Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wild and Five Miles

The last day of July has felt extremely peaceful around here. Scout cuddled under the covers with me while Terry got ready for work, and when I finally forced myself to get up, make breakfast, and hit the gym, I felt inspired to tackle a tougher-than-usual five miles.

Since I'm combining my half marathon training with Tina's boot camp workouts, I have to rearrange some of the cardio so I don't injure myself or burn out before the big race. We're supposed to do intervals tomorrow and HIIT yesterday, so I combined the two to reach five miles today--and it was crazy hard! I warmed up, completed four intervals of running/recovery, then did five rounds of HIIT for the last mile. I wouldn't normally push this hard, and I probably won't do it again, but I did like the interval + HIIT combo and would try a toned-down version in the future.

Yowza. Just writing it all down was exhausting! This workout actually got me to a little over five miles,   but I didn't want to cut corners on the warm up or cool down.

After a shower and some overnight oats, I finished the last few chapters of Wild, this month's PB Fingers book club selection. My review is below!

For lunch, I was excited for French toast. Don't ask me why; when a craving strikes, I must answer! But I pumped up the protein by adding peanut butter and almonds and threw in some strawberries for a little berry boost.

Peanut Butter and "Jelly" French Toast
Serves 2
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 slices whole wheat bread
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries
  • Pure maple syrup
Heat a large pan sprayed with cooking spray over medium heat. In a shallow, wide bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, milk, and cinnamon. Dunk each slice of bread into the egg mixture, absorbing a little of the liquid (be careful not to over-soak--you don't want mushy French toast!). Grill the toast about 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

To assemble, spread one tablespoon of peanut butter on one piece of bread, then top with another piece of bread. Garnish with sliced strawberries, sliced almonds, and some maple syrup. Repeat with the other two pieces of bread, and enjoy!

I was starving, and this meal satisfied my tummy and my taste buds! It tastes like peanut butter and jelly, but just a little sweeter and fresher!

Okay, on to the review...

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
To check out other reviews, check out Julie's blog; you can also participate in the virtual book club. Keep up with PB Fingers over the next several days to vote on the next book!

The book is about a young woman who, in the wake of her mother's death and her own painful divorce, decides to hike approximately 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail--solo. With absolutely no hiking experience and basically one guidebook, Cheryl encounters blistering heat, dangerous snow, other hikers, adventures in hitchhiking, hunger, dehydration, and, eventually, her own real self.

Overall, I really liked the book and found it compelling; I didn't want to stop reading. The majority of the book describes her trials and victories along the trail, including losing most of her toenails and--spoiler alert--just surviving the damn thing. I enjoyed reading about how difficult it was for her. That sounds weird, but it was awesome to read about a woman exactly my age undertaking this grueling journey completely on her own. I found myself rooting for her to finish. Also, I thought the imagery was fantastic; I felt I was able to envision most of the sights she described, though I'm sure they're even more breathtaking in person.

I actually found myself not liking Cheryl as a person for most of the book; she seemed weak and whiny. Yes, her mother died, and obviously it affected her deeply, but she acted out so irrationally and irresponsibly that I had little pity for her. Her divorce was her fault, which she admits throughout the book, but it frustrated me to watch her hurt the person who cared most for her. As I learned more about Cheryl's past, I grew slightly more sympathetic toward her.

Regardless, the book as a whole was inspiring and humbling. I was worried that it would come off as too dramatic (hiking such a distance is certainly an accomplishment, but I wasn't about to believe that she was suddenly a whole new person), but it didn't. She slowly came to realizations about herself and her life, but she still had questions at the end. She felt proud of herself when she finished, but she wasn't throwing a parade. I thought she ended the journey as a far more humble person than she began it, and I appreciated that humility.


