A little alone time.

I feel like I so rarely have time to myself anymore.

It’s not that I don’t do things for myself. I still take the time to go for a run or to the gym. Last night, for example, I spent an hour at another Epic workout that may go down in history as the toughest workout I’ve ever done. (Burpee Thursday ain’t no joke, y’all.)

But usually I’m at work with coworkers all day, then I spend my evenings and weekends with Joey. During hockey season, I’ll usually have a few evenings at home alone when Joey is at games.

I kind of like having this time. Don’t get me wrong — I love spending time with Joey and my friends. But the time to myself is when I feel like I check things off my to-do list and re-center a bit.

I guess this is on my mind because Joey is doing some volunteer work Saturday and Sunday during the day, meaning I’ll have almost the whole weekend to myself. My first instinct was to text a bunch of friends to come over and hang out, but then I started thinking about the work I’d have to put into making sure the apartment was nice and generally being “on.”

Then I imagined just using the time to take care of things that I’ve been meaning to take care of. Like cleaning out my closet, dropping off my old clothes at the Buffalo Exchange, really deep-cleaning the apartment, and relaxing at home (in my newly organized apartment) with a glass of wine.

It just sounded kind of decadent, ya know?

So that’s what I decided to do. I have a few things to take care of in the mornings, but I’m dedicating the afternoons to those “one of these days, I’m going to…” tasks that have been hanging over my head. I feel like it will make me much saner in the long run.

Do you find you have to consciously schedule alone time for yourself? Or do you find it harder to get things accomplished and be social at the same time?

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How to: Healthy Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip “Cookies”

I feel obligated to tell you that I don’t make much of an effort to “eat clean” in my every day life.

I fully recognize the benefits, but try not to be one of those all-or-nothing types when it comes to diet, exercise, or pretty much anything else. Plus, I just really like cheese and wine and ice cream. I don’t consider this a character flaw.

That being said, I do try to make healthy choices where I can. And as a lifetime owner of one of the biggest sweet tooths (sweet teeth? Grammar.) on the planet, I’m always excited when I find a more nutritious version of my favorite desserts for the every day.

Because as much as I’d like to, I can’t eat cheese and wine and ice cream every day.

One of my ALL-TIME favorite foods? Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

(Is it just me, or did you mouth start watering when I said that? Just me? Okay, moving on.)

But, again, I can’t just eat chocolate chip cookies every day if I want to be able to fit in my clothes every day. It’s a choice. A very, very difficult choice at times. And I’ve tried those “healthy cookie dough dips” on Pinterest that are made from chickpeas and sweetener. They are NOT delicious. They do not solve my problem.

Which is why I was SO EXCITED when I spotted this pin on Pinterest:

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 10.03.24 PMBananas? Oats? Chocolate chips and peanut butter??? I love ALL those things. And this recipe could even be considered (GASP) clean??? (I think? I guess peanut butter and chocolate probably aren’t technically clean, right? Well, save your judgement until I tell you more about those ingredients.)

As if by fate, I also received an email from Kallari Chocolate asking if I wanted to sample their product. Kallari is a cacao grower that makes gourmet chocolate in Ecuador using biodiverse cacao groves. They use organic heirloom cacao, gourmet recipes (no emulsifiers, artificial flavors and half the sugar), and minimal processing to provide a chocolate experience unique from other chocolate chips for baking.

Plus, they retain most of their farms in primary and secondary rainforest, with an average of 1.5 acres of cacao planted per family, less than 2% of our total territory. This allows them to earn a living and provide for our families without sacrificing natural resources or forgetting our cultural traditions. (They also have a Kickstarter if you’d like to help support this honorable initiative.)(SUPPORT THE EARTH-FRIENDLY CHOCOLATE, PEOPLE.)

Anyway.

So a couple of nights ago, I decided to finally make the cookies. I went to click on the link from the pin, and LO AND BEHOLD, the recipe it linked to was nothing like the recipe in the pin caption. It linked to this.

Pinterest, this is why you are annoying. THIS.

The actual recipe called for a bunch of ingredients I didn’t have, and wasn’t even baked like a real cookie.

Though I was a bit more apprehensive, I decided to just go with what was written in the caption. Worst case scenario, I figured the globs of “cookie dough” would just bake down into a granola bar-type consistency. I could still eat that. (Obviously my standards are SUPER high, right?)

So I combined:

2 bananas, peeled
1 cup quick oats
1 heaping spoonful of natural peanut butter
1 bar Kallari dark chocolate (85% cocoa)

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I mashed everything together with a potato masher and baked 1 T rounds on a parchment lined baking pan at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.

When they came out, they looked nothing like the original pin (BECAUSE THE RECIPE WAS TOTALLY DIFFERENT), but they DID somewhat resemble chocolate chip cookies. Sort of.

IMG_5092The actual consistency was a little mushier than real cookies, but the oats gave the “cookies” enough chewy texture to satisfy the craving. The chocolate I used wasn’t particularly sweet because of the high cocoa content, but it wasn’t at all bitter either, and the bananas and peanut butter added sweetness.

