Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Getting Upbeat

{New blog: www.upbeat-eats.com}

Hi friends! 

I'm sorry I've been neglecting you. But maybe I can say something to make up for it.

I've decided to take my relationship with blogging to the next level. 

You see,  when I first launched "Pennies on the Sidewalk", I didn't really know what I was going for. I knew that I liked to write, as that trade has been a passion forever. But as far as topics go I was a bit... lost.

As you may have noticed :)

But I pushed myself through that awkwardness, and over the past year or so I have truthfully, completely fallen in love with the healthy living community. And I'm ready to find my voice! 

So I really hope y'all will join me at www.upbeat-eats.com. THANK YOU to those who have been reading. I'll see you over at my new spot!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sugar Brain

In honor of my heartburn and the fact that I ate a homemade red velvet whoopie pie at 8:45am this morning, I thought we could talk about the most magical part of today. 

And also the most upsetting. Valentine's Day... FOOD.

It's so delicious, and pretty. 

And evil with its tempting ways.

This is not an actual picture of the red velvet whoopie pie I consumed this morning because frankly I was too busy shoveling it into my face.

Currently a "bake off" is going down in the kitchen at my office. What does that mean for me & my bridal waistline? It means oodles upon oodles of sugary treats competing for my affection and up for the taking. 

Did you know that red velvet could take on so many forms?


Cake Ballz



And, of course, the classic, the original, perfect cupcake 

It's pure insanity, is it not?! 

I have one more tidbit before I pass into a sugar coma for the day. Unrelated to food. I received not one but TWO special love bouquets from my Valentine. This is the part where I brag about my dude. 

Love you JC! 

And now, back to my real valentine ....

I'm hopeless.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Be My "Gal"entine

I am feeling a little on the uncreative side today. 

Luckily I recalled an exciting event from last week - I got a gchat from Emily asking if I had any plans for "Gal"entine's Day, and whether I would be her date. 

Flattery gets you pretty far in life and while I wanted to accept immediately, I had to admit I didn't know what in the samhill she was talking about. 

I should have known about this already considering my fiance is a full-fledged "Parks & Recreation"guru, but Galentine's Day is celebrated the day before February 14th by -- you guessed it -- gal friends. 

Despite the fact that this is a new concept for me. I'm already overwhelmingly in support. Especially since JC & I celebrated our little V-day last night (MELTING POT!!) since he travels during the week. 

So what will our Galentine's Day entail? Eating (obviously), wine (Come on), and... 


When we thought up this idea I of course went running straight for marthastewart.com. I mean, where else can you find recipes for hot chocolate with marshmallows that have heart cut-outs? Good ol' Martha had over 50 "last minute" ideas for me. 

Among my favorites: 

Valentine Hands. Awesome. 

Easy, cutesy heart cookies. Do I see candy buttons on there? I could really go for a candy button.

Valentiney home decor - conversation hearts in a vase. 

HELL, Martha can even create rose patterns from LETTUCE. I don't know how that works. I'm not sure I want to know. I feel like I will get sucked into a rabbit hole of crafting.

How will you gals celebrate Galentine's Day? Don't have plans? Make some!! Seize any excuse to drink wine and make crafts, that's what I always say. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

I like to oat [muffins]

Happy Friday!! 
{Scroll down for Breakfast Oat Muffins!}

Since it is in fact Friday, and I've been attempting the South Beach diet for exactly 4 weeks, I thought I'd give an update (for my own benefit if you frankly DGAF.)

Quick recap: I spent 2 weeks on "Phase 1", which eliminates all fruit, starchy carbs like bread, pasta etc., sugar including but not limited to alcohol. In that time, I lost somewhere between 4-5 pounds. 

Since then, I've spent the last 2 weeks phasing fruit & whole grain carbs only into my diet - 1 grain & 1 fruit a day only. The result? I've gained some weight back, at least according to the scale today - somewhere between 2-3 pounds. 

@#$#%@%%!! What gives??

While there were definitely some cheats in there including our tasting, I have for the very most part been on the straight and narrow. Not to carry on about myself for an extended period of time but all I can think of is I haven't exactly been enthusiastically working out. Or working out period, beyond a day of dance and one day of weight training. Not what you'd call consistent. 

But in the words of Sophia Mergara, I can't seriously diet AND seriously work out. 

Does that look like the body of a liar? I knew I couldn't stand her. 

Anyway, I'm going to TRY to drag my behind out of bed early enough to fit in 20 minutes of workout time in the mornings next week and take it from there. 

Meanwhile, I have to introduce y'all to a scrumptious recipe that makes midweek breakfasts a snap. If you like oats or bread, particularly in combination, or if you resemble an angry zombie who is only further enraged by making meals in the mornings, here's an idea for you that is far superior to eating your breakfast out of a package.

