Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Paris Wife and WIAW for Leap Day

Happy Leap Day! All day, I heard (on the radio) and saw (on Facebook) ways to take advantage of this "extra day" and felt more and more depressed that I wasn't going to be doing something special like that. I stumbled upon an awesome blog post that lists 24 suggestions for ways to fill your 24 hours (check it out here). My favorite is 9 pm - create a time capsule!

Sadly, our Leap Day couldn't be spent celebrating, but we did go for a short walk (neither of us was up for anything intense after yesterday's run from hell) and then headed up to campus for another volunteer meeting for the alumni group we're a part of at UCLA. As always, it was a blast to be in a room filled with Bruin spirit, even after Sports Illustrated published a less than flattering article about our basketball program today. Even better: Our guest speaker tonight was Jim Mora, UCLA's new head football coach! More on that tomorrow, but he was a phenomenal speaker. I included the dinner for tonight's meeting in my What I Ate Wednesday.

Recipe for Spinach-Feta Scrambled Eggs

Also, my friend Sarah gave the okay for me to post her awesome Thai Pork with Peanut Sauce recipe, so get excited for that tomorrow!

To be honest, I may eat a little something after this post, too, but we'll see if sleep wins out.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (Book Review)

Just like last month, Julie from PB Fingers hosted a book club and is linking up book reviews all over the web. This month's book was The Paris Wife, an historical fiction piece written from the perspective of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, about their marriage.

  1. Do you feel that Ernest and Hadley truly loved each other?
  2. What do you think of Hadley's character throughout the book?
  3. Hemingway actually married four times before finally committing suicide in 1961. Knowing what we "know" about his first marriage, what do you think of him as a husband, father, and person?
  4. Do you enjoy historical fiction?
  5. Would you recommend this book?
My Thoughts:
  1. It was odd for me to see their relationship unfold. It seemed blatantly obvious that she loved him more than he loved her, despite her frequent attempts to declare that they were perfect for each other and truly loved one another. Even when he said he loved her, it felt untrue and halfhearted. The book's overall tone made me feel as though Hadley was consistently depressed or lonely, even when she claimed to be having fun.
  2. Hadley is a born follower and admittedly becomes "desperate" for Ernest. Throughout their marriage, I was reminded of romantic comedies where I want to shout at the screen because the woman (usually) won't speak her mind. But by the end of the novel, I had grown to like Hadley's new confidence and willingness to be by herself.
  3. I wanted so badly to believe that Ernest really loved Hadley in their tender moments when he would comfort her and call her sweet nicknames, but ultimately, he was a terrible husband. His flirting, the affair, his oscillating emotions - Ernest didn't deserve such a sweet wife.

    I also never sensed any sort of connection between Ernest and Bumby, so I had to conclude that he was a detached and indifferent father at best. Perhaps more detail on the father-son relationship would have shown a different perspective.

    As a person, Ernest seemed exactly like the rest of their friends, the other expatriates. They all drank too much, wore their emotions on their sleeves, experimented with unconventional relationships, and wrote some really great novels. Compared to the others, Ernest wasn't horrible, but he wasn't exactly a hero.
  4. I love reading historical fiction, but I often find myself distracted by questioning what really happened and what didn't. In this case, the scene where Ernest goes to bed with the "dark girl" confused me. Was it simply foreshadowing, or did the author include it for historical significance? I can't let go of the little details.
  5. I would really recommend this book to someone who is genuinely interested in the Lost Generation and any of its key players. I loved that aspect: reading about the authors who enchanted me in eleventh grade English. I also loved all the travel and imagining the romance of the age in such exotic locations. I wanted to jump on a plane back to Europe! (By the way, did anyone else wonder how on earth they were able to travel so much?!) 
If you check out this book or already read it, I'd love to know what you think! It was a quick read, but not really one that grips you. The story reminded me of both The Catcher in the Rye (because Ernest reminded me a lot of Holden Caulfield) and The Great Gatsby (because these writers and their spouses mostly just hang around, party, drink, and travel), so check it out if you liked those ones. The plot isn't exactly a page-turner, but it was fun to read and certainly illustrates the back story of The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway's first novel.

