Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hot Soup for a Hot Summer

Is it weird that, even as the temperature is reaching the upper 80s and 90s, I'm still reaching for steaming hot bowls of soup? I know a lot of people associate hot soup with winter and couldn't imagine eating a bowl on a hot day, but I love it!

I wish it was only 5 cents!

My lunch today came from Soulful Soups, by far the best lunch spot in downtown Spokane if you ask me! A large steaming bowl of Tomato Bisque was just what the doctor ordered to wake me up after my long night yesterday. And I was delighted to see that I wasn't the only one craving a hot bowl of deliciousness on such a warm day - there were a few other patrons indulging themselves as well.

Soup - winter warmth, now also a summer delicacy!

New Fitness Journal

Ugh, I'm really dragging my feet this morning! I had a really nice dinner out last night (at C.I. Shenanigans on the river in downtown Spokane) with my mom and a family friend after spending two hours dress shopping. It was a long, tiring night, but it was also fun and I got a lot done!

So my mom is leaving to go hom this morning, and it's back to life as normal for me. Hooray! One of the things that I've been slacking on in the last few weeks as I've jet-setted back and forth from my various travels is food and exercise planning/tracking. I've gotten back into the Menu Plan Monday swing after a few weeks off, but I've yet to get back into my personal meal tracking. I wrote a few months ago about a notebook I'd been using to track things, but on a recent trip to Houston I found this gem in the airport bookstore:

It was on the clearance rack at the Houston Airport Borders, so it was less than $4!

There are two reasons that I bought this journal. First, I love how organized (yet detailed) it is. There's space for every meal and snack, with boxes for writing how many grams of fiber and calories there are. The exercise portions are divided into weights and cardio/other exercise, and it works well to get you motivated to fill up the space.

A sample exercise page from the weekly portion.

The second reason I love this journal is that it allows you to track yourself and make goals along various time frames. While most of the journal is taken up with pages for the weekly tracking, there are also pages and spaces for monthly tracking and making monthly goals. But it wants you take pictures of yourself... no thanks, exercise journal!

A monthly page from the journal.

So basically, I'm in love with this little book. It puts my own tracking notebook to shame! Unfortunately, it was so discounted at Borders because it was not going to be carried there anymore... I don't know what I'm going to do when I fill it up! I'll have to photocopy the pages or something and make my own.

Now I've got to catch up on The Bachelorette since I missed last night's episode! I'm curious to see what Jillian's going to be wearing... she's got a great sense of style!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

A few people commented about the sweet potato chili from last week's menu plan -- and I have to tell you all, it was FANTASTIC. Matt even said I should make it again sometime! Big thumbs up on that one.

This week's a little crazy meal-wise because of my mom being in town and the 4th of July. How is it the 4th of July already? I've completely lost all sense of time, because I could have sworn it was just yesterday that I was complaining about winter never ending! Anyway, check out Org Junkie's website for more menu-planners!

Monday: Dinner out with my mom after dress shopping!(!!!!)

Tuesday: Santa Fe Casserole (recipe from Caitlin of Healthy Tipping Point, found in Jenna's Team In Training Cookbook)

Wednesday: Lentil Sloppy Joes and some veggies on the side

Thursday: Soup and grilled cheese

Friday (Day off!): A little culinary experiment with Giada's Lasagna Rolls (minus the prosciutto of course!)

Saturday (4th of July!): It's kind of against nature not to barbeque on the 4th, isn't it? Burgers, veggies, and all the fixings!

Sunday: Leftovers, because no one wants to cook on Sunday!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Busy Weekend!

These past few days have been pretty hard on my psyche. Probably the biggest downer in my life that happened this week was my company's decision to cut a bunch of jobs and give the rest of us that are still (thankfully) employed a pay cut. The economy's tough, and my company is definitely feeling it. That, coupled with the celebrity deaths, and my mother's arrival in less than 36 hours, has made this NOT the most fun end of the week ever!