Delicious Nutritious Morning Oat Muffins
{Adapted From South Beach Diet Supercharged}

Makes 12 muffins

I froze half of my batch for future emergencies. They thaw super easily just out on the counter overnight!

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons oats
1 cup buttermilk - I made my own subsitute: 1 T white vinegar, add milk to 1 cup mark. Let stand 5 minutes then use.
1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour or whole grain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup brown sugar substitute - I used Splenda because I couldn't find Stevia brown sugar sub
1 teaspoon vanilla 

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a 12-cup nonstick muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper baking cups.

In a small bowl, combine 3⁄4 cup of the oats and the buttermilk. Let soak for 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and walnuts.

In a large bowl, stir together the oil, egg, brown sugar substitute, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the oat mixture. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons oats over the muffins. Bake for 11 to 15 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes.

Remove to the rack to cool completely.

Nutritional Information:
180 calories, 10 total fat (1 g sat), 4 g protein, 3 g fiber

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Business Meets Pleasure

Did you guys see this this Super Bowl commercial?

If so, did you laugh? I know it wasn't meant to be funny, but I found it so. Group of 20 somethings in a dimly lit trendalicious club. All good looking (duh.) Hip song. Everyone's having a rip roaring good time with some light beer re-packaged into a sleek sexbomb bottle.


To be honest I didn't understand what in God's name was different about BLP, until I spent Monday night hanging out with Megan. Together at the grocery store we discovered that this all-business bottle actually contains 6% alcoholz. 

I know what you're thinking. Isn't this Natty Ice? Nope. Tastes awesome. And I am not ashamed that we fell victim to mass marketing targeted right at our demographic and taste-tested out of these ridicballs bottles on a Monday eve.

Ironic that Megan & I met at work once upon a time. Business meets pleasure... indeed. 

This post not sponsored by Bud Light... instead sponsored by my marginal alcohol dependency.

It's almost Friday - Cheers!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Weds-Day: I value your behind

Our wedding goes down in exactly 121 days. 

For the layman, that is precisely 4 months. And if you saw this post way back when, you might know that I was preeetty nervous about my procrastination of overdue tasks.

In all honesty, I didn't do much "heavy duty" wedding planning until the turn of 2012. That's kind of who I am. If I have a paper due next week, I'm going to focus on the episode of Teen Mom that's on tonight. If I get engaged 1.5 years before I get married, I'm going to have a year-long contest with myself to see how much champagne I can fit in my stomach in lieu of actual planning. 


The good news is, I'm pretty good when under pressure. I kind of need a badgering deadline that's looking a little dangerously close before I feel the need to take serious action. So now that serious wedding things are underway, let's talk about thangs. 

This past weekend, we were here:

Home sweet home. 

We rolled into town to take care of a lot of details, particularly and most deliciously our reception menu (!!!) 

But today's topic is something that might not seem so sexy at first.

But I assure you, it is of the utmost sexiness. 


I have a long history with wedding chairs. 

The above photo is one of the first wedding design photos that I fell in love with upon becoming betrothed. While there are many things I love about that whole situation, I think the chairs are an unassuming detail that give me the warm and fuzzies. 

I snapped this pic at my reception site as this wedding was being set up Saturday. This bride clearly gets what I'm talking about. The Chivari chair. It is pure elegance.

My fabulous reception coordinator and I really got into it over this topic.

His argument: "Please. Put the money you'd spend on chair rentals towards your centerpieces and make those beautiful. That's where people will be looking."

This, I flat out reject. First off, when you have 130+ of ANYTHING in a room, they begin to become part of the decoration. If you have 130+ plain nasty (albeit, free) banquet chairs, well, that's going to take away from all that dough you piled into centerpieces.

And secondly, I adore thee, Chavari chairs.

I'm not saying brides should throw obscene amounts of money at things like chairs just because they are pretty. But I AM saying I truthfully feel they are worth cutting costs elsewhere in a budget.

So who won the argument? Let's just say our guests' precious tooshies will be seated in Chavari magic. 

And let's also just say said Chavari chairs were thrown in for free. I was exuding that much passion about them, I suppose.

Did I convince YOU? What do you think? Chavari chairs, covered chairs? Things I don't even know about? Does it not matter so much in your opinions?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Summoning Spring

On Thursday of last week, this GD chubby gopher did not see his shadow. 

Jerk. On Friday of last week, I decided to protest his prediction that spring will hold out on us for 6 more weeks by wearing...


My fanciest green springy skirt. I am trying to coax spring to come hang out for a while. It seems to be working so far. 

It turns out I am not the only person who's feeling the spring skirt look. This flowery gem actually attracted many comments in the office. 

