Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Motivators: Whole Life Challenge, Week 1

[Earning the exercise points is the least of my worries. 
Day 9 of the challenge was my 3rd half marathon of the 
2014-15 race season]

We're already into the third day of week 2.  I'm glad I decided to upgrade my status to the Performance level of the Whole Life Challenge because the middle level wasn't enough of a change from my previous day-to-day. The point of the game is to adjust your habits in a way that will allow new, lasting lifestyle behaviors, and I wanted something that would keep me on my toes. 

Over the next 7 weeks, I'll be sharing different aspects of this challenge and the changes-both big and small-that I'm making as a result. All of which hold the promise of motivating me each Monday morning. 

The first week, it was mostly changes in the nutrition category that took me through the ups--new recipes & strategic workouts--and also some wine temptations at a reunion happy hour. 

All in all, I am starting to feel the mental shift. Even the slightest changes have made me feel successful and motivated me to keep trying to better myself.  Best of all, I'm participating with my husband, so the team work and accountability have twice the meaning. 

[Now that my husband's joined the game, the produce in our house has doubled...yay!]

[A salad every day doesn't mean you're in the clear. Homemade dressing is now a must to avoid sugars & unwanted chemicals. *Read the ingredients of these recipes carefully; they're not all WLC approved.]

[My nightly glass of wine (or two) is now herbal tea with fresh fruit.]

[3rd attempt at sweet potato chips. Still no luck. I'll get there...we need something to dip into the fresh, homemade salsa.]

[Luckily for my husband, our chili recipe is almost completely WLC compliant...I just had to make another batch without corn. Yellow bell peppers are a nice substitute--and a trick to the eye--for the duration of the challenge. Tates just as good!] 

[Adding peanuts to the diet in place of crackers and pretzels was fun for awhile, but I quickly decided the idea needed some spicing up.]

[Which is exactly what I did. In the sauce pan, I added olive oil and cooked the peanuts until golden brown. After about 10 minutes, I added garlic powder, pepper, cumin, & cayanne.]

[Once I got a bit obsessed with the idea of enhancing peanuts, I must admit I went a bit nutty myself. Above, I followed the recipe more closely, but to keep my WLC points--and save a few calories--I used egg whites instead of butter to coat the nuts before baking and did not include any cane sugars.  Here, I used them as a crunchy topping to a completely natural, sugar-free apple & pear sauce (recipe later). Perfect for dessert or breakfast. Spices for these sweet spiced nuts include nutmeg, ground cloves, all spice, cinnamon, salt and a dash of stevia (allowed!)]

Day 7. I had been earning ALL  of my points, EVERY day...until my dear friend, who I hadn't seen in months, called me up and invited me to a happy hour at a wine bar. Instant 4 point deduction. Woops. 
Gotta say, the pinot noir and company was well worth the sacrifice! Temporarily off the wagon. Saturday, I was back in business.

Now that the food routine is back on WLC auto pilot, I want to conquer the stretching part of this new lifestyle. Other than two minutes here and there in between sets, I'd like to actually carve out 10 solid minutes each night before bed, where I follow a calming stretching routine.

Who Says I Can’t be a Cook… Eventually

In honor of my New Year’s resolutions, I thought I would document my first meal J

So, lately, I’ve been seriously toying with the thought of breaking out a cook book (and by cookbook, I mean Pinterest) and actually attempting some simple-ish recipes. I know what you’re thinking, “you haven’t thought of that already, Meg”. Well, the answer is not really (hence my resolution to ACTUALLY learn how to cook). I can hold my own when it comes to certain things, ie nachos, frozen meals, and salads consisting of raw vegetables and unthawed shrimp, but when Max looks down at a delicious (or so I thought) looking plate of nachos and replies with, “the microwave isn’t cooking”, I get the sense that I should step up my game. Plus, I figure one day I will need to be at least somewhat domestic when it comes to the kitchen, even though, in my opinion, I live with the world’s greatest cook.

With that being said, I finally bit the bullet and decided that Max could be my cookbook and instruct me on making a nice healthy, winter chili. Not a hard dish, I realize, but I a girls gotta start somewhere!

I even got a “good job” from the hubbs! So proud. Next up… TURKEY TACOS!

Here are the MANY ingredients that went into my masterpiece chili!

1/2 red pepper, 1 Large onion, 3 stalks of celery & 1 green pepper
1 Lb of frozen beef stock
2 cans of corn, 2 cans of diced tomato & 12 oz tomato paste
1 can each of black, kidney & chili
1 lb ground turkey
Nutmeg & ground cinnamon
Ground Cayenne red  pepper
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Chili powder
Salt & pepper

I know I know so many ingredients... but worth every one of them!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Happy 6th Birthday, Jackson!!

[Without a doubt, the most wonderful, gentle soul I've ever known.]  

My baby boy, Jackson (better known as Monkey) turned six years old today. I'm happy to report that he is in great health and even better spirits. Though I'm convinced his hearing is not what it once was, the way he chases a tennis ball in our backyard and plays with his baby sister, he could convince any vet that he is as spry as the day we brought him home.

[The day we brought him home. 10 weeks old. 11 pounds of wrinkles.]

[He used to be so little, he'd hide and take naps under our bed.]