This weekend, I fully intend to keep myself busy busy busy to get my spirits back up! This morning Matt and I will be getting a delicious bagel breakfast, and then head here:

After all that, we'll be heading down to check out the action at Hoopfest! Despite the fact that I'm nearly 6'2", I'm not playing in it this year - I've been a volunteer referee in the past, but this year I'm ready to enjoy it as a spectator! Hopefully we'll see some friends play and meet up with other spectator-friends while there.

And then, it's back home to clean like crazy so my apartment will pass my mom's white-glove inspection! I'm not sure when she's arriving tomorrow, so it all has to be done tonight.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson

I know this is a blog about organization and life style and all that, but I have to say that my heart is feeling pretty heavy today after learning about the sudden, pretty unexpected passing of Michael Jackson. I grew up with his music, watched Thriller and his other music videos all the time on the VHS tapes that my parents used to copy them off of the tv; I started dancing in part because of the sheer magnitude of his videos and performance energy. And let me tell you, I perfected the moon-walk! For someone with a pretty tumultuous life and career, it is impressive that he made the mark on the music world that he did. Goodbye, King of Pop.

And of course, who hasn't heard of the passing of Farrah Fawcett yet? I'm so glad that she's finally at peace after her epic battle, and hope that her family can find peace as well.

So many celebrity deaths this week; it's going to be a long few weeks of mourning.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer Swap

About a month ago, a summer blog swap was announced by Angela at Sweet Tea Diaries, and I was super excited to sign up! My assigned swap partner was Elizabeth of Precious and Pink, and I was really excited to put a package together for her. This morning, I received her wonderful package of goodies, and want to share with you how thoughtful Elizabeth is! Here's what was in the box:

A beautiful blue and white beach towel.

J.Crew flowered flip-flops in dark blue. To DIE for!

A silver shell-topped bottle stopper.

I'm so glad I signed up with this swap - it was a great opportunity to connect with another blogger on a different side of the country! Again, thanks to Angela at Sweet Tea Diaries for hosting the swap, and Elizabeth of Precious and Pink for being a great swap partner!

Wedding Wednesdays - Episode 8

So it's legitimately been a while since I posted about how our wedding plans are coming along. Sorry! The only real progress that I've made since last time is going dress shopping with my mom and sister - and I can't post about that because Matt reads the blog and the dress has to be a surprise! I want him to be totally shocked (in a good way) when I walk down the aisle, both by the dress AND me!

Anyway, so what HAVE we been doing to get ready for the wedding (which, PS, is only 311 days away!)? Well... we've gotten a TON of information from our church's wedding coordinator - she's there to help with the service and everything that happens within the ceremony itself. One of the primary things that we've been tasked with by her (among the MANY other things that need to get done soon) is deciding on readings for the ceremony!

To help us make our decision, the wedding coordinator sent us a booklet listing out a bunch of different readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Gospels, as well as providing some commentary on them. We need one reading from each section for our nuptial mass.

The readings suggestions workbook.

She also sent us a bunch of programs from weddings that have been recently held at the church to show what readings others have used - but I'll be honest, I looked at them more for stationary and colors ideas! I really like the longer single-sheet idea as opposed to the booklet... but that's another post. :D

Sample programs.

So, blog world, what were the readings at your wedding, or what readings would YOU recommend? I've got a few in mind already, but I'm curious about what others have done.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grocery Blogging

Yesterday night I had one of the most financially productive grocery shopping trips ever. Seriously! I was surprised! I went in with a hefty list of fresh produce and other foodstuffs to pick up, and managed to walk out having only spent $26! All you Inland Northwesterners, head to Rosauers this week for some excellent deals!

The goods!

Here's what I picked up:
  • 2 very large oranges
  • Cantalope
  • Pepper-Jack cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chiles
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 2 large onions
  • Package of whole wheat fusili pasta
  • Loaf of french bread
  • Tostitos chips (Matt's special request)
  • Package of salad greens
  • Cayenne pepper
This will make everything on this week's menu plan, with a bit leftover for additional meals and snacks. And you better believe I'll be freezing some of that cantalope for post-workout snacks! Yum!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Donate to Jenna!

