Friday, March 30, 2012

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal

This month, I participated in Foodie Pen Pals, a program run by Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean. The program hooks up bloggers and non-bloggers around the US and Canada and allows us to exchange a box of edible goodies!

The program is designed so that you give to one person and receive from a different person. I gave a box of goodies to Tara, and I'll reveal those goodies next week (she's not a blogger, but she's writing up a little something for me to share with all of you!). I received a box of deliciousness from Denise at

Straight from Florida!
Denise included the following in my package:

  • Box of sweet potato pancake mix
  • Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate Chili bar
  • Cracker Barrel Hot Cocoa Mix
  • From Peterbrook Chocolatier, chocolate covered popcorn, chocolate covered pretzel sticks, and dark chocolate covered Oreos
  • Every package also comes with a handwritten note to make the whole experience more friendly, so you see that in the back there
What an awesome package! I love that Denise included items not readily available to me. LA seems to have almost everything, but sweet potato pancake mix is a new one. I'm thrilled because I had sweet potato pancakes once in Denver and loved them! Despite the fact that the delivery service thought the package was its own personal punching bag, everything still arrived in (pretty much) one piece.

I've already dug into almost everything. The hot cocoa was smooth and comforting, especially made with milk. Deliciously frothy and not too sweet. The Peterbrook items, especially the popcorn and pretzels, totally hit that sweet-and-salty spot for me, which I loved. The chili bar was surprisingly awesome! We've had one before that we hated, but this one wasn't too strong; the chili flavor came on late and simply complemented the chocolate. Yum!

I can't wait to make sweet potato pancakes on Sunday morning. Terry is so excited already, and I'll be sure to share what we think!

Thanks so much to Denise for an awesome first package from Foodie Pen Pals, and thanks to Lindsay for organizing such an incredible program! If you're interested in participating, check out Lindsay's informational page. Remember, non-bloggers can play, too!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why I Don’t Weigh Myself

I have never really been one to weigh myself on a regular basis (though I did weigh myself on my wedding day and on the day we got back from our honeymoon and had gained four pounds while in Europe – I blame Italy’s gelato). I know that having to answer to a scale can really motivate some people, but it’s not that way for me.


I step on a scale once in a while (at my doctor, for example), and I always feel conflicted. I weigh less now (according to my most recent encounter with the scale in Hawaii, two weeks ago) than I did in college, but that shouldn’t be surprising. I also eat much healthier and work out far more than I did in college, so shouldn’t I weight much less than I used to?

Thus my conflicted feelings about weight: When the numbers don’t make me feel good, I just make excuses and ultimately ignore what I saw. When they do make me feel good, I bask in the glory of my “success” for weeks, eating a little extra because I’m so proud of myself.

Hello, contradiction.

On the other side of the coin, there are times when I feel terrible about my habits—eating too much or too many sweets, eating out a lot, not exercising enough—and then I step on a scale and see a much lower number than I expected. What does that tell me? Hey, I can continue these habits and lose weight! Or I’ll be feeling fantastic, like I did in Hawaii—working out more (and more effectively) than ever, eating all my fruits and vegetables and only a few sweets—and the scale tells me I’ve gained weight. I give up.

I judge my health by other factors: how I feel, how my clothes fit, my endurance, my energy, how I look, and my muscle tone. Without a scale, these aspects of my wellbeing give me a great indication of how I’m doing. If my muscle tone isn’t really impressing me, I’ll bump up my strength training. If I’m noticing a little wiggle around my middle, I’ll cut back on the sweets and bump up the cardio.

There are some people who can be upset by a number and use that disappointment to fuel them on a really tough workout or help them avoid sweets. 

Biggest Loser contestants weigh in every week

Not me! I am an emotional eater, so I would use it to fuel me through a really big meal and help me avoid the gym. J I think it’s best for all involved if I just back away from the scale and step onto a treadmill instead.

