Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Run for the Year & Continuing to Live Fuller

Today was another unusually warm day here. No complaints from this girl though. Today was our weekly long run. I had 10 miles on my training plan. I really enjoy the idea of finishing out the last day of the year with a run. In fact, I looked back at my 12/31/11 post and realized I did the same. Oddly, it was a very warm day last year as well, only stormy and my run was about half the distance.

I feel like so much has changed for me in terms of running over the course of a year. I truly feel like a runner. I itch to get out and run now. I feel very empowered by my running now rather than nervous, fearful or even cautious. I've learned to embrace the fact that some days it's going to be tough. And that's ok. It's not failure, it's just like life really.

While everyone is making lists and resolutions today, I am going to do the same that I said I'd do last year - live fuller. I want to embrace each day more, get over fears, take more chances....live. I feel that I did pretty well with that this year. I got over fears of long distance running and did not one but two half marathons. I sucked it up with my flying fear and traveled to Seattle then spent almost two weeks in Chicago.

So, this year, I plan to live fuller again and continue with my Daily To-Enjoy Lists. Sometimes those little things each day are what help you get through the tougher times. I am going to try to set aside fears of the unknown and take more risks with a few things that I have wanted to do for far too long, but have let fear and uncertainty hold me back. You never know until you try right? So more trying for me this year.

Speaking of trying...this morning started off as a trying one. Maddie started randomly barking and we realized water was leaking all the way from the attic downstairs. What is in the attic that would leak? The water heater. Yep, water heater is officially out. We spent about an hour trying to clean up the mess and empty the tank before we could ever head out for our run.

The sucky part (not that the water heater situation wasn't sucky) was that I was supposed to be at my friend's house around 2 to help her prep food for the party tonight. Anyway, we finally headed out for our run close to 2 hours late. It was gorgeous, 64 degrees (hello shorts and short sleeve-top). The trying part here was the insane gusting winds.

At a few points it was almost laughable because they were so strong. You either laughed or cried one I suppose. But overall, it was a really good 10-mile run with Jason. Good company, gorgeous day, not much to complain about there I don't suppose.

After the run, we both stretched for a good amount of time. I basically just inhaled a very late lunch and am about to walk out the door to finally go help my friend out. I am very much looking forward to this evening. My sister will be here as well. It'll be the first New Year's Eve we've spent together in more years than I can even recall.

I wish you all a very happy, very safe New Year's Eve!

Daily To-Enjoy List:
  • Run with hubby
  • Sunshine
  • Warm weather
  • Sister time
  • Time with friends

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fun Facts Friday - Fashion Faves

Rest Day
Today is a rest day for me - and much needed I will admit. Without spin this week, I realized that I ran three days in a row. I know that's not a big deal to some, but for me and injury prevention...it is. And I'm feeling it just a bit now. If you have any advice on how to run several days in a row, please please share the secret with me.

I took advantage of the extra hour by hitting the grocery store at lunch. Not only did we need to stock up our own fridge, but I'm helping make some food for a friend's New Year's Eve party. Rather than waiting until tomorrow and trying to fit in grocery trip, long run, and food prep, I decided to do myself a big favor and get the food today so I can prep some tonight.

In case you are curious as to what I'll be making, it's pretty simple. She wants it to be semi-fancy. I realized a long time ago that you can still do a really nice spread but very simple. I will be making a hummus, tomato basil "meat"balls with homemade red sauce, simple white chocolate almond and cranberry bark, puppy chow, white chocolate dipped pretzel sticks.

I will be helping her make the tomato bruschetta because she really wants to try to do some of the dishes herself. I didn't really have a recipe to give her so much as a method. So it'll be fun cooking with her too. She's also going to have a cheese and fruit platter, veggie tray, two different meat dishes.

I feel like there is something from the menu list missing....I'm sure I'll remember tomorrow when I start taking pictures of course ;-)

Fun Facts Friday - Fashion Faves
Today will be the last Fun Facts Friday for the year. I suppose that means I should do some sort of year-end recap. That's all I am seeing right now from bloggers. I understand and appreciate that of course, so please don't get me wrong.

But, I'm going to go a totally different route. No top 10, 11, or even 5 list for me. Just another Fun Facts Friday kind of post. I'm being a rebel you see. I thought I'd do a list of some of my favorite brands. No real rhyme or reason here, just for fun. So I guess it's a Fun Facts Friday - Fave Fashions edition.
  • Shoes - Jessica Simpson (though Gianni Bini and Bandolino are really close)
  • Running shoes - Brooks Ghost 4 all the way
  • Jeans - Lucky Brand
  • Tops - The Limited. Love all their clothes, but the bottoms don't fit me unfortunately.
  • Pants - Ann Taylor Loft and Ann Taylor. Though, I have to spend some serious time trying them all on.
  • Purses - Jessica Simpson 
  • Workout clothes - Nike for capri running pants, Brooks for running shorts and tops, and Champion for gym.
  • Makeup - Bare Escentuals 
  • Moisturizers/Cleansers - Korres
  • Nail polish - O.P.I.
So what are some of your favorite fashion brands? Are you fairly loyal to a single brand or is it more about price?

Daily To-Enjoy List:
  • Sunshine
  • Warm temps
  • Rest day
  • Friday

    Thursday, December 29, 2011

    Perfect Running Weather & Easy Veggie Burger Dinner

    Perfect Day for a Run
    Today was another gorgeous, sunny day here with temperatures hitting 60 degrees. Now that's my kind of December! The gym has been unstaffed all week - meaning no spin class. So, thankfully it was another great day for an outdoor run.

    I had wavered a bit on going solo for 6 miles or running with Jason around the neighborhood. He was wanting to do an easier 3-miler. I will say, as much as I hate it, running in the neighborhood is what I need to get in some long incline hills - the same hills I'll be running in March for the Little Rock Half Marathon.

    So, I opted to run with Jason. We did end up hitting 4 miles. I kind of had a feeling he'd want to go just a little bit farther. Though, we probably went faster than we had meant to run originally.

    Like I said, perfect temperatures out. Even got to wear shorts today. The only problem was the annoyingly gusty wind. Cursing wind is absolutely normal right? Right? Even if it's not, I sure do...out loud during runs. Good thing I had a running partner or people out and about would have just thought I was bonkers.

    So, another great run with the hubby. It wasn't exactly easy with the slow inclines and the wind, but easy doesn't always mean it was a good run of course. I'm loving having a partner again. While I learned to love my long solo runs, it really can be nice to have some company sometimes as well. Variation is good right?

    Burger Night
    Tonight, I decided to make things easier on myself in the kitchen as a reward for pulling out a great meal (Korean Tempeh BBQ Tacos) last night. Plus, I got home a little bit later as I met up with a friend for a glass of wine at a local wine bar. She is hosting a New Year's Eve party and I am helping her with the menu. So, we met to finalize the yummies to serve.

    We're running low on the fresh veggies department other than some sweet potatoes. So, sweet potatoes mean "fries" and fries mean burgers right? Right. So, I went with a some Black Bean Tofu Burgers that I made up on Sunday and stashed in the freezer. This time I added in some onion and quinoa and some different seasonings, but similar recipe nonetheless.

    I think next time I make these I will try sauteing the veggies, maybe adding in some bell peppers as well to see how that changes the flavors and textures.
    Anyway, Jason started the potatoes baking for me, so then all that had to be done was to heat up the burgers and assemble. My kind of dinner.

    Daily To-Enjoy List:
    • Sunshine
    • Run with hubby
    • Glass of wine with friend
    • Easy dinner

    Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    Good Workout & Even Better BBQ Taco Recipe

    Intervals & Weights 
    Today was another sunny, mild day here. It was not easy making myself go to the gym rather than run outside. But, I really needed/wanted to get the rest of my weight workouts done today as I had originally planned. I also wanted to do some intervals. Intervals are easier to do on the treadmill, or for me anyway.

    When I'm outside, it's harder to focus on speed rather than just enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Though, with my handy dandy new Garmin, I can actually keep track of pace finally. So maybe I can do my speedwork more correctly rather than going balls to the wall with the first interval then not being able to finish out the rest.