Questions for those who have read Wild

  1. What did you think of Cheryl's relationships with her siblings and stepfather after her mom's death? 
  2. What do you think changed the most about Cheryl as she hiked the PCT?
  3. What frustrated you most about Cheryl throughout the book?
  4. How did you feel about Cheryl's choice of her last name?
  5. Books are common motifs throughout the book; how do you feel these motifs influenced Cheryl and the path of the novel?
My thoughts:
  1. I felt that Cheryl played the victim a lot with her family. She acted as though they had changed and they didn't contact her, but family is a two-way street. Given her behavior, I couldn't fault the family for distancing themselves from her.
  2. I think Cheryl gained humility, as I mentioned above, and she gained some perspective that life is not out to get her. Yes, bad things happen, but you can push through them.
  3. I could not stand Cheryl's irresponsible money-spending on the trail. It seems so petty, and certainly she survived on what she had, but I got angry the second and third times she ran out of money. Why are you buying all these crazy snacks if you only have $6 left?! Get them at the next stop and eat what you have! It showed she still had more growing up to do.
  4. I thought the name was fitting, but it seemed strange to me that she was so proud of being lost and that she wanted that idea of being lost to stay with her for the rest of her life. I'm surprised to see that she kept the name (the novel is by Cheryl Strayed) even after she found her way again.
  5. I haven't read most of the books Cheryl mentions on her path, but I found them very symbolic. The fact that she was willing to bear their weight and that they were like her friends along the way made me feel like she was returning back to her old self, the one who was earning her literature degree. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the novel, and I recommend it if you haven't read it yet.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Slider Extravaganza

Ooohhhh boy, do I have a good bunch of recipes for you today! You get excited.

Yesterday turned out to be a fantastic day for Terry and me: a tough six-mile run, church, farmers' market, shopping with Jenn, and Olympics. Seriously, that's what Sundays are all about! I got so cozy on the couch with my guy that I opted to skip the post, but I'm back today!

Today was filled with lesson planning in preparation for my new job, lunch with Terry, and returning and buying a few items.

Jewelry from Express and New York & Company

Tanks from American Eagle

Blazer and cami from Nordstrom, tank and jeans from American Eagle

At home, I prepped dinner for tonight. We still had some pesto leftover, so I suggested using it to top some turkey burgers. Today, feeling spunky, I thought it would be even more fun to make sliders! Rather than make them all the same way, I made a few different versions for us to try and provided different toppings for each. (This, ladies and gentlemen, is my idea of a wild and crazy night. Try to restrain your jealousy.)

I used one package of ground turkey to make 8 sliders, two of each variety. First, season the ground turkey with salt and pepper, then use your hands to mix up the meat and divide it into 8 patties.

Pesto Sliders with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  • Approx. 1 tablespoon chopped sun-dried tomatoes per slider
  • Approx. 1 teaspoon pesto
  • 1/2 ounce mozzarella cheese, for topping
  • Slider buns or bread of your choice
Mix the chopped sun-dried tomatoes with the raw turkey as you form the patty. Gently press down in the center of the patty so that your burger doesn't puff up while cooking. Cook the burger over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes on each side. 

Date-and-Goat-Cheese-Stuffed Sliders

  • 1 dried date per slider
  • 1/2-inch cube of goat cheese per slider
  • Caramelized onion, for topping
  • Bacon (optional, for topping)
  • Slider buns or bread of your choice
Slice the date open down one side and butterfly it open. Gently press the goat cheese inside, then form the patty around the date so that it's completely covered. Gently press down in the center of the patty so that your burger doesn't puff up. Cook the burger over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes on each side. 

Date-and-Manchego-Stuffed Sliders

  • 1 date per slider
  • 1/2-inch cube of Manchego cheese per slider
  • Caramelized onions, for topping
  • Slider buns or bread of your choice
Slice the date open down one side and butterfly it open. Gently press the Manchego cheese inside, then form the patty around the date so that it's completely covered. Gently press down in the center of the patty so that your burger doesn't puff up. Cook the burger over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes on each side.  

Cream Cheese Stuffed Sliders

  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese for each slider
  • Caramelized onion, for topping
  • Slider buns or bread of your choice

Form the patty around the cheese so that it's completely covered. Gently press down in the center of the patty so that your burger doesn't puff up. Cook the burger over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes on each side. 