What’s your relationship with the scale?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why We Chose a Nook

While we’re off traveling this week, Terry and I are planning to fight over share the Nook. We bought it in November using a fantastic teacher discount. Ours is the most basic version, but Nook Color and Nook Tablet are also available. I thought I’d offer a little insight into this little device for anyone who might be thinking of going electronic.

Let me start off by saying that I struggled immensely with the decision to shift to e-books. I love to read and majored in English literature, so obviously the feel of a book in my hand has always been dear to me. I love smell of an old book, the crinkle of a page, the crack of a book’s spine when you first open it. More importantly, I destroy my books—in a good way. I highlight, underline, write notes, dog-ear pages. I don’t care if books get wet or sit in the sun too long or fade in color or have food all over them (known to happen with me), because it all shows how much I loved them.

Okay, moving on from my ode to books, I also had to get realistic. Terry and I travel—a lot! It was becoming difficult to pack so many books on our trips, and I would get frustrated when I brought a book on a trip with only 50 pages left to read (and then it just took up space) or when I couldn’t bring a book because it was so bulky. A Nook allows you to load up as many books as you’d like without adding weight or taking up space in your luggage.

Honestly, our decision to buy a Nook had nothing to do with cost. As my husband says, “A book is always a good investment.” I love that attitude, but it also meant that a trip to Barnes and Noble or any used bookstore meant we bought at least one book to add to our collection. The problem? We live in a tiny apartment! We have one giant bookshelf, one small one, and a few nooks and crannies where we stuff the leftovers. At least three times a year, I go through our stash and purge the shelves of anything we won’t read again or probably won’t ever read, and I haul it all to Good Will. Still, we were accumulating more than we could store, and it was beginning to be a problem. Once again, a Nook was a space saver.

So why the Nook and not the Kindle? Mainly, I wanted to jump on board with the fact that Barnes and Noble was jumping on board with e-books. As I said, I love going to bookstores, and Terry and I have spent hours upon hours perusing shelves in happy silence. I want to make sure bookstores still exist when we have kids so that we can take them to the children’s section and let them choose whatever they want. By choosing a Nook, we are forced (happily) to purchase all of our e-books through Barnes andNoble’s website, so we’re supporting them.

Other benefits of a Nook (some of these features may also be available on the Kindle):
  • The screen truly looks like a real book, and you can read it in any light you could read a real book (on the same note, you can’t read it in the dark, the way you can an iPad).
  • If you have an iPad or smartphone, you can download your books between devices. So I can read on my iPad while Terry reads on the Nook, or I can read from my phone if I’ve left my Nook at home. Bonus: The devices can sync so that you pick up on your iPad where you left off on the Nook without having to remember the page number.
  • You can still highlight, make notes, and bookmark (virtual dog-ear) pages. It’s just that these notes are neater, more organized, and easily accessed compared to handwritten notes scribbled in margins.
  • You can look up the definition of most words without needing to access the Internet (a dictionary is built in).
  • As long as you turn off the Nook when you aren’t using it, the battery will last for weeks.
  • There are several cute cover options (obviously a priority). We chose the ampersand/question mark cover. 

We still buy real books, especially reference books, health/fitness/food books, and anything we think we might read again. All my classics are the real deal, and I’m a big fan of buying beautiful, old, used versions of my favorites.

Not exactly my favorites, but okay. (Source)
We also still love bookstores. Old ones, new ones, big ones, small ones. My favorite in the world so far is Shakespeare & Company in Paris; its tiny, crowded spaces and historical significance gave it a charm unmatched by any store I’ve seen. I have every intention of loading our future house with dozens of bookshelves and thousands of books (a la Beauty and the Beast, perhaps?), but while we live in LA in a tiny, one bedroom apartment, the Nook satisfies our desire to read without imposing on our quality of life.

Do you have a strong opinion about e-books?

