It’s that time of year again: resolution time. I know people criticize resolutions, and I often have myself. That is why I like to call them goals. It’s good to have goals, they give you something to work towards and something to achieve and accomplish. Before I go into my much smaller list this year, let’s review last year’s list.
- BE ACTIVE AT LEAST 4X/WEEK. SCHEDULE ACTIVITY INTO CALENDAR. Yes! I managed to keep this one, and so proud of it!
- SCHEDULE APPOINTMENT WITH PHYSICAL THERAPIST TO GET TO THE ROOT OF MY KNEE PROBLEMS. Yeah… about that one. Just didn’t happen. I haven’t noticed problems with my knees as much this year. I think the root of the problem was just overwork. Hopefully this will stay away for a while.
- UPPER. BODY. STRENGTH. Got it. Lost it. Working on it again.
- UTILIZE FITBOOK AS A WAY TO TRACK PROGRESS. I wanted this to work for me. But logging how many calories you burn, how far you ran, how many minutes you were in a class, it’s just not fun for me. I just bought myself an Erin Condren life planner though, so hopefully this will allow me to keep on track with workouts without feeling overwhelmed.
- TRY 3 NEW WORK OUTS. INITIAL THOUGHTS INCLUDE CROSS FIT, BALLET WORKOUT (I HEAR THERE IS A BALLET GYM OPENING IN STAMFORD?) AND KICKBOXING. Granted I didn’t try any of these, but I did take a few new classes at the gym (atleast for me): Zumba, Yoga and Pilates. My roommate Kim and I took a Zumba class before XMAS and had the BEST time rocking out to Mariah’s “All I want for Christmas is you.”
- HOST DINNER FOR FRIENDS AT LEAST ONCE/MONTH. I think I did this if you count the few parties that Kim and I hosted. Olympics party and Christmas Cocktails were so much fun!
- PERFECT HOMEMADE DOUGH – UTILIZING MY NEW KITCHENAID MIXER! Done. I now have a flawless whole wheat dough and herbed pizza dough that I love! And my friend Rocky’s holiday card just came… with another recipe! Can’t wait to try it out. Thank you Rocky and Jason for your lovely card and recipe – it made my day!
- FIND A GO-TO HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE. Not. Didn’t even try.
- PUT TOGETHER RECIPE BINDERS AND ORGANIZE FOOD MAGAZINES [I NOW SUBSCRIBE TO COOKING LIGHT, BON APETIT AND FOOD & WINE!] Done. I have however cut myself back on subscriptions and only do Food & Wine and Glamour.
- USE GRILL PAN. I BOUGHT A QUALITY GRILL PAN DURING THE HURRICANE IRENE LOCKDOWN ONLINE AND IT’S BEEN IN THE BOX EVER SINCE. Has it really been over a year that I’ve had that gosh darn thing in my closet? Gotta do it.
- PREPARE, COOK, AND CARVE A TURKEY. I assisted in Thanksgiving this year (and hosted) and learned how to do the turkey. The secret? Bacon. Carving? Still gives me nightmares.
- GRILL A PIZZA. Did it all summer!
- USE ICE CREAM MAKER… AN EARLY FOODIE REQUEST I HAD IN MIDDLE SCHOOL I THINK. MY PARENTS OBLIGED AN BOUGHT ME A LOVELY CUISINART ICE CREAM MAKER – THE DESIGN HASN’T CHANGED IN 10+ YEARS. AWESOME. This one didn’t happen. No attempt. I think I need to start with sorbet. I don’t really even like ice cream that much..
Recipe Musts (one for each month!):
- LENTIL WALNUT BURGERS Made them and they fell apart. Not a fan.
- CAESAR SALAD PIZZA I forgot about this one. It really should happen soon.
- ZUCCHINI BREAD Negative.
- MAC AND CHEESE LIGHT I didn’t use the exact recipe, but made a wonderful cauliflower mac. That counts.
- HG MIRACLE MASHIES Whoops.
- SHRIMP SCAMPI Seriously, I forgot about these recipes.