Hope you enjoyed a wonderful Leap Day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Run from Hell

Hope you had a great Tuesday! I want to give a huge THANK YOU to anyone pinning my workouts and posts on Pinterest! It's so fun to hear from folks who've found my blog on Pinterest, and I'm super grateful! I'm still learning about Pinterest but having fun exploring and following people. Terry's going to add a Pinterest button to my sidebar soon, too! Hooray for social media!

Today's 4.5 mile run was The Run From Hell. Terry and I just weren't feeling it and groaned every step of the first two miles. My calf and lower right leg ached. Traffic (yes, in LA, traffic affects you even when you aren't in a car) sucked. Finally, when we realized that we needed to be home by 5:30 in order to eat dinner before Terry's scuba thing tonight, we kicked it into high gear! Our mile paces went something like this:
Mile 1: 6.5 mph
Mile 2: 6.4 mph
Mile 3: 7.0 mph
Mile 4 (and a 1/2): 7.2 mph
We were absolutely sprinting between stoplights. It felt like a sit com, especially when I realized that we were literally running home to our food. But hey, it worked, right?

I also want to share a workout that I designed for my cheerleaders yesterday. It was a fun circuit workout, and they all complained about being sore today, so I know it was a good one!

With my cheerleaders, I called out categories at random for about 28 minutes, giving them two 1-minute rests in the middle. You could change up this workout any way you want:

  • Complete each category in its entirety before moving to the next one.
  • Repeat it...then repeat it again. :-)
  • Add it to your normal workout or to your favorite treadmill routine.
  • Add more exercises to make it a 30-minute circuit!
I have two meals to share, because I omitted last night's dinner. 

In an adventurous mood, I picked up some frozen mixed veggies at Trader Joe's last week and planned to use them with our Tropical Teriyaki Meatballs leftovers. I added frozen corn and teriyaki sauce for the stir fry and then paired it all with chicken broth quinoa (sub chicken broth for water - works just as well, with more flavor!). 

It looks gorgeous, right? Yeah, it was pretty and colorful but not my favorite meal. I think those frozen vegetables failed to win me over. They got soggy so quickly in the sauce; when I cook with fresh vegetables I never have that problem! Lesson learned.

Tonight, however, our meal was a homerun. I got the recipe from a friend, so I want to check with her before I share it on here, but we made Thai Pork with Peanut Sauce in a crock pot! SO easy and delicious!

How are you spending Leap Day? Any special plans?

We didn't think ahead to celebrate, but having a whole extra day is kind of a cool concept. I definitely plan to complete a mellow workout and enjoy time with my two favorite guys!

Scout always looks so much littler in Terry's arms.

As usual, captivated by the straw.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Results and Healthy Habits

Exciting news! I survived Monday! Did you make it through okay? We (my fellow ELD teachers and I) had a rough day with some new activities that should be - and hopefully will grow to be - awesome but that are currently super stressful. It was the type of day where I had a million things to do but couldn't actually find time to do any of them. I'm very lucky to work with two ladies who have a sense of humor; otherwise I might not have made it through such a hectic day!

Maybe Scout could have gotten me through it. 

The afternoon, thankfully, gave me a chance to feel much more productive and less crazed. A short drive and a stop at Trader Joe's got me back to the apartment by 4:05! That meant time for prepping tomorrow's meals before my workout, so I have overnight oats in the fridge for my breakfast tomorrow, Terry's lunch is packed, and our water bottles are filled. Anything to save time in the morning makes me feel so much calmer and more ready to attack my day (oh yes, I attack; my days and I have a very aggressive relationship). Plus, I chopped some veggies for tomorrow's crock pot recipe - get excited for that one.

You should also get excited for tonight's workout. It was a doozy! I repeated my 25 x 25 workout with some modifications.

You'll notice I eliminated the 25 minutes of cardio but added a few more exercises (last time, I counted exercises with two sides as two, but this time I counted them as one). I decreased the cardio because of our half marathon training program; I know I have 4.5 miles to run tomorrow, so I didn't want to overdo it today. Still, this workout exhausted me. The hardest parts: the plank, the burpees, and the tuck jumps. Burn, baby, burn!

Speaking of the plank, check me out! Last time, I challenged you all to guess which exercise we couldn't complete - it was that damned plank. This time, I did every single exercise! 2.5 minutes holding a plank is no joke, and it showed me how much stronger I am now than even a month ago. I thought I would collapse after the plank, but I got myself up and busted out some calf raises! Results!