[First trip to the park.]

[First time in the snow.]

[First birthday]

[First alcoholic beverage.]

[Present day. Big boy.] 

He was beyond frustrated that I wouldn't help him with this handy new toy we bought him today...eventually he did figure it out, of course.  
Typical 6 year old. As a special birthday snack, we made him and Apple a plate of nachos to share. Big splurge for this carrot-munching health nut. 

Here's to six more years, little man! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Five!

{adorable love coupons from this month’s Happy Mail that I can’t wait to use!}

Another winter week down in the books. More cooking. More reading. More couch lounging. I love January and the calm-after-the-storm feeling that it brings. I look forward to more of the same this weekend. And maybe even venture outside and enjoy the pretty new “blanket” as Max calls the powdery snow that descended upon us this week.

Friday Forte:

Tough Love by Jessie Ware on Grooveshark

{early morning light & a delicious homemade breakfast}

{new coffee table book that I’m weirdly obsessed with}

{perfect red & flowy skirt just in time for February}

{fun new spot to display my Spartan pride}

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

52 Week Hand Lettered Project

{yes, I am drawing on graph paper...}

Ok, so my girl Emily and I were talking at Wine Club last week and I brought up that I have been feeling really inspired lately. I feel motivated to be my best and happiest self. I already got the fitness and food thing down, got the yoga thing in check, I get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, work hard at my job, LOVE the home Max and I are creating, etc etc. I feel so full, yet I have all this pent up energy that I need to be released somehow, but haven’t figured out what to do with myself yet. Make sense? No? Ok well just keep reading anyway…

She convinced me to try out Pen and Peplum’s 52 Week Hand Lettered Project. Basically there is a theme for each week, and you create some an artsy fartsy piece (like drawing words in cool ways…). At the end of the year you have 52 pieces of word art that you created and describes things about you, your year and your personality! Neat, right?

Now, I’m not an artist by ANY stretch of the imagination, but this sounded like so much fun to me… maybe because in my “tortured emo days” I would plug in some depressing music and draw words with thin tipped markers. I’m serious, this actually happened, I can show you proof of a page drawing of words I did one time when Max and I were in a fight. Pathetic. Or is it? This project may show me otherwise… maybe it was a personal outlet to express my emotions? Or maybe I'm reaching... 

Anywho, my hope is that this project not only gives me the (small) creative outlet I've been craving, but could also grow into additional inspiration. The first week’s project (that I had to catch up on since we’re already in week 3) was “2015 Mantra”. I thought for a few minutes on this and decided on Wanderlust, meaning a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world. I thought this was only fitting given that 2015 is going to be the most adventurous travel year of my life thus far!

I’m so excited for this project! Make sure to check it out on the Pen and Peplum blog or Instagram account. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Motivators!

This past weekend my husband and I attended what we figure will be a) one of the most fun and b) likely the most convenient weddings we'll ever attend in our lives.

Aside from our own nuptuals-- which took place a mere mile from our condo in Chicago--this wedding, and all events leading up to it, was impossibly, wonderfully, joyfully close.

The couple, my second cousin and his stunning bride, spend half of their time living in L.A. and another large chunk of the year, amazingly, right here in NOLA. Here's the kicker: their second home is 4 blocks from ours here in the Bywater! Incredible.

Of the many reasons they come here are the two bars they own. Both located in this part of town.  So, while the wedding weekend included a night at one of the bars, followed by a backyard BBQ at their home and then the actual ceremony at the Marigny Opera House , we never had to start a car!  Everything was within easy walking distance.

By the way, I strongly encourge all of you to read up on the venue. I cannot say enough about the charm, history and resiliance of this old church. My pictures surely won't capture what the live version can. I run past this building all of the time and have always wanted to attend an event there.

[On an entirely different note, the aMAzing food and specialty cocktails all weekend did NOTHING to help me with the first days of  my Whole Life Challenge, but more on that later this week. I'm totally back on the wagon now that the champagne bubbles have settled.]

Not only was this wedding dotted with traditional New Orleans style, the ceremony itself was moving in a way that stood out from other wedding's I've attended. The intense, unguarded, genuine emotion of the day soaked into all of us.

-The couple walked up the aisle together.

-Once they reached the alter, they stood, holding each other and swaying together until the song ended.

-Their 2 year-old daughter ran up to them before the ceremony begin to give mommy a handful of rose petals (which I later learned was completely unplanned). It worked perfectly. The bride threw the petals in the air with a smile that was almost audible. The little flower girl, pleased with her completed mission, returned to her aunt's lap.

-While not uncommon for a friend to perform the nuptuals, this close friend of theirs was equal parts funny and warm. It was one ceremony we wouldn't have minded being a bit longer.

-Half of the promises were vowed in unison, as bride, groom and audience were weeping uncontrollably.

-After they were declared married, their daughter ran after them, arms stretched, begging to be included. What choice did dad have but to scoop her up and carry her the rest of the way?

[Traditional New Orleans music filled the air all afternoon & evening]

[As we re-entered the transformed space for dinner, I couldn't help but be reminded of the coloring and effects of Meg & Max's wedding]

Cheers to the happy couple, their two beautiful daughters and loads of quality time with my family...right here in my town!