Thursday, June 30, 2011

Running Buddies

So last week I let you guys in on my running adventure I recently embarked on.

This week, this is what I'm workin' on.

Movin' up in the world. 

I'm still really enjoying this program, and after this week I'll already be a third of the way through the program! I'm finding it challenging and I definitely work up a serious nastiness sweat during the run because I'm taking it fast (the "jog" is more like a "run" for me.) But, it isn't SO excruciating that I dread tying up my running shoes. 

As endorphine-high as I am after a run, there are a couple of gadgety toys that have become staples during my regular runs. Thought I would share these guys, because I wouldn't look forward to my workouts nearly as much without these buddies. 

First, my new BFF:

Meet my gymboss, in his sassy green glory.

As a lady with a shortish attention span, I really enjoy my speed walk/run intervals. My gymboss gadget is awesome for this. I can set up my intervals and set this guy to vibrate, hook him to my bra strap, and it'll buzz me when it's time to move on to the next interval. No timing myself. And only $20 on the interwebz. Magic! 

Up next: 

Girl Talk. Creepy photo, but trust this lurker. He is a music mashup god man.

Most of you have probably heard Girl Talk, but I seriously run strictly with Girl Talk. Not even Today's Hip Hop on Pandora can compete, because with GT, there's no chance that Usher will decide to bring it down with a slow jam. 

And finally, a place to keep my toys ...

Sexiness, I know.

So, what are your can't-live-without workout tools?? Let's hear 'em. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weds-Day: Tangerine & Celery

Since our wedding is still 11 months away (!!!), I don't have a crystal clear picture of what the big shindig will look like. But, I have an over-arching atmospherical snapshot in my mind.... and I think that starts with ...

Our colors! So I thought I would share a little bit of inspiration that will likely sculpt the color-punch party we hope to have next June.

When John & I were first betrothed, I acquired this excellent book from a dear pal of mine as a gift. In it, there are many, many color scheme options, but this was one of the pages that spoke to me:

And then it dawned on me - I have been partial to these summery happy hues for quite some time!

I wake up to this bright situation every morning:

My junior prom dress was lime-ish, and my senior prom dress was tangerine-y. A match made in heaven? I think yes!

Yes, you might know these colors as GREEN and ORANGE as many a friend and loved one have so poignantly pointed out to me, but tangerine and celery make me feel fancy. So we're goin' with it.

A splash of tangerine

A touch of celery

Put them together & you get ... tangerine & celery!

Citrusy summertime fun.


Pray tell, what are your dream wedding colors? Whatcha think's best for a June festive wedding?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Food hangovers & pushing "reset"

So I know I am really chatting y'all up about my Cinch! experience. I feel I've got to post one more review, and then I promise to get some new material. And no, author Cynthia Sass is not paying me to yammer on about her book of awesomeness. It's just that, simply put, her plan has helped me transform healthy eating from an interest to a hobby, and a priority.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was a little frivolous this weekend with my cocktails and sunshine frolicking. I think it's safe to assume we're all familiar with the post-weekend food & beverage hangover - the bloating, the guilt, the off-track sentiment. Don't know about yous guys, but I often wish there was an "erase" button.

It's tempting to starve ourselves after a heavy weekend, but extreme measures won't help you loosen your belt and will instead likely encourage you to tear our your hair and continue the roller coaster cycle.

Before panicking after falling off the healthy eating wagon, it's imperative that we STOP and put it all in perspective. You have to consume 3,500 extra calories to gain ONE pound. Even if you challenged yourself to dominate the entire McDonald's dollar menu last weekend, and no matter how nasty-licious you feel after a bad weekend, keep this in mind and realize you likely haven't unraveled all of your hard work.

Nature's Reset Button

I like to use these five foods to bring my bloaty body back down to planet Earth. Cynthia Sass calls this the Fast Forward diet, and she encourages readers to follow her plan for 5 days in order to eliminate toxins and start curbing cravings.

The superheros:


Raspberries ... Amazing this time of year! Yummm.