- TLAYUDA Next.
- LEMONY-ZUCCHINI GOAT CHEESE PIZZA I fell off the wagon on this list. However I did make a zucchini pizza.
- MUSHROOM MARSALA PASTA WITH ARTICHOKES Doesn’t even appeal to me anymore.
- ARTICHOKE, SPINACH & FETA STUFFED SHELLS I made a similar artichoke pasta, so i’m saying i achieved this.
- HOMEMADE GNOCCI – SWEET POTATO OR MARIO BATALI’S VERSION Attempted, but failed.
- VEGAN PASTA FROM OH SHE GLOWS .. OR JUST SOMETHING DELICIOUSLY VEGAN. I made her avocado pasta… and didn’t like it.
- JOURNAL AT LEAST TWICE/WEEK. I mentioned in Q1 that I didn’t care for this one much. I can’t blog regularly, how can I journal regularly?
- READ ONE BOOK/MONTH – READ BEFORE BED? AT THE GYM? IN THE CAR? Oh I rocked it out with books this year. According to my Goodreads account I read 70 books this year. Holy cow. Thank you books on CD and kindle. I would not have done it without you <3.
- VISIT MY FAMILY’S LAKE HOUSE IN VERMONT OVER THE SUMMER. [CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS ACTUALLY A GOAL... BUT I DIDN'T MAKE IT A PRIORITY LAST YEAR WITH MY MOVE AND SPENT A YEAR AWAY FROM HOME FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER] Did it! Got home twice this year. Had the best time both times.
- EMBRACE THE PHONE. I DISLIKE PHONE CALLS. BUT, DUE TO MY STRONG DISLIKE FOR PHONE CALLS, I NEGLECT FRIENDSHIPS. WELL THAT IS STUPID, ISN’T IT? I LOVE MY FRIENDS. I WANT TO HEAR FROM THEM. EMBRACE THE (I)PHONE. I’m working on it. I did it more in 2012, but still recognize that I’m not the best when it comes to phone calls. I am however talking to my parents daily now which has been wonderful.
So here I am. 2013 upon me. I have a lovely dinner ahead of me with friends, and couldn’t be more excited. I’m not going to lie, as much as this list shows me what I have done, I know that 2013 is going to be a big year for me. It will be a year of yet another likely job change (as I will graduate from my program), hopefully a trip to see my family on the West coast, and one where I am focusing on me.
It wasn’t an easy year in terms of my love life or in some ways personal life. There were some bumps but those are inevitable in anyone’s life. I’m just looking forward to a fresh start and a new year. So with that said, here is my shortened goals list for 2013:
- Maintain regular fitness 4x/week.
- Run a 10k.
- Make lunch 3x/week (and same some $$).
- Use my new life planner!
- Make a Cauliflower pizza crust.
- Continue to read at least 1 book/month.
- Kick bagels out for good.
- Drink more decaf tea and water.
- Incorporate yoga into my life, even if its just with that silly yoga app on my Macbook.
- Dentist: 2x. I had the absolute WORST experience this year, but I have an appointment scheduled this month, regardless. I will overcome fear of the dentist.
Whatever and wherever you are this NYE I hope you have a splendid time. Please be safe out there and enjoy all those that you love!
What? You don’t get to wake up to a crazy dog stealing your gym shorts? (Love the flash’s effect on his eyes to make him look even MORE crazy)
And pajama pants?
But don’t worry, even dog thiefs have their perks. My dog now jumps through hoops, spins around on his hind legs for treats and walks on exercise balls.
Super (or “broken” as my brother calls him) Buckler!
Medicated animals, ah joy. You can’t help but love him with that face.
It feels like I was just recapping the Turkey Trot and being sad that my family was already gone. Thanksgiving seriously did fly by and while there is never enough time to be with my family, I was relieved to know that I was only saying goodbye for a month. This past Friday, I had the pleasure of driving nearly 6 hours in the pouring rain. Yep. Just me, my Jetta, a book on CD (highly recommend My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space) and the beginnings of a winter storm. Fa la la la la la la la la. Can you sense the sarcasm?