    Anyway, I wasn't planning on killing myself with intervals then doing weights. Just wanted to get in the speedwork. I started with 1 mile at a 9:22 min mile at 1% incline as my warmup before doing the following intervals:

    #1 - 1 x 3 min intervals of 8:20 min mile with 9:31 min mile recovery
    #2 - 2 x 2 min intervals of 8:20 min mile with 9:31 min mile recovery
    #3 - 2 x 1 min intervals of 8:13 min mile with 9:31 min mile recovery

    I finished out the mileage to an even 3.5 slowly increasing the speed so that the last minute was an 8:44 min mile - which kicked my butt after the intervals I had done.

    Next was trisets for back, triceps and hamstrings with some short ab work at the end. The sets were done as 3x8 unless noted.

    TS#1
    Underhand barbell row
    Double-arm overhead triceps extensions
    Step ups (with dumbbells)

    TS#2
    Assisted wide-grip chinups
    Weighted dips - 10 reps
    Stiff-legged deadlifts

    TS#3
    Double-arm rows
    Double-arm kickbacks
    Hamstring roll-ins on ball - 10 reps

    Overall, it was a pretty good workout. I felt weaker with triceps today, but felt like I should have possibly gone heavier with my barbell rows. But I struggled with the chinups. Guess it's all about the order of the exercises - well, that plays a role.

    Crazy New Recipe
    Sometimes it's funny how recipes come about in my household. They can come from a combination of many different recipes, often based on trying to find something to do with what I have on hand. Sometimes they just happen - like just adding a bit of this and a bit of that.

    Then there are the times when I mention to Jason a couple of ingredients and something I have in mind. Then he takes those ingredients and my idea and adds to it, often complicating it just a bit more than I already would ;-)

    That is how this recipe for my version of a Korean BBQ Sauce (Kalbi aka Galbi) used to make vegan Korean Tempeh BBQ Tacos came about. I mentioned needing to use some portobellos. I named off some ingredients then suggested my BBQ Tempeh and Portobello Sandwiches.

    However, he remembered seeing a recent episode of Guy's Diner's, Drive-ins and Dives about some Korean BBQ joint. Hence the Korean BBQ Taco suggestion.

    While he was watching the movie Tron, I was searching recipes like a crazy woman, hell bent on finding the perfect Korean BBQ sauce. I found so many different versions, some looked sweeter, some looked spicier. Most included a significant amount of sugar.

    I saw some that used pears, apple or pineapple juice. The closest thing I had was fresh pineapple. And, I think the citric acid was mainly meant to break down and tenderize meat. Lucky for me, I didn't need that since mine would be vegan.

    Some recipes included kochujang or gochujang sauce which is a Korean chile paste that I definitely don't have on hand. So then that meant trying to find alternatives for that. I had a feeling Sriracha would be involved, and it was. I have plenty of that ;-)

    Korean Tempeh BBQ Tacos
    Ingredients:
    1 tbsp miso paste
    2 tbsp sriracha
    2 green onions, finely chopped
    1/4 cup soy sauce (I used low sodium)
    1/4 cup tamari (I used low sodium)
    2 tbsp agave nectar
    1/2 tbsp sesame oil
    2 tbsp minced garlic
    1/4-1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger root
    1/4 cup minced pineapple
    1 tsp water
    1/2 tbsp cornstarch
    1 package tempeh, crumbled
    3 baby portobellos, very thinly sliced (or 1 medium regular)

    Corn tortillas or corn taco shells

    Directions:
    Combine all ingredients up to the water in medium bowl and whisk together well. In a small dish, combine cold water and cornstarch to form a slurry then whisk that into the other mixture. Using an imersion blender or food processor, puree ingredients.

    Add the crumbled tempeh and mushrooms into a large plastic bag or large bowl with lid. Pour the marinade over the tempeh and mushrooms and mix very well. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

    After the tempeh has marinated, saute in a large, non-skillet pan until heated through. Serve on corn tortillas with a simple Asian Cabbage Slaw and sour cream (vegan, cashew cream, whatever you prefer).

    Asian Cabbage Slaw
    Ingredients:
    3 cups Napa cabbage, shredded
    1/4 red bell pepper, very thinly sliced
    1/4 yellow bell pepper, very thinly sliced
    1 green onion, thinly sliced
    1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
    To taste - salt and pepper
    1-2 tbsp agave nectar

    Directions
    In large bowl, whisk together vinegar, salt, pepper, agave then add in the vegetables and toss well. Let refrigerate at least 1 hour.

    I served a simple cilantro lime cashew cream that was nothing more than soaked cashews, almond milk, apple cider vinegar, agave, salt, lime juice pureed very well.
     

    And the verdict? Flipping fantastic. It was the perfect combo of spicy and sweet. Then the crunch from the slaw...perfect. I think leaving the corn tortillas as a soft taco works very well, probably better than crunchy (but I could be wrong of course). 


    Daily To-Enjoy List:
    • Weight workout
    • Interval run (hard but good)
    • Sunshine
    • Creative dinner

      Tuesday, December 27, 2011

      Sunny Run & Thai for Tuesday

      Running & Chest
      Today it was back to work for me. And it was a rocky start to the day/week. New computer while I was out equals major problems when I get back. Let's just say that the first 5 hours of the morning were spent pretty much without a computer. In the end, back to old computer for now.

      The one salvation to the day was that it was sunny and fairly warm - mid-50's. It was, however, super windy. I had originally thought I'd just do some intervals on the treadmill then weights. But Jason asked if I wanted to go run around our neighborhood during lunch.

      He knew I was having a rather stressful morning, and thought it'd be good for both of us to be outside in the fresh air (aka gusting winds). Plus, he's sort of playing with the new Garmin he bought me by running with me. Having me push buttons, check speed, distance, etc.

      We set out with 4 miles in mind, but ended up over 5 (5.5 after walk around block to cool down). I always forget how sneaky steady inclines can be. Of course, that means I need to practice running hills more I suppose.

      It really ended up being a very pleasant run. Definitely mood-boosting after so much dreary weather. Plus, it was nice having company during the run of course.

      I did end up going to the gym after work to get in my chest workout. I hadn't really planned on two workouts today actually. But, I'm glad I did go up there. I did about 15 minutes on the elliptical to loosen up my legs, the downfall of a mid-day run, and warm up before doing chest.

      While I don't just love the elliptical, it really can be good for just getting your legs going sometimes. Mine were certainly getting tight, so the impromptu workout ended up being smart. As for chest, it was nothing exciting. I have grown to dislike chest workouts though. I need to check out the cables perhaps as an alternative. Anyway, I just did 3x8 for chest flye into chest press supersetted with pushups with toes on bench.

      Thai Tuesday
      Dinner needed to just be something simple, easy, and veggie heavy tonight. I've done pretty good with my eats over the holidays, other than indulging in a bit too much wine and some sweet treats I normally don't eat.

      I wanted something absolutely non-Christmas dinner like. So, I went with a Thai Curry sauce that is super simple, totally not Christmassy, and takes on any and all veggies I might want to add into the mix. Tonight I went with a version of Thai Seitan and Veggies. Normally I try to use fresh veggies like carrots and bell peppers then frozen peas. But, I used up my fresh carrots making veggie burgers.
       

      So, I went with the standard broccoli, cauliflower, carrot frozen veggie mix along with some fresh bell peppers and frozen peas. This sauce is so simple really and works well with a variety of veggie and protein combos. Basically: coconut milk, curry paste, agave. You can of course add in additional spices here and there if you want.

      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Sunshine
      • Outdoor run (with Jason even)
      • Easy dinner
      • Lots of veggies

      Monday, December 26, 2011

      Christmas Dinner & Soup for Soggy Monday

      Christmas Dinner
      As I mentioned yesterday, our Christmas Dinner was similar to our Thanksgiving dinner. We enjoyed the meal so much, why not make it again, or most of it anyway. Plus, I really want to try to perfect the Wild Mushroom Green Bean Casserole.
       
       
       

      So, it was the casserole along with Curried Pumpkin Risotto and Quorn Turk'y Roast topped with Chipotle Cranberry Relish. Some dishes are certainly worthy repeating in my book.

      It was a nice, low-key Christmas for us topped off with a fabulous dinner, just the two of us (besides Maddie & Heath waiting under the table for food droppage of course).