Slivered Almonds (& unsalted almond butter)

Plain, lowfat yogurt

& Slimming and satiating spices (SASS) - Cinnamon, hot peppers, ground black pepper & red pepper flakes (also balsamic vinegar & citrus juices are approved)

So pure and tasty-looking, right? I know, you're feeling healthier already.

Simple? Yes it is. Easy? Not as much as you think.

The magic bullet for me when it comes to Fast Forward is the emphasis on cutting out salt. Before I discovered Cinch! I loved me some sodium, but it really is amazing how natural flavors came alive after I stopped covering them up with salt. 

The other key is to really get yourself connected with your physical signs of hunger. Your stomach should start to growl every 3-5 hours, and that is when you should eat. When you can start determining these triggers, it truly carries over to your regular eating habits and keeps you from eating just because it's "lunchtime". 

An example of a day in the life

SCRAMBLE - 7:30am - 3 egg whites scrambled up w/1 C. chopped spinach, jalapeno, black pepper, served with 1 C. raspberries, 2 T almonds & cinnamon 

PARFAIT - 11:00am - 3/4 C. plain yogurt w/1 C. raspberries, 2 T slivered almonds & lots o' cinnamon

SALAD - 3:00pm - 2 C. chopped spinach w/1 C. raspberries, 2 T slivered almonds, 1 hard boiled egg, chopped jalapeno & pepper. (You can add balsamic if you're into that but I loathe, so I eat it dry.)

SMOOTHIE - 7pm - Best part of the day! 1 C. frozen raspberries, 3/4 C. plain yogurt, 2 T almond butter, cinnamon. Blend that sucker up! 

After just 2 or 3 days of this, I'm back on the right track and feeling great! 

What do you do to recover from a splurgey weekend? Any tips? I know some of my buddies have tried this plan per my obsession on the blog - any shy guys want to share your experience? 

Monday, June 27, 2011

A fabulous weekend

I mean that in more ways than one.

See what I mean? Yeah, that's a dude Lady Gaga with inflatable pointy-boobies. Yowzas.

This was my first Chicago Pride Parade experience, and I have to say I thought this storied event would amount to a whole lot of overrated. Not so, friends. After a colorful (you're welcome for the pun) mimosa brunch at Deleece Pub on Clark (UM, DELISH), we meandered the streets filled to the brim with decked out parade-goers. I was self-conscious about my goofy rainbow-full outfit before I stepped out of the house, but let me just say I blended right in with the festive supporters. 

Speaking of support, I was so refreshed and proud of my city when my entire neighborhood just came to life with support for our gay community. It seemed that every single place of business lining the Boys Town streets were adorned with rainbow flags and other Pride-full emblems. 

Aside from my excellent Sunday Funday, I had an all-around stellar time enjoying the sunshine and falling in love with this city all over again. To be honest, the 9 month winter is enough to make even the loyaly loyalest of Chitown lovers feel forlorn and doubting. 

Saturday was a straight up beach day with friends. 

We weren't the only ones with this bright idea.

I guess it must be my overflowing excitement for the warm weather, but I just couldn't get enough of the daytime cocktails and sunshine. Went a little overboard with the former, so I'll be posting my favorite way to detox from a boozy or food-heavy weekend playtime. 

How do you celebrate awesome weekend weather, and what makes you proud of your city? Hope you guys had a refreshing 48 hours of fun times!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The tortoise, not the hare.

In the short time that this baby blog has been in existence, I've covered a lot of ground when it comes to healthy eating and tasty recipes that fit that bill. 

If you're wondering if the utter absence of fitness-related posts is a coincedence, the answer is sadly no. I'll admit, in the past I have made a habit of avoiding fitness type activities. I just don't find those topics as interesting to write & read about! Unlike a healthy eating lifestyle which can be sort of fun and invigorating, fitness has really felt like a necessary evil, another chore on my long (and ever-growing...) list. 

While I do believe that health & weight maintenance are about 70% related to diet, there's no excuse for ignoring that remaining 30%. I've made a lot of excuses for myself since I live in urban Chicago and walk, walk, walk. 

I think part of my problem - and I have a feeling I am not the only one - is figuring out where to begin. Yoga classes? How do I actually use the elliptical, is reading a magazine on a machine really doing anything? Should I just lift some dumbbells over my head for a while? 