I took that to mean they dug it, but in hindsight maybe they just forgot what a skirt looks like on an actual person since we haven't seen that in half a year. Either way, I love me a festive skirt - comfortable, fun, slightly intrusive on the eyeballs with color splash. 

Don't you agree?

I mean... what's not to love?

Are we feeling springy yet??

What warm weather looks are you itching to flaunt? Anybody else not letting the lame month o' February hold y'all back?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Coffee is Love-ly

So. I can understand why it might seem kind of like I lied. 

BUT I promise I actually do have photos from the weekend that I am planning to share, along with their significance. So pretty please bear with me as I get in the habit of regular postage. 

Onto today. After a very, VERY busy wedding-packed weekend (more on this to come!), which included a few too many Super Bowl goodies (we will not speak of this part again), I woke up this morning to the beginning of a new week. Which means, the Palace Crowdeman has just one girly inhabitant for the next few nights. 


I'm still getting the hang of JC's new travel schedule, and while the alone time is actually kind of refreshing, the first day is always a little lonely. So when I rolled into Starbucks this morning looking for a morning pickmeup, a pickmeup I received. 

Valentine's Day Cups!! Since when is this a thing?? 

I don't know, but I love it. And I love that I had healthy chocolate oatmeal for breakfast. And I love that I have salad & garbage Bravo programming with girlfriend Megan to look forward to tonight. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A little help from my friend(s)

Those are actually Kate's friends. Mine are a little more... red... and full-bodied. And bearing more resemblance to fermented grapes. 

But we are ALL friends here. And after a loooong day in which I realized my actual wedding and my wedding budget spreadsheet are starting to look more and more dissimilar (weird how that happens??), this was just what I needed. 

Why, hello, red wine - back so soon??

Survival kit:

Mystical, magical "make your own six pack" wall at Mariano's? Check.
Brain-deteriorating television programming? Check.
Amazing girly sleepover? Check check check.

This wonderfulness overload was almost enough to make me overlook the gray hair I sprouted. 


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Even the coldest days

Have you ever heard of those month-long photo challenges? 

I saw on twitter this morning that a friend of mine is embarking on a February photo challenge, meaning she will post a photo from the day, every single day for these 29 days of February.

Confession: I had to glance at my calendar to figure out how many days are in February this year. Does that mean it's a leap year?

Anyway! I will be posting a photo (or collage of photos) every single day this month, hopefully with a little theme each day.

Today's theme is "Even the coldest days." Sap-fest alert.

 John & I went ice skating in Millennium Park this weekend. His idea, and I have to admit I wasn't toooo stoked at first. Being outside more than is humanly necessary to function is not an activity I particularly enjoy in Chicago winter months. But, every single time the ice skating topic came up, JC gave me his blue-eyed puppy dog look - he's an eskimo, so I relented.

I even watched "Blades of Glory" the night before to pump myself up. Contemplated buying a leotard. I was ready.

Verdict? It was kinda cold. We also weren't the only people with the idea on a Sunday afternoon - I thought I might lose my life, or crush John's hand in the process of NOT falling with my death clutch. And there were plenty of 8 year olds who zoomed by me and made me feel like their 8 years on planet earth were 10 times as productive as my 24.

BUT! I didn't fall. And JC held my hand the whole time. And we watched the zamboni smooth out the ice and got Starbucks together afterwards.

Good Sunday.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 14

Due to the increasingly small distance between now and our wedding, I'm trying out the South Beach Diet. 

If you’re a fan of the movie Stepbrothers, you might recognize a quote that this entire experience has reminded me of. “I haven’t had a CARB since 2004.” 

Adam Scott must have had it pretty rough, because it's been 14 days and all I can think about is oatmeal. Oatmeal, of all things. Dream big. 

In all honesty, taking a timeout from starchy carbs & fruit hasn't been quite as difficult as I imagined. If you are asking yourself, "what is South Beach diet? Isn't that some sort of torture tactic?" Don't worry, I had the same thoughts just a month ago. And while it certainly isn't the easiest plan out there, it's pretty far from Chinese water torture. Let me clarify. 

A lot of folks think this plan is a "no carb" ban. That is actually more like the Atkins diet, which limits your intake of healthy groups. On the South Beach diet I'm still consuming carbs because even vegetables have carbs - I have just eliminated the sugary, starchy kinds - like fruit, breads, grains, and (*tear*) oats. It's crazy to think I haven't had a whole grain in 14 days because I'm used to incorporating them at just about every meal. I was a pretty good eater before this plan, but this has definitely taught me a lot. 

Let's talk about that, shall we? 

The Good. 