Other Burger Ideas
I've posted several burger ideas, and all of them would make terrific sliders as well! If you're in the mood for something different or are hosting a party that would benefit from some finger foods, try these little guys!

Honestly, we couldn't decide which sliders were our favorite. I'd have to pick the date-and-manchego stuffed, and Terry reluctantly selected the cream cheese. Deeeeelicious!

Before our delicious dinner, Terry and I completed my boot camp workout for today together. It was focused on upper body, and it was tough! We did the same workout as last week, supersets including some sets to exhaustion. I found that I was able to do more reps in my push ups and lateral shoulder raises! This time around, I'm actually writing down my weights and reps, so I can compare my results from week to week. The toughest part of the workout? These guys:

I had never done them before, and I really struggled. I even bent my knees, but it was still very difficult. I'm excited to improve them!

Okay, time for Olympic Talk: BLWB Edition. I don't want to spoil anything if you haven't watched yet, but I have something very important to ask:


Interviewing the girl moving on to finals while the girl she beat cries in the background. Almost as awkward as the size of the men's diving Speedos. Classy, NBC.

And I can't contain my excitement: We got a very special wedding invitation today! My brother and Ashley's wedding is only two months away!!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pesto Caprese Grilled Sandwiches

How's your weekend going? Ours has been quite mellow. Our original plans were canceled, so we've had a very rare free weekend. We got to watch the opening ceremonies for the Olympics, which were a bit long and slightly strange at parts but mostly awesome. The Queen is seriously cool.

Today I took another hip hop class with Jenn, grabbed a (disappointing) bagel breakfast with Terry, read and relaxed, and then enjoyed an afternoon with some of Terry's extended family celebrating his cousin's second birthday party. The house was absolutely filled with little children, ranging from infants to five-year-olds, and we had a blast catching up with everyone. Tonight we kept it very light and just hung around the house. I thought tonight would be a perfect opportunity to share a new recipe with y'all!

To introduce these delicious sandwiches, I must share that I have issues with distraction this summer. I get very distracted very easily on a normal day, but in the summer it's much worse. I finish my workout and decide I should shower, but I figure I should do whatever else might get me sweaty first. I start in on cleaning out a closet but realize I should vacuum before that. I go to get the vacuum but think maybe I should eat breakfast before I tackle all these chores. And on and on it goes.

So yesterday, as I was cleaning out the freezer, I noticed that we have pine nuts. I also happened to pick up a basil plant at Trader Joe's (it cost the same as buying a package of basil, go figure), and I thought I'd give pesto a go--for the first time ever. Naturally, I stopped cleaning out the freezer in favor of making my sauce.

I searched around a bit for a recipe but decided to go with good ol' Ina--she's helped me with plenty of recipes lately, including roast chicken and bolognese. Her pesto recipe turned out to be fantastic, despite the fact that I halved it, didn't have enough basil, and used more cheese than recommended. But perhaps that all turned out to be great, because this pesto was incredible--salty and tangy from the cheese, rich from the olive oil, a bit sweet from the basil. Her recipe also calls for walnuts, which were a terrific way to deviate from the usual pesto I've tasted. Perfect!

I gave Terry a few choices as far as what to do with the pesto, and he said his mouth watered at the idea of pesto caprese sandwiches. Done! I refrigerated the pesto until dinnertime and then got started.

Pesto Caprese Grilled Sandwiches
Serves 4

  • 8 slices whole wheat bread (we used sourdough, of course)
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 4 slices
  • 1/4 cup (or less) fresh pesto
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Spinach leaves, to garnish
  • Fresh basil, to garnish
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium heat (alternatively, you can brush one side of each slice of bread and omit the olive oil from the pan). Place 4 slices of bread in the pan, then top with the mozzarella slices and the other 4 pieces of bread. Grill 3-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. You may need to add a bit more olive oil in the pan when flipping. 

To assemble the sandwiches, remove one slice of bread; spread the pesto on one piece of bread, then add the tomato, spinach leaves, and fresh basil. 


You'd better believe we made sure to save enough pesto to make these sandwiches again. We're so excited for dinner tomorrow night!