There is certainly no shortage of options, but perhaps all of these options have made working out totally overwhelming. 

Anybody else feeling buried? It's tempting to give up. 

This brings me to the evil, the dreaded: running. I am really jealous of people who can run 4,5,6,12 miles. Though I was an extremely successful swimmer in lifetimes past, I have never been much of a runner. And when I do run, it feels like torture. Serious agony, like the last thing on Earth I want to be doing. 

So I think I figured out the solution, and I'm sharing it for other healthy-eater workout-phobes like myself. 

We need to stop biting off more than we can chew. Sounds simple, but that's it! If I step on a treadmill and just push myself to exhaustion when I'm not used to it, of course it's going to feel like less fun than memorizing the Oxford English Dictionary. 

So I've decided to take it slow, and follow a snail-like running regimen that makes me say, Hey, I can do this stuff! I've embarked on the Couch to 5k training schedule. 

I know what you're thinking. 9 weeks to run a 5k? That's pretty silly. And yeah, maybe it is. I've run a 5k before, but it wasn't fun. It's better than quitting and promising myself I'll do some crunches a few times a week, and counting my walk to the train station as strenuous activity. I think I've just accepted my tortoise-like running approach. 

So here's what I did last week: 

And here's what I've been up to this week:

Aggressive? Not really. Am I enjoying it? Amazingly, yes.

For my 11 readers: What do you guys do to keep yourselves interested in working out, while actually enjoying it?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Weds-Day: Location, Location, Location!

I realize it's no longer Wednesday (nor is it Weds-Day.) Despite my diligent effort, life happened yesterday, and I didn't get a chance to complete my post. But I want to so... here you go.

Location matters. So we chose ours wisely ...

sunny South Bend, Indiana!

No, we are not masochists, and we aren't so poor that we had no other choices (close.) It's also not because we enjoy laughing at our out-of-towner-guests' expenses.

Simply put, this is the place we fell in love. We examined other options, but nothing else seemed to fit the same way.

It is not Hollywood or New York City, but it's special to us, and I happen to think it's one of the most magicalest places on Planet Earth.

We are having a Friday wedding next June.

A little peek at the reception site: 

Pretty regal for the northern parts of Indiana, right? I have to say I never really pictured myself with the fairytale princess wedding. It turns out that is exactly what I'm going to get. 

And I am very okay with it. Romantical evening, for the win! Now if it would only plan itself ... 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Odds & Ends Bowl!

listening to hands reversed tokyo police club

So Sunday night, after our weekly Volleyball match (and before you ask, YES, we lost again), I had a pretty dilemmus maximus on my hands. It was time to hit up my neighborhood Whole Foods for the week. I was starving. I didn't feel like cooking. I have after-work commitments 2 nights this week. What's a health-conscious lady to do?!

See my schedule was all kinds of thrown off. Because I consider Whole Foods to be the caviar of grocery stores, I prefer to shop for essentials & staples at Trader Joe's (which is more like the sushi plate, while Jewel & Dominick's are vacuum-sealed cans of tuna. Yummy. Sorry 'bout it.) But since the day, and weekend for that matter, had gotten away from me, I had to make Whole Foods work for me.

It's safe to say that I had contracted a pretty lethal case of Chef's Block, a big part of it due to sheer laziness. This week in Chicago weather might have something to do with that fact:

Hip hip hooray.

SO as I roamed WF knowing I had to get a plan together before the guy working at Chipotle became my new best friend for the week (no offense to my fiance), I started doing a mental fridge scan in my mind. I knew I would need fresh veggies, but what did I have at home that could possibly fit all my puzzle pieces?! 

Here's what I came up with. A Steph original - trust me, these are hard to come by, so enjoy it, all 10 of my readers. 

Odds & Ends Pasta-Slaw Bowl 
Serves 1 

Cook up 1/2 cup whole wheat pasta (no salt, cheaters!)

Next, heat up a bit of olive oil in a skillet, shallots (1/8-1/4 C) & garlic (1-2 cloves) Look at that sizzle! Mmm.