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All in all, I’m pretty pleased with this accidental recipe. Even better, it’s practically a health food! COOKIES FOR HEALTH.

What’s your favorite healthy dessert that tastes like a not-healthy dessert? Lord knows I’m always in the market.

What Greek yogurt and Barry’s Bootcamp have in common.

You know what we haven’t talked about in, oh, four posts or so? Working out.

About a week ago, Chobani reached out to me and asked if I wanted to review some of their product. They’d noticed that I cook with Greek yogurt often (exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C, and exhibit D), but that I typically prefer Fage and would I be willing to try out cooking with Chobani. Obviously, I was thrilled to be asked (I never say no to Greek yogurt) and happily accepted.

As if that weren’t enough, they also offered me an invitation to a special Chobani workout at Barry’s Bootcamp specifically for bloggers and media members.

Um…free workout? I’m down.

I don’t know if any of you have ever tried Barry’s, but it’s pretty hardcore. It’s broken down into alternating sessions of treadmill sprints/incline runs and weights/step/bands.

IMG_5073They also keep the mood lighting appropriately intense.

I run pretty regularly, but I’m a distance runner. Hills/sprints kick my butt. And 20 straight minutes of lunges, squats, and step moves didn’t make it any easier.

By the time I left the class, I could barely walk down the steps to the subway. That, my friends, is a good workout.

IMG_5075Plus, class ended with a free Chobani protein smoothie. Can’t beat that.

IMG_5094So sweaty. So thirsty for yogurt smoothie.

I don’t know if I’ll attend another Barry’s for a while (it’s a wee bit expensive), but it was fun trying something new.

Thanks again for the invite, Chobani!

The quietest milestone

As my friend Gabby kindly pointed out, I have been slacking a bit on the blog.

My deepest apologies.

To be fair (and as Gabby pointed out), I’ve been a little busy. Mostly with going on the first real vacation Joey and I have taken since our honeymoon.

vacation

(Get more pics as they happen by following me on Instagram.)

It was, in a word, lovely. And relaxing. And warm. (Okay, if you know me at all you should know I usually need more than one word.)

Now, though, we’re officially back to real life and real jobs and real blogging. (Well, me at least.)

The only other semi-important thing that happened over our trip was that I turned 26. Obviously I didn’t make nearly the fuss this year that I did last year, but 26 isn’t all that much of a milestone, really.

The head of my department says it was her favorite age, though, so maybe I’m wrong?

I’ve said it before, but getting older doesn’t really freak me out that much. I mean, I’m not ruling out the chance that it will someday, but for now, I’m okay.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ve felt roughly 26 since I was about 13. If anything, I’m just relieved to finally actually be an age appropriate to the way I act. I’m married, have a full-time career, and am starting to think about buying a home and having kids in the next couple of years. Let’s hope I’m in my mid- to late-twenties, right?

I do wonder what will happen when I start to be in my 30s. Will I feel younger than my age? Or will I (*gulp*) actually have that house and kids, so feel appropriately 30s?

Guess you’ll have to wait and see with me, huh?

It does make me curious, though, what age do you feel?

How to: Quinoa Veggie Scramble

I eat breakfast everyday. It’s really a nonnegotiable at this point.

I’m actually one of those weirdos who wakes up hungry. (I may have an actual problem.)

But the point is, breakfast — it happens.

My problem is that I usually end up in these ruts of eating the exact same thing every day for months. A protein smoothie. An egg sandwich. A bowl of Kashi or Special K Protein cereal.

It’s a bit uninspiring.

So when I manage to whip up something even remotely creative, I like to share with you guys. Plus, it’s been a while since we had a Kitchen Adventure, right?

My latest creation? A Quinoa Veggie Scramble.

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The “quinoa veggie” part was actually leftovers from one of my favorite dinners to make. Here’s how to make the Quinoa Veggie Stir-Fry:

Ingredients:
3 bell peppers (I usually pick a mix of red, yellow, and orange), chopped
1 large white onion, chopped
2 heads of broccoli, chopped
Garlic salt
Paprika
Salt and pepper
2-4 T olive oil
3-4 cups cooked quinoa (prepare according to package directions)

1. Heat 2 T of olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add chopped peppers and sauté for 1 minute.
2. Add chopped onion, broccoli, and 8-10 shakes of garlic powder and paprika each. Saute for 1 min, stirring regularly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. I like to put a lid on the pan for 3-5 minutes to let the steam cook the broccoli a little quicker.
4. When peppers and onions are cooked through, combine veggie mixture with quinoa. You’re done!

I personally love adding a bit of feta and some buffalo hot sauce to this mixture before eating. But you can skip that step if you’re making the scramble.

All you have to do to turn the above into breakfast is put about a cup of the veggie mixture and half a cup of quinoa in a microwave-safe bowl and add an egg. Mix it together and microwave for one minute. Mix again, and then microwave for 1-2 additional minutes. The bowl will be hot when you go to take it out, so be cautious.

I put my scramble in a tupperware hot and took it to work. By the time I got there, it was the perfect eating temperature. (It probably helped that it’s blazing hot outside so it couldn’t really cool down.)