These sandwiches would also fantastic cold, though I would still grill the bread and then chill it. Perfect for a summer picnic! I love the crunch of the bread with the creamy mozzarella and sharp pesto. If you give these a try, I hope you love them!

Do you get distracted like I do? Stories welcome. :-) 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today's my dad's birthday! And it also happens to be the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. Coincidence? I think not!

As I did with my mom, brother, and husband, I'll tell you a little about my dad. I shared a bit about him for my Father's Day post, too. 

I've mentioned before that my dad was a police officer (and sergeant and lieutenant) and retired a few years ago. It's important because this guy knew he was supposed to be a police officer from the time he was just a kid (well, he also wanted to be a cowboy...or a horse...but we think he chose the right profession). He became a police explorer when he was only 14 and never looked back. It's very much a part of who he is. Even now, several years into retirement, my dad is still the cop he always was--honest, fair, personable, a role model for all. 

With two of his brothers, my Uncle Chris and Uncle Andy

My dad's job defined who he is, and it made a big impact on our family. Both of my parents were in law enforcement--Mom was a police dispatcher; that's how they met--so their schedules created a unique childhood for my brother and me. When Dad worked midnights, we tried to be quiet the next day so he could sleep. At dinner, my parents spoke about their days like all parents do--except they talked in police code. And sometimes Dad would get a call in the middle of dinner and have to leave without eating. But that was normal. And we thought it was pretty cool. 

Another example of Dad being cool

Aaaannnd another (these hiking poles were a gift from my brother and me, so we are especially proud)

More than anyone else, my dad has shaped who I've become. I have worked my whole life to be more like him--generous, compassionate, an incredible counselor and mentor, and friend to all. If I disappointed my dad, I was heartbroken; if I made him proud, I was overjoyed. 

Being the daughter of a cop comes with some funny stereotypes, particularly that my Pops might be a little overprotective. And yes, he is, but hey, what dad isn't? Still, Terry didn't have to work too hard to convince my dad he was perfect for me. Of course, I've found that my husband possesses many of the traits I so admire in my dad: honesty, compassion, doing the right thing, and appreciating the little things in life. 

I love my dad because he has an incredible sense of humor, a passion for helping others, and a kind heart. He loves people watching, comedy shows (we love watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? together), and animals (we call him the animal whisperer because he has a crazy gift with non-human creatures--he even rescued and raised two squirrels as a child). 

With our cat, Scout

We talk almost every day, and I would say we have become close friends in recent years. I turn to him for advice, and he shares lots of stories with me. I'm proud to be his daughter and grateful that I have such a fantastic father in my life.

A proud moment for us both

Thanks for letting me share this super mushy post about my Pops with you! 

Who is an important man in your life?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Half Marathon Q&A with Heidi

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to meet up with one of my very best friends for lunch to discuss her recent half marathon. I met Heidi at UCLA when she was on the cheer squad and I was on the dance team, and we ended up rooming together our senior year in college. Heidi is one of the most positive, friendly, encouraging people I know, and I am so thrilled to call her a close friend.

In May, Heidi ran her very first half marathon! She and I talked a little about her training during the process, but I was eager to hear her specific advice and suggestions for first-time racers. Since my first half is this September, I knew I would benefit from a little Q&A, and hopefully some readers considering (or already training for) a race will benefit, too. Heidi is also a physical therapist, so I was excited to hear her thoughts about what's best for a runner's body during training.


What made you decide to run a half marathon?
I have always loved running, though I was a sprinter in high school. My coworker and I decided to run a half marathon together (though I ended up running it with a different friend).

What was your training plan?
I followed Marathon Rookie, and I'm so glad I had a plan that someone else created. I really stuck to it! I ended up loving this plan. It topped out at 12 miles with tapering before the race. My goal was to stay at a comfortable pace and complete the half marathon, so I thought this plan was great.

How long was your training plan?
10 weeks

What was the hardest part of training?
It was hardest to find time to run, especially with my work schedule. Also, there was a two-week period where I hit a wall and felt I had no energy during my runs. At that point, I looked into energy supplements to help me out, and they were great! They really made a big difference, and I definitely recommend them to long distance runners. If you think you might want to use them on your race day, definitely try it out before! There are a lot of options out there. I really liked Gu Roctane and Gu Chomps.