      Gym Day
      Today was back to gray skies and lots of rain. Definitely the kind of day that makes you want to just stay inside in your PJs, even more so since we were both off work. We did manage to get out of our PJs into our workout clothes for the gym though. I started with 15 minutes on the elliptical then did trisets of 3x8 (unless noted) for shoulders, biceps, quads.

      Barbell squats - warmup set of 10

      TS#1
      Shoulder press
      EZ bar curls
      Barbell squats

      TS#2
      Front raise
      Cross-body curls
      Alternating front lunges (with dumbbells)

      TS#3
      Lateral raise
      Hammer curls
      Plie squats with low-end pulse

      I had intended on doing chest as well, but Jason was done with his workout a lot sooner than I was. So, I will just need to do that another day this week.

      Soup for Soggy Day
      We got home and immediately got back into our PJs. I did manage to be a little productive doing tons of laundry (washing/drying not folding though). I also made up some veggie burgers to stash in the freezer. I had thought I might make some seitan as well, but got lazy. Instead, I spent time on the couch looking through two new cookbooks I got: Happy Herbivore and The Blooming Platter.

      Because of the weather, I decided soup sounded like the ideal dinner. Plus, I wanted something on the lighter side with tons of veggies. I had some kale and butternut squash, so I thought that would work well for a stew or soup.

      Butternut Squash, Kale and Bean Soup
      Ingredients:
      1/2 white onion, diced
      2 tbsp minced garlic
      1 small butternut squash, diced

      1 32oz container no-salt vegetable broth
      1 can no-salt diced tomatoes, with liquid
      1 bunch kale, cleaned and de-stemmed, rough chop
      1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
      1/2 cup chickpeas
      To taste: salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, parsley, turmeric, basil, oregano, freshly grated nutmeg
      2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

      Directions:
      In large pot, saute onions and garlic in small amount of olive oil for about 2-3 minutes then add in the squash and cook another 5 minutes.

      Add in the broth, tomatoes, and spices and yeast flakes and allow to simmer approximately 20 minutes. Add in the kale and cover for about 5 minutes to help the kale start to cook down then add in the beans and allow to continue to until kale is soft and the squash is cooked through.
       

      This turned out really well. I do think I prefer more of a stew rather than a soup. Next time I might add in some tomato paste to help thicken the soup. 

      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Weight lifting
      • PJ day
      • Relaxing
      • Comforting dinner

      Sunday, December 25, 2011

      Christmas Eve Recap & Running Themed Christmas Day

      Family Day Recap
      Today was the first day since I've been off work (since Wednesday) that wasn't jam packed. In other words, I was able to sleep in guilt free. We had no place to be. The only thing that we actually had planned was to get in a run if the weather was decent. The forecast kept changing, so the last we saw said rain.

      It was a pleasant surprise to see sunshine and blue skies rather than the dreary, gray skies we had yesterday. Oh, yesterday...that family-filled day. We left home at 10:45 in the morning and didn't get home until after 9 pm. Needless to say, the dogs were very unhappy and we were very worn out.

      The day started at my sister's for lunch of a brunch menu that consisted of 2 types of frittatas, fruit salad, bagels, sausage (for the meat eaters), and my mom made a gluten-free coffee cake as well.
       
       
      It was so fun watching the kids open up their gifts. It was definitely a cooking type of Christmas for them. I had found these super cute Curious Chef apron and cooking sets for them. We also gave them gift cards to Kroger so they can pick out a recipe and buy the ingredients themselves. Mom bought them (really my nephew) an Easy Bake Oven. We're convinced the kid is going to be a chef one day. They were so excited they were even happy to wash all of the cooking utensils and pans that came with both gifts.
       
       
       

      Then we stopped my Jason's parents' house for a bit. They don't really do anything for Christmas, so it was just us stopping by for a visit and to give them their gifts.

      Finally, it was on to my dad's house. He made manicotti and a special gluten-free pasta version for my sister. I made some roasted broccoli and there were tons of treats as well.
       
      In the first picture, Sarah is hold up a card that C had made for her, notice the green star ring please. In the next picture, it's a rare picture of my dad laughing thanks to the kids. Oh he'll be so happy to see this on the blog ;-) I should say it's not that dad doesn't laugh, he just doesn't do pictures.

      Running Kind of Christmas
      So, back to today and sleeping in. I didn't wake up until 8:30 and Jason managed to stay in bed until a little after 9. No complaints though; it was so nice to sleep in and take it easy getting the day going.

      We exchanged gifts, a very running-themed Christmas for us. I finally got my long-sleeved running shirt with the thumb holes. I was almost disappointed that it was too warm to wear it today. However, I could wear the Garmin Forerunner 610 he got me! Yep, finally got a GPS tracking system. No more relying on heart rate and time alone for my distance.

      I also finally got a new pair of house shoes. My last pair I had picked up for about 5 bucks on clearance. The seams around the toes had pretty much blown out, so those got tossed today finally. I got Jason a new running shirt today, which he did wear along with his new Injinji toe socks that he loves.

      We didn't head out to run until after noon. I expected the trails to be pretty empty. But they weren't. Lots of families out walking around and a few runners and cyclist. I guess when there's really not a lot to do on Christmas Day and it's 55 degrees and sunny, being outside is the way to go.

      Armed with the new Garmin, we set off on a rather chatty run. I always talk, but Jason doesn't. But he kept wanting to compare the distance and pace from my gadget to his gadget. I loved knowing the mileage, of course, the route we took is one I've done so many times I already had a pretty solid idea. The one thing I think is completely off is the calorie count. 

      For me, it was a really great run. I was so happy to hit 10 miles again with very little sciatic/piriformis issues. Jason stopped at mile 9. I think it wasn't a terrible run for him, but his sinuses are a total mess, so it was a little harder for him. That whole snotty, not breathing thing sort of gets in the way of running sometimes.

      After stretching and rolling, we had a super quick lunch of chickpea salad wraps. I was starting to get really shaky, so fast was mandatory. We are planning on making a nicer dinner this evening though. It'll sort of be a repeat of Thanksgiving actually. I wanted to try to perfect the Wild Mushroom Green Bean Casserole. And we both loved the Curried Pumpkin Risotto so much that we agreed that was a must. I ended up buying a Quorn Turk'y Roast that we'll have with my Chipotle Cranberry Relish.

      For now, I'm enjoying a mimosa with my fee propped up - in PJs of course. It has been a great Christmas for us. We got many gifts that we are so grateful for. We were also able to give gifts and watch our family open them. To me, that's the most special part of the holidays.

      Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you all have had a wonderful day!

      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Sleeping in
      • Sunshine
      • Running with Jason
      • PJ day
      • Mimosas
      • Relaxing

      Saturday, December 24, 2011

      Friends, Family, Laughter, Love

      Friends & Laughter
      I must start off saying that I feel so behind right now on blog reading. The past few days have been filled to the brim, but in a good way. I have been enjoying so much time with family and friends. Yesterday afternoon we ended up meeting up with our BFF couple and another friend before my friend, Lindsey, made it into town.

      We left the first place, a pizza place aptly named Damgoode Pie, then headed to our favorite local hangout. I've mentioned it before, it's an Irish Pub called Dugan's. We scored seats by the fireplace, my fave spot in the place of course ;-)
      I had so much fun visiting and catching up with Lindsey. I just hate that friends have to move away to different cities as we grow up. It definitely makes you appreciate the time you do have together that much more. Plus, I suppose I do have very valid reasons to visit Atlanta. Maybe a spring trip?

      Family Day
      Anyway, it was an incredible day and night filled with enough laughter to make me congested (anyone else with asthma know what I'm talking about?). Today is going to be another extremely busy and full day for us. We will be heading to our hometown to visit everyone.

      First stop will be a late-ish lunch with a brunch menu at my sisters to celebrate with her, her kiddos, my mom and her husband. On the menu will be a fruit salad, two types of frittatas, bagels, and I think my mom was going to try to make a gluten-free coffee cake just for my sis (who loves loves loves coffee cake). I imagine there will be a mimosa or too as well.

      We will then make a quick stop by Jason's parents' home. They won't be doing anything special as no one else is coming into town. Their big holiday celebration is Thanksgiving.

