch with Heath at her side. Bad blogger alert - no pictures! We had a nice visit. She got to see the house in a much different state than the last time she was here. I wish she was around more often as she is an interior designer. Of course, this made me not want to let her explore LOL.

I really hate that she doesn't live closer. She's one of those people that the moment we met it was like we had been friends our entire lives. It just stinks when dear friends can't live next door.

I managed to finally get the rest of my suitcase unpacked and more laundry done. Other than that, I was fairly lazy. I should have gone to Whole Foods and Target, but really didn't want to leave the house to be quite honest. It was mostly cloudy today, so no pool time even. I actually sat on the couch and watched a bit of tv for a change though. That's such a huge rarity for me. I didn't even feel guilty about it.

Back in the Kitchen
As I mentioned yesterday, I had plans to try something new and creative for dinner tonight. Jason has been wanting a Banh Mi for quite some time now. He saw it on a Food Network show, and it's on a menu at a new restaurant down the street. So, he has been a bit fixated on trying one.

We got the ingredients needed finally. I did a lot of recipe searching. From what I can tell, it really comes down to a few basic staples (fresh jalapenos, fresh cilantro, a good baguette, daikon & carrot slaw), from there, it's creativity. So, here is what I came up with for my very first Tofu Banh Mi (mind you I've never tried one anywhere else).


Tofu Banh Mi
Ingredients:
Pickled daikon and carrots (this made 2 quart jars)
5-6 carrots, peeld
1 large daikon, peeled
1 bottle rice wine vinegar
2 packets NuNaturals Stevia

Tofu
1 package extra firm tofu, frozen, thawed, drained, sliced in half
Rice wine vinegar (approximately 1/4 cup)
Tamari (approximately 1/4 cup)
Chinese 5 spice blend (to taste)
Agave nectar (to taste)
Sriracha chili sauce (to taste)

Baguette
Fresh jalapenos, sliced thinly
Fresh cilantro
Cashew Mayo (or your favorite vegan mayo)

Directions:
Using your food processor with the shredding blade, shred the daikon and carrots. Transfer to glass jars. Fill jars with rice wine vinegar and stevia (half bottle for each jar, 1 packet per jar). Seal the jars and shake well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or over night.

To make the tofu marinade, whisk together all ingredients then pour over the tofu and allow to marinate several hours or over night.

Once the tofu is ready, bake at 400 degrees for approximately 45 minutes (until firm and crisp), flipping once. Cut into smaller rectangles.

To assemble the sandwich, spread on some of your cashew mayo then add in your tofu slices and top with fresh jalapenos and cilantro (I also added some lettuce).
 
 
 

This was interesting. I really didn't know what to expect. I'm not sure I am a fan of daikon. I also don't just love cilantro, and you sort of need to like it. But, the other flavors helped to mellow out the cilantro. I guess I need to try one from a restaurant to compare and have some sort of baseline rating.

Do you ever try to make a dish based on something you've never tried?

Daily To-Enjoy List:
  • Time with a friend
  • Laziness
  • Time in the kitchen

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Productively Lazy & Chicago Recap

First Day Home = Weight Day
After about a 45 minute flight delay (with all of us on the plane mind you), we finally landed at just after 9 pm and home a little before 10 pm. To say that we were worn out is an understatement. But, I poured myself a glass of wine (in a real glass thank you very much), did 2 loads of laundry, and sat on a comfortable couch and watched one episode of Big Brother before going to bed and crashing.

I would love to say I bounced out of bed at 6 am to get in a fantastic long run. Instead, I slept until 8:30, by which time it was already 85 degrees. So, I hit the gym instead of the pavement. I've been missing my weight workouts anyway, so this really worked out for me I suppose.

I started with 15 minutes on the elliptical browsing last month's Oxygen magazine. This worked in my favor as well because I found a great shoulder workout that I tried out. I was going to do shoulders and legs anyway. I did a giant set for shoulders then supersets for leg.

GS -3x8
Dumbbell upright rows
Incline rear delt dumbbell flyes
Overhead barbell press

SS#1 3x8
Squats
Stiff-legged deadlifts

SS#2 3x8
Alternating rear lunge
Plie squats

SS#3
Step ups 3x8
Calf raises 3x15 (turned out, turned in, turned out)

I did some ab work after the legs as well. It was a pretty good workout. I was worried that a week and a half of no weights was going to make today feel really hard, but it was good.


Productively Lazy
Jason went to the grocery store while I was at the gym since the fridge was bare. I had some time after the gym, before he got back to get more laundry done. And by done I really did fold and put away most of it for a change. I also dusted. It's amazing how dusty the house can get when you're not even there.