Would you have trained differently in any way?
For this race, I felt my training plan was perfect, especially since my goal was to finish the race. But next time I would train for time and speed.

What training advice do you have for a first-time half marathoner?

  • Check into energy supplements to help you get through the long runs. 
  • Find a plan you can stick to.
  • Simulate everything for race day well in advance, such as food before you run and energy supplements and water (a belt or bottle). Decide if you'll be running with a friend or alone. 
  • Choose your goal for the race; are you aiming to finish? run for a time? run the whole way?

The week of the race, increase hydration and carbohydrates. I alternated sports drinks and water, which helped me store up electrolytes. Also, I would recommend testing out your pre-race meal (including the meal you'll eat the night before), so you don't worry about how it will affect you.

Race Day

What was the best part of the race?
The best part was finishing. It was also a beautiful route, and the weekend there was really fun. I loved running most of the race with my friend, too.

What was the hardest or worst part of the race?
The race was really hilly! I wasn't totally prepared for that. At the beginning of the 13th mile, there was a half-mile steep hill, and lots of people were walking. But I pushed through and ran to the finish!

What race day advice do you have for a first-time half marathoner?
Relax! Have fun and take it all in. Also, watch your pace for the first mile or so; it's easy to start out too fast and burn out early. If you have a device to track your pace, use it to help you.

Do you have any advice from a physical therapist's perspective to prevent injury?

  • Always start with a dynamic warm up (a toned-down version of what you are going to do), and don't stretch before running.
  • Stretch after you run.
  • Foam roll!
  • In a calf stretch, be sure to stretch your calf (on a step, for example) with a straight leg and a bent leg.
  • Strengthen your side and outer glutes--running requires these muscles but doesn't strengthen them, which can lead to injury.
What are your upcoming race/fitness plans?
I look forward to doing a (flatter( half marathon, but I'm not signed up for one yet. I would look to increase my speed for the next one. For now, I'm doing more cross training and strength.

Fun Facts about Heidi:
  • Favorite Food: Ice cream
  • Favorite Exercise: Running, but loves others
  • Favorite Sports Team: UCLA Bruins and OKC Thunder
  • Favorite Way to Relax: Spend time with family and friends and watch TV
  • Favorite Indulgence: Ice cream and The Bachelorette
  • Favorite Health Tip: If you notice a problem, seek help right away!

Special thanks to Heidi for being such a willing participant for my very first Q&A. I had fun interviewing her and hearing all her brilliant advice! 

After the race--I hope I look this amazing after finishing 13.1 miles!


And before I go, I must share this article I found today about traveling young. Terry and I have made it a priority in our lives to travel as much as possible, and we've heard our share of objections to this choice. But we're not the only ones who think traveling young is a great idea! Read Jeff Goins's article, "Why You Should Travel Young."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Half Marathon Update and WIAW

I mentioned yesterday that I would be grateful for a light day today, and I was absolutely right. I felt incredibly sore and was so excited that both boot camp and my half marathon training schedule allowed me to opt for incline walking instead of running or lifting.

I really used my time on the treadmill as an opportunity to stretch my legs and work up a sweat. It felt great to not worry about mileage, and I realized that part of me is excited to be done training for my half marathon so I can go back to my normal workout routine.

Speaking of which, I've had a few conversations lately regarding my "normal" routine. In Colorado a few months ago, another blogger asked if I'm a runner, and I laughed--definitely not! I feel pretty confident that I will be able to finish my half marathon, but running is certainly not my ideal workout. Actually, it's hard to pick a favorite; I love so many different types of exercise. I truly love yoga, jogging (but perhaps only once or twice per week, around a max of four miles), circuit training, water skiing, downhill skiing, strength training, incline walking, dance classes, hiking, and miscellaneous exercise videos at home. I also love any outdoor exercise, like canoeing/kayaking, bike riding, paddle boarding, swimming--I just tend not to do those ones as often.

