Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Shake Your Cocoa-nuts

Hey guys, how's it going?  Once again, it's been awhile since I've blogged, so I've got a few things to catch up on here.  First a delicious new discovery:

My mom picked up this huge container of cocoa-roasted almonds at Sam's Club this past week, and they're SO delicious.  Except...

...we realized there's sucralose in them, which is basically Splenda.  Boo.  I've really tried to eliminate fake sweeteners from my diet.  But that doesn't mean I haven't still enjoyed a small handful of these here and there.  

When I've got the time, I really enjoy putting some extra effort into brunch for myself on the weekend.  This past weekend was no exception.

Scrambled eggs with spinach and topped with Trader Joe's salsa, an amazing bowl of berries, and a frothy cup of coffee.  Perfection.  Do you like my Peter Rabbit bowl?  Haha.  

I've been able to start working out again since my feet have pretty much healed (thank goodness), so after a workout this past week I brought back the long-lost protein smoothie.

It had 1 cup skim milk, 1 T ground flax seed, 1 T natural peanut butter, 1 scoop vanilla Sun Warrior protein powder, organic spinach from the farmers' market, and 1 frozen banana.  Yum!

Along with my summer-y drink, I've been able to enjoy some summer-y activities lately, too.  I love having a break from school!

I went to a wine festival at a local winery with some friends last week, and it was so fun to spend time and catch up with them, and to taste some local wines.

And I got to go to a concert at my favorite concert venue!

Even though it wasn't a very sunny day, we spent some time boating this past weekend, too.

This is the crib, which is the main intake for the Cleveland water supply.  

Other than that, I've started on a little project.  Well, a not-so-little project, actually.  I'm going to paint my kitchen table and chairs black, but it's quite a long process!  I'm documenting it and will share the steps after I'm finished, assuming it all turns out okay.  Here's the before shot!

So that's what I've been up to.  What about you guys?

Oh, and I refuse to accept that I don't live in a tropical area - I'm trying to grow some avocado trees.  I actually grew an avocado tree for a few years but it recently withered away, so I'm determined to try again.

Song of the day:

"Free Energy" by Free Energy.  This is the band I saw last week - so much fun live!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Weekend of Celebrations

Hey y'all!  (I wish I could say y'all in real life.  It might be worth moving down South just so I could say y'all.)

I have a bunch of random things to throw together in this post.  First up:  my new favorite breakfast combo:

Scrambled eggs with salsa.  I microwaved a leftover soft taco shell for about 10 seconds, topped it with 2 scrambled eggs, and added some Trader Joe's salsa.  SO good!  With a juicy peach and a cappuccino on the side, this was an amazing brunch.

I put together that brunch after my visit to the farmers' market last weekend.  I love that they have live music there!  So fun.

This time I picked up a pound of organic spinach for myself.

This should last me through the week!

This weekend I got my craft on.  My grandma's birthday was on Saturday, so I made her a birthday card.

My mom's really good friend is an expert card maker - she creates the best designs and her cards always look fantastic.  I think it's so special to receive a handmade card from someone.  My mom's friend taught us the basics of card-making when I was younger, and we have a huge stash of card stock and matching envelopes, stamps, ink pads, confetti, etc., so I rifled through our supplies and put this card together.

I stamped some birthday candles on the inside, too, and glued a piece of birthday cake confetti to the envelope.  I love when I have some time to work on a little craft like this.  My sister got the real creative/ artistic genes, but I like to dabble once in awhile.

I gave my grandma a copy of The Pioneer Woman's book From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story, which I read a couple of months ago and absolutely loved.

Since Sunday was Father's Day, I also made a card for my dad.

I downloaded a free card design from this website and then used double-sided tape to attach it to some heavier card stock so that it would look a little nicer and more polished.  And then for one of my all-time favorite gifts:

I got my dad Snoop Dogg's voice for his GPS.  My dad loves Snoop Dogg, so when I heard that you could download his voice for a TomTom GPS, I knew I had to get it for my dad.  It's so hilarious!  I'm not sure I would actually be able to use it for directions because I'd be laughing too hard, but it's a lot of fun.

On Sunday night, we went out for a really nice family dinner at Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse to celebrate my grandma's birthday.  I ordered the chicken Milanese, which was described as crispy romano-crusted chicken in a white wine caper sauce.  My eyes bugged out of my head when they brought my plate and I saw that I had not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR chicken breasts.  Um, whoa.  So I ate one that night, and it was delicious.  I also had some amazing steamed asparagus, and very yummy bourbon maple whipped sweet potatoes with caramelized marshmallows on top.