What’s your favorite bookstore?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Traveling Healthy

When Terry and I traveled to Hawaii recently, we flew immediately after work and weren’t able to eat a meal ahead of time. At the end of such a busy week, I hadn’t planned ahead enough to pack snacks, so we resorted to purchasing a few snacks at the airport. Sadly, despite scrounging around the magazine shop for 20 minutes, all I could find were crackers, trail mix, and nuts. The resulting stomachache reminded me that I should a) think ahead and pack homemade snacks, and b) write a post about traveling healthy.

Many folks, including myself at times, take the stand that a vacation is a vacation, so healthy eating and exercise go out the window. I’m often the same way, because:
  • I want to experience the food of the region, and eating a salad at Aloha Mixed Plate wasn’t my idea of an experience.
So much meat
  • Eating out 90% of the time on vacation versus eating in 90% of the time at home inevitably results in bigger portions, less (or zero) control over how the food is prepared, and, very often, a lack of fruits and vegetables.
  • Bigger portions at meals results in less snacking; so instead of eating 5-6 times per day, I’m eating 2-3 times, which slows my metabolism.
  • As much as I might want to exercise, sometimes excursions, scheduling, and hangovers practicality prohibit me from completing the workout I really want to do.
  • I’m more likely to drink alcohol on vacation (two glasses instead of one, for example).

But here at BLWB, we take a no excuses attitude, right? So if you’re planning to travel, here are my best stay healthy away from home tips.

This time, when Terry and I left on Friday night, I brought a double batch of Julie’s homemade peanut butter granola, a bag of baby carrots, and empty water bottles to fill up before flying. I also downloaded my boot camp workouts on to my laptop so I could keep up with them while away. Since we took a red eye to Florida for the cruise, we made sure to sleep on the way there but will stay up on the trip back to ensure we get back on our normal schedule as quickly as possible.

As always, it’s all about moderation. Find ways to continue the healthy routines that you always do, with some leniency in order to enjoy your time away. Next time you travel, I hope these tips help you stay healthy on your vacation!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Scholarship and Shipping Out

Exciting news over here at BLWB! Remember when I wrote the post about Chocolate Milk + Bloggers Conference + FitFluential? I explained that by writing that post, I was applying for a scholarship to attend the Fitness& Health Bloggers Conference in Denver, CO, in June. Well, today I found out that I was selected as a recipient of the scholarship (okay, it was a random drawing, but still exciting)! I get to attend the conference without paying the registration fee, which means I’ll have a little extra cash for breweries something very practical.

I’m really excited about the conference schedule, other bloggers who are attending, and, of course, the location! I love Denver; our first visit there was in January of 2010, when I took Terry as a Christmas gift. We toured breweries, ate at awesome restaurants, and got to visit my friend Katie who was in law school there (and is now an Associate Attorney!).
 I’m hoping to get to see Katie while I’m there, and I definitely plan to eat at Park Burger, where the bison burgers are to die for.  Meanwhile, at the conference, here’s what’s on tap for me (and you, since my readers will reap the benefits of whatever I learn there):
  • Cocktail party for FitFluential members (hey, that’s me!)
  • Advice from the experts on blogging topics
  • Keynote Speaker: Dr. James O. Hill on the Importance of Evidence-Based Approach to Health & Wellness
  • Current evidence on various health topics with experts
  • Breakout Sessions: cooking, fitness lab, consumer research grocery store, and group discussions
  • Exercise classes

I can’t wait! (For the full agenda, or to register for the conference, check out the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference website.)

The rest of my day was busy but great, eagerly waiting for our trip to officially begin. After work, I squeezed in a great boot camp workout, which focused on upper body and a little cardio. I spent the rest of the evening cleaning up, eating dinner, playing and cuddling with the kitten (goodness, I miss him SO much when we go away), blogging, and trying to remember any last-minute items I’d forgotten.