My ideal fitness week would look something like this:
  • 2 days of circuit training (cardio + strength moves) with one HIIT routine
  • 1 day of running
  • 2 days of yoga with strength 
  • 1 day of outdoor activity (hiking, walking/jogging, etc.)

Meanwhile, I'm still training for the half marathon until Labor Day, and that requires lots of running. Our current plan, Hal Higdon's Novice 1 Program, has us running four days per week, and we've built up to about 20 miles or more per week. Here are my thoughts on the plan so far (I'll provide another review after the half marathon):

  • Steady increase in mileage (about one extra mile per week, with a few exceptions).
  • Inclusion of cross training and strength training days.
  • No speed training because it's a novice program.
  • As the mileage has increased, the time required to do it all increases, so I find it hard to maintain the strength/cross training parts of the plan. 
  • There is no "tapering" at the end (decrease in mileage right before the race), except the last few days before the race, and I'm worried about the lack of rest there.
  • The plan only goes up to 10 miles, and Hal suggests that the adrenaline on race day will carry us through those last three miles. Yikes! That's quite a gamble, so Terry and I have extended our training to incorporate one additional long run (11.5 miles or so).
And here's the REALLY exciting news: my friend Heidi ran her first half marathon in May and was willing to sit down with me for a Q & A about her training and experience. I thought it would be helpful for me to hear her tips, and I certainly wanted to share her wisdom on BLWB for your benefit! I'll have all her advice posted tomorrow, so get excited! Bonus: She's a physical therapist and threw in a few professional tips as well!

For now, let's get to today's eats!

Check out the other WIAWs!

8:45 am - Breakfast

Almond French toast with half of a banana

and some tea

12:30 pm - Lunch

I met up with my former coworkers at Simmzy's, a great little spot in Manhattan Beach. The location is actually known for its burgers and craft beers, but since I had a burger yesterday, I opted to skip the red meat today.
Prosecco while I waited
(unpictured: salad with walnuts, herbed goat cheese, dried cranberries, apples, and a vinaigrette, plus sweet potato fries we all shared)

7:15 pm - Dinner

Terry and I walked to Fresh Corn Grill. I enjoyed a grilled corn bowl with vegetables and an Asian BBQ sauce.

9:00 pm - Dessert

That's it for Wednesday. Hope you had a great day!

What's your go-to exercise or ideal fitness plan? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Back to Boot Camp

First of all, I loved your funny stories and helpful tips on the grocery shopping post yesterday. I guess we all go through the same issues, huh?

And based on today's title, I'll bet you can guess who's super sore today...ME! I'm officially done with Day 2 of Tina's Best Body Boot Camp, and, as expected, it kicked my booty! 

Yesterday was a killer upper body workout, and I skipped the cardio to stay on track with my half marathon training. It's going to be a challenge to combine my boot camp workouts with my running, but I think it will be great. A lot of the exercises are helpful because they work my outer hip muscles, which are great for runners. I tend to neglect these types of exercises because I spend so much time running--ah, the irony!

My numbers from yesterday's workout

Today, after a leg workout this morning, Terry and I combined two different kinds of cardio to finish our five mile run. We ran the first three miles at a slow, steady pace, chatting the whole time. For the fourth mile, we alternated 60 seconds sprinting and 60 seconds walking. Finally, for the last mile or so, we walked a little and jogged a little.

It was a tough two days, and I'm excited for a "light" day tomorrow!

As for meals recently, we've had some superb eats around here:

My very first roast chicken. I used Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken recipe, and the name did not lie! It was easy to make, delicious to eat, and perfect for some homemade chicken stock.

I served the chicken with some little salad bites (recipe from Lisa's blog, including the glazed pecans). This one took a little patience, but I loved that we could eat the "salad" with our hands and that we ended up eating TONS of greens while only munching a few of the nuts and only a little of the cheese. Very often, when I make salads, I load up on lots of the "accessories"--as Lisa calls them--and I throw in some spinach leaves at the end. But, as you can see in the photos, this time I stacked a whole bunch of leaves for each bite and only used one or two pecans, a tiny bit of goat cheese, and a slice of tomato. Perfect for an appetizer at a party, too! (Though you may want to roll them as Lisa shows in her post.)