Results are a huge motivator for me. If I see that I'm getting stronger, my clothes are fitting better, my runs are faster or easier, I feel pumped to push even more. On the other hand, a lack of results can have the opposite effect. It's easy to feel like nothing's working, that it's too hard, that all that work was a waste. I have to remind myself that real results take time and that lasting results take even longer. It's even okay to have a few setbacks, as long as I know I'm working hard in the long run.

I assume that's the reason most "diets" don't work: They aren't realistic for long-term goals. We expect dramatic results fast, and when we don't get them, we quit. In my experience, the only way to go is to find something that works for you. Find your favorite exercise (or be like me and mix it up!). Find your favorite healthy foods. Developing healthy habits through foods and activities we enjoy makes it easier to add even better healthy habits later.

Yes, it takes longer. But it works! For my wedding, I knew how I wanted to look and feel, but I worried that having so much pressure on one day would inevitably make me fall into poor habits afterward. I felt that if I could start developing healthy habits before the big day, Terry and I could carry those habits into our marriage and the rest of our lives (rather than just losing weight and toning to look good for 12 hours).

I felt incredible on our wedding day - healthy, fit, confident. But I didn't want that to be the peak and watch myself go downhill from there. I think it's good to have a goal as a motivator - you all know I'm working hard to get to my bikini best for our Hawaii trip! - but I wanted to maintain positive habits and improve upon my fitness and overall health. So far, it's working! Those healthy habits are sticking with us because we have found healthy foods and fun workouts we enjoy.

Photos by Rhee Bevere

What kinds of results motivate you the most? Do you set short- or long-term goals for yourself or both, and why?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Sunday

Happy Oscar Sunday! We stuffed our day (and our bellies) full today, starting with a kickass run.

Six miles felt very tough, but we pushed each other to get through it. Terry picked the route today, so I blame him for the almost-mile-long hill during mile 3. Ouch. Otherwise, we did alright and found some good grooves. I even ran without my iPod and felt okay.

After the run and a big breakfast (I had scrambled eggs, peanut butter and jelly on a slice of toast, a pear, and a glass of milk), we were off on a busy day. After church, we ventured out to Costco to purchase the entertainment center I found yesterday. I've been wanting a nicer platform for our TV for awhile, but they can be super expensive. Costco is a great choice for quality furniture at a decent price, and we both like the size, look, and storage in this unit.

But then came the task of getting it into our car (a very helpful Costco employee and Terry loaded it) and then into our apartment. Ultimately, we scored a giant piece of cardboard from the dumpster (I have no shame), which we used to reduce friction between the unit's box and the pavement. We scooted the giant, pre-assembled unit about 50 yards to the back of our complex and up exactly two stairs. Imagine, if you will, the scene in Disney's Cinderella when Gus and Jacques push the giant key up the stairs. We emulated those cartoon mice perfectly.

Luckily, our neighbors took pity on us and helped immensely. We made it into the living room without further incident, and then - while Scout explored his new "toy" - we headed off to our friends' Oscar party!

Oscar party or feast? Jenn and Justin know how to bring a group of people together! We enjoyed WAY too much food.

Justin, looking awesome as always

I will definitely learn what this dish is called, but I know it's Filipino 

Enchiladas with green sauce

Enchiladas with red sauce

Homemade pizza


Some of the ladies

Captivated by Billy Crystal

My contribution: bacon-wrapped dates. I got the recipe from Terry's coworker, Cheryl, who brought them to the Super Bowl party we attended last month. Super simple and always a hit!

We stuffed some of the dates with goat cheese (slice one side of the date lengthwise and add the cheese)


Perfect bite-sized snack!

Simply wrap each dried, pitted date (available by the tub at Costco) in a 1/2 slice of bacon. Skewer the wrapped dates on a barbecue skewer. If possible, hang the skewers on a baking dish's edges so that the fat can drip off. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. I'm not sure if you're supposed to turn them, but I didn't and they turned out fine.

We actually had to leave the party early, sadly, because I broke out in hives! I have exactly one allergy that I am aware of: Ghirardelli dark chocolate. And I didn't eat that tonight, so I have no idea where this reaction started. So when we got home, we had time to tackle the task of setting up our new entertainment center.

What our living room looked like for about an hour

Okay, I'm still super itchy all over, so I'm off to take some Benadryl and get some zzzzzs before a new work week!

What are your goals this week? A more nutritious eating plan? More workouts? 