While we travel a lot, we still get excited for every trip and look forward to new experiences. This time, we’re traveling with friends and can’t wait to enjoy the luxury of a cruise ship with them. I look forward to writing about our trip when we get back, but in the meantime, expect some fun posts over the next week!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

5 Mile HIIT

Happy Thursday! I promise this post will be much more upbeat than last night's, because today was a much better day. I got to sleep by 10 last night and let myself sleep in (while being attacked by the kitten) until almost 6. Rest makes a world of difference! While the day still had its snags, I felt much calmer and more in control of my stress.

I tried to cancel this afternoon's hair appointment, but their cancellation policy would have cost me dearly, so I just moved the time up to 4:00 and sped drove safely but efficiently over as soon as work was out. I really like "my" hair salon, but the haircut (just a cut - no color) took over an hour and a half. It was nice to sit in a chair and chat and not do much of anything, but that was a long time to be there.

Why was I so excited to get home? I had a big ol' cardio workout waiting for me! Terry joined the fun for this intense HIIT workout, similar to this one that I never did.

Whew! We were dying! I got hungry (surprised?) about halfway through; plus, some girl came in and closed the door to our tiny gym, so we were hot and couldn't breathe. Always a good combination. Anyway, it was a great workout, and Terry even one-upped me by staying at 80 sec @ 8.0/40 sec @ 6.5 the entire time. I just needed a little break toward the end and was glad that I took it. Otherwise, the running was super tough but manageable, and we both felt great about running 5 miles at such a fast pace.

Dinner tonight was what I shall call Use Every Vegetable Possible and Make Enough for Leftovers. A fitting name, indeed! It was essentially my Mexican Stir-Fry, served in a whole wheat tortilla and a little pepper jack cheese.

It started off well...

But ended up more like this.
The rest of the night has been dedicated to packing and cleaning before our trip tomorrow! Thankfully, we leave late at night, so we have some time tomorrow afternoon/evening to get a few more things done. I love traveling and actually don't mind packing, but I don't think I'm particularly good at it. I always forget something (in Hawaii I didn't have my glasses), and I either pack way too much or not quite enough.

While we're on vacation, BLWB won't be taking a break. I've lined up some posts for the week that should pop up nightly, so get excited! For now, we're off to bed to get ready for a busy (exciting!) day tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sweaty Workout and WIAW

I barely made it through today. Honestly, this week has been one of the most stressful I've encountered in a long time, maybe ever. As I told my coworker today, we are really earning our vacation next week.

I think one of the toughest things about today was the lack of a good, sweaty workout. I completed my Boot Camp workout this morning (4:30 is very early), but it was the easiest so far, and my heart wasn't really in it. I wanted some cardio, but by the time I finished the weights I had to shower and get ready. I brought some workout clothes to school in hopes of finding time between after-school meetings, but it didn't happen. Alas, no sweaty workout for me today.

Yesterday, on the other hand, I created a challenging, speed-focused workout. It was only 30 minutes and fit perfectly after work and before our fancy dinner.

I know it looks a bit complicated, like you would be constantly changing pace, but that's the point of intervals, right? Obviously, you can customize it any way you like. For more of a challenge, try jogging during the recovery periods; for a lighter workout, slow down all the running. I actually really like super short intervals because it feels like the time goes by super fast.

Today, I'm not especially proud of my meals. As I mentioned, this week has pushed my limits in terms of stress and time demands at work, and I didn't plan very well for today's food at work. I was at school from 7:15 am until 8:45 pm, so I should have brought a LOT more food with me. Sadly, here's my WIAW for the second day of spring.

6:30 am - Breakfast
Bell pepper and spinach omelet and one slice of honey whole wheat bread with butter
Recycled photo, but you get the idea

12:30 pm - Lunch (you know it's a rough day when I miss my morning snack - that NEVER happens!)

Scrumptious batch of overnight oats - in a peanut butter jar!