Today I met up with Heidi for lunch--details to come later this week--and we tried a new restaurant, Smash Burger. You can order one of their specialty burgers, chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, or salads in all different sizes. I chose to build my own burger with mustard, ketchup, grilled onions, and sharp cheddar. As the name suggests, the burgers were, in fact, smashed. And delicious! I also ordered sweet potato fries, and Heidi got a Butterfinger milkshake (I tried some--yummy!). We both liked it, and they have several locations

Blurry due to excitement

Plans tomorrow include another boot camp workout, lunch with some former coworkers, and lots of reading. I'm currently in the middle of this month's selection for Julie's book club on PBFingers.

What's your take on salads: eat 'em for any meal, only in certain circumstances, or avoid them altogether?
I used to completely avoid salads, but now I check the menu to see if there are interesting flavor combos. I love Greek salads (okay, anything with feta), and usually a balsamic can make me seriously consider going green.

Monday, July 23, 2012

How I Do My Grocery Shopping

As I left Trader Joe's today, I was observing my silly routines that happen every time I go to the grocery store. Thought you might find them entertaining, plus I figured I could share some actual grocery shopping tips that have improved my supermarket habits.

First, my silly routines:

  • Forget to bring the bags to the car; have to go back to the house.
  • Forget to bring the bags to the store; have to go back to the car.
  • Test out at least two carts before selecting one that rolls smoothly (people stare. I don't care. I refuse to have a bad cart).
  • Write out a long, detailed list and ignore it almost entirely.
  • Get annoyed that the asparagus isn't skinny enough.
  • Do the awkward "forward-backward, no-you-go-first, okay-I'll-go-first" dance with other shoppers near the cheese section.
  • Take a peek at the samples to see if they look tasty.
  • Consider buying organic milk but go with the regular instead--and feel bad about it.
  • Walk around the beer section and try to guess what kind of beer Terry would want to try, get confused, and end up just buying Stella for myself. 
It happens.
  • Pick up one kind of chocolate bar while waiting in line.
  • Panic at the checkstand about whether I should help the checker with bagging or not. I don't want them to feel offended or think that I think I can do a better job; I just want to help. Then I usually end up helping but get flustered while trying to pay, show my ID, bag, and pack the cart. 
  • Do everything in my power to not bring my cart out to the car (at my Trader Joe's, you have to go upstairs to the parking lot, so bringing the cart means waiting for an elevator). This means I have to carry everything in my two hands, plus get my keys out and unlock the car.
  • Take a different route home nearly every time.
  • Similar to loading my car, I aim to bring the groceries into the apartment in only one trip, and I am pretty sure I look like a cartoon character trying to get all the doors unlocked without dropping anything.

Okay, on to the real stuff. Here's what I actually aim to do when shopping.

Plan a menu. How do I know what to buy if I don't know what I plan to make? I create a basic idea of what we're going to eat for the next three or four nights (a whole week if I'm feeling ambitious) and then make my list.

Shop on a full stomach. Even eating a small snack on the way to the store can prevent impulse buys. When I shop hungry, I buy anything that looks delicious. When I shop after a snack or meal, I'm more likely to stick to the essentials.

Write out a list. Ideally, I would remember to bring the list to the store. Stick to the list. I don't allow fancy displays, sales, or cravings tempt me!

Shop the perimeter. You've probably heard this one before, though I hadn't until Lisa told about it on her blog. If I stick to the outside walls of the store, I'll find produce, cheese, dairy, meat, and other essentials. The more processed foods are in the aisles, so I just stay away unless I know exactly what I need (for example, whole wheat pasta or a special treat of ice cream).

Give myself a time limit. For me, this trick works; I tell myself to be at the checkout stand within 15 minutes. It helps me focus and prevents me from wandering through the aisles, getting distracted by marketing or health claims.