As miserable as the trip was, I didn’t have it in me to stop once. Mainly for the reason that I was scared to hit black ice as it is obviously colder in Vermont. The second reason I didn’t pull over or stretch my legs was that I was so desperate to get back to Vermont. I only get home about twice a year now, which isn’t necessarily different from the past 5 years of my life, really. With a full-time job, it’s not easy to take time off. Also with a full-time job, when you do take off, you have a bit more wiggle room to do something fun, like go to Vegas with 9 of my girlfriends…. and then be broke for 3 months. Now I’m getting off topic.
As many of you know, I haven’t lived at home since I was about 15. That’s almost 10 years of me NOT being in Vermont and being on my own. You would think that I would have gotten over homesickness and it would be nonexistent. The odd thing for me is that it’s gotten worse over the years. When I first went away to boarding school, I was thrilled for the independence. I have always been fine alone and in new situations and this was no different. Yes, the first few days were hard and I can still picture myself in the library on the first day emailing my mom saying that I had definitely made a mistake. But the other 99% of the time, I was in my element. It was probably because my mother was never far away and always sending me care packages, talking to me on my way to class or practice on my rad cell phone, and making visits to watch me in field hockey games. They were always around, but not really.
While I would come home for summers, they were always spent working or catching up with friends from Vermont and keeping in touch with those from school. They always flew and I was eager to get back to school. I will be the first to admit that I just didn’t really put spending time with family very high on my priority list. I was a teenager, after all.
Come college, I went just a wee bit further South and went to Boston. Another hour away from home, no big. This is where things really started to get distant. The summer after freshmen year, I didn’t want to go home for the summer. I struck a deal with my dad to pay half rent for an apartment in Boston with my friends and I stayed straight through to Fall Semester. It was one of the best summers of my life and I honestly don’t regret it. The thing about Northeastern though, is that after your freshman year, you really don’t get any more summers. I spent the rest of them working, traveling or in class. I haven’t had a true summer vacation since I was 18. Woe is me.
So here I am, almost 2 years out of school and what am I feeling all too frequently? Homesickness. Gut-wrenching, close to tears, homesickness. I started to feel it last year when I first moved and I was so surprised. I’ve been away for a decade, why am I just NOW feeling pangs of loneliness and detachment from my family? It’s all suddenly become so clear that while I’m down in CT, my mom, dad, and brother are within 15 minutes of each other up here. If they want to have a random dinner or go out on the boat on a summer night together, they CAN. I tend to force myself not to think about it because it just depresses me. I know that I’ve made the right choices for where I am in my life right now, but it’s hard to push out those thoughts after a particularly hard day or a rough week.
Luckily, however, we have amazing communication. When I say that I mean a few things. First of all, technology has kept us all so connected and I’m grateful for the speed of email, texts and the convenience of a quick call to my family whenever I need to talk. I also mean that over the years, the quality of our communication and the way we speak to each other has improved tenfold. I usually don’t go a day without speaking to one of my parents. My mom starts my days with a morning email, that we joke often isn’t about anything but when she’s going to start her work out or take out the dog. But you know what? I live for those. If I don’t get a morning email, Mom hears about it.
I was talking to my Mom in the car about my weird reverse homesickness and she was very blunt with me. She just said that I hadn’t truly appreciated family growing up. She’s right. I really believe that as I’ve grown and matured, my values haven’t necessarily changed, but they’ve certainly been re-balanced. I’m definitely happy with how they’re shaping up. I’m taking my parents’ advice more. I’m realizing that advice they already gave me I should have listened to. My relationship with my brother is changing. I’m working on relationships with extended family. I guess I’m growing up. Who knew?
This brings me to Sunday night pizza night at the GRAS house. My mom asked me to make pizza and I eagerly agreed. I found this recipe for Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta Pizza on We Are Not Martha and thought it looked like an interesting spin. I love sprouts and pancetta makes everything betta. I altered it a bit with some smoked turkey sausage and cranberries to give it a holiday touch. I also made a new dough with basil, oregano and red pepper (which by the way was AWESOME).