1:15 pm - 1 cup of carrots

5:45 pm - Dinner?
2 homemade whole wheat muffins

I told you it wasn't a good food day

8:45 pm - Snack on the way home

9:45 pm - 3 ounces of blueberries

10:15 pm - Dessert
Ice cream with chocolate-covered pretzel stick

So there you go. It was a terrible day, meal-wise, and I'm lucky I even managed to get my 5 fruits and vegetables in there. I came home starving, which probably explains the mini-breakdown I made my husband deal with.

I can only hope tomorrow will be better. I'm particularly excited for some well-rounded meals and hard core cardio tomorrow.

I hope your day was much better than mine!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday at Tavern

Terry and I love to take opportunities to celebrate. From anniversaries and birthdays to mini-milestones and just getting through a rough week, we try to acknowledge the positive aspects of life. Sometimes we'll plan a fun day out, make an unusual purchase, go on a vacation, or enjoy a fancy dinner at home. On Sunday, we toasted some recognition that Terry received at work. Then, tonight, Terry took me out to celebrate the fact that I reached 10,000 page views on BLWB.

So, thanks to you readers, I got to go to a fancy dinner at Tavern! We live very close to Tavern, so after a workout, we snazzied (<--new word!) ourselves up and headed out. Before we left, though, we started in on a bottle of Frank Family Zinfandel, one of my very favorite wines (Ashley, we thought of you!). Instead of paying the $25 corkage fee (ouch!), we drank a glass of wine each before dinner and are enjoying the rest as I write this. *Tip!* (<--I wish a little *ding!* could go off right there. Interactive blogging, the future of the Internet.) During dinner, Terry ordered one cocktail (something with bourbon and apple and ginger) while I stuck with water.

Much needed mid-week date night

Dinner really was delicious. Tavern only has valet parking, unless you want to brave the streets of Brentwood, which you don't, but their service charge is only $4.50. We had a reservation and were seated right away. The interior of the restaurant is particularly unique; the ceiling is a giant skylight, and there are two big trees inside. Bonus: We recognized the gentleman next to us as a UCLA professor. Go Bruins!

The atmosphere was relaxed and very much an after-work crowd. We were served sourdough bread with butter and sea salt. Amazing! So simple, and yet heavenly. Terry ordered an appetizer with albacore crudo, which tasted great, along with his cocktail.

Bread + butter + sea salt

For dinner, I had the short ribs "bourguignon" and Terry had the Devil's chicken. Both were good, cooked well, but not the highlight of the experience.

Messy but pretty good

Dessert, on the other hand, was a revelation. I don't always order dessert at restaurants, contrary to what you might think, because my family never really did the dessert thing when we went out to dinner. Mom usually just put out a few cookies when we got home, which was perfect after a big meal. But since we were celebrating, I ordered us the "Snickers" bar - chocolate and salted caramel peanuts and vanilla ice cream.

There it is

We enjoyed the whole experience at Tavern and would recommend it, but we would probably each try a different entree next time. And yes, for those wondering, it was the restaurant where President Obama held one of his fundraiser dinners a few months ago. We didn't have to pay $35,000 per plate, though. Suckas.

Some of our other favorite fancy restaurants:
I'd like to suggest for all of you to pass along my link so I can convince Terry that we should frequent these restaurants more. :-)

Thanks very much for reading; what we really celebrated tonight was the fact that, while it's still new and has a long way to go, this little blog is growing! So thanks for reading, tweeting, Facebooking, linking, G+ing, commenting, and discussing. You make this little hobby of mine a whole lot more fun!

I promise to post tomorrow about my super duper sweaty workout today and some killer abs, too. Get excited! For now, I'm going to enjoy the rest of this glass of wine before getting to bed early. Morning workout tomorrow!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Chocolate Milk + Bloggers Conference + FitFluential

Happy Monday, y'all! Hope you had a good first day back to the grind. My day was especially hectic, even more so than usual, so I was thrilled when I got home and made time to sweat out the stress.

