Monday, December 31, 2012

Upper or Lower: Your Choice

If you're looking for a final workout for 2012, choose one of the following. Tack on 20 minutes of steady state cardio to make for a complete workout!

Some exercise links:

Reverse Dumbbell Curl

Cable Pull Down

Bent Over Row

Stability Ball Hip Abductions

Stability Ball Inner Thigh Squeeze

Enjoy the last day of the year!!!

Any big plans to ring in 2013?
Last year at midnight, I was seriously sick with food poisoning. So anything other than that will be a huge improvement!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Post-Christmas Adventures

What a week it's been so far! I hope the holiday brought you and your loved ones tons of joy, and I hope you found time to relax and enjoy the last few days. I didn't mean to take such an extended break from blogging, but I guess my family visit got a little busy!

To recap:

Christmas Eve was super quiet: my brother and his wife left fairly early, Terry and I tackled a three-mile run (well, we walked the crazy hills that my mom kindly suggested we try), my parents' friends (the same ones who were part of the tree saga) came over for a bit, and finally we enjoyed a quiet dinner just the four of us.

Christmas morning, like the last three Christmas mornings over the last few years, was a bit different from the tradition I knew growing up. In 2009, Terry and I spent our first Christmas together at my parents' house, so we had an addition to our little group of four. In 2010, we stayed in LA for Christmas morning to celebrate with Terry's family--my first Christmas away from home. And last year, Christmas morning was a walk down Champs Elysees in Paris. This year, my brother and Ashley stayed up at their house, and Terry and I spent the morning with my parents. It was quiet but still filled with joy and love.

And homemade eggnog, specially made for Terry, because it's part of his family tradition.

Oh, and these awesome socks.

I've been reflecting a lot lately on how traditions change. I certainly miss my childhood Christmases, but I wouldn't trade my current situation for anything. I cherish those memories--scavenger hunts to find our final gift each year, cookies and milk for Santa, opening stockings on my parents' bed--but these changes also signal new traditions that will continue to evolve. Hopefully soon enough there will be a new generation, and we can create new memories with our own kids.

I assume all this insight about the past is getting to me because I'm reading 11.22.63, a book about time travel. It's fun to dream about, but I don't really want to live in the past, because I've got myself some pretty great stuff here in the present.

Okay, speaking of presents, I was very blessed this year. Some highlights:

Les Miserables audiobook; our first Dicken's Village piece (London Gin Distillery); an ice cream maker (!!!); hot cocoa and chocolate covered marshmallows; a donut maker, new iron, and 8" chef's knife; silly Superman socks for Terry; comfy slippers; "Exercise Girl" gift bag

And for Scout:

A new scratching post! Does it get more exciting than that?

We received so many thoughtful and generous gifts this year, and we had a lot of fun finding gifts for others, too. We'll be celebrating with Terry's parents and brother this weekend, so I look forward to seeing them open presents as well!

Christmas day ended with dinner at my parents' house with two of their close friends. We had a blast chatting all night and eating a phenomenal lamb dish prepared by my dad.

The day after Christmas, another mellow day, Terry and I ventured out to Target and Kohl's to shop the after-Christmas sales (nothing too exciting, but we each bought a winter coat and found some ornaments for next year). That evening we stopped at my aunt and uncle's house to visit with them and my cousins before heading to my brother's for one more family dinner. One of the best parts of Christmas, a tradition that I hope will continue no matter where we are each year: checking out Christmas lights!

Yes, that is really a leg lamp from A Christmas Story. Amazing lights, huh?

And today, I hit the gym with my mom before Terry and I packed up and headed back to LA. It's been a long day, and this post is more than enough detail, don't you think? But I leave you with some extra photos.

Happiness is when your wife hands you the bowl--to "clean"

 Do you see the grin on my father's face as he prepares to clean out the gutter in pouring rain?

 Cinnamon rolls? Why not?

I spy a kitten...terrorizing the little villagers...

What's your best memory so far this holiday season?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Family Fun

Terry and I arrived in the Bay Area on Saturday afternoon and have spent the last few days soaking up time with friends, family, and pets. 