The verdict? Depends who you ask. My mom and I loved it. I thought the roasted brussels were so warm and rich with a nice bite from the crust and sweetness from the cranberries. Ask my Dad and bro? I don’t think they’d ask for it again. They both ate it, but we all know that boys are often heavier eaters. They weren’t headed back for seconds last night.
As disappointed as I was that I couldn’t deliver something awesome to them, I realized at the end of the night, that nobody gave two you-know-whats. And why? Because we’re a family and we’re together. I would rather serve my family spaghettiO’s than not eat dinner with them. I’d rather watch multiple episodes of Sons of Guns with my dad and brother than be in Connecticut watching The Real Housewives. (Okay, that’s a stretch but I’ll make the exception here and there). The point is, I love my family and while I wish I had appreciated them more in years past, it is NEVER too late to start being homesick.
Brussels Sprouts & Turkey Sausage Pizza
Inspired by We Are Not Martha
Note: This yields 2 medium-sized pizzas. Easy recipe to half if you’re serving 2-3.
- 1 batch of my favorite whole-wheat pizza dough
- 18 medium sized brussels sprouts, stemmed and quartered
- 8 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing pizza doughs (2 tsp. for both)
- 8-10 oz. smoked turkey sausage like this one, sliced thin and halved
- 1-2 oz. shaved parmesan
- 8-10 oz. mozzarella, sliced into rounds
- 1/2 c. dried cranberries
- cornmeal and flour for rolling
- Non-fat cooking spray, optional
- Preheat oven to 400º.
- Prep your veggies, meat and cheese.
- Roll out dough on a piece of parchment paper, with cornmeal and flour. (We were out so we just did it directly on the stone and in the pan – thanks Dad for the help here!
- Brush each crust with ~1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil. Pre-bake crusts for 5-7 minutes. (I did 5, but would do longer next time)
- Meanwhile, in a large pan with non-stick/non-fat cooking spray (or the 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil), sauté brussels for 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir occasionally. Sauté about 3-5 minutes until brussels are lightly charred and garlic begins to golden. Remove from heat.
- Remove dough from oven. Top with mozzarella cheese, brussels sprouts mixture, cranberries and smoked turkey sausage.
- Bake 12-15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and sprinkle with shaved parmesan to taste.
- Slice, serve and enjoy!
Merry Christmas Eve all! I’ll be enjoying some lovely salmon with my family tonight and surprising them with some new PJ’s for Christmas morning! What can I say, I’m weird like that and looking forward to an awkward family photo. Love to you all and your families. I hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season with lots of good eats!
Thank you for reading GRAS Pizza and for supporting my writing and culinary endeavors. It is the best gift I could ever ask for.
Oh the holidays. Holiday parties. Holiday pot-lucks. Family dinners. Crafting days. Cutting down the tree. It is definitely a lot. Coming off of this last weekend I’m happy it’s Monday because I’m exhausted. This is going to sound super “I’m so popular” but I had plans ALL weekend. I definitely overdid it and squeezed way too much in, but hey, it’s the holidays and I love everyone around me these days!
One of my favorite things is to pull together a complete meal without having to even go to the grocery store. It’s not always easy to do but when you have a full pantry and busy freezer with we did last week, it’s definitely possible.
Kim and I have been trying to make an effort to clean out the freezer because… well, we have no idea what’s in it. And because of my whole addiction to buying meat on sale and freezing it, I’ve filled that thing up. Last week I told Kim it was time to start using up the bags of pizza dough and we had an impromptu mid-week pizza night. With no plan at all, we pulled together quite the pizza.
I call this my Freezer Holiday pizza because it involves flavored chicken sausage, cheese and cranberries. Yes, you read that: cranberries. I had a bag leftover from Thanksgiving and decided that it would be a perfect little addition. The cheese was leftover from a little holiday decorating party we had. I was definitely a little nervous about the combination, but I am thrilled to say that it turned out perfectly! Yes, the whole wheat crust was not a perfect circle, but I never do care that much about aesthetics when it comes to making pizza. The cheese cut it nicely. I didn’t bother doing any sauce and I’m really glad that I didn’t. Just pre-baked with some garlic and oil then topped it. Perfection.