If shopping on a budget, do your research. I have found that, for a lot of the products we buy, Trader Joe's is almost always the best bet. Their prices are fair, and their products are very good. But depending on where you are, you may be able to purchase the same (or better) products for the same (or better) price. Once I shop somewhere a few times, I get a sense of their prices and can determine whether it's worth it to go there again. Of course, shopping at farmers' markets and checking for sales is an awesome way to save!

What grocery shopping tips do you have? Share below!

A Wedding and a Stomachache

And I'm back! This weekend flew by, and so here's a super speedy recap:

I started the morning with a hip hop class with Jenn, and it was TOUGH! I danced for about ten years as a teenager but haven't found many opportunities to continue. But this class was challenging, fun, fast-paced, and high-energy. I was already a little sore from our In the Park Workout, and now I'm still sore from that class! Plus, I don't think I've ever sweat so much in an hour. Hopefully I'll get a chance to do it again.

After the class, I showered up and got a little housework done before heading out to Irvine for a wedding. I know Eileen from the teaching job I just left; she was my first friend at the job. Eileen taught in the classroom next door to mine, and she invited me to join her for lunch every week. We both lived far from the school, so we often went to dinner together when there were late night meetings on campus. She has been a wonderful friend and coworker, and it was so fun to be there as she met Sam (I remember her telling us about their first date!), got engaged, and planned the wedding.

The wedding ceremony was at Concordia University, a gorgeous campus in Orange County. I attended this part of the day alone, and it was great to catch up with some other former coworkers. I'm definitely going to miss working with them! The ceremony was stunning, very moving, and perfect for the two of them. Everyone agreed that the most touching part was when they thanked their parents for being so supportive of their relationship. Not a dry eye in the house!

Eileen's brother walked her down the aisle and was all smiles!

A gorgeous ceremony

After the ceremony, I scooted over to the local airport to pick up Terry, who was flying in from my brother's Vegas bachelor party. Since the ceremony was at 3 and the reception at 6, we worked it out so that I would pick up Terry in between and he could attend the second portion. It worked perfectly! In fact, we had about an hour to kill after I picked him up, so we stopped at Irvine Spectrum Center, a really nice shopping/dining center. We enjoyed some appetizers and drinks at the Yardhouse, Terry changed into his suit, and we headed over to The Hills Hotel for the reception.

The beautiful couple

Dress from Kohl's

The rest of the night was really lovely. We had a blast chatting with my old coworkers at the cocktail hour, celebrated and toasted the couple, ate, danced, and took photos at the photo booth.

Terry and I really love weddings, and we were shocked to realize that this wedding was the first we attended since our own, over a year ago. Everyone says your mid-twenties are crazy for weddings, but we haven't attended more than two per year. The next one is my brother's in two months!

Terry woke up early for his very first official lesson as a professional scuba diver. That's right, he's a pro now! He's qualified as a Dive Master, which means he can assist instructors, teach refresher courses (for folks who are certified divers but haven't gone in awhile), and lead certified divers as needed. He is working toward instructor status, where he would actually be qualified to certify people to dive.

While Terry was in the pool, I enjoyed a quiet Sunday filled with reading the paper and walking to our farmers' market. Once we were both home, we enjoyed a quick lunch and then, for some reason, suddenly felt inspired to clean our entire patio. We threw stuff away, swept, reorganized, and hopefully got rid of any spiders that may have been lurking out there. Some of you are aware that we had a black widow sighting this weekend, and I was determined to make sure that thing is outta here!

Almost immediately after our little cleaning party, I got a horrible stomachache. I've talked about my stress stomachaches in the past, but this one brought pain to a whole new level! It pretty much killed the rest of the afternoon, including my plans to go to church with Jenn (sorry, Jenn!). A heating pad, a nap, some Pepto, and lots of water later, I managed to get up and get ready for one more weekend gathering with a few friends from college I haven't seen in awhile. It was so great to catch up, and my stomach behaved nicely enough to let me enjoy some sushi. The evening was so nice!

So that's the weekend! I hope yours was fabulous!

What are your stomachache remedies?

What was the best wedding you've been to?