Before we left, we busted out a quick 25 minutes on the treadmill (a steady run, nothing fancy) and a triceps and chest strength workout.

On Saturday night, we hopped down to San Jose to visit our friends Winnie and Brian, Winnie's parents, and Winnie and Brian's new puppy Rosko. We enjoyed a fantastic taco dinner and loved getting to catch up with some of our closest friends. I just always wish the visits could be longer. (Sadly, no pictures, but we had a great time!)

The rest of the weekend has been relaxing, fun, and filled with good food. 

Mom and me, Ashley and Achilles, Chris and his 49ers, Pops, and me with my boeuf bourguignon

Tons and tons of rain, "Naughty" and "Nice" handkerchiefs for Achilles and Tango, family game (Life - I lost big time)

Last night we spent the evening at home with my parents, Chris and Ashley, and Ashley's parents. The Niners lost, but we enjoyed some boeuf bourguignon and some yummy side dishes.

Chris and Ashley spent the night, and this morning we had a pre-Christmas celebration and opened presents with them before Mom's traditional breakfast casserole.

Today we're watchng Ted, having some friends over to celebrate in the afternoon, and figuring out what to make for dinner tonight.

Merry Christmas to you and yours! I hope it's a wonderful celebration!

What gift are you most excited to give this year?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ready to Start

The first four months of school at my new job were a fun, wild ride. I absolutely love my new coworkers; my students make me laugh most days; I feel challenged and inspired all the time.

(How sweet is this? High schoolers--or their parents--getting gifts for their teachers??? Thank you to my awesome students!)

But I'm not going to lie and say I'm not thrilled to have two weeks off. Because I am definitely thrilled.

I have to throw in a little brag here: I actually woke up early and got my workout done!!! A lovely lower body Tabata workout from Tina's Best Body Boot Camp. I felt fantastic!

After work today I dropped off a meal for a friend who recently had a baby, battled traffic, and came home to my husband, who already had his first day off today. We spent the evening watching Harry Potter, eating more delicious veggie burritos (what made them SO good? I don't know, but I don't really care--they rocked my world), wrapping a few more gifts, and baking cookies.

I've been wanting to bake several cookie recipes, but I only got around to healthy oatmeal cookies (the other day) and these chocolate-white chocolate bites of deliciousness. I searched "white chocolate cookies" on Google, and Ina came to my rescue as always. I love the Barefoot Contessa. These cookies were AMAZING! I added Christmas M&Ms to about half the cookies.

I can't wait to share these with my family over the weekend. I hope they'll be a hit.

Also happening this weekend?

My parents are hilarious. I asked Mom if I can make Julia's boeuf bourguignon for Chistmas Eve. Since my brother and sister-in-law will only be around on the 23rd, we decided to do my dinner that night, and my parents made this adorable Evite. Aren't they cute? I can't wait!

As you can see, I'm ready to start relaxing, enjoying my break, spending time with my husband and family, truly relishing the Christmas spirit. I also started something else very important today:

The first of my #26ActsofKindness: I bought a $5 gift card at Trader Joe's and handed it to the person behind me in line, along with the note above. The shopper seemed quite grateful, but I didn't realize how nervous I was about giving her the card! I guess I thought she would resist it, but she was definitely thankful and not resistant at all. I can't wait to do more random acts!

Off to get some sleep--we have lots of packing to do before we leave tomorrow.

And Scout's coming with us! :-) He loves my parents' house. He stayed with them for three weeks during our wedding and honeymoon and got suuuuuper comfy. He especially loves running up and down their hallway--much better than our cramped apartment!

I leave you with a quote from Miracle on 34th Street: "Christmas isn't just a day; it's a frame of mind!"

What are you eating/making/baking/serving this weekend and next week? Any suggestions for us?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best Burrito Ever

Things are finally feeling fairly normal around here--you know, right before I get off work for two weeks and "normal" goes out the window. Oh, well.

After work today, Terry and I suddenly felt a burst of productivity and ran with it. We took care of some cat chores, vacuumed the entire apartment, took out trash, and tidied up the bedroom. Hey, when the cleaning mood strikes, we run with it.