And I had three chicken breasts to take home with me.  An unnecessarily large portion, but at least I have lots of leftovers for lunch this week!

Yesterday I made an epic salad.  I used some of the spinach I got from the farmers' market, and topped it with a chicken breast, asparagus, Trader Joe's marinated artichoke hearts, sliced almonds, and zesty Italian dressing.  So.  Unbelievably.  Good.

I will be having this again today... and tomorrow :)

One last thing before I go - yesterday I was outside and heard something which I thought was a little prop plane or something, but it kept getting louder and louder and then I saw the Goodyear blimp fly right overhead!

Things always look further away in photos, but this seemed super close in person.  I'm sure that whoever was inside could see me gaping and running around the yard to get pictures, haha.

Well, I think that's enough random updates for today.  See ya later!

Song of the day:

"Lovely and Blue" by Ryan Adams & the Cardinals.  There's something slightly dark and sinister about this song that I really like.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A New Kind of Massage

I love a good massage.  Who doesn't?  But yesterday I tried out a new kind of massage - a massaged kale salad!  I've had massaged kale from Whole Foods before, but this was my first time making it myself.

I mentioned before that I bought a bunch of kale at a local farmers' market last Saturday.

I finally washed the kale and removed the leaves from the stems on Wednesday night (the worst part!  I hate cleaning and tearing up lettuce, which is why I'm such a big fan of bagged spinach).  With that out of the way, I was ready to make up a salad for lunch.

I used this massaged kale salad by Kath as inspiration for my salad.

I put my clean, bite-sized pieces of kale into a container and added about 1/2 T lime juice, 1 T lemon juice, about 1/2 T olive oil, a few blobs of hummus (I just eyeballed it according to the amount of kale I used, and added enough to coat all of the leaves), then mixed it all up with my hands and massaged the kale leaves until they were evenly coated.

I also added some red bell pepper, lentils, Trader Joe's marinated artichoke hearts, and chopped walnuts.  This was SO good!  I actually tried a plain piece of kale when I was washing it, and it tasted exactly how I imagine a leaf would taste.  Blech.  But it's amazing how the acids from the citrus juices and hummus really tenderize the kale and change its taste, making it much milder and very tasty.  I've read that you should let a massaged kale salad rest for at least 15 minutes before eating it, but since I made my salad before work, mine sat for about 4+ hours before I ate it, which worked fine.

I enjoyed my salad with some fresh pineapple and a medjool date.  Yum!  This salad was very satisfying and filling. It seemed even more substantial than spinach or other salad greens.  And the added protein and healthy fats from the lentils, hummus, olive oil, and walnuts helped to keep me full for quite awhile.

In other (much less appetizing) news, my feet are getting better!  Wednesday was a turning point for me and I'm almost walking normally again, thank goodness.  I can't wait to get back into a workout routine!

Are you excited that it's Friday?  I am!  Bring on the weekend!

Song of the day:

"1st Things 1st" by Phantom Planet.  In honor of their reunion shows the past 2 nights (oh how I wish I could have been in LA for them!), here is one of my favorite songs by my all-time favorite band.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gimp Life

Bonjour mes amis.  How are you doing?

I spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon boating with my family, but it ended in injury.

Injury of the lamest variety.  I forgot my shoes on the boat when we were taking it out of the water, but I figured I would just hop in the car when my dad stopped at the top of the ramp before driving to a spot in the parking lot to clean up the boat.  Except... my dad didn't stop at the top of the ramp.

So I thought, no big deal, I'll just walk barefoot to the car.  I was mostly grossed out because it was not a very clean parking lot, to say the least, so I tried to hurry to avoid the grime and the hot blacktop.  This turned out to be a terrible decision, though, because I ended up burning my feet.  I developed 2 HUGE blisters on the balls of both of my feet  Seriously, grossly, shockingly huge.  I've had trouble getting around since Sunday and have had to hobble on the sides of my feet.  I can't even drive.  And I may have crawled up the stairs a few times... and scooted down them :)  Yep, pretty pathetic, right?

It doesn't hurt, it's just really annoying.  I don't like not being able to move around as much as I want!  I've never been laid up with an injury before (knock on wood), and as minor as this is, I'm anxious for the blisters to go down so I can walk normally again.  And Gina at the Fitnessista started her Summer Shape Up on Monday and I haven't been able to participate :(  As soon as I can get moving again I'm going to join, though!