      Finally, it'll be dinner at my dad's. As is traditional for us, it'll be manicotti for dinner. I'm going to do some roasted broccoli, and my step-mother always makes some casseroles. Dad is so proud, he's doing a deconstructed manicotti for my sister using gluten-free pasta that she took over to him.

      Gotta say, it makes me smile to know how much he tries for the both of us. It means more than he probably knows. And my mom as well actually. To me it's very special when someone recognizes your dietary preferences or needs and really and truly tries to take them into account in order to make sure you're happy as well.

      Happy Christmas Eve to everyone. I hope your day is filled with family, friendship, laughter, and love.

      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Time with family
      • Rest day (severely needed)
      • Laughter
      • Good food
      • Love

      Friday, December 23, 2011

      Fun Facts Friday - 5 Holiday Memories

      Brrrr Chilly Run
      This morning I got up and hit up Whole Food a little before 9. It was fairly empty, maybe the quietest I'd ever seen it. No complaints here! I got back home and worked on cleaning the house. I was trying to wait for the sun to come out and the temps to warm up a little before I ran.

      No such luck. I finally gave up and went out for my run around 10:45. The sun was not going to come out today, that became obvious. And the temps weren't going to budge much either. It was just under 40 degrees, but at least not gusting winds.

      My legs just didn't feel like they were cooperating though. My perceived rate of exertion was way out of whack. My lungs were on fire, I kept thinking I must be pushing it, but I'd check my heart rate and it was barely hovering at 160. I don't know if the air was just damp, but it actually felt a lot harder than my last half, which was a few degrees cooler than today.

      Of course, it should have been a rest day, but I won't be able to get in a workout tomorrow, so I pushed through. Maybe that with the weather...not really sure. But I was ready to throw in the towel pretty early on. I kept going though, hoping everything would come together.

      It finally did at mile 5. That's just way too long to be waiting for things to click let me just put that right out there. I did manage to pull out 6.5 miles somehow. Not the worst by any means, but definitely not the ideal run either.

      I will say I at least feel accomplished for getting out there and getting it done.

      Fun Facts Friday - 5 Holiday Memories
      For Fun Facts Friday, I'm going to take a cue from my friend Jolene. She did a recent post, 5-Things Holiday Edition. I loved the idea, especially this time of year. Here are my 5 favorite holiday memories:

      1. Waking up at the crack of dawn with my sister to check out what was under the tree.

      2. Making cookies with my sister, sometimes making a bigger mess and drinking more wine than actual cookies being made (obviously referring to this happening as adults not children).

      3. The first Christmas tree Jason and I had together. It was an itty bitty 3' tree, but very special.

      4. Setting up the Christmas tree as a child and then just sitting on the couch and watching the lights on the tree. Who needs a tv?

      5. Going through the JC Penny and Sears catalogs to mark all the gifts we wanted each year. We'd spend hours upon hours going through those catalogs.

      Of course, I definitely have many many more happy memories. But these were the first 5 that came to mind. Now it's your turn. What are some of your favorite or happiest holiday memories?


      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Run 
      • Time with friends

      Thursday, December 22, 2011

      Weights, Errands & Super Simple Dinner Thanks to Gardein

      Gym Day
      Today was a cold, rainy one here. Not very motivating. Thus, I didn't make it to the gym until 10. I really should have gotten out the door soon as I had errands to run. And the longer I waited, I knew the worse traffic would be.

      I started with 15 minutes on the elliptical then went with supersets of 3x8 for back and triceps.

      SS#1
      Underhand barbell row
      Double-arm overhead triceps extension

      SS#2
      Assisted wide-grip chinups
      Lying triceps extensions

      SS#3
      Pullovers
      Weighted dips

      I did some ab work after the weights. I also added in some low back extensions on the stability ball - 2 x 12. Overall, it was a pretty good workout. I feel pretty weak with my back weights, but I know that adding in the chinups will help if I just keep decreasing the assisted weight.

      Errands & Chores
      The next several hours were spent fighting traffic so that I could make it to stores like Target, Kroger, and a few secret places I can't mention since a certain someone reads my blog ;-) When I got home and had everything unpacked, I got down to the business of wrapping presents.

      I've been putting it off because it always seems to take longer than I expect. And, I make a huge mess somehow. But, I just plowed through and got it all done and all the paper put back away. I still have a long list of house chores unfortunately.

      A good friend is coming to stay with us tomorrow not - she's in town from Atlanta. So I really kind of need to make the house presentable. She'd probably be happier if I made the spare bed, dusted, made sure the guest towels were clean and such.

      We did end up meeting a group of friends for a brief happy hour. I exchanged gifts with one of my friends. I got a super cute, sparkly scarf/shawl and warm fuzzy blanket that I totally plan on breaking in this evening.

      Dinner is going to be super simple, practically makes itself even: sweet potatoes filled with steamed broccoli and Gardein Beefless Tips that we'll likely toss with some BBQ Sauce. I'm sure some Daiya Vegan Cheese may make it's way on top as well, but that's just speculation right now.

      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Weights
      • Being off work
      • Knocking some things off to-do list
      • Evening with friends

      Wednesday, December 21, 2011

      Sister and Girlfriend Time = Best Time

      Run & Legs
      I was off work today, actually off work until next Tuesday, so that meant I was able to sleep in a bit. But I did need to get my workout done earlier rather than later. So I hit the gym by 8:30. It was pretty much dead other than one other person on the treadmill. Love it when it's quiet and I don't have to fight for a fan or "my" treadmill.

      I wasn't exactly keen on a treadmill run, but sometimes you just have to get yourself going.

      I started with 1 mile warm up at a 9:22 min mile then 4 sets of intervals at 1 min with 1.5 min recovery (I guess that's really 1 min and 30 seconds) at an 8 min mile and 9:31 min mile then finished out the remainder to round out to 3 miles.

      I decided to go ahead and work full legs today rather than split them up. I went with supersets of 3x8 unless noted.

      Barbell squats - warmup set of 10

      SS#1
      Barbell squats
      Stiff-legged deadlifts

      SS#2
      Step ups (with dumbbells)
      Plie squat with low end pulse - using single dumbbell

      SS#3
      Alternating front lunges
      Calf raise - 15 reps

      I had been initially dreading the workout. I was really wanting to run outside, but it was cloudy, windy and cold when I needed to be getting in my workout. However, this ended up being a great workout. Once I got going, I really got into it. I felt strong throughout and plan on increasing weights next week.


      Girls' Day
      After the workout, I had to get home and get cleaned up pretty quickly. The plan was to head to my hometown to spend most of the day with my sister and also have lunch with one of my oldest and dearest friends. K and I have literally known each other for about 32 years now. So I will just go ahead and say our whole lives.

       

      I was surprised (pleasantly) to find out that my friend's sister, D at far right, was also going to join us. They are really like family. I know that I could call either of them, or even their parents at any given time and they'd be there as quickly as humanly possible. 

      We met at Ruby Tuesdays, love their salad bar, a little after noon and visited until after 2:30. Thankfully, they weren't super busy so our waitress didn't mind that we were taking up space. My cheeks seriously hurt by the time we left from laughing so much. You really can't beat a lunch with family and friends (or family and family) like that.

      After our extended lunch, Sarah and I head back to her house to make some holiday treats. In years past we have spent an entire day baking and icing cookies then boxing or bagging them all up. This year, we took the fast route. No baking involved, but still lots of fun.

      We made some white chocolate bark with almonds and cranberries, GF white chocolate covered pretzels, GF peanut butter pretzels, and GF puppy chow. I will say it all tasted very good ;-)

      This has to have been one of the best days I have had recently. It was filled with friends, sister time, tons of laughter, good food, and even some wine. It's a shame every day can't be quite like this. Life is simply too short not to have more of these kinds of days or moments. And, after yesterday, this was definitely the kind of day I need down to my sole. I smile all the way home, only sad that it had to end.

      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Run
      • Weights
      • Sister time
      • Time with dear friends

      Tuesday, December 20, 2011

      Spin & Italian "Beef" Sandwiches

      Sad Day, But Spin Helped
      This morning I felt like I had been run over. I didn't sleep well at all last night. It didn't help that just after midnight lightening hit so hard that I bolted upright then the thunder that immediately followed literally rattled the house. I seriously thought there had been a terrible accident outside and someone hit the house.