If you're looking for ideas or inspiration for food and fitness, check out my updated pages!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Casual Caprese and BLWB Updates

In case you missed it, I actually squeezed in an early post today, Saturdays Are For...
You get to see more pictures of this little one

The rest of the day, I focused on some updates and reorganization on BLWB. Check out changes on the following pages:

Tonight,I made an easy veggie pasta (shocking, right?) for dinner, along with a new salad. 

Casual Caprese
Serves 2
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced
  • 1 ripe tomato, diced
  • 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients and enjoy!

This super easy salad worked perfectly before our entree and would be even better in the summer with a lovely glass of chardonnay. 

By the way, The Lion King was on TV tonight! A fun little walk down memory lane. We still remember all the songs!

He wasn't as interested in the movie as we would have hoped.

I also made some no-bake cookies, but I'm vowing that this round of sweets is my last before our trip to Hawaii. Despite lots of warm weather lately, we've only donned bathing suits for the hot tub in our apartment complex. But I'm eager to be my bikini-best for this season, which starts in less than two weeks for me! We're heading to Hawaii with my family for a long weekend in March, then at the end of the month we're going on a cruise with our friends! Lots of bathing suits, and lots of eating, so expect me to be stepping it up over the next several days!

I hope you're having a fantastic weekend so far. Enjoy your Academy Awards Sunday! Terry and I have church and a long run in front of us. Six miles tomorrow!

Do you have any Oscar traditions or big plans?

We are headed to Jenn's place to celebrate with a potluck.

Saturdays Are For...

Saturdays are for sleeping past 5:45 and cuddling with this guy.

Saturdays are for getting to Costco right when it opens and finding a lovely little entertainment center that would be perfect in our apartment...

Saturdays are for lunches enjoyed at a table instead of a desk.
Cottage cheese with blueberries and strawberries, carrots,
and a tomato-cream cheese-avocado-spinach sandwich.

Saturdays are for laundry, but Scout thinks Saturdays are for playing in the laundry basket.
His head is stuck.

Saturdays are for playing with mice.

Saturdays are for crawling under the sheets while momma tries to make the bed.

Saturdays are also for lots of blog updating and organizing, so I'll be back later with more on that. Hope you're enjoying a lovely Saturday!

What are your Saturdays for? What would be your perfect Saturday?

My perfect Saturday would be somehow getting eight hours of sleep the night before, going for a run or a hike, making brunch (with mimosas!), then going out for something like a museum, movie, wine tasting, or the beach. But anything with my hubby, family, and friends would be perfect to me!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Arms and Abs + Teriyaki Meatballs

Did you miss me yesterday today? I chose sleep over blogging, but I certainly missed it and actually felt guilty. Luckily, I'm back with a great recipe and upper body workout for you today.

Last night, Terry and I had a double date with Terry's coworker and his wife. They just bought a house, so we offered to provide the main dish as a very small housewarming thing. Terry requested my meatball pasta, but I was in the mood for something new. So I took the meatball idea and ran with it.

Tropical Teriyaki Meatballs

For the meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 links of hot Italian pork sausage, casings removed
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the rice:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 ½ cups diced pineapple
  • ¼ cup teriyaki sauce
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

For the meatballs:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Roll turkey mixture into 1-inch balls and add to the pan, careful not ­­to overcrowd. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, browning the meatballs on all sides. (Note: You’ll likely need to cook the meatballs in two batches.)

Transfer the browned meatballs to a foil-lined, greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through (cut open and make sure there’s no more pink!). Place the cooked meatballs in a heatproof bowl or baking dish. Pour the teriyaki sauce over the meatballs and allow them to marinade for as long as you can (overnight, perhaps!).

For the rice:
Heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic powder, and ginger; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly tender, about 7 minutes. Add the pineapple and teriyaki sauce and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Add the brown rice immediately before serving.  

Serve the meatballs and rice together (reheat the meatballs in the oven or microwave before serving).

We all really loved the meal! Our friends served a delicious, refreshing salad as well as lemon cake. Everything tasted delicious! The highlight of the evening was getting to visit with their adorable one-year-old baby, who loves to smile at my husband and wave! 

Today, I got to come home immediately after work. Coaching cheer is a blast a lot of the time, but it consumes almost every Friday night from September through February. So when I got home at 4:00 today I got my weekend chores out of the way and completed the following workout with Terry.