Add in 1 C. Broccoli Slaw (Whole Foods has a great mix - contains just organic broc & organic carrots!), black pepper & red pepper flakes, and mix all that goodness up.

Transfer into a regular bowl, and mix in 1 T pesto.

Add in pasta, and top with 1/4 C. low fat or fat free feta. Enjoy the party in your mouth - warm and cool, a little salt from the cheese and lots of spice from the veggies!

Yum! Definitely would be easy to swap in other veggie combos as well. 

& of course no delicious meal is complete without...

a cold orange la croix! Frosty.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Color My World

So yesterday was Father's Day! Hope you aren't reading this and realizing that fact for the first time, or else you're in for an awkward phone call today...

I didn't have the privilege of spending the day with my Pop, but instead spent the day thinking about the leading role he's played in my life.

Our first father's day ... That pie looks DELICIOUS.

I remember when I was younger, I caught part of an Oprah episode about fathers. Something about this particular show must have hit me funny because it's odd that I remember it. The psychology was that fathers are like shadows, coming and going in an unpredictable way, hard to know, impossible to count on. Like a void, there is an empty space inside all of us and that empty space is reserved for the ghosts that are our fathers. 

I think the reason I've held onto this is because the idea left me feeling frightened, and dismayed, even at such a young age -- or maybe especially since I was young. I never felt that way about my dad, and it was traumatic that so many kids could feel this way. There these kids were, just a mess on Oprah's couch, about the empty spot where a father should be. 

At first I might have found this scary - as in, should I be worried my dad is going to leave a big black question mark space like these kids' have? 

Pretty sure I quickly realized this wouldn't be the case for me, but I think that moment turned my dear dad's presence into a tangible thing. His existence in my house transfigured itself from a given, to a blessing. 

I wouldn't say I have the easiest daddy-o to know, as he stays a little mysterious, but one thing he has always made no bones about is his love for us kids. I sometimes like to selfishly believe he loved me best, when I hear stories of our first few years together. Being the oldest and his first little nugget, his only girl, it wasn't long before me and my bald head had Stevo wrapped around the finger. I find myself hoping that in the distant future (read: DISTANT), John & I have a little girl baby first for the very same reasons. 

 I like hearing stories about those days, like his insistence on taking me absolutely everywhere, even errands like Home Depot. I like the fact that there are hours and hours of video my dad shot of my peanut self just lying on the carpet, as he narrated, "Stephaniee! Stephanieeeee! Hello Stephanieeee!!" (Literally, that's all it is.) 

No, my father has been no shadow in my life, and instead has filled me up with pieces of himself. 

Out of all of the gifts my dad has infused in me (Steely Dan & College Football also in the running), his sense of humor and overall perspective on life are morsels I appreciate the very most. Via brainwave osmosis, Stevo has managed to show me that laughing at life is the wisest approach 95% of the time. He steps back and sees the big picture, understanding and just knowing that the puzzle comes together on its own. 

"Just have a beer and go for a run." - My Dad.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm leaving my abusive relationship behind.

I've finally put my foot down. I'm tired of not having any control, of the delicious highs and sinking, lethargic lows. The uphill battle. The constant work without the reward. The unfair fact that what feels good, makes me feel like crapola.

I'm talking, of course, about my previous relationship with food, and dieting.

In high school, I was naturally small because I was always so involved in sports, busy with friends, etc. The college years brought a new set of challenges (read: beer), and after gaining the Freshman 15 (20? 25? Anyone?), I spent a lot of time pursuing solutions. Pretty safe to say I tried 'em all, folks. Calorie counting, Weight Watchers, those tricky little obsessive logging apps on the iPhone, running as much as possible.

And while some of those tricks worked in the short term (lost many of the college lbs), my eating patterns continued to stay about as stable as Charlie Sheen's mental state.

 I was totally going about it the wrong way.

The trouble was, I hadn't found a plan that would revolutionize my lifestyle. I hadn't yet truly embraced healthy living, and better yet, found a way to truly enjoy it. Ever read those articles in fitness magazines that say things like, "Eat this, Not that", and they recommend trading your evening bowl of ice cream for an apple, totally non-chalant? Like "Oh, that's easy, I totally just wanted an apple this whole time. Thanks for the tip!" Hello, these two things are NOT the same, and depriving ourselves just isn't sustainable.