      The electricity went out briefly and it took a while to calm back down and fall back asleep. Then I was up at 2, 5, and 6. Yawn. At least the storms did stop and it wasn't raining on my walk into the office - just incredibly foggy.

      It was sort of a down day for me. Fifteen years ago a dear friend's life was cut short. She was an incredible person, so full of life and love. I won't go into details, you can search her name or see this newscast from today if you really want to know. Juli Busken was a dancer at OU and had just graduated. She was abducted and eventually killed in the early morning hours of December 20, 1996. Thankfully her killer is indeed behind bars on death row.

      I try not to dwell on what happened that morning, but rather remember who she was. She really was one-of-a-kind. I am lucky enough to have her parents in my life still. So in a way, I have part of her of course. They are amazing and have always treated me like one of their own. I practically grew up in their house so they didn't have much choice ;-)

      So, needless to say, my head wasn't totally in the game during spin today. It felt so much harder than I think it should have. But, I will say, it was a nice escape. Getting in a good sweatfest and being surrounded by others working hard helps change your focus and can give you a nice energy and mood boost when you might need it the most.

      Letting Jason Cook
      I really wasn't in the mood for cooking this evening. I really wanted something on the lighter side. Jason wanted "comfort" food. His first dish idea was a creamy mushroom pasta that I've made before. That just sounded incredibly heavy to me.

      We had kale and butternut squash, so that's what I was sort of thinking (again). I also thought about using portobellos in a bean burger for a true portobello burger. But, I was ready to compromise if it meant I didn't have to cook. I can always revisit the burger later.

      We ended up going with Italian "Beef" Sandwiches and baked sweet potato fries. The only difference from this recipe is that we used vegetable stock rather than the reserved liquid from the homemade seitan.
       

      The sandwiches were topped with Daiya Mozzarella, served open-faced, and nice and messy. Definitely a sandwich to eat with a fork. I gave up trying to make them pretty a long time ago.

      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Spin class
      • Not cooking

      Monday, December 19, 2011

      Running Question & Simple Orange Ginger Stir Fry

      6-Mile Run
      Today I was actually able to get in a run outside rather than spin. The skies were slightly overcast, so not a super gorgeous day. However, the temperatures were in the upper 50's. We've got rain in the forecast for tomorrow, so I took advantage of the weather today.

      I debated briefly about which direction to start my run. I started into the headwinds, which kept picking up and made it feel a lot cooler than 57 degrees. If the sun had been out, I know it would have been warmer. While I hate headwinds, I'd rather run the first half of my run into them rather than the last half when I'm already tired.

      As soon as I made my turn around at mile 3, it felt like the wind completely stopped. I don't know why, but this always surprises me still. You can feel the wind so strongly one way, then not even a hint of a breeze in the other direction. Of course, I immediately got hot and regretted my capri tight option. However, at the end of the run, closer to the river, the breeze picked up from all directions and I was happy with my choice again.

      For the most part, it was a really good run for me. I do feel like I was all over the place with speed. At some points I couldn't seem to slow myself down and at other points I felt like there was no way I could pick up the pace and was dragging. But, it was so nice to be outside again today rather than having to be inside for a workout. There's just something about feeling the wind on your face and taking in the scenery around you that helps make the workout better.

      Running Question
      I do want to bring up a topic that I think about often. It's one Jason has argued with me about as well. So, all you seasoned runners, please speak up and set me straight.

      Jason thinks I run my long runs too fast. He is convinced I should back off the speed. I'll readily admit to going much faster on my long runs than recent half marathon training plans suggested. I went at a speed that I felt was comfortable for me though. I didn't feel like I was pushing myself too hard. I mean, it wasn't like a cake walk, but it certainly wasn't like a tempo run.

      During my first half training, I ran some of the long runs at sub 9-minute miles. Closer to race pace, but not quite race pace. I finished that half at a much better time than my recent half. This time, I ran my long runs at more like 9:13-9:22 minute miles. I finished the race close to 90 seconds slower.

      In my mind, if I want to run fast during a race (or in general) then I need to do just that...run fast. But, I do read Runner's Worlds and training articles. I do know that it is suggested to run long runs slower and have easy recovery runs and then you have a day or two that is set aside for speed. I read this. But I can't grasp this. I have this complete mental block about it.

      And I realize that the slower runs are about endurance, about conditioning the body, the lungs, even the mind. I do know where constant pushing leads you - injury zone. Maybe I'm struggling with this so much because I'm frustrated with my drop in speed. Not really sure and am thinking "outloud" at this point.

      So, help me out please.

      Simple Stir Fry
      I'll admit to a bit of over-indulging this weekend by eating out for pizza on Saturday then the veggie burgers with sweet potato fries (fried and not baked like I'd make of course) yesterday. So, feeling on the fluffier side today. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about.

      So tonight I really wanted something lighter, healthier, very green. Yesterday, Jason picked up some Napa cabbage and snow peas so that we could make a stir fry this week. Usually I just go with the frozen veggies mix. This was a nice change of ingredients.

      I felt like the cabbage deserved a lighter stir fry sauce. I didn't want something really heavy, that would over-power the subtle flavors of the cabbage and the peas. I just sort of made something up based on taste and how much of it I needed, so I apologize for the lack of measurements.

      Orange Ginger Stir Fry Sauce
      Ingredients:
      Orange juice
      Rice wine vinegar
      Soy sauce (I used reduced sodium)
      Freshly grated ginger
      Agave nectar
      Sriracha chili sauce (just a hint of heat)
      1 tsp corn starch or arrowroot
      2 tsp cold water

      Directions:
      In small bowl, mix together the corn starch and water to make a slurry.

      In a medium sized bowl, whisk together all ingredients adding in the slurry last to help thicken the sauce.
       

      The stir fry was made up of carrots, Napa cabbage, snow peas, button mushrooms, green onions, and tofu that I had dry-seared then tossed with garlic powder, small amount of salt, and soy sauce then baked and cubed.

      Daily To Enjoy-List:
      • Running outdoors
      • Warmer temps
      • Lighter, easy dinner

      Sunday, December 18, 2011

      I'm a Fuddy Dud but I Went to a Burger Joint - Big Orange Review

      Holiday Party Recap
      Last night we went to a party with some friends. It was a law firm party at a nice hotel downtown. It seemed a little awkward to me, but our friends assured us we were more than welcome to join the party, that not everyone was going to be a lawyers.
       
       

      We only knew a few other people through our friends. And I am still certain we were the only non-law related people there. It was fun getting dressed up and getting out of the house. We don't often go to fancy parties. But, I am not a very out-going person. Since I didn't really know anyone, the music wasn't exactly inspiring me to dance, and the free drinks weren't anything I cared for (the wine was horrid and they ran out of champagne right away)...I was ready to call it a night by 9pm.

      I will admit that I felt really kind of bad about wanting to leave so quickly. I feel like I'm always the party pooper in the bunch. It's not that I don't want to have fun or know how to have fun, but I am really shy and reserved unless I'm in the right situation. So I feel out of place and self-conscious. I don't know how to overcome these feelings. And then of course I start feeling bad that I'm not being great company. So it becomes a bit of a downward spiral for me.

      I know I could have just written about how much fun we had and posted pictures of me smiling, but I'm honest and I wanted to get it off my chest I suppose. Maybe I'm hoping someone else can relate to these feelings. It can really make you feel like a loner, like a failure to an extent even.

      Weight Day
      This morning I got up and managed to get my Christmas cards done before leaving for the gym. It was my goal for the morning. I already had my list with addresses and such, so it was really about just sitting down and getting them addressed.

      At the gym, I went with trisets of 3x8 for shoulders, biceps and hamstrings after a 15-minute warmup session on the elliptical.

      TS#1
      Arnold press
      Barbell curls (using EZ Bar)
      Bulgarian deadlifts

      TS#2
      Upright rows
      Hammer curls
      Step ups

      TS#3
      Lateral raise
      Incline curls
      Hamstring roll-ins on ball - 10 reps

      I followed up with some ab work.