Adding insult to injury, today I received a couple of new workout DVDs that I bought from Groupon, and I really want to try them out!


The Fitnessista is a big fan of Shaun T, so I jumped at the chance to try some of his workouts (and couldn't pass up a good deal, per usual).  Has anyone else tried these DVDs, or any other Shaun T workouts?  (I still need to do a final review of the Physique 57 DVDs, too - soon, I promise!)

So that's pretty much what I've been doing.  Sitting around.  And sitting some more.  I did make myself a delicious smoothie after work today.  I named it the choco-nana-nut.  Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?  :)

It had 1 cup almond milk, 1 T natural peanut butter (Trader Joe's brand - very smooth and delicious!), 1 large frozen banana, and 2 T Ovaltine.  I just happened to see a huge tub of Ovaltine in the kitchen cupboard and it made me nostalgic for my youth - I used to have a big glass of Ovaltine after school almost every day - so I decided to throw some in for old time's sake.  You could also use cocoa powder or carob powder instead.

I went to the farmers' market over the weekend (finally) and got a nice big bunch of kale.  I'm planning to make a massaged kale salad, and maybe try sautéing some of it?  We shall see.

PS If you are like me and enjoy seeing weird skin things (but not blood! eek!), scroll down past the song of the day for some lovely pictures of my blisters.  But please stop reading now if you wish to save your eyeballs from the horror.

Song of the day:

"Hold On" by Alabama Shakes.  I'm obsessed with this song right now - there's something so primal about it.  In a good way.  I had no idea the lead singer was a woman until I looked up this music video.  I bet this band would put on an awesome show!

Okay seriously, stop reading if you don't want to see gross pictures.


Okay, ready?

Left foot.

Right foot.

Right foot again.

So there you have it.  Don't walk on blacktop in your bare feet.  You've been warned.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Getting Back in the Kitchen

I finally spent some quality time in the kitchen making delicious food - it had been too long since I had done much more than put together bowls of yogurt and salads.

First up:  guacamole!

I had a perfectly ripe avocado, to which I added some chopped red bell pepper, a diced onion, about a tablespoon of lime juice, a sprinkle of cayenne, and a dash of salt.  So good!

I snacked on the guacamole as I made my main course - pizza!  I followed this recipe, using 2 cups white whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup regular all-purpose flour, sans rosemary.

I topped it with some homemade pesto.  When I make pesto for myself, I just eyeball the ingredients depending on how much basil I have on hand.  I added basil, skim milk, olive oil, parmesan cheese, walnuts, salt, and pepper to a food processor and voila, pesto!  I had a pineapple begging to be cut up and enjoyed, so I decided to put some fresh pineapple on my pizza.

I was excited to use my mom's pizza stone this time, and it definitely made the bottom of the crust turn out softer and tastier.  I baked this at 500* for about 12 - 14 minutes.

After dinner, I had one thing in mind:  Mama Pea's hot apple pie smoothie!

I used an apple (which I didn't peel, even though I used a normal blender and not a high-speed one, and it turned out fine - I can't stand wasting that super nutritious apple peel!), cottage cheese, skim milk, almond butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey (I didn't have maple syrup or stevia), salt, and 10 ice cubes.  I left out the protein powder since this was an after-dinner treat, but I would have added it if I were eating this after a workout or as a meal.

This morning I kept the momentum going and prepared a delicious brunch:

I had a fried egg sandwich, fresh fruit, and a cappuccino.  SO good.  For the egg sandwich, I toasted whole wheat sandwich thins, spread some leftover guacamole on one half, and added a fried egg (cooked in a bit of olive oil).

I had some more fresh pineapple, along with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.  Summer fruit is the best!!

I also made myself a cappuccino by heating up 6 oz. of skim milk in the microwave, using my little frother to whip it up, and then adding it to 2 shots of espresso which I used my dad's coffee machine to make.

It definitely felt nice to get back in the kitchen and spend some time preparing good food.  Hope your weekend is off to a great start!

Song of the day:

"Shadow Days" by John Mayer, off his new album Born and Raised.  I heard a radio interview with John Mayer recently, and I didn't realize that he had been off the scene for about 2 years.  Apparently he gave a couple of scandalous interviews and received a lot of criticism, so he had been lying low.  I did hear a radio DJ (on a college station) pronounce his name as John My-er instead of May-er recently, so maybe he totally fell off of some people's radars, haha.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Salads Galore

I'll be the first one to admit that I really like routines.  It's pretty easy for me to get set on something and stick with it.  That is definitely the case with a lot of my meals lately, but I'm okay with that.  For the most part, I've been having yogurt + fresh fruit for breakfast and big salads for lunch.