Today's workout, another Boot Camp Workout, kicked my booty! We did three supersets, and actually, it was my first time doing a superset. What is that, you ask? Well, even if you didn't, I had no idea what it was until a few months ago, and I still didn't really know until today. A superset is when you complete two or three exercises together and repeat them, ideally without resting. For example, 15 dumbbell rows followed by 20 push ups, then repeat the rows, repeat the push ups, for a total of three rounds. Then you move to the next superset or exercise, etc. I found a good website here that explains it better than I do.

So today, Tina had us doing one superset followed by five minutes of cardio, then another superset with another five minutes cardio, and repeat one more time. We worked all legs, which I loved. I feel like most of my workouts lately have been full-body focused, which is great, but it was nice to zero in on one area. My quads and buns will be feelin' it tomorrow!

Speaking of which, quick shout out to my family members for rocking the gym lately. My gorgeous almost-sister-in-law completed both my 5-4-3-2-1 workout and a 15-minute elliptical pyramid. Like a champ! Also, she and my brother have been waking up at 4:30 in the morning to work out - that's hard core! My brother has always been a morning person, but I'm still super impressed that they can get up so early. I'm planning to wake up for an early workout on Wednesday morning, so I'll keep them in mind for my inspiration. Not to be left out, my parents rocked a 5+ mile speed walk this weekend and did a 90-minute yoga class. I'm so humbled by my family and inspired by their dedication to their health!
They are a-mah-zing.

I needed to make a quick dinner tonight before Terry's last flag football game, so I threw together a simple dish to use up the leftover gnocchi from yesterday.

Mushroom-Spinach Sauce for Gnocchi
Topped with Parmesan cheese, of course.

  • 2 small diced onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 box (about 15) white mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 giant handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 3/4 package of whole wheat gnocchi (available at Trader Joe's and most grocers)
Set a small pot of water to boil while you make your sauce.

Saute the onion and olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic powder, salt and pepper, oregano, and basil, and cook another 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook down, about 3 minutes. Then add the marinara and red wine. Allow to simmer at least 5 minutes while you cook your gnocchi.

While your sauce is simmering, add the gnocchi to the boiling water and boil about 2 minutes, or until the gnocchi float to the top. Drain, then serve with the sauce.

So yummy!
We both love gnocchi, so I'm glad I finally bought some and made a few different varieties of sauces for it! This one complemented the hearty gnocchi perfectly. I think when we get back from our cruise I'll go for a bolognese...

<<Enter seamless segue here.>> :-)

Alright, let's get serious awesome here. I found out recently that there's a Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference in June. Even better? It's after school gets out, and it's in Denver, one of my top 10 favorite cities. Even better than that? By writing this post, I have a chance to win a scholarship to go to the conference!
Going to this conference would provide me a much-needed opportunity to learn more about the world of healthy living blogging. It'll be a chance to meet other bloggers, gain some fitness and health advice from experts, and learn tons of tips about branding, blog technology, blog ethics, and more. FitFluential is hosting one of the sessions, and, as you know, I am a FitFluential Ambassador, which makes me eligible for one of the scholarships. How awesome is that?

One of the partners for the conference is Refuel with Chocolate Milk. Terry and I read awhile back that chocolate milk is something like 60% more effective than regular milk in rebuilding and refueling your body after a workout. Ever since then, Terry has drunk about 16 ounces of chocolate milk after his long runs. I have to admit, it tastes unbelievably good to swig cold chocolate milk after a good sweat, but I had no idea there was a whole website and brand dedicated to it! This website explains the science and evidence behind chocolate milk and how it gives athletes an edge. 

Not just for kids anymore!

Hope you have a great Tuesday! Wish me luck applying for my conference scholarship! 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chlorine, Corned Beef, and Cabbage

Is it me, or do the weekends go to fast? (<--Hello, Captain Obvious.) As I write more, I learn that I am a pretty intense person. I refuse to waste time. It's a sickness, really. Wasting time is not bad, and I highly suggest it. I, however, cannot allow a moment to pass without ensuring that I'm being productive. It's exhausting. I wish my cat - or my brother - would teach me how to live.