      Heather Goes to Burger Joint
      After the gym, we headed to the grocery store before going back home. I got cleaned up and put on my yoga pants and comfy (ugly) sweatshirt. Originally, we were supposed to have lunch with our friends that we went to the party with last night. They weren't quite up for it (see, another reason to be an old fuddy dud), so I assumed we were done and in for the day.

      Jason, however, had his heart set on going out to a place called Big Orange for lunch. It's a fairly new burger joint that happens to be nowhere near out house. They do have homemade black bean patties and a lentil falafel patty along with a variety of salads though. So that's why Jason has been trying to get me to agree to go.

      By the time we got there, I was getting extremely cranky. A hungry Heather is an ugly Heather to be around. They said there was a 15 minute wait. I really thought I was going to crack at that point. Luckily, we don't mind sitting in a bar height table, or in the bar I should say, so we didn't have to wait as long.

      Since we were both so hungry, we started with their Hummus and Tzatziki plate. (I was too hungry to think about pictures at this point.) The hummus was pretty good. I was hungry though and thought the carrots were the best I'd ever had...ever. So I might have said cardboard tasted awesome ;-)

      I ended up going for the Atom Bomb Burger subbing the hamburger for their vegetarian black bean patty. The sandwich was supposed to come with: Jack Cheese, Pickled JalapeƱo, Butter Leaf Lettuce, Sriracha, and Chipotle-Red Pepper Mayo. I had them hold the mayo.
      Jason ordered the Curried Falafel and Lentil Burger described as: House-Made Falafel and Curried Lentil Patty with Cucumber, Avocado, Tomato, Cilantro, Tzatziki, and Sriracha.

      Clearly we both love Sriracha. Mine was definitely spicy, just as described. But it wasn't so hot that you missed out on the flavors of the patty. In fact, the veggie burger was really quite good. It's always nice when you can see the bits of veggies mixed in. The Falafel and Lentil burger was amazing as well. Such great flavors. I was really happy with the vegetarian options. It's rare to find a place around here that offers homemade veggie burgers. Usually it's just a frozen patty thawed out.

      It's nice to go somewhere and be pleasantly surprised. Now, the service was a bit slow and strange, but overall, I'd recommend the place to friends. I imagine we'll be back ourselves.


      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Weights
      • Relaxing
      • Sunshine

      Saturday, December 17, 2011

      Sunny 9-mile Run

      This morning started off really chilly, as in 32 degrees chilly. But, finally some sunshine. Oh how I've missed sunshine. Luckily, I didn't have anything pressing this morning, so that meant we could be lazy and wait for the temps to warm up a bit before going out for a run.

      When we started our run at 11:15, it was about 45 degrees, clear skies, and seemingly no wind (don't forget this seemingly no wind statement please). We started off just chit chatting. Laughing and talking about random things. I was probably doing most of the talking, but we can pretend that Jason was chatty too ;-)

      The first half really seemed to fly by for me. I was soaking up the sunshine and enjoying Jason's company. We made our turn around...and were smacked in the face by the wind. Oh yes, the wind I didn't think existed? It did exist. I was really getting hot until that turn around then it was a sudden cool down. I was really glad I had left my gloves on at that point.

      Jason might have been happy for the wind because it did shut me up a little bit. It's harder to be a Chatty Cathy when you're running into headwinds. But, sometimes joking and laughing helps you get through those tough spots. Or that's my excuse for continuing to try to talk.

      When we got close to the car, I Jason asked if I was going to go a little farther. I said I was, and I assumed that meant he was just going to stop and wait for me. I tried to hand him my water bottle, which felts like a lead weight today for whatever crazy reason, but he said he was going to go on with me. So, we ended up hitting 9 miles today. For me, it was a fantastic run. I know a huge part of that was because of the sunshine and the company.

      My sciatica was hurting pretty badly, so I tried to stretch out and roll a little extra before getting cleaned up. It was hard sticking to the stretching because I was getting so cold and the hot shower was just calling my name.

      Tonight we have plans on going to a holiday party with friends. So after I showered, I went ahead and did my hair and makeup (you know, sparkly smoky eyes kind of thing). We still needed to eat lunch as the party wasn't going to be ideal dinner food. So we headed out to Vino's Pizza & Brew Pub - yep, me and my crazy smoky eyes with jeans, cardigan, flats. The great thing is that Vino's is such an eclectic place, not one person would have noticed.

      Anyway, we're about to finish getting dolled up for the party now (thought a nap sounds kind of nice right now). I promise to take pictures and do a better post tomorrow. I do hope everyone is enjoying their Saturday!

      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Run with Jason
      • Sunshine
      • Holiday party with friends

      Friday, December 16, 2011

      Fun Facts Friday - Things That Make Me Smile

      Finally - Friday has arrived! Even better, it's my rest day. Though, I will say I got in some unexpected cardio today:

      Walking 3 blocks to and from parking lot (4 times total)
      Walking 4 blocks to and from our company holiday meeting (2 8 blocks)
      Walking up 10 flights of stairs to avoid stopping on every single floor on the elevator ride after meeting

      So, active rest day ;-)

      Today I almost told you all about the exercises I hate the most - you know, burpees. mountain climbers, pushups on the spin bike. But, that sounds kind of negative doesn't it? I then read a post by my friend Averie @ Loves Veggies and Yoga. Seeing the pictures, and hearing about something good that happened for her today made me rethink my negative post.

      I also saw this quote today that helped change my focus "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

      For Fun Facts Friday, I want to share the things that make me smile - granted, this isn't an all-inclusive list, just a few things on the top of my head.
      • The ocean (thanks for the pics Averie)
      • When something really good happens to my family or friends or just good people in general 
      • A good sweatfest - even if it is on the dreaded treadmill
      • Emails from my sister
      • Phone calls from my dad in the mornings
      • Messages from my mom
      • Laughing with Jason
      • Sunshine
      • Roses (loving your rose pictures Lindsay)
      • Realizing how lucky I am
      • Surprise packages in the mail (like a package of Think Thin protein bars and Love Grown Foods coupons)
      What are some things that make you smile? Anything in particular today or this week?

      Daily To-Enjoy List:
      • Smiling
      • Rest day
      • Happy hour with friends

        Thursday, December 15, 2011

        Interval Run, Legs & Gardein Inspired Dinner

        Intervals & Legs
        Today was sort of a weird one. Tomorrow we have a huge annual holiday meeting. My division typically helps put together a funny skit for the meeting. This morning I was asked to help out with something and ended up having to go to the first rehearsal where they were going to just block it out. So that took up an hour and a half. Next we had our division potluck. Then right after that I had a meeting. So much back-to-back, definitely no time to take a break and hit the pavement or gym like I'm used to doing midday.

        But, the day went super quickly at least. The skies were, again, threatening rain. I kept checking the radar hoping it might hold off long enough for a run outside. It of course didn't rain the whole time I was at work. The minute I walked out the door? Yep, rain. Good thing I had gone ahead and decided on the gym after checking the radar one last time.

        I went with 4 miles on the treadmill then legs (focusing on quads). I started with 2 miles at an easy pace of 9:22 min mile at a 1% incline before moving into some intervals.

        I did 6 x 1 minute intervals of 8:27 and 9:31 min miles. Then I finished out doing .4 at 9:13, .1 at 8:57 and .1 at 8:34 to give me an even 4 miles.

        I have to say, I really and truly think that the speed is totally off on the treadmills though. For example, I was doing 2 miles at 9:22. So technically I should have hit 2 miles in 18:44 right? Please correct me if my math is off. But, that's what I think. However, it was really 18 mins, which would be a 9 min mile. Anyone else think treads are off? Or is it just my gym's equipment?

        Anyway, after the run, I went for legs. I opted to do 2 supersets of 3x8 with a plyo exercise in between.

        Barbell squats - warmup set of 10

        SS#1
        Barbell squats
        Plie Squats

        Squat jumps - 16

        SS#2
        Static lunge
        Calf raises - 15 reps

        Alternating split lunges - 16

        I did some ab work with a medicine ball then called it done. I went home and stretched and rolled out on the Triggerpoint Therapy kit while watching the last half of the Ellen show. Man I wish that came on at a different time. I forget how funny she can be.