Chores out of the way, I scooted off to the gym. In an effort to get back into my normal workout routine finally (I had been doing weights OR cardio for about a week), I finally tackled cardio and strength in one day. First I hit the treadmill for a quick 25-minute HIIT workout: 5 minute warm up, then 60 seconds at 6 mph and 60 seconds at 8 mph, then 5 minute cool down. Back in the cozy apartment, Terry joined me for 20 minutes of Jillian Michaels' Yoga Meltdown Level 1 on YouTube. Real men do yoga. (Is there already a meme or e-card that says that? There should be.)

Dinner tonight was--in a word--phenomenal. I don't know exactly what made these veggie burritos so awesome, but they were SO delicious!

Terrible photo. Sorry.

To make these burritos, I sauteed one sliced onion, two bell peppers (red and orange), and three medium zucchini in a bit of olive oil. Once it all softened just a bit, I added my rinsed black beans to the pan. To serve, I steamed the whole wheat tortillas (just lay them on top of all the veggies, then cover with the lid for about 30 seconds), served up the veggies and beans, and added avocado, sour cream, and shredded pepperjack cheese. So simple, but I think it was the best burrito I've ever had.

Terry's coworker also baked a bunch of cookies and sent some home with everyone, and we enjoyed some for dessert. She's a fantastic baker, and I always love trying her newest creations. Tonight my favorite was a chocolate-popcorn-peppermint cookie (!). Sweet and salty for the win!

No, we didn't eat all of those...we left one.

Tomorrow marks the last day of school before break, and I think we're all ready for some time off to recharge. Terry and I have a busy evening tomorrow, but we're excited to officially start celebrating Christmas! For now, it's off to bed to gear up for tabata, teenagers, and whatever else tomorrow holds in store.

What's your work schedule like over the next two weeks? Do you travel or stay put?

P.S. Congrats to Courtney on her big news!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

26 Acts of Kindness

When I read Gina's post this morning, I was so comforted to learn that people across the country are taking action to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

NBC's Ann Curry started a popular trend of committing to do 26 acts of kindness, one for each of the victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Reading through what people have done is so beautiful, so inspiring. There are so many good people, and I think I needed a reminder.

For my part, I'm committing to 26 random acts of kindness. Terry is doing 26 acts as well. We had fun brainstorming a little bit tonight, and I'm sure some ideas will come along over the next few days. Off the top of my head, from what I've seen:

  • Pay for the person behind you at a toll or at Starbucks.
  • Donate toys to a local toy drive.
  • Bring cookies to your local fire station or police department.
  • Send a note or small gift to school for your child's teacher.
  • Volunteer your time with a local organization.
It doesn't have to be big (one person left a quarter in the gumball machine, ready for the next person who approaches), and it doesn't have to be money-related. You can include information about 26 Acts of Kindness with the person/people you are helping, and you can also provide the name of one of the victims in their honor. (You can see examples here.)

You can check out BuzzFeed's post to see what people have done so far, and you can also like the Facebook page for more updates. Twitter hashtag #26Acts or #26actsofkindness.

I haven't decided all of my acts yet, but I'll be sure to share. Meanwhile, if you hear of any similar movements to honor the victims, please share!

[Worst transition ever]

Since it's WIAW, here are some eats for today:

(Check out the other WIAWs!)

6:30 am - Breakfast 
An egg over medium with a piece of toast (not pictured), plus tea

11:00 am - Snack

1:00 pm - Lunch
About 3/4 cup of tuna with crackers (Trader Joe's Triscuits) and Havarti cheese

3:30 pm - Snack
At a grading "party" with some fellow teachers, I enjoyed some prosecco, meatballs (made out of wild boar! my first time having it!), and some brie

7:00 pm - Dinner
Leftover tomato bisque and some sourdough bread

8:00 pm - Baking snack
Made these healthy oatmeal cookies and snacked on dough :-)

The rest of the evening involved some gift wrapping! Scout tried to attack all the ribbon and pounced on the scissors more than once, but once he nestled into the tissue paper/bow box we all had a good time.