I suggest making this for one of those nights in the holiday season where you just want to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie with your family or friends. Pizza night from the freezer/pantry to your holidays!
Freezer Holiday Pizza
- 1 ball of pizza dough
- 1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 links sundried tomato and basil chicken sausage
- 1-2 tsp. red pepper flakes, to taste
- Cheddar Cheese, to taste
- 3/4 c. dried cranberries
- Preheat oven to 425º F.
- Roll out pizza dough on a large piece of parchment paper, using your hands.
- Drizzle olive oil across pizza and spread with a pastry brush or spoon. Top with minced garlic.
- Pre-bake crust for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook chicken sausage in a large skillet. Slice into thin rounds.
- Slice cheese or shred cheddar. We had pre-cut cheese so I just chopped it up.
- Once pizza comes out, top with chicken sausage, cheese, cranberries and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove, slice and enjoy!
This was a good one – I hope you all enjoy it!
Question of the Day
What’s on your Christmas or holiday wish list?
Thanksgiving. Just saying it brings the taste of sweet potatoes, the scent of a turkey roasting, visions of cranberry-sauce-from-the-can ripples and of course, the warm fuzzies of family and friends. As a young adult, my Thanksgivings are never the same. We do it with different members of our family every year.
As a child we’d go down to Westport, MA to my Nanny’s house to celebrate with the entire family on my mother’s side. It was the same every year. My mother, her two sisters, my aunt and Nanny would create an unbelievable feast for all, while my cousins and I got in the way in the kitchen and played outside. We learned how to properly fold a flag and put it up. We’d do countless laps through the property in my Nanny’s golf cart. And of course, we’d try to see who could throw who off the cart with our wreckless driving. Truly mature children we were.
Dinner was of course amazing and I have the fondest memories of sitting at the kids table putting black olives on all my fingers. I also regularly requested a drumstick. Yes, an entire drumstick. These days, I can’t even imagine chomping down on one of those. However, I was also the child that would eat a four course meal comprised of a shrimp cocktail, salad, a prime rib and chocolate mousse. Dear Metabolism, I miss you.
This Thanksgiving we didn’t really have any plans. My extended family is sort of spread across the country, unfortunately. While some years we do travel (like the amazing California Thanksgiving with K&J), this year none of us were motivated to go far. I didn’t even want to drive the 5 1/2 hours to Vermont since I’ll be doing it in a month (yay!). As an almost joke, I suggested to my mom that they come down to Connecticut and we have Thanksgiving at my apartment. Surprisingly, she totally embraced the idea as did the rest of my family. I was SO excited to host them, especially since my father and brother hadn’t been to my place yet.
We immediately decided that it would be a low key, lazy Thanksgiving: sweatpants, jeans, lounging around, the works.
But then I had an idea.
Family turkey trot.
As a new runner, I’m excited to try different races and routes. I totally dig the energy and after Run for the Wild in September, I knew it wouldn’t be my last race. My brother is also a runner, having run several races himself. My mother, however, was not. My mother, as readers of this blog know, is a stunning woman that works out every morning. She power walks 5 miles and lifts weights. Because of that, she’s truly in incredible shape. She was a bit hesitant about running, though. With some strong encouragement, she agreed to do a 2.6 mile turkey trot.
With about a month to train, I got back into my regular running schedule and my mother alternated her workouts with running. My brother always runs so he was more than ready.
And then, I threw a wrench in the mix. I found out that the City of Stamford’s Department of Health and Social Services would be hosting their own 5K down by the harbor to promote physical fitness and healthy living. I thought that was SO cool of the city and I definitely wanted to participate. Being a free event, it was open to the public and you didn’t even need to preregister. They really were making it easy for the people of Stamford to get after it on Thanksgiving. I really do love where I live.