Bottom line, I don't believe I ever realized it was possible to enjoy some of the alternatives that exist out there. I DEFINITELY never dreamed I would PREFER some of the doctored-up versions of the treats I used to crave.

Enter the lady whose authorship has changed my daily chewage, and thus changed my body. That sounds silly dramatic and whacky, but I assure you, it is actually totes accurate.

Homegirl knows how to make whole & clean foods delish and normal. And understandable. Like, for regular people.

In the first chapter, Cynthia promises "freedom from diet chaos." She goes on to describe "diet chaos" as  our erratic eating patterns - like how somedays we eat half a bowl of cereal because we get so busy, and the next day we're shoveling food like Takeru Kobeyashi vs. 53 hot dogs. 

Cynthia elaborates on food's ability to become a drug-like substance - ever reach for that pint of Ben & Jerry's when you're stressed, sad or hating dudes? I know I have (pass the Chubby Hubby please.) 

I've been Cinch-ing for over 4 weeks now, and I sometimes feel like I traded in my body for a newer model. Everything's just working better for me. Here are some of the most noticeable changes: 

  • Diet soda slave, no longer 
  • 5 pounds down and staying down
  • Goodbye, cookie candy ice cream greasy meat cravings, Hello, dark chocolate chips and froyo piled with fruit induglences
  • My tummy tells me when to eat, not my brainwaves
  • Meal assembly from scratch & I are newfound buddies

 Can I get an upgrade?!

Cynthia's plan is not hard to follow, and it doesn't feel like a diet. The main phase of the plan, called "core", simply implements 5 key food groups, or puzzle pieces, at every meal. 

I think this is best illustrated with an example, so I'd like to introduce a recipe I have been enjoying for breakfast every day this week. And I plan to keep this tastiness coming, because I really can't get enough. This recipe is courtesy of Fitnessista, who rocks by the way. 

Fitnessista's Breakfast Cookie 

1/2 a large banana (Produce)
1/3 cup whole oats (whole grain)
1/4 cup chocolate organic hemp protein powder (protein)
1 T almond butter (plant-based fat)
Cinnamon (SASS - slimmming & satiating spice)
1/8 cup almond milk (also little bit of protein group)

In a bowl, mix up oats, protein powder, and almond butter, breaking up the butter as best as possible until it's nice and crumbly-lookin'. Add the almond milk, make sure the mix is well-moistoned and workable. Mash up the banana and mix in, along with cinnamon to taste. 

Spoon onto a small plate and spread it around, flattening into a cookie-like shape. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

Wake up, eat with a spoon, and love your life, and come here to thank me. BTDubs, you're welcome. 

Have an incredulous weekend, see you Monday!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A chicken-y taste of home.

Today might be the best day of my life. Or, at the very least, it's the best day of this week.

Chick-Fil-A opened on Chicago Ave today, and River North just got that much cooler.

You might be wondering about that tent situation. The first 100 adults in line at Chick fil A when it opened today got free Chick fil A for an entire year. A year. Of Chick... fo' free! I would camp out starting at 6pm the day before for that. If I didn't have a job. And if I wasn't squeezing into a wedding dress in the nearish future. 

I'm particularly excited about this meaty debut, not only because of the sheer deliciousness, but because this establishment reminds me of Georgia of course. I mean, Chick fil A biscuits were on sale every morning in my high school cafeteria. My father sent me a photo of his spicy chicken biscuit, carefully positioned on a plate, when the scorchin' sandwich made its appearance on the Chick menu. 

We're into it. 

These days more than ever, I've really fallen in love with healthy living, so I love that a fast food joint that serves up batter fried chicken also has health concerns in the back of their genius minds. Not only is their website helpful when it comes to tracking down nutrition info, but they offer alternatives like the following: 

The char-grilled chicken sandy. How gorgeous is that product? Lose half the bun, and you've got a serving of protein & a serving of whole grain. Probably enough healthy oil to count as plant-based fat as well.