And that’s it!

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What are some of your favorite quick breakfast recipes?

My Epic Workout

When my friend Diana asked me if I wanted to join her for a new workout class last night, all I knew about the class was that it was called “Epic” and that Diana said it was hard.

I think it’s fair to assume that no one has ever described me as epic physically.

I mean, I work out. I’ve survived three half marathons. But epic? When I think of epic, I think of this:

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Or, you know, maybe this:

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But I certainly don’t think of this:

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Which, yeah, is how I think of myself most of the time.

But anyway. I decided, sure, I could use some more epic in my life and signed up for the class. I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to exercise anyway, so the challenge appealed to me.

I arrived at the Epic Hybrid Training Center Wednesday night about 15 minutes before the class, which was one of those courses designed to train you for a Spartan run. (Eep.) It was the type of small group that acted like they were all already friends, making me assume they had all taken the class several times before. (AKA, no one was all that friendly and they all acted tougher than they were.)

To my relief, though, only a few people looked significantly more in shape than I am. I had harbored a tiny fear that everyone would walk in looking like an actual Spartan, and I felt a lot better that most of them looked like they too spent their days behind a desk.

The gym itself looked like most CrossFit-style workout facilities — a variety of hanging ropes, bars, and sand bags surrounded us, along with jump ropes, raised platforms, kettle bells, mats, etc.

Diana arrived, we exchanged “let’s do this” glances, and class began.

By the time it was over, I was literally dripping with sweat. It was an intense workout, and there were definitely moves that I can’t do yet, but I was pleased to find that there was really only one circuit I found impossible to do at this point. (I’m looking at you, swinging/rotating monkey bars.) I’d never really considered doing a Spartan Run, but, hey, maybe, right?

Either way, it was a great workout. (An epic workout even??) I started feeling sore pretty much the moment I got home last night.

I have four more classes as part of the Groupon I purchased for the gym, and I’m actually looking forward to getting my butt kicked a few more times. I’m beginning to think I should make purchasing random class Groupons more of a habit — for the sake of a blog post at least, right?

Who knows, maybe I’m a bit more epic than I give myself credit for.

In defense of the selfie.

I’ve debated writing this post for a while, which is something I find that I do whenever I want to write about something that makes me a little uncomfortable or that I think I won’t get a favorable response on.

Welp, guess you guys have liked me long enough anyway, right?

I want to talk about selfies.

Up until about a year or two ago, you probably had never even heard this word. I hadn’t. I mean, they existed. Every since the beginning of portraiture, mankind has been seemingly obsessed with capturing their own appearance. (Don’t believe me? History don’t lie.)

There’s even a fairly fun trend in the art world of turning iconic photos into selfies. (I kind of love it.)

The point is, selfies are not actually a new thing. What is new (and especially poignant with the onslaught of social media, which gave millions of teenagers a platform on which to project their faces), is the sudden and sharp distaste for the genre.

I mean, I can’t lie — I get it. I get that it’s irritating to see someone post photo after photo of their own face. Like, what, you think we forgot what you look like? You’re just doing it to get compliments. It’s totally self-centered. Right?

Well, okay.

Sometimes, I think that’s true. But I think there has to be more to it. Because, yeah, okay, I know a lot of people who are self-centered in general who post a lot of selfies. (It makes sense that so many teenagers, who are notoriously absorbed with their own lives and worlds, would be the biggest offenders.)

But I also know a lot of sweet, selfless, otherwise mild-mannered people who still post the occasional shot of themselves. (Usually with all the usual “eek #obligatoryselfie” disclaimers, of course.)

Heck, I’ve done it. I counted no fewer than 21 selfies on my Instagram account. And that’s not even counting the dozens of “half-face”, hair shots, and group photos I’ve uploaded in the last two years.

But, I mean, I also write a blog about my life, so clearly I don’t have that many qualms about showing you my face.

So why do we do it? Obviously, I have a theory. Two, actually.

The first is that a selfie is solid, near tangible way of marking a moment in time. This is me. On this day, at this moment. Here I am. I was.

It’s something you can point to and remember. Pine for or be glad is over. Selfies are a little peek into your history.

That’s one theory. The other theory is much simpler, and way less philosophical.

A selfie is a way of capturing a moment when you felt good about yourself. After all, most of us only post flattering selfies. I know when I do it, it’s sometimes a way of saying, “Look, you guys! I look pretty right now!”

And yes, that is a petty reason for doing something. But I also have a hard time judging someone else for feeling pretty. (And I try not to judge myself for feeling that way either.) There are too many reasons to feel ugly these days, and too many people perfectly willing to tear others down for the sake of some shallow feeling of superiority.

Whenever I feel myself getting annoyed at someone for posting too many photos of himself or herself, I try to remember that. I try to to be happy for them for feeling pretty. Proud of them, even.

So, yeah, a Facebook album titled “Me*!*!*!*!*!<3lol” packed with 30 photos you took in the mirror is annoying. But the occasional “Woooo new haircut!” post? I can deal.

You probably look pretty spectacular, anyway.

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