In the off chance that some of you readers do not also read Jenna's blog (Eat, Live, Run) you should head over there and donate to her Team in Training run! All proceeds benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - a great cause that helps tons of people with those two horrible diseases. For a $15 donation she'll send you two great e-cookbooks, and trust me, they're awesome! Tons of great recipes in both that I'm going to be trying out soon.

To read Jenna's post about the cookbooks, head here; or, go directly to Jenna's Team in Training fundraising page to make your donation!

Gym Bag of DOOM

I've been doing a lot of thinking about what I take to the gym lately. My shoulders and upper back have been bothering me, and I think it's because of all of the stuff I carry in my gym bag every day! Seriously, when I got an official gym bag months ago, it had just the basics of gym-going staples. Now, it's expanded to a 20 pound beast that I don't know what to do with!

What's in the bag?
  • Running skirt
  • Shorts
  • 2 t-shirts
  • Sports bra
  • Extra pair of underwear
  • Flip-flops
  • Athletic shoes
  • Bath towel
  • Hand towel
  • Brush
  • Loofah
  • Hair dryer
  • Trial size shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
  • Combination lock
  • Tampon
  • Water bottle
  • Lotion
  • Sun screen
  • iPod
  • Not pictured: running sunglasses, gym card, extra socks
I mean, looking at the picture, it seems like a lot. But it all fits in the bag, and I can't think of a single thing in there that I don't use on at least 50% of my workouts. I just wish it wasn't so darned HEAVY.

What does the inside of your gym bag look like?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It's been a while since I actually planned out meals ahead of time, but it's nice to sit down and think about it and make good choices. Lots of cheese and spice in this week's meals, but sometimes that's just what you need! I'm trying out something new this week - front-loading the cooking so that there are more options for at-work lunches. We'll see how it works (and if I get sick of cooking on Wednesday or not!). Check out Org Junkie's blog for more menu planners!

Monday: Sweet Potato Chili in the crock pot

Tuesday: Zucchini and Corn Quesadillas

Wednesday: Garlicious Mac-and-Cheese (recipe is at the bottom of the post)

Thursday: Grilled cheese and soup (or leftover chili) after my run

Friday: Stir fry or curry with leftover veggies and tofu, served over brown rice.

Saturday: Festival food while we enjoy the Hoopfest craziness downtown - and maybe seeing Liz because she's on the fence about coming even though she knows she really wants to!

Sunday: Leftovers - because no one wants to cook on Sundays!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Road Trip Eats

Today Matt and I are embarking on a road trip across the state for my little brother's graduation party (congrats Joel!). The 4.5 hour drive usually involves junk food of various sorts - chips, soda, candy-bars, etc. But, in the spirit of healthy eating, and inspired by many other bloggers, I'm determined to snack on some healthier options as we make the trek to Seattle. So here's what I've got packed:

Half a package of baby carrots and half a fresh cucumber.

Leftover peanut-butter and chocolate granola bars (homemade! yum!)

Because we don't road-trip very often, I'm not sure how this is going to work out. But it's summer, and road-trips are more likely to happen. So you people that road-trip a lot -- what are your favorite (healthy) road-tripping snacks?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Matt is the best fiance ever:

Matt knows that when I say, "Will you help me hang a curtain rod?", he knows that I mean "Will you put up this curtain rod for me?" and he does it while being super nice to me and using a ridiculously awful drill that I bought. Isn't he the best?

Freshly hung curtains on a new curtain rod.

Redesign coming this weekend!

My little blog has had the same color scheme for almost 6 months now, and while the oranges and blues were just what I needed to help me get through a dreary winter, I think it's time to mix it up! Summer is upon us, and that means sun, bright colors, and the end of spring cleaning (hopefully!). This weekend I'll be updating the blog to reflect the season, so if things look a little wonky at times, that should be the reason.