We debated for a little bit about the distance but I reminded her that it was only a half of a mile difference and she obliged. I love my mom.
My parents arrived on Wednesday evening after a long drive down from Vermont. After catching up, we ordered pizza from Rikos down the street and had a casual dinner on the couches while chatting about Thanksgiving. I’m not doing a full review of Rikos until a future date because 1) I didn’t take photos, and 2) I honestly wasn’t being a critic because I was too busy basking in the company of my family. I will say that the prices were reasonable and the pizzas were decently sized. We also chatted about the trot. My mom was clearly a bit anxious but my brother and I tried to calm her nerves and give her the details about how the morning would likely run. We all went to bed early, eager for a good night’s sleep and energy for the morning.
I realized when I got into bed that I was a bit nervous myself. Would I run it so effortlessly again? Would I dress correctly? What if it was hilly? So many if’s and I totally psyched myself out for a bit. But I distracted myself, and dug into my current read: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio. Not finished yet, but loving it so far. Sarah Jio is awesome.
Fast forward to Thursday morning. Luckily I had my trusty natural alarm of my parents’ dog, Buckler to wake me up. He and I haven’t always gotten along, but he’s adorable nonetheless and I’m having fun watching him slip and slide around my apartment. We all got ready slowly over coffee and a pre-race snack. It was around 39º F when we left, so a bit chillier than I would have preffered. I thought that I’d get warm quickly though and decided upon capris and a light long sleeve top.
We set out around 7:30 AM to pick up our bibs and bags. Scored some oral hygeine products and a rape whistle. Go Stamford! Haha We were a bit early, but luckily the registration was inside a heated room so we didn’t freeze. Around 8:30, we headed outside to the starting line. The mayor gave a little speech, we did some light stretching, we did a little whining since we just wanted to start and then we were OFF!
Mom: “See you at the end! Love you!” She really thought she was going to have a slow run and finish near the end of the pack. Honestly though, she’s such a fast walker as it is, that I don’t think her pace was much faster than that!
I took off and maneuvered my way out of the pack, a bit faster than I normally go just because I hate the starting crowd. The route itself was beautiful, taking us down to the harbor with views of the various marinas, houses and restaurants along the shore. We got the most gorgeous day for a run and the sun warmed me right up. With such gorgeous views, the first mile and a half absolutely flew. The route went along the water on a dirt route, circling back to the residential area we started in.
My brother flew past me pretty quickly, no surprise there. I did get a bit competitive with some other runners, which helped to set my pace and encourage me to not slack. I was using the RunKeeper app on my iPhone, so I had Siri telling me every 5 minutes how far I’d gone and what my pace was. It definitely helped. I started around 9:00/mile but ended up picking it up to 8:45/mile, which is a huge accomplishment for me.
The final stretch of the run was really fun and I sprinted down through the finish line to see my father cheering me on. I finished in 26:50 which is SO good for me. My last 5K was 28:45 so I definitely improved!
My mother was the real ringer in the 5K. After somewhat joking that she’d be running 15:00/mile last night, she finished a sub-30 5K!!! She told us afterwards that she also was getting a little competitive with, “a woman half my age.” For the record, she beat her. Go Mom!!!
I love my family.
I know Turkey Trots are not a new concept, but for our family, it was a completely new and different tradition for Thanksgiving. I think it’s really cool that they accepted this little challenge and are supporting my new hobby. So much to be thankful for!
Coming up – a round up of our family’s Thanksgiving menu!!
Have you ever run a Turkey Trot?
If you had told me a year ago that the first thing I’d be doing on my day off would be going for a run, I would have looked like this:
What.. you don’t run in pearls?
What a home run! (I’m so lame)
As many of you know, I have not always been the most physically active person. Sure, I played field hockey and ran track in high school. I would go on hot yoga “binges” in college. However I’d never found myself in a sustainable work out routine. I never made it a priority. I made things like studying, socializing, sorority and work my main priorities. All legitimate priorities. I’ve always been petite, so it didn’t really seem like a big deal.