I was really hoping my sis was going to come up and stay the night (and bring the pupsters of course), but she had other plans. But, she was kind enough to meet us halfway so we didn't have to drive a full hour there then an other hour back to get the pups. I thought they might be way more over the top excited than they were. Maybe they were just as worn out and ready to be home as we were feeling yesterday. It was a long time away for all of us apparently.

After we got back, I promptly got in the pool and just relaxed on my floaty. You know it's hot though when you're in the pool and still sweating. But it was nice to just do nothing for a while. Clouds rolled in along with thunder, so I got out after about 2 hours and cleaned up. Promptly putting on PJs by 3:45.

Dinner tonight is going to be homemade pizza. Nothing terrible exciting. You'd think after 10 days of not cooking I'd be all over some crazy new recipe. But I just want comfort food right now to be honest. So pizza it is. Tomorrow, however, there are plans for something far more creative.


Chicago Recap
As I was floating around in the pool being utterly lazy, I was going over the time in Chicago. I admitted to homesickness, to being tired of eating out, listed out creature comforts I won't take for granted, and even admitted that I got really grumpy and ugly at some points. However, the positives of the trip far outweigh any of the negatives.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to visit Chicago in such detail (with my husband at my side). I was able to get out of my comfort zone of daily routines and explore, try new things, soak in the opportunities at hand, roll with it basically, and meet new people. Meeting new people is a biggy for me.

I know you all probably don't believe me when I say this, but I really am a shy person. My blog is my way of being that hidden extrovert. It's part of why this trip did have some downs - it's hard for me to get out of that shell, to really seek out new things, to just be surprised.

But, no matter how I was feeling at any given point, I remembered the positives and my to-enjoy list was lengthy. So, I thought I would just list out some of what I enjoyed as a reminder to myself of this incredible trip:

Absolutely amazing vegan meals (Karyn's Cooked (x2), Chicago Diner)
 
 
 
 
 
A Cubs game in unbelievable seats at a "real" baseball stadium

The opportunity to meet 2 incredible people (bloggers Sarah and Kathi)
 

A chance to hang out with coworkers (a rarity) and meet one coworker's wife (I think we'll be friends!)

The chance to enjoy the lake (you know how I like my beaches after all)
The opportunity to see some fantastic architecture

Trying new food (Indian from Reza's)
Some Plan B dinners (Stocks & Blondes and 6 Corners Bar)
 
Exploring the city like (like trip over to Lincoln Park)
And then there were the incredible views from Hancock Tower (Signature Lounge to be exact) and some awesome drinks
 
 

I could go on and on I do believe. So, sometimes it's really good to get way (way) out of your comfort zone. Otherwise, you might miss out on some amazing things.

Daily To-Enjoy List
  • Doing laundry (never thought I'd say that)
  • Homemade pizza
  • Lifting weights
  • Pool time
  • Staying home
  • Petting the pups

Friday, July 22, 2011

Another Blogger Meet Up & Fun Facts Friday

Another Blogger Meet Up
Thursday I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet Kathi from Kath Eats Vegan for lunch. We met at Argo Tea Cafe as it was a super convenient location for both of us, plus I knew they had good vegan dishes to choose from.

I went with the Garden Lentil Salad (again) and also a spinach and sundried tomato salad (not on their online menu). Kathi got the Chickpea Salad (which looked really good by the way).

I've not been following Kathi's blog for very long, so meeting her was a little different than meeting Sarah, but not in a bad way I should add. It was just a little bit different is all. Once again, the conversation just flowed so easily. It felt like catching up with an old friend, finding out what's going on in her life, getting more details and such (that probably sound like a horrible description of what I'm really wanting to say, just can't put it into words).

Kathi is a very energetic person, very open and fun to talk to. She's very passionate about food and running - so obviously we got along right away! I think we could have sat and talked the rest of the afternoon (or I could have anyway).

To my surprise, she brought me some homemade treats - a container of vegan cookies. Homemade cookies have never looks so good!! I feel so lucky to have had the chance to meet Kathi (and not just because she brought me cookies LOL).

And if you're wondering, I've had a sample of all three (cookies are my true weakness). Peanut Butter Cookies are probably my all time fave too. One word: YUM! Thanks so much Kathi!!

Last Chicago Dinner
Class today was so much better than the last two days. The instructor is really really great. We've been talking a great deal about memory and designing based on cognitive thinking. My minor in under-grad was actually developmental psychology, so I'm totally enjoying this particular class. The mind is just an amazing thing to me.

Too bad this instructor wasn't teaching the previous class. At least the last two days are going to be much more interesting though. That's probably better, ending on an up note.