Any suggestions for my random acts of kindness?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Hodgepodge

Hello again friends! A lot of bloggers chose to go dark yesterday as a small gesture toward Friday's tragedy, and I followed suit. And as we all move forward, I'm still trying to find ways to understand, cope, help in some way. I can only say thank you to the teachers and staff who protected their students and were willing to risk or give their lives in an effort to save the kids. Their courage astounds me, and I certainly learned a lesson in love and sacrifice.

On a lighter note, this week is the last week of school before Winter Break. Though I think some of my students are convinced that break started this week, based on how rowdy some of my classes were today. Gotta love 'em, right?

And on a health-related note, I don't know about you, but I've been really struggling lately. I suppose it's that I'm still getting back on track after being sick, but I'm suddenly remembering how easy it is to fall out of healthy routines. We're back on track as far as meals, cooking at home, getting in all our fruits and vegetables. But as for working out--it's ridiculous! Somehow I keep adding more and more afternoon errands to my schedule, and it results in exercising late. Well, guess what happens when my workout bumps up to dinner? You guessed it! I cut it short or skip it altogether.

And then I'm grumpy, irritated, and bummed.

Like Scout when we take pictures of him. 

So today, when afternoon errands and dinner prep made me miss my afternoon workout window, I didn't let the busyness win. After letting my food digest a bit, I laced up my sneakers and hit the gym living room for a pretty solid workout. And that is the kind of habit I can feel good about, unlike the last few weeks. Yes, it was necessary to recover from being sick, but I have felt fine for several days now. No more excuses.

Before that workout, I whipped up a new-to-me recipe: tomato bisque! I've never made any kind of bisque before, but I love Lisa's recipes, and soup sounded really nice on this cold night. I followed her recipe exactly (it was SO easy!), except I doubled the recipe and cut the butter in half. I made plenty for leftovers, and I already can't wait to eat it again!

And finally, I'd like to share a bit about an awesome community/opportunity for any fellow healthy living bloggers out there. I know I've "met" several friends ("blends") through blogging, and I can't tell you how supportive and fun this community is. But if you're getting started, wanting to grow your blog, or even just looking for new blogs to read, I can't recommend enough! The women who run this site are truly fantastic; they connect bloggers, give tons of shout outs, and provide awesome insight about blogging/healthy living.

If you're a healthy living blogger, visit the members page to join the community! Let me know if you have any questions, but you won't regret it.

This post ended up being a total hodgepodge of random topics. But I think it accurately reflects my brain at the moment, so I'm going with it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Tree Story

I'm currently taking a break from grading to catch up a little bit on the last few days. Some highlights:

Terry and I are both finally recovering from being sick. It took a solid 10 days to finally feel normal again, including two days off from work, tons of naps, and no exercise (and a partridge in a pear tree).

On Friday I tackled my first "real" workout since I came down with that horrible cold. I survived, and it felt fantastic to be moving again, but Tina's lower body tabata series was NO JOKE. Two days later I'm hobbling around and trying to find ways to loosen up my muscles. Yowza.

And on that note, if you're interested in participating in Best Body Boot Camp Round 4, registration is NOW OPEN, and boot camp starts January 7! Get excited--and get ready to be sore!

Yesterday Terry and I visited The Grove, a lovely shopping center in LA that gets all decked out for the holidays. I mentioned to Terry that I wanted to go this year, and he made it happen! What a guy. :-) We walked around, did a little shopping, ate lunch at Marmalade Cafe, checked out the famous farmer's market, and took pictures of the decorations. It's so fun to see all the shoppers in the Christmas spirit!

This weekend we also had the chance to celebrate an early Christmas--twice! First we went to a party with Terry's scuba buddies. And today we enjoyed lunch and exchanged gifts with some of Terry's family. We're only a little more than a week from Christmas--can you believe it?

But before all that, we still have one more week of work. I'm trying to stay focused, enjoy my students, and get as much grading done as possible before break. That also includes healthy meals, workouts, and setting aside time for my work.


The rest of this post is dedicated to my big brother, who has been insisting that I share the "tree story" with all of you. So here you go, Chris!