In addition, I'll be updating my "blog roll" (the links on the side) to reflect my personal faves and what I read every day... so leave me a comment if you have a blog you want me to check out!

Thanks for understanding, and hope you all like the results!

Summer Reading

While on my brief hiatus, I developed a pretty large literature appetite. I quickly devoured four popular books, and thought I'd share with you all how I enjoyed each one. A lot of people are looking for "summer reads" right now, so here you all go!

Everyone's heard of Wicked (the musical), right? Well, this is the book that started it all. I've never seen the musical, so I can't attest to how true it is to the book, but the story in this book is pretty interesting. Think of it as Harry Potter, but set in Oz. If you're looking for a read on the beach, I'd recommend this one, but with the caveat that the ending kind of drags on. And on.

The Secret Life of Bees is a movie starring Alicia Keys and Dakota Fanning. It's also a quick read with a lot of summer imagery of the rural South. Just because it's a quick read, don't pick it up thinking it's going to be light-hearted though... there are definitely some heavy issues discussed in these pages, from child abuse to segregation and civil rights. Additionally, the author really did her research on bee-keeping, though, making this fictional book a pretty informative read!

While this book is the only non-fiction one of the bunch, I think it is definitely my favorite. The Glass Castle is a memoir of Jeannette Walls' childhood with her crazy parents, and how they helped her grow into the woman she has become. It's heart-breaking, but almost uplifting at the same time. Again, a quick read, but not a light-hearted read. Apparently I like depressing books. Ha!

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has gotten so much critical acclaim that it'd be ridkculous NOT to put it on your summer reading list, right? So I read it. Oscar's character reminded me so much of bits and pieces of people that I know, right down to the Star Trek references, that I was captivated the entire time. Alternating between the Dominican Republic and the United States, the author discusses Oscar's inability to fit in with his peers and his isolation and lonliness that results, while throwing in a few history lessons on the Domincan Republic. This one definitely lived up to the hype for me.

Also, if you're looking for an economical way to acquire some summer reading and don't feel like going the library route, I highly recommend PaperBackSwap.com. You can read more about my experiences with the service here and here. You'll notice that I got most of these books from PaperBackSwap; I'll be posting them for trading again soon!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Project 17: The Office/Guestroom

So, anyone who's been in either of the apartments that I've had since college knows that the second bedroom is ALWAYS a disaster. Unfortunately, it also functions as the guest room, so my poor friends (that continue to love me anyway!) have had to suffer through my clutter while trying to get a good night's sleep. It's been a constant point of anxiety for me, because my family always had this thing about making the house look good before guests arrived, and my house certainly hasn't! That's why Project 17 is focusing on this room, getting it in tip-top shape, and making it a more home-away-from home for guests. So check it out, here's what I'm working with:

The left corner and closet, clutter and piles beyond belief!

The guest bed, window, and far side of the room.

This space is also supposed to be the "home office"... not a lot of work happening in here with this mess!

Seriously, I'm so embarrassed just posting these photos. My friends are such troopers, aren't they? This space features a huge closet (that is pretty poorly organized at the moment), and will hopefully house an "office" area and a "guest" area. Come back this weekend for the transformation - you won't believe your eyes!

You know you're a domestic goddess when...

... people get to your blog by googling "you know you are a domestic goddess when".

I am a golden [domestic] god[dess]!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's been a while...

So I really suck at this whole "letting readers know when [I'm] not going to be here" thing.... but in case you missed it, I took a random 2 week (if you count that book review as a week's worth of posting) hiatus from blogging without filling you guys in! But I have a good reason, I swear! Two major things have happened since I last wrote, and they are the following:
  1. I finished my last masters class ever! I don't have my masters degree yet - still need to write that pesky thesis/research paper and do my comprehensive exam - but I never have to go to another class for this degree again! Hooray!
  2. My baby brother graduated from high-school! Okay, we're less than 6 years apart... but he still feels like my baby brother even though he's 18 and officially graduated! So weird! Of course, this prompted an extended trip home to celebrate the occasion appropriately, which also partially explains my absence!
But don't worry... even though I haven't been writing, I've been busy! I've been experimenting with my food processor, which has been very enlightening and exposed how clueless I am about some things in the kitchen. My exploits have included an almond butter experiment with Rachel that turned out quite nicely, and my first ever pesto experiment!