We  rested as little as possible between exercises (maybe 10-15 seconds), and our arms especially were burning! The we had to complete a 4-mile run for our half marathon training plan. The first mile felt tough, the second and third went really well, and the last was grueling. But we did it!

Tonight's dinner at Wahoo's gave us a break from the kitchen and rewarded us for a good week and a tough workout. Now Terry's off for one more scuba dive tomorrow, and I'll be implementing some major updates and reorganization on BLWB tomorrow. Get excited!

Hope you had a great week! Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Do I Have To?

After several days of not sleeping well, a busy day at work, a 75-minute commute home, and cleaning up the kitchen from last night, all I could think when faced with today's workout plan was, "Do I have to?"

Yes, I do have to. And I did.
For a video demonstration of star jumps, visit this link.

I also cranked out a whopping ten minutes on the elliptical and called it a day. Luckily, Hal's half marathon training plan had us running only two miles today, so I didn't feel super guilty. For a more intense workout, I would definitely do this strength series again and repeat it, plus more cardio. You can also modify the planks by doing less time but more reps (instead of 1 full minute, do 4 x 15 seconds). I also ran around with the cat, which I won't actually count as cardio but definitely felt like it. 

For dinner, my husband met his brother downtown, so I was on my own. I'm definitely getting used to cooking for one around here! I made enough for each of us to take leftovers for lunch tomorrow, but I resorted to my usual sauteed veggies + marinara sauce + whole wheat pasta.

Sauteing the vegetables
 I combined the following: 1/2 onion, 2/3 red bell pepper, 1 yellow squash, 2 zucchini squash, 2 ounces fresh spinach. Sauteed for about 8 minutes, then added about a cup of marinara sauce, 1/4 cup red wine, and about 3 ounces mozzarella cheese. Served on top of whole wheat rotini, it was delicious!

I normally don't measure my servings, but I did tonight. Exactly 1/2 cup cooked pasta plus 1 1/2 cups vegetables/sauce/cheese. Speaking of which, here's my WIAW!

Certainly an improvement over last week's WIAW. :-) But I think I could use some more protein here. I didn't have eggs or meat or nuts (other than peanut butter), my usual go-tos for protein. Always room for improvement. Especially with bikini season around the corner, right? (Two weeks until our trip to Hawaii!)

Here are the links for the PB & J Squares and Salted Triple Chocolate Cookies, if you're interested. Also, you can check out more WIAWs from other bloggers here!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pros and Cons of Technology

In case you missed it, yesterday's post was all about making time to be healthy. How do you make the time for your health?

Today, while it is Mardi Gras, didn't have a whole lot of blog-worthy events (aside from our 3.5-mile run, which is more exciting than the parenthetical mention I'm giving it but less exciting than yesterday). So I'll discuss yesterday. I made myself a fancy little breakfast with some fresh greens, fried eggs, a pear, and a slice of bread. It felt quite Parisian.
Parisian breakfast

Last night, Terry and I headed over to a fellow Bruin alumna's house for a fun potluck. The group we volunteer for at UCLA has subcommittees, so our little group got together to better acquaint ourselves. I absolutely love potlucks. Sometimes I stress myself out deciding what to bring, but Pros andI get so excited to taste everyone else's treats.

Gourmet pizza courtesy of our committee leaders

Clockwise from bottom: roasted asparagus, my pear and walnut squash,  pork with peanut sauce (the star of the show!), and pizza.

S'mores bars - as one of the guys said, "The goodness of s'mores without the hassle of a fire!"

I brought my pear and walnut squash (with yellow squash instead of delicata), triple chocolate cookies, and my seriously delicious peanut butter and jelly squares. They taste exactly like a PB & J sandwich, but they pack a ton of delicious nutrients. These are particularly great for a pre-workout snack or for a healthy dessert.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Squares
Makes 25 squares

    Wholesome goodness

    • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1 cup chopped nuts (I've used a combination of pecans, walnuts, and cashews)
    • 1 cup oats
    • 3 tablespoons raspberry jelly
    Mix the first three ingredients; then stir in the oats. It'll be sticky, but as long as the oats are all evenly moistened, you're good. Line an 8x8 baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray. Using a firm spatula, spread half the oats mixture on the bottom, ensuring that it spreads to the corners. Then spread a thin layer of jelly (you may find you use a little less or more than 3 T). Then top the jelly with the other half of the oats, again spreading to the edges. Chill for about 30 minutes (not necessary, but makes cutting easier), then cut into squares. To transport, put wax paper between the layers. 