I've noticed a few excellent benefits from the last 14 days of zero bread and very low sugar. First and foremost, I'm starting to form a healthier relationship with different food groups. For example, lean proteins (like chicken, fish & lowfat dairy), healthy fats (nuts & nutbutters, olive oil, avocado) & vegetables (leafy greens, peppers, eggplant, onion) are my BFFs. I've learned to put some healthy distance between myself & whole grains/fruits; while they are super healthy and have their extremely important nutritional benefit, they aren't the kinds of things we should have unlimited amounts of, or else we might pay the price for it either in terms of waistline or blood sugar. And finally, the biggest lesson: desserts, candy, processed foods & (gulp) WINE are like that crazy group of friends you sometimes hang out with - they are fun to go out with, but they aren't exactly the type you'd call for a shoulder to cry on. Less is more. 

Oh, and did I mention I had more energy than usual around days 5-10, and have lost in the neighborhood of 4ish lbs? 

The Bad. 

I have had some headaches in the evening. I miss social drinking. It's harder to hang out with friends and eat in restaurants. It's hard enough to find whole grain friendly restaurants, so forget carbless choices. But it is possible, and it can be done. 

Just like I can say no to swirly margaritas and free chips & salsa at Uncle Julio's. Miracles can happen. 

I feel like many of us office-dwellers, when 3 o'clock rolls around we start to get an itch for something tasty. That's because our low blood sugar tends to dip in the afternoon, urging us for a little boost. Many people, South Beaching or not, are looking for ways to indulge. So instead of reaching into that Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins box from the 8am meeting, meet my new best friends: 

Cottage Cheese + Almond Butter 

Cucumber rounds + Smoked salmon 

Just to name a few. AND, just to prove that I know y'all can make some changes that seem crazy if I can, I have serious cases of both cookie monstering & sweet toothery. Thought I would finish things off with a simple after-dinner recipe that has seriously kept my cravings at bay, without sacrificing the mission. 

Chocolate Ricotta Dream
(Not pictured... I'm too busy eating it)

1/2 C fat free ricotta cheese (I know, sounds vom. Taste & believe, friends.)
1 t unsweetened cocoa powder 
1 packet sugar substitute - I strongly prefer Stevia
1/2 t vanilla extract 
2 T light or fat free whipped topping 

Mix all together in a bowl. I like to add 1 T of almond butter (or peanut butter) on top for extra kicks. Chow down & respect yourself in the morning! 

I'm off to dream about the oat muffin & piece of fruit I get to eat tomorrow. Oh and a glass of WINE! Phase 2, here I come!! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Like a cake, Except Mini

I am completely in love with the following.

Are you sick of wedding talk yet? We're just getting started!

Cupcakes are not only total eye candy (eye cake, perhaps?), but they are actually much more affordable than their traditional buttercream-and-fondant-tiered cousins. PLUS can you say variety? If you are like me and have a hard time making up your mind about very crucial decisions...

 such as, "but will my guests like red velvet or fun-feti?!"

Cupcakes help you do it all. Even though they sometimes seem intrusive and scary with their many mini-cake selves taking over the place 

But in reality, they are very friendly confections 

And oftentimes every bit as elegant as ginormo wedding cakes, without being all, "look at me and my stuffy expensive self"

So, what say you? Do you prefer cupcake magic or are you more a fancy princess big cake type of person? Or no cake at all? Many folks these days ditch the whole cake business largely due to expense, but so far in my experience cupcakes allow you to have your sugary dreams without offending your wallet.

Friday, January 13, 2012

One Year Down

So. We have been engaged for a year now.

And yes, I know this post would have been way cooler had I written it on January 10th... Apologies.

So I thought I'd update the interwebs on my wedding journey.

What, you thought we were still drinking champagne and screaming "WE'RE ENGAGED!!!" over and over?

Come on, y'all. That was the first 12 months. This is month 13, and it's seriousface time.

So now that my this wedding has taken up residence in my brain and created a tornado house to live in, let me share some tidbits of bridely banter.

[a little less than] 5 months to go

My general reaction to any sort of wedding stress or disagreements is actually to just start screaming. Like, scream talking. I recognize this is not exactly an effective way to communicate.

Men's suits are possibly the most complicated, unexpected source of stress in the universe. Do they just rent so I take the unknown factors out of things? Do I trust them to buy a suit or use one they already own? Is trusting men with fashion even remotely intelligent? Any wise souls out there have advice for me? I beg of you!!

Dear Pinterest: I love you, but not everyone is getting hitched in a barn where guests will sip casually from mason jars. Mason jars. Mason jars. WE GET IT!!!

According to theknot.com, it's time to start my "beauty regimen." Um, come again? I have to make myself beautiful like, now?

Ugh. South Beach Diet Phase 1, here I come. Goodbye, bread & fruit. Hello, wedding dress whose size is slightly inappropriate because I fibbed about to the bridal salon.

Tomato, tomahto.