I made a spinach-walnut pesto with some parmesan, salt, and olive oil that was absolutely delicious! In the mix was about 2 1/2 cups spinach, 1/3 cup parmesan, 1/4 cup olive oil, 4 cloves garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Added to 1 cup lightly toasted walnuts (chopped and toasted in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes) in the food processor, it made the excellent topping for some whole wheat pasta! Yum yum.

I've also been busy doing other sorts of kitchen experiments and cooking... the most profitable of which has been my homemade granola bars - made using this recipe. Take a look - they're totally delicious, and I highly recommend them!

I've also been busy keeping my flowers alive - and I must say, I'm so happy that they finally bloomed! 3 months of tender love and care has paid off in some beautiful (and big!) pink and white flowers that really brighten up the balcony. Don't let the pictures fool you - they happen to be taken in the middle of a thunder storm at 10 pm!

And perhaps the biggest news... I finally have my own computer again! I'd been (not so) secretly using my work laptop for school and personal business, but all that has come to an end. Please meet my new Mac - I've never owned a Mac before, but so far I'm loving it! It's only been a few days though, so it's possible I could fall out of love with it... ha! Just kidding. I love love love it, and it's so sleek and pretty.

So anyway, I will be posting a lot more now that my new laptop is up and running and I've got no homework or classes! Thanks for hanging in there in my absence!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Book Review: Naturally Thin

I've written before about my love for the Real Housewives franchise, and that is by no means limited to the TV shows themselves. So when I heard about Bethenny Frankel's book Naturally Thin and saw how all over the blog world it was, I knew I had to pick up a copy and and read it for myself. I have to preface this by saying that I am not now, nor have I ever been, over-weight or actively trying to change my lifestyle to lose weight - which is not to say that I'm not constantly looking for ways to improve my health and eating habits, but just that I'm probably in a different place than the audience this book is intended for. Anyway, here's what I thought:

The Good
  • Bethenny definitely has some awesome recipes and food ideas in the book. I enjoy my cereal and the occassional bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, but I had NEVER thought of using leftover brown rice as a morning food! The combination of ingredients she suggested for morning brown rice was also delicious - raisins, nuts, cinnamon, and a natural sweetener. Yum! I'm still on the fence about brown rice, but I've taken to using this combo in my morning oats.
  • It is made very clear from the outset that the reader should NOT do what Bethenny does verbatim, but find what works for them. This point is so often overlooked in diet and healthy living books that I'm glad finally someone decided to emphasize it a ton! It's so true, too! Life is so much better if you enjoy what you're doing.
  • Nothing is off limits! (except for super obvious things, like diet soda). I've never read a diet/healthy eating book before that didn't massively restrict things before, and it's refreshing to see someone in that field that acknowledges that people are still going to eat chips and cheesecake. Her bank account metaphor really makes sense and will help a lot of people learn how to make good choices while still eating what they want.
The Bad
  • Bethenny's message, while a good one, often comes off as your skinny (bitchy) friend telling you "If you just quit eating so much you'll be fine". And let's be honest, that's just really annoying after awhile.
  • While the book explicitly states several times that Bethenny's personal diet should not be followed and is only being printed for reference, the implication is still there, and she frankly does not eat enough for anyone who even lightly exercises daily. Many other bloggers have written about this point in their reviews as well, and now that I've read it myself, I can tell you again that it's true.
Overall, this book was a quick, interesting read with a lot of good, sensical ideas in it. And some delicious-sounding recipes, too! I don't think it's going to solve the problems of anyone with a ton of weight to lose, but it's some good food for thought (haha, puns) and a decent reference material to have on hand.