    A delicious, healthy addition to any potluck

    Also great for breakfast, snacks, and post-workout protein

    While enjoying dinner last night, the topic of technology came up and stuck with us for awhile. All of us are generally the same age, so we grew up with dial up Internet, no text messaging, and no Facebook. We laughed about how kids today (do I sound like a typical adult or what?) have very little awareness of what is and isn't appropriate to put up online or when you should and shouldn't be texting. But technology has made aspects of life incredibly awesome, too. So I created a little list.

    Pros and Cons of Technology

    • Communication. Whether you love Facebook or hate it, you get connected and stay connected to folks you wouldn't otherwise. But oftentimes you think you're in touch with people when really you haven't actually spoken to them in years. 
    • Multi-tasking. We have programmed our brains to handle tons of information at once. But a lot of people have trouble sitting still and not looking at our phones for even short spans of time.
    • Time. Technology makes a lot of tasks much faster, but we also waste loads of time online (Pinterest, anyone?). We also lose patience because most things we want are instantly available; anything that takes longer becomes an annoyance.
    • Health. Technology has opened up a wealth of opportunities for tracking and improving health (heart monitors, GPS watches, crazy stair climber machines), but computers and big screen TVs encourage a sedentary lifestyle. 
    As a Millennial, I have grown up in an increasingly tech-centered world. Obviously, parts of me love all that we can do now (blogging!), but I also see where I spend way too much time mindlessly browsing through my phone when I could be enjoying what's around me. 

    What have you noticed about our technology-driven world? What parts do you love or hate?

    To observe Lent (Terry grew up Catholic and we both love the idea behind Lent), Terry and I are giving up television during the week. We notice that when we have the TV on "in the background," we're distracted, disconnected from each other, and late going to sleep. I'll ask Terry to set the table, and a few minutes later I notice he's standing in the living room, mesmerized, holding utensils and napkins and staring at the TV. I am just as guilty: Writing my blog posts with the TV on takes about three times longer than a focused post in a quiet room. (Duh.) So wish us luck as we enter into Lent! 

    Do you observe Lent or place yourself on restriction at times? What have you given up? What's something you could never give up?

    I'm pretty sure I couldn't go without my cell phone. My commute home without calling my parents would be even more brutal!

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Making Time for Health

    One of the biggest excuses I hear from folks I know who want to be healthier is lack of time. I totally get it! You work or go to school all day, you commute home, you pick up the kids, you run a few errands, and suddenly it's 7:00 and you're late for Jeopardy! (No? Just me?) Who wants to cook and then do dishes after all that?

    You do! Trust me, you really do. And it gets easier once you make it part of your routine. Terry and I used to be very guilty of allowing a long day at work to convince us that eating out would be the best option. But not anymore; now we eat homemade meals at least six nights per week. No excuses!

    A few of my friends and family members have mentioned that it seems like I squeeze a lot into my days. To be honest, sometimes I feel like it's too much, but I have learned a few time-saving tips that I feel help me make the most of my day. I'd love to hear your tips, too! Share below or e-mail me.

    Making Time for Health
    In the Kitchen
    • Plan ahead. I can't emphasize this one enough. It's true in any aspect of life, right? We plan ahead for meetings at work, outfits for vacations, and presents for birthdays, but very often it's 5:30 or 6:00 before we realize we're hungry and have no food in the fridge. But instead of calling your favorite cute delivery boy (?), try out these life-changing strategies for at-home meals.

      1) Plan your meals for the week and get the grocery shopping done in one fell swoop (or at least in one day, if you're like me and have to visit three stores/markets to get all the stuff you need).
      Trader Joe's for the win

      2) Plan your cooking strategy. Sounds silly, but it works, especially if you're new in the kitchen. Figure out how much time each part of the meal is going to take. If you have to, write it out (I write out my meal plans down to the minute if we're having company - feel free to judge). This way, you won't have your main dish ready while you're still chopping veggies for the side dish. If you have a roommate, significant other, or talented pet, see if they can help you with a small part of the meal to save you time. (Or you can make them do the dishes afterward, which is our house rule. :-)