        Lazy Dinner
        I really wasn't terribly excited to be cooking tonight. I need to figure out how to train the pupsters to clean the house and make dinner for us. What I really wanted to do was paint my nails and try to work on holiday cards - yes, terribly behind this year. I also need to start wrapping presents. Then there's that pesky pile of laundry waiting on me.

        But motivation level is fairly nil. I'm going to just go ahead and blame it on our crappy weather. I have forgotten what sunshine looks like. I think that's excuse enough to feel lazy. Don't you agree?

        Well, dinner had to be made. I went with what I knew Jason would suggest if I had asked him. He's definitely a potato guy. He specifically asked that I pick up either new or fingerling potatoes the last time I went to the store. So, we had fingerlings on hand along with some asparagus (which need to be used up).

        I just roasted the potatoes seasoned with small amount of olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic, parsley, and nutritional yeast flakes. Since the oven was on, I roasted the asparagus as well and seasoned with a lemon pepper spice blend.

        I had some Gardein Herbed Dijon Breasts on hand (picked up because they were on sale and I had a coupon so double score). They do come with a sauce, but I sort of added a little bit more to it - a tbsp of stone ground mustard, red pepper flakes, and some balsamic vinegar. There sauce is ok, but a little bland for me.
         

        And that was that. Simple, easy, tasty.

        Daily To-Enjoy List:
        • Weights (starting to enjoy legs and maybe b/c I'm breaking them up into 2 sessions)
        • Easy dinner
        • Time to paint my nails

        Wednesday, December 14, 2011

        Holiday Balance, Spin & Stuffed Poblano Peppers

        Holiday Balance
        As a FitFluential Ambassador, I am finding myself inspired by some amazing people. I also see "fitfluential" as an adjective. I want to be more fitfluential for others and inspire others. Recently, ambassadors were given a writing prompt to talk about our five tips for maintaining balance throughout the holidays based on four key aspects of balance: Eat, Sleep, Move, and Enjoy.

        You guys know how my posts normally work. I just blab about my day - typically either raving or ranting about my workout and then a recipe. But, sometimes it can be fun, inspiring to have a goal for a post, a theme or topic to discuss. Especially when it's something you are passionate about - like being fitfluential.

        While I love the holiday seasons, they can be stressful. On top of your normal day-to-day affairs, you have invites to holiday parties, cookie exchanges, family events, then there's the decorating, shopping, baking, cooking.

        It also doesn't help that the weather is often less than stellar this time of year - depending on where you live of course. It's been days since we've seen sunshine here. Gray, dreary days certainly don't help the mood when you're already taxed to the max.

        So what can we do this time of year to maintain some semblance of balance? Or do you just let loose, forget workouts, eat tins of cookies, drink gallons of nog and go wild? I'm thinking balance is probably the better option, though the nog might help improve the mood temporarily when spiked ;-)

        I try to keep myself balanced throughout the holidays just as I would throughout the year. I know some people would argue to let loose a little more, indulge in an extra cookie or two. Don't get me wrong, I'll have a cookie I'm sure, but for the most part, it's business as usual with the exception of the extra events to attend.

        My tips for finding balance through the holidays are pretty basic actually. Honestly, really only two things to keep in mind: maintain your routine but be flexible. Is that an oxymoron? Maybe not.

        Eat...
        • Regularly - don't skip meals to save calories or wait until you're famished and can't resist the company potluck or trays of treats
        • Healthy, whole foods - protein/fiber/carbs
        • Treats sparingly - no free-for-all
        •  Slowly - take the time to enjoy your meal
        • Something new - take the opportunity to try a new, healthy version of a classic
        Move...
        • Your legs - run, spin, bike, swim, dance...
        • Your muscles - resistance train
        • Your booty - have fun and dance at the holiday parties (on the dance floor, not the tables)
        • Your workouts - be flexible and move them around if you have to
        • Your feet - go ahead and park at the far end of the lot, your car won't get dinged up and you get in a few extra steps for the day
        Enjoy... 
        • Family & friends - they might cause some stress, but enjoy the time with them, enjoy catching up with them, life's short
        • Being happy for others - find the joy in someone else's good fortune and joy, be happy for family, friends, or even strangers
        • Giving - remember to give back and give thanks
        • Relaxing - do take the time to sit back and relax, zero guilt
        • A to-enjoy list - I'm a firm believer in my daily-to enjoy list
        Sleep (or rest)...
        • Regularly - try to maintain your normal bedtime routine
        • Your body - take that rest day
        • By not taking on too much - with a too-full calendar it's hard to rest or sleep properly, it's ok to say no
        • Your computer - log off for a bit
        • In - sleep in once in a while with no guilt, just enjoy taking it slow to get up and get going for a change

        What would be your fitfluential holiday balance tips? How do you get through the holidays with your sanity in place...or do you ;-)

        Following My "Move" Tips
        With these tips in  mind, today I tried to maintain balance by being flexible with my workout. I am getting desperate to get in a good outdoor run. But the weather is just crummy. While it was warmer today, the air was so heavy and damp that it looked like it had been raining.

        So, I went with my Plan B and hit the gym for spin. Meaning, I am not skipping out on a good workout, I'm just switching things up a bit. I did start with triceps as 3x8 before spin class.

        Double-arm overhead triceps extensions
        Double-arm kickbacks (increased weight today)
        Dips

        While I would have preferred to have been outside running, spin was fun today. Sometimes it's good for the sole to enjoy a hard workout in the company of others. We were working our butts off, but still managing to laugh along the way. And laughter is a good thing.

        Dinner Balance
        See, I'm thinking writing out these tips is going to work in my favor too. It's a good reminder for myself actually. Eat a healthy meal, but enjoy relaxing a bit too. Don't over-complicate basically. With that in mind, I didn't go crazy with dinner, I kept it fairly simple, but healthful.

        I opted to make stuffed poblano peppers tonight. I could have gone crazy with this plan of course. I have in the past. Today all I did was open up the peppers and removed the ribs. I roasted for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

        In the meantime, I made a small amount of quinoa (because it cooks in no time at all). I did add some seasonings to the quinoa (chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper) while it was cooking.

        At the same time, I sauteed onions, bell peppers, frozen corn, and a some Field Roast Mexican Chipotle "Sausages." At the very end, I tossed in some diced cherry tomatoes and the quinoa.

        The next step is to just stuff the peppers, top with Daiya Vegan Cheese (or cheese or your choice) and bake in a covered casserole dish until the peppers are soft and the cheese is melted, approximately 20 minutes.
         
         This was some major, ooey, gooey goodness. 

        Daily To-Enjoy List:
        • Spin class
        • Being happy for a friend
        • Easy dinner

        Tuesday, December 13, 2011

        Interval Running, Weights & Veggies, Veggies More Veggies

        Interval Running & Weights
        Well rather than just moan and complain about today (it's been "that" kind of day from the start), I'll just get right down to my workout. I had wanted to run outside. It was supposed to be partly sunny and close to 60 degrees. Instead, it was insanely foggy (like heavy mist) and in the mid-40's. Gotta love an accurate forecast right?

        Thankfully, I'm a planner. I was prepared with clothes for the gym. I guess I should clarify what that means. I had my capri running pants and top for outside running, but for the gym, I need minimal clothing. I can't stand to be over-heated and my gym is hot as hell. So, I made sure I also had shorts and a tank also packed.

        I tried to get myself psyched up for intervals on the treadmill. I mean, it was "just" 4 miles. No biggy right? Ugh. Tough 4 miles. My mind was just absolutely not in the game today. Very little sleep, tough morning, depressing weather, not really wanting to tread it. All that equals a bad attitude and that can equal a bad run. But, I toughed it out. I kept think that if I can run 13 miles in a half, I can run 4 on the tread.

        I started with 1 mile at a 9:13 min mile pace to warm up then I did intervals at 8:34 and recovery at 9:31 min miles.

        2 x (1:1, 1:30:1:30, 2:2)

        I finished out the last mile at 9:13 for 3 minutes, 9:05 for 2 minutes, and the rest at 8:34.

        On a side note, I must comment on how distorting it can be to run with a treadmill in the window on the 29th floor when it's so foggy you can't see the next building. All you see is yourself (sort of) in the window. Really hard to find a focus. Very strange.