When I was in high school, my parents started taking us to the mountains to cut down our Christmas tree, just like we did last year. Somehow, we would come home with larger and larger trees each year - 10 feet, 12 feet, 14 feet. I think one year we brought home a 17-footer, but that may be a legend.

The thing is, do you think 14-foot trees fit into normal-sized doors? Spoiler alert: They do not. So my parents' poor friends had to come over every time to help us shove the thing through the front door.

And do you think trees that tall like to stand up on the first try and then stay standing? Nope. No, indeed. They like to fall down.

(That's my dad.)

They like to be held up by multiple people,

and when those people let go the tree likes to fall again. And then, when you finally have it balanced, when you've purchased a new stand so it will fit, when you've used a cable to secure the thing to the wall, when you have it all decorated...

It likes to fall again.

So this year was different. The aforementioned friends of my parents who have to suffer through this ordeal each year had had enough. So they restricted my mom to a 10-foot tree. (Most would still consider a 10-foot tree to be rather large.) And Mom reluctantly agreed.

(That's Dan. Hi, Dan!)

Success! Mom actually found "THE TREE," but it was 14 feet--out of her height range. So my brother and his wife took that one for their house, and Mom and Dad got this 10-foot beauty. The tree was gorgeous, everyone was happy. Mom decorated it beautifully. The end, right? Ah...if only. But no...

The damn tree fell again. I wasn't there, but I hear it was tragic. I've been there before when the decorated tree has fallen--once it fell on top of my poor mom--and it isn't pretty. (I did not stop for a photo before helping, which, in retrospect, I think was the right choice.)

They fixed it all up again, and now it hasn't fallen in awhile. Let's hope it stays that way. 

What can you learn from this story? A) Keep your friends they can help you set up your Christmas tree. B) If at first the tree falls down, try, try again. C) The bigger the tree, the bigger the mess--WHEN it falls. (And it will fall.)

Meanwhile, the trees for this year...

(Left to right: My parents' tree (10 feet), my brother and Ashley's tree--with Achilles in front (14 feet), and our tree (6 feet).)

Wishing you a merry and fall-free Christmas!

What holiday traditions have gone awry in your family? Any hilarious stories to share?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Just in case...

In case you haven't heard about the horrible tragedy...

In case you need your faith in humanity restored...

In case you need a laugh...

In case you just want to look at adorable animal pictures...

I hope one of these links will provide clarity, comfort, relief, or a distraction. Meanwhile, I'm praying for peace for the families, and I wish the same to you.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

BLWB Gift Guide

I really love shopping for others and trying to find that perfect gift. I compiled a little list that could include something for someone on your list, or could at least inspire you to think of the perfect gift.

Gifts for Healthy Living, Food, and Fitness Lovers

Gaiam Everything Fits Gym Bag

Thorlo Experia Running Socks
My friends Heidi and Ed bought me two pairs of these amazing running socks for my birthday this year, and they are perfect for long distance running. They keep my feet comfortable, dry, and blister-free. I even wore them when I ran my half marathon - a great decision!

UnderArmour Fleece Storm Full Zip Hoody
I already gave you my review, but I friggin' LOVE this jacket.

You see these in almost any picture of me working out. I LOVE the sparkle headbands, and I love that they stay on and don't move throughout my entire workout. 

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
My friend Jenn sent me this article about the author of Smitten Kitchen, who wrote what looks like an awesome cookbook! I browsed through her recipes on her blog, and if the book is similar, this book would be awesome!

Tin Roof Cutting Boards (a splurge gift for a special chef)

These unique designs and combinations of wood are gorgeous! A perfect addition to any kitchen.

Gifts for Almost Anyone

You can read here why I love our Nook, even though I love traditional books.

Puffer Vest

I'm not sure why, but I think these vests are SO cute!

I want to wear these all day.

Travel Kit (for that hard-to-shop-for guy in your life)

Harry & David Gift Boxes (for someone special who lives far away)

May it be a very happy holiday season of gift giving! 

What's on your shopping list this year? Suggestions?