      3) Make some parts in advance. If you know you're having a salad with dinner (or something that doesn't require heat), assemble it before you start on the other stuff. I've noticed that I sometimes leave the "easy" part of the meal to the end of my preparation, and then I either forget about it or I just decide to skip it because I'm ready to sit down to my hot meal.
      Pear, pecan, and spinach salad
    • Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers. I struggle with this one because my husband would eat the entire dish if I didn't stop him. I take it as a huge compliment when he likes my cooking, but a girl needs leftovers, you know? So I try to make extra - while I'm cutting and chopping and sauteing and baking anyway, why not double the recipe? Once the food is ready, I divide it into "lunch" or "tomorrow's dinner" containers immediately, and then Terry is free to eat as much of the non-containered food as he wants.
      Tomorrow's lunch is ready before we even eat dinner!
    • Make breakfast a priority. I mentioned in an earlier post that our breakfasts have evolved from cereal every. single. day. to a variety of well-rounded meals throughout the week. If you're stuck in a breakfast rut, here are a few easy options that will save you time:
      Granola: a great go-to

      1) Make pancake or waffle batter the night before. I'm a firm believer that batter gets better overnight anyway, but if you make the batter ahead, all you have to do is cook it. While it cooks, you can do your makeup, assemble lunches, get dressed (starting breakfast in my towel and finishing it in my work clothes is not a foreign concept around here), feed the pets, pour your coffee, etc. You can even pop the pancake/waffle onto a napkin or paper towel to eat on your way out the door (if you have a long commute like I do, eating in the car can be a rather luxurious change from the usual cursing at people driving too fast). 
      Whole Wheat Waffles
      Lisa's Banana Pancakes

      2) Make overnight oats in a portable container and eat it once you get to work. Bring along a banana to slice into it. Just don't forget to actually eat it.

      3) Throw the ingredients for a wholesome smoothie into a blender the night before. In the morning, press "blend" and sip on your way to work.
      Easy (and noisy) breakfast

      On the go!
    • Prep your food in advance. If you make or buy big containers of yogurt or cottage cheese, carrots, whole wheat pretzels, grapes, berries, granola, crackers, nuts, etc., (wash, if necessary, and) divide them up into small, portable containers right away. This way you can grab and go. Makes packing a lunch faster, too! Rachael Ray always recommends washing your produce when you get home from the store, but I've found that to be a time suck, except for heads of lettuce, which I rinse, dry, and store in big containers until I'm ready to use them. Anyone else try this trick?
    For Your Body

    • Plan ahead. I know, I said this one already. Figure out what your week looks like and which days you're going to work out. Choose at least three to start if you're not already there, and build your way up. If you're going to be at work late every night, sorry, but you gotta wake up early and get it in before work. If you're like me and have a weird work schedule sometimes, pack gym clothes and run or go to the gym or do a classroom/office workout whenever you can. Folks who get a lunch hour - you could use half that time working out and half eating! (Another benefit: You'll feel far more energized to tackle your tough day/week if you sweat a little!)
    • Choose your workout wisely. As wonderful as it would be to complete a full, one-hour workout six days a week, it's just not always going to work out that way (<--pun!). Instead, choose effective workouts to help you complete something quick and and intense during those crazy days. I have quite the array of choices for you on my FITness page, or you can just Google "30-minute workout". (No guarantees on what you'll find in the Google-verse...)
    For Your Overall Health
    • Learn to say no. Sometimes you really can't do it all. It's tough for me still, but I've learned to look at my calendar and honestly assess whether I can manage whatever is being asked of me. Dinners with friends, extra hours at work, attending your significant other's paddle tennis tournament - sometimes you have to say no. Hopefully the folks you're disappointing will understand that you will be there in spirit, and do your best to get there next time.
    • Schedule time for you. If you're like me, you can't relax until your to-do list is ta-done (<--did that work?). But I'm quickly learning that it's never going to be done. So I have to carve out time for fun. I literally write it into my calendar: watch TV with Terry, read, etc. My blog is a fun way for me to unwind, and I have worked that in to my daily routine (usually while my hubby does the dishes!). 
      I wish every night looked like this!
    I would love to hear your time-saving tips and post a second time (including my favorite fast recipes) about this subject. I think time constraints are something everyone deals with on a regular basis, so let's help each other out! 

    What's the most efficient way to get stuff done in a busy day?