Priority: Finding the most comfortable spot next to a window.

Another priority: attacking his tail whilst upside down.

This morning, Terry was off for more scuba training(he's becoming a Dive Master), and I got to work on a) an egg sandwich, and b) work for school.

Honey whole wheat toast, fried egg, jelly, and Havarti cheese

After a few hours, I settled in with Scout to get myself caught up on The Biggest Loser, my favorite reality show. Yes, I had four weeks backed up in the ol' DVR, but I plowed through. Here's the key: Fast forward through commercials (5 arrows = about 7 seconds), and only watch the weigh-ins if you really need to know how the drama plays out. This technique cuts the two-hour show to about one hour. If you need any other TV-watching tips, please let me know.

During the show, I got to work on my third workout from Week 2 of Tina's Best Body Boot Camp. Yowza! Those Turkish Get Ups were no easier this week, but I love them. You will see them on this blog in the future. Don't worry. (I know you were worried.)

For lunch, I made some seriously delicious quesadillas that we scarfed down before I could snap a photo. Then we braved the cold wind for a long walk around our neighborhood and hit the hot tub. I love hot tubbing before stretching, because my muscles get super limber in the heat.
Scout, on the other hand, needs no stretching at all to be this flexible.

When we got back from the hot tub, Scout performed his usual post-swim ritual (no, he doesn't swim with us). He goes crazy for chlorine!

Nibbling Terry's toes

It would be cute if it didn't hurt so much
He goes through this little attack every time we come back from the pool or hot tub, so we had to look it up. According to the Internet, cats react to chlorine much like they do to catnip. The article makes it sound like Scout is going to exhibit some terrible behaviors, but he actually just bites our toes and wrestles with our feet. We just laugh.

For dinner, Terry gobbled up two servings of his corned beef and cabbage. We found the corned beef at Trader Joe's, and Terry threw roughly chopped carrots, potatoes, onions, and cabbage in the crock pot for eight hours on low.

Happy (belated) St. Patrick's Day!

I tried it, but I'm really not a big fan of this traditional dish, so I created my own little recipe.

It looks unappealing, but it was mighty tasty!

Gnocchi with Veggies and Cream Sauce
Serves 2


  • 2 green vegetables of your choice (I used asparagus and broccoli crowns), chopped into one-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Whole wheat gnocchi
You can find this gnocchi in the pasta aisle at Trader Joe's
Heat a small pot of boiling water and add two servings of gnocchi (about 1 1/2 cups). Boil the gnocchi until it floats to the top, about 2 minutes.

For the vegetables, melt the butter in a small pan, then add the veggies and salt and pepper and saute until ready, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, melt the tablespoon of butter and add the flour, whisking together until light brown, about 30 seconds. Add the milk and turn the heat down to very low. Once the milk is warm (but not scalded), add the cheeses and whisk until smooth.

Stir the vegetables into the sauce. Drain the gnocchi and combine it with the sauce-veggie mixture. Serve hot.

 Best served with champagne, especially if you're celebrating your husband's awesome performance at work lately.

Moet & Chandon

Terry made himself a Black Velvet - 1/2 Guinness, 1/2 champagne

During dinner, we watched 50/50, the movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. We really liked it, though we both cried. I definitely recommend it! It had been a long time since we watched a new movie, and it was so fun to relax and enjoy.

Hope you enjoyed a great weekend! Off to bed before another busy week. Only 6 days until our cruise!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

What a fun holiday! I've never really been one to go crazy celebrating this day; even in college, when folks were all about green beer, I generally kept it pretty mellow. But I love the enthusiasm around the day, and I am all for creating some new traditions for St. Patrick's Day.