        After the run, I hit the weights for biceps and back. I went with supersets and was able to increase the weight for the barbell curls this week. I did 3x8 unless noted.

        SS#1
        Barbell curls (EZ bar)
        Pullovers

        SS#2
        Hammer curls
        Wide grip chinups (assisted) - 6 reps

        SS#3
        Incline curls
        Double-arm rows

        I really need to add in the chinups more often. I could feel my back really being worked. And I am silly excited about adding weight to the curls today. I've been at a major plateau for a while now. Changing from the dumbbells to the barbell seems to be working for me right now.

        So, while the run wasn't exactly fun, overall, the workout was a good one. I really needed that sweatfest in a major way to clear my head.

        Veggies, Veggies, More Veggies Please
        The dreary looking weather really didn't have me terribly excited to do much at all this evening. But, the idea of having the oven on to warm up the kitchen sounded like a fantastic plan.

        I decided to roast beets and butternut squash. At first I wasn't really sure what I was going to do with them, I just knew I wanted to have them tonight. I've been craving kale a lot lately. It just feels like the perfect fall/winter green I suppose.

        I sauteed the kale with some white onions, garlic, no-salt vegetable broth, splash of OJ, balsamic vinegar, and agave nectar and seasoned with salt, pepper, nutmeg. Once the kale was soft (and I do like mine pretty well done), I tossed in the roasted veggies and some tofu that I had dry-seared then cubed. 
         

        If it wasn't for roasting the beets and the squash in a separate pan, this would be the perfect one-dish fall meal in my book.

        Daily To-Enjoy List:
        • Running ("enjoyed" will be loosely used)
        • Weights
        • Comforting veggie heavy dinner

        Monday, December 12, 2011

        Spin Rant and Creamy Italian-Style Spinach Pasta Bake

        A Bit of a Spin Rant
        Monday, you are not my BFF. I try really hard to not be negative about Mondays. But the fact is, I am. They mark the end of a weekend, the end of free time, then end of getting to sleep in just a little bit extra.

        I tried to get excited about this Monday because it was supposed to be in the lower 50's and sunny. In other words, I was planning on running after work. Luckily, I did think to pack my bag for spin just in case. That "just in case" happened. I think part of my sciatica issues are with sitting most of the day. I have been noticing more and more that I am in pain more throughout the week than on the weekends even with long runs.

        As much as I wanted to run, I knew it wasn't going to happen. Period. So I changed my mindset to spin. Then I found out my fave instructor wasn't going to be teaching. Not only was my motivation lacking overall, but I was doing my Plan B workout as it was. And now a different instructor? Can we through another wrench into this Type A Gal's plan?

        Those of you who do spin know that instructors make or break a class depending on attitude, on energy levels, and on the type of class they conduct. Can I just say that I loathe low-ceilings/hovers and triceps pushups???? OH and front and backs and jumps. Sorry, you just don't do pushups on your bike while out for a ride. You pretty much don't do low ceilings or front and backs either.

        I'll stop complaining. It wasn't a bad class, it was just not what I was hoping for on a motivation-less Monday when I was already switching gears (get it...gears...bikes...teehee). How do you react to changes in your planned workout? Or instructors? Part of me wanted to just call it a rest day to be honest. Of course, I am glad I went. Glad I got the workout done.

        Kitchen Motivation was Last Night
        Even though I managed to get to the grocery store and had a full fridge, I went with something fairly simple for dinner. I just didn't feel like making anything too involved. So, I went with my Spicy White Chili with Tempeh. Basically you just throw it all into a pot and let it simmer away.

        Definitely a Monday kind of meal. Though, part of me feels a little bad for not using some of the fresh veggies I picked up. I have beets to use along with butternut squash, kale, asparagus, poblano peppers, portobello mushrooms...so many goodies to choose from this week.

        So, not creative tonight. However, last night I did end up getting a little creative. Well, sort of. Jason keeps mentioning pasta. Last night he also mentioned a casserole. So, I used my silken tofu trick for making a "cream" sauce in order to make a baked pasta dish.

        Creamy Italian-Style Spinach Pasta Bake
        Ingredients:
        4-5 oz whole-wheat rotini or penne
        1 can no-salt diced tomatoes, drained
        1 package firm silken tofu
        6-7 sundried tomatoes, rehydrated
        1-2 tbsp minced garlic
        3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
        To taste: salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes
        1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
        3-4 artichoke hearts, diced
        1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
        Daiya Vegan Mozzarella (optional or cheese of choice)

        Directions:
        Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

        Cook pasta per package directions.

        In a food processor, puree tomatoes, tofu, garlic, nutritional yeast, and seasonings until mostly smooth, some tomato pieces are fine.

        In a large bowl, combine artichokes, spinach, beans, pasta, and sauce. Stir well and re-season if needed. Stir in just a small amount of the Daiya then transfer to a prepared glass casserole dish. Top with more Daiya and bake approximately 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted.
         
        It might not have been the prettiest dish, but looks can be deceiving. This turned out so good. It was rich, creamy, decadent feeling. The sundried tomatoes added just a hint of a tangyness to the sauce. Definitely a dish I'll be making again. 

        Daily To-Enjoy List:
        • Run (Plan B Spin)
        • Comfort dinner
        • Relaxing on couch

        Sunday, December 11, 2011

        Weights, Errands, Kitchen Time & Major Klutz

        Gym Day
        Yesterday's run was so great that I really had crazy notions of going out for another one today. But, I knew that I didn't need to push it. So, I ended up going to the gym instead. I thought I was going to run a mile for my warmup. Thought is the key word. Not even 2 minutes in I had to stop because of my sciatica/piriformis pain. Obviously the gym was a smarter plan that trying to go for another outdoor run.

        So, warm up ended up being 15 minutes on the elliptical instead. It did give me a chance to read some of the latest Oxygen magazine at least. Then it was time to hit the weights: chest, shoulders, hamstrings. I went with the typical 3x8 pattern.

        SS#1
        Chest flye into press
        Pushups with toes on bench

        SS#2
        Overhead shoulder press
        Bulgarian deadlift

        SS#3
        Lateral raise
        Step ups - 6 reps

        SS#4
        Upright rows
        Hamstring roll-ins on stability ball

        I finished up with some ab work using weights and the ball. Ok, for all you lifters, what am I doing wrong with the DLs that I hit my knee with the bar on the first rep or two. Mind you, I only do this the first 1 or 2 reps. Hurts so I learn...well sort of because I apparently forget from one week to the next. But, I do have a nice bruise on my knee again.

        Errands & Kitchen Time
        After the gym, I head to the grocery store. Note to self: don't go to the grocery store at 12:30 on a Sunday. Everyone seemed to have left church and gone straight to the store.

        The grocery store I frequent was recently remodeled. They should have also redone the parking lot. There is very little parking. For whatever reason, tons of space marked off as no parking. So, if it's busy, there is literally no place to park. I had to drive around the lot a few times. Of course cursing here and there.

        Anyway, after the parking craziness, I was luckily able to get in and out fairly quickly. Of course I realized all the things I missed once I got home and started unpacking the bags. Speaking of bags, I try to always take my recyclable bags. Can someone explain why the baggers feel the need to put ALL of the canned goods into one single bag? Can they not even that out and put a few into each bag so the bags can actually be lifted up and carried without the need of a forklift? I guess that's one more reason to lift weights huh?

        I got home and put all the groceries away then got myself cleaned up. I made a quick lunch then decided to make some seitan to freeze. I keep my flours in canisters with a metal clasp. Being short, all cabinets are pretty much out of reach. I typically stand on the ledge of a bottom shelf to pull down the flours and put them back. Yes, I should use a chair or stool of course.

        As I was putting away the flours, I hit the bag of cornmeal and it came tumbling down. I managed to grab it before it hit the counter and exploded, but at the same time I managed to knock down a canister. It came crashing down and the metal clasp hit me in the head, but I managed to save that too. Thankfully, no blood, only a knot and lots more cursing. All in a day's work.....

        Happy Sunday!

        Daily To-Enjoy List:
        • Weights
        • Sunshine
        • Relaxed day