After class, I got in a 5-mile treadmill run done in intervals. I ran 1 mile then did 4 1:00 minute intervals (run/jog), 1 mile, then 2 1:30 minute intervals, then 1 mile. I also did some abs when I got back up to the room before stretching and rolling out on my Triggerpoint kit.

I got cleaned up and we headed out for our last dinner in Chicago. I can't remember how I found this place, but I had marked on my map (and to-do list) The Handlebar. I thought Sarah had suggested it, but she hadn't. However, she had been there and gave it a thumbs up. In fact, the dish I had highlighted to try was her fave dish there.

We made our way over there. It looked like a happening spot as we had to wait for a table. The big problem...no A/C inside. It was hotter inside than outside. And after taking a train, then walking, that was not a good combo at all. It was bad enough that we didn't stay for dinner. And the fact that I was starved and about to snap, says a lot about how bad it was in regards to temperature inside.

At that point, we were clueless. We were getting really grumpy with each other and had no idea what other restaurants were in the area. We started to make our way back towards the train and ducked into a sports bar called 6 Corners Sports Bar. Oddly enough, they had vegetarian items on their menu.
Not sure what was going on with Jason's eyes here - tired, hungry, no more pictures look?

We started with the Veggie Burger Sliders. They were homemade and really quite good. I had their veggie wrap and asked them to add tofu. Jason had some skewers and tempura veggies.
 
 

Overall, not too shabby. I enjoyed my wrap. Jason really liked his skewers. The only bust was the veggies as they were terribly greasy. But, we were no longer ready to harm one another, we were smiling once again, so all was good. Not the meal planned for our last night in Chicago, but sometimes you gotta go with Plan B.

Fun Facts Friday - Don't Take for Granted
Since I've been away from home for so long, there are definitely things I'm missing. We all miss those creature comforts of home after a while. Of course we miss things like our own beds, pillows, showers and such. But now, after hotel living for 10 days, there are things I won't take for granted again.
  • Real glasses - wine out of plastic cups isn't very appealing
  • Real flatware (as in not plastic)
  • Table and chairs - had to sit on an end table and eat at a desk when eating in the room
  • DVR/DVD - option of watching what I want, when I want
  • Real dishes - we bought paper plates/bowls to use
  • My own soap - I have my brand preference
  • 2-ply toilet paper - why can't hotels provide better TP?
  • Washer/dryer - please slap me if I ever complain about having to do laundry again
  • Ceiling fan or box fan - air movement can be a good thing
  • My gym - not having access to a gym with classes for cross-training sucks when you've gotten used to that sort of thing (spoiled much?)
  • Driving - While public transportation is awesome (as ours sucks ass), being able to jump in your car and not be smashed into another sweaty person is really a special thing
  • Home cooked anything 
So, what are the things you've learned to not take for granted after traveling? 

Daily To-Enjoy List
  • Being back home!
  • My own bed
  • Driving my car

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blogger Meet Up & More Stocks & Blondes

Blogger Meet Up
One thing on my must-do (and to-enjoy) list for my Chicago trip was to meet Sarah from The Ordinary Vegetarian. I've been following her for quite sometime (before she went vegan even), and couldn't wait to meet her. 

We decided to meet at Karyn's Cooked. I was all on board for going back and trying out another dish. If I could, I'd go back every day just to get a sample of everything! Funny story - we were on the same L and standing beside each other for the ride over but didn't realize it because we were smashed in and both fanning with papers, not facing each other. 


We started with the hummus. It was really good. Thick, more how I make it. And served with fresh veggies and pita.

Sarah went with the Southern Comfort (Beans, greens, rice and cornbread) and I opted for the Steak Wrap (Thinly sliced tofu/seitan steak grilled with onions and peppers, topped with romaine lettuce and chipotle).

 

She was kind enough to let me try some of the greens, which were actually really incredible. More cabbage like than I expected.

We did take the L back together - though sort of got on the wrong one. But that just gave us more time to talk actually, so it worked out just fine. It was so nice really getting to sit and talk with Sarah. She's so sweet, so easy to talk to. The conversation just flowed (and it wasn't all bloggy stuff at all). You'd think bloggers would talk shop, but so far those I've met it's been more about getting to know the real person behind the blog. Really lots of fun. Sarah is definitely someone I'd love to be friends with in real life. I wish we could have visited longer.

Hanging Out
Jason had gone to dinner with one of my coworkers, so I was sort of waiting on them to get done eating. The plan was for all of us (my other coworker and his wife as well) to meet up at Stocks and Blondes.
 
 
 

It was really fun just getting to sit back and relax, all of us together. The only time we've done something as a group was the first night when we had dinner at Lou Malnati's.

Daily To-Enjoy List
  • Another blogger meet up at lunch
  • Run after class
  • Vegan dinner