Add this guy for a serving of produce: 

And you've got yourself a delicious set-up, without sacrificing your health. Only 340 calories, 4g fat & 4g fiber if you ate the whole bun.

Fits in well with my Cinch! plan, too!

I am very anti-artificial sweetener, but I think I might have to make an exception for this guy ... 

Diet lemonade. True love.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weds-Day: January 10, 2011

I'd like to start this post by conveying my disappointment in the fact that John could not wait another 30 minutes to propose to me. 1/11/11?? Helloooo?!

So I've been excited for this particular post since the creation of this blog. People often ask, "How did you get engaged?" So here's the story, for all of you friends, stalkers & strangers alike!

Our engagement story is anything but the cliche "he dropped a ring in my champagne glass!" or "I saw our names on a jumbotron!" In fact it is highly personalized, so that makes it hard to explain. So personalized, my presh husband-to-be has a hard time telling the story in under an hour's time (true story, he likes details.)

I think it's safe to say that football has been at the center our situationship since day 1. 

John & I started our relationship as best friends, but before we were best friends or even friends at all we were mortal enemies. Yes, you read that correctly. Mortal. Enemies.

After we both transferred to Notre Dame, we ran with some of the same crowds but never really hung out. Having come from the the University of Georgia and maintaining my status as SEC fan adoptee, I was HIGHLY offended (& had a little too much sun and tailgate fun) when I heard this red-headed heathen yell out, "ROLL TIDE!!!" in the middle of the stands of Notre Dame Stadium, on a day when the Alabama Crimson Tide was playing my beloved Bulldogs. Obviously I had something to say about this, and let's just say a shouting match ensued.

I like to think that I won when I dropped the epic line, "Way to be single!" What? What kind of insult is that? I don't know, but I was pretty proud of myself at the time.

Fast forward to a year later. John & I put the past behind us when we were both selected to work on the same Transfer Orientation Committee together, and from that day forward we were pretty much inseparable. John did a bang-up job pursuing me without my having knowledge of being pursued, and I always had the feeling that he wanted me around, but was going to have an awesome time even if I wasn't there.

So what I'm trying to say here is that I was the last person to know we were dating. Epic fail on my part, and super cool skillz on the boy's part. It all fell together so organically, and that's what I love about what we've got.

From the very beginning we bet on just about everything, but sports was always numero uno in terms of our knowledge face-offs. The NCAA Football National Championship quickly became the Stanley Cup of our gambles.

And I had (and still have - undefeated!) a nasty way of kicking John's ass every single year.




I know, it's sad, really. 

We consider the National Championship to be our anniversary.  

This year, as we were watching the game, it became increasingly clear that Auburn (and thus, I) was going to win the National Championship. In the closing minutes, John leapt up from the couch and started pacing all around like a lunatic. He maintains that he was nervous about the game's finale, but I still think he was nervous for what was about to happen. 

Right after the Tigers clinched it, John stormed off and insisted that we turn the TV off as he didn't want to watch any of the post-game hoopla. When I followed him to give him a piece of my mind about taking my victory away, he was holding a big box and said, "I know we said we weren't getting anniversary gifts, but I got you something." 

I got really nervous here. He wasn't acting right. I think I knew there was only one thing that could be in that box. I couldn't make myself open it, so he had to help me, and then I thought I might die when he got on his knee. I never knew I would get so NERVOUS whilst being proposed to!! Sheesh. Anyways he said a bunch of lovely things but I was too busy staring at the loveliness that is my new sparkler... and I don't think I really said yes but some nodding happened, the rest was history. I didn't faint or have a heat stroke, so I count that as a success. Turns out I'm not very good with surprises.

It was 11:30 pm - we went down to the hotel lobby for a pic. Note my PJ's. I had clearly been CLUELESS about the night's events when I dove into that cozy number.

Pajamas & champagne, anyone? I think I had always envisioned my parents would pop out of a closet when I got engaged or something weird like that, but in hindsight it was kind of nice that it was our moment. 

As I recall, this guy was pretty excited to have the question popped and the ring out of his sneaky pocket!

As a good friend of mine says ... Way to marry the "way to be single" guy!