Last night, I really did go to sleep at 10:00, and I slept until nine this morning! I'll tell you what: If you're sick, 11 hours really does the trick. I was thrilled to wake up feeling refreshed, almost no symptoms showing. I convinced Terry to join me for my Boot Camp workout, and we dashed through the rain to our apartment's little gym. It was tough coming back from four days of no exercise, but it felt great to sweat and use my muscles again. Since our cruise is in one week, I felt extra motivated. We had to do split squats on a stability ball, and I challenged myself to use 10-lb. dumbbells - killer! But this exercise is fantastic for working your core, and I'll be doing my best to continue doing it after the boot camp is over.

Breakfast turned into brunch, because we didn't get back from working out until 11. I cooked leftover whole wheat waffles from Thursday night, along with an egg (two for Terry), and a pear for each of us.

Delicious Saturday breakfast

We headed over to our friends' new apartment for a little St. Patty's Day/housewarming party. The rain made me even more glad that they live so much closer to us now, because we don't have to sit in traffic to get to them! We wore our most festive gear.

Terry's amazing shirt - anyone know the TV show?
I added some accessories once we arrived

I wasn't sure what would be served at the party, so I kept my contribution really simple: Irish Celtic Cheddar with whole wheat crackers. It might sound boring, but I really love cheese, and sometimes a simple cheese-and-cracker plate can complement the rest of the goodies at a big party. If you're contributing to a potluck, you shouldn't always feel pressured to cook up some gourmet dish. People appreciate variety, so fresh fruit or veggies or a simple two-ingredient plate is a great way to contribute.

Turns out, Jocelyn, the hostess, had quite an assortment of St. Patty's Day-themed goodies for us, including shepherd's pie in potato skins! Very creative idea, one that we're definitely going to try out someday. Joc and her husband, Nick, whom I've known for 20+ years, also had plenty of adult beverages on hand, so we started off with a round of Irish Car Bombs (<--apparently this name is now controversial?).

Festive green cups
Nick making our drinks

Then we moved on to Pictionary. I'm not sure I've mentioned it on BLWB, but I am a fantastic artist. I teach ELD, so I draw for my students all the time. Here are some examples:

My students asked what a pirate is. This was my response.

Any guesses?

Obviously, everyone was fighting about who could be on my team. Shockingly, every one of my drawings was guessed correctly, including "anatomy"!

Who knew we'd all be so into the game?
One challenge was drawing with your "bad" hand.

Another challenge: drawing with your eyes closed. 

Believe it or not, I didn't draw this one. (The answer was "snapdragon.")

Terry and I had a jolly good time and made it home in time for a nice cardio workout. That's right, I pulled a double day to really get myself back in the swing of things. It felt awesome to sweat, but I didn't go crazy on intensity.

I felt wonderful after this one. I highly recommend it if you're not feeling too crazy but want a good, prolonged cardio session. Usually I keep my intervals shorter, but 5 minutes at a time worked really well this time. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.

Dinner was so, so easy, thanks to leftovers and a quick side dish.
Last night's pizza and sauteed asparagus.

Then, after a few more shows on our DVR, we whipped up a more natural version of a Shamrock Shake. Did you know that food coloring and dyes (dyes are used in more foods than you think, to give foods the colors that we've come to expect) are very often made of petroleum? For more on that topic, you can check out Lisa's post, "7 Reasons Why I Hate Artificial Food Dyes". But I stumbled upon Lauren's Shamrock[ish] Shake, where she used spinach to get the green color. I didn't have her other ingredients, so I blended up the following:

St. Patty's Day Milkshake
  • 3 scoops vanilla ice cream (TJ's has a minimal-ingredients vanilla ice cream)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 big handful spinach leaves
  • About 1/4 cup milk (add more or less to get the consistency you like)
  • 1 handful dark chocolate chunks (optional)
Blend. Pour. Sip. Yum!

Green, delicious, and I promise there is NO spinach flavor!

A Thin Mint on the side (apparently we ate the rest of the box, so I couldn't add them to the shake like Lauren's blog suggested)

Hope you had a very happy and festive holiday. We're continuing the celebration tomorrow with corned beef and cabbage!