I've stuck with Angela's salad-a-day challenge so far... but I haven't been as good with Amanda Russell's 4-minute morning workout routine.  I did it for 4 days, but didn't do it yesterday or today :/  Gotta get back on that!  I've found that knowing I have to do push-ups immediately doesn't make me want to hop right out of bed and get the day started, so I linger and push snooze, and then run out of time before I have to start getting dressed and ready for the day.  But I did feel awesome on the days when I did it, so I've got to focus on that feeling instead of the imminent push-ups!

Anywho, back to my meals.  Let's start with my lunches.  Sunday I took a break from helping my Dad wash 4 cars (inside and out - mine was one of them, yay for clean cars!) to re-fuel.  I had a salad with spinach, sugar snap peas, carrots, lentils, white bean and basil hummus, balsamic vinegar, and walnuts.

With an apple + almond butter on the side, and a medjool date for dessert.  My dad was really excited when he saw my medjool date and asked where I'd been hiding them (in the fridge!).  Then he said my mom never buys food he likes (not true, haha) so next time we were at the store she picked up a container for him to have all to himself... which is almost gone :)

One night my mom was making white rice as a side for our dinner, and I decided I wanted something a little more nutritious to go with my meal, so I made some sweet potato fries for myself.  My mom had one and said she thought they were better than some she had a restaurant recently - yay!

I made them again the next night and my dad said he'd like some, too, so I made enough for everyone to share.  I think I baked them a little too long the second time I made them, but it's still fun to share some healthier alternatives with my family.

Packed lunches up next.  Monday I had a salad with spinach, grape tomatoes, orange bell pepper, carrots, sugar snap peas, walnuts, lentils, white bean and basil hummus, and red wine vinegar (I meant to grab balsamic but accidentally took red wine vinegar with me instead - it was still tasty, though).

Apple on the side and a medjool date to satisfy my ever-present sweet tooth.

I had a pretty similar lunch on Tuesday - the same salad as the day before, but with balsamic vinegar this time, plus some marinated artichoke hearts from Trader Joe's - SO good!

Apple + almond butter on the side, and another medjool date.  All crammed in to that Lululemon bag (along with a travel mug for my morning coffee plus a water bottle - I don't exactly travel light.  Ever).

Yesterday I was out of spinach, so I stopped by Earth Fare (a local health food store) to put together a salad for myself.  That baby had mixed greens, spinach, shredded carrots, sliced kalamata olives, red/ green/ yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, black-eyed peas (must remember to pick some up to add to my homemade salads!), chickpea salad, artichoke hearts, olive oil, Italian white wine vinegar, and sunflower seeds.

And the stars of the show:  3 stuffed grape leaves.  So unbelievably delicious.  I'm pretty sure I could eat these every day and not get sick of them.

While I was at the store, I picked up this new-to-me bar which was on sale.  It was pretty good, but I still prefer Larabars and their extremely short ingredient list.

I only remembered to take a picture after I had already torn into it - oops!
I also picked up lots of fresh fruit yesterday and had a very summer-y breakfast this morning:  a bowl of plain yogurt with a sliced banana, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries.  So delicious and decadent, and filled with antioxidants.

And for lunch I packed a salad with mixed spinach greens, grape tomatoes, orange bell pepper, artichoke hearts, and a last-minute addition of grapes.  I topped it with hummus and lentils (and brought a bottle of balsamic to work with me to add right before eating), but I took the picture before adding the last couple of things to showcase all of the colorful ingredients!  I don't usually add fruit to my salads, but I figured I could use a little variety so I took a chance with those grapes.  I love sweet + savory, so this was right up my alley.

Nature shot of the day:

I found some forget-me-nots growing in the woods so I picked a few to make myself a little bouquet.  I photographed them downstairs, but in reality they're sitting on my very messy childhood dresser, haha.

PS That trophy is for a contest my friends and I entered and DIDN'T win, haha.  So proud.
Hope you're having a great week so far.  Until next time!

Song of the day:

"Ho Hey" by The Lumineers.  Obsessed with this song lately.  It's so sweet and fun to sing along with (fun for me, not for anyone else who might happen to hear me, haha).