Last year, around this time, my roommate and I bought a Groupon for New York Sports Club. It was a month-long membership and we sort of bought them on a whim. After sporadic gym conversations we decided to bite the bullet and try it out. $30 for a month? Cool. While I had access to my gym at work, I had serious gym anxiety and couldn’t get myself to go. Strangers seemed much better than coworkers.
To put it simply, I fell in love with the gym. I was addicted to 6:15 AM spin. Boot camp was awesome. The classes weren’t always full and it felt like a personal training session rather than group fitness. I got into a groove and I loved it. And my body loved it too.
Then… the month long membership ended. The fees doubled and being a bargain shopper, I refused to pay it. Luckily, this was around the holidays and I was home with at my parents’ house which has a treadmill, bike and free weights. When I came back to Stamford in January, I was at a standstill. I knew I needed to do someting. I couldn’t fall back into old habits and stop working out. Lucky for me, New Years resolutions brings a lot of great deals. Kim and I both scored a corporate discount (for another company) at LA Fitness for ~$30/month! And 11 months later, I’m still enrolled and look forward to going for a run there, classes, and just the feeling of being at the gym. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s some sort of confidence boost that you get when you walk into the gym and get ready for your work out.
Another boost for me was my girls trip/reunion in Las Vegas. I know, Las Vegas and fitness doesn’t make much sense. Polar opposites in fact. But for me, the thoughts of pool parties and bikinis was a huge inspiration to keep working out and to focus on strength training. I was successful and ended up being fit for Vegas and inspired to continue working out.
One of the thing that I’ve grown to love about running is the chance to really zone out. The minutes fly because I’m not forcing my mind to think about one thing or the other. Whereas in a group exercise class, I’m concentrating on the specific exercise, going for a run allows me to just release and let my mind wander.
My personal life changed dramatically when K and I broke up. My social life has changed with new friends and visiting old ones in Boston and New York. My family life seems to have improved and I feel closer to my parents and extended family than I ever have. Work? I’m in a new job. A job that has pushed me into a completely new skill set and business. I’m honestly really happy with how things are going right now. But the best change I thought about? Fitness.
Now? I’m in my groove. I change my work outs daily. I never do the same thing two days in a row. I’ll go for a run. I’ll try a Pilates class. I’ll do a day of free weights. Sunday I went for a hike that left me more sore than I’ve been in months. The important thing for me is variety. All that really matters is that I do something. The endorphin release is the best form of therapy that I have ever found. I often wonder if this would have helped me in high school when I really needed it during my phases of depression. It’s just another reminder of why exercise needs to be emphasized in school. Physical Education shouldn’t be phased out as it seems to be.
Anyway, I just felt the need to share the story of my fitness evolution. More for my sake, than yours, yes. I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made and excited for the potential developments in the future. Know what else I’m excited for? Completing a turkey trot with my mother and brother over Thanksgiving! That’s another thing I’d laugh at a year ago!!
Have you made any big changes lately? Fitness accomplishments?
Before I get into today’s post, how about some funnies courtesy of my parents? My mom has always been the best with care packages. I went to boarding school at age 15 and I averaged 3 per week during school. Seriously, she is the best. These days, as an “adult” I still get them for holidays. I LOVE them all. They usually include a bit of candy, some fun lotions, candles and the occasional festive pair of socks haha. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (in this post) I have an incredible family.
As I said in my Hurricane Sandy post, this past week has been a bit hectic. thankfully I am one of the fortunate residents of Stamford/CT to have power. I took full advantage of it on Wednesday night and thought of any way I could thank my cousin, her bf and dog for their hospitality. Seriously, I couldn’t be more grateful.
I decided to take a Fall approach and take on PUMPKIN! Originally I was going to make my ex-roomie Amanda’s famous pumpkin bread, but realized that it wasn’t the most ideal snack for those that were in a hotel. I transformed the recipe a bit and did this one for pumpkin muffins. I had a bit of leftover pumpkin after the muffins and decided that making homemade dog treats was so much better than a random dog bone I’d fine at the store. Dexter (my cousin/her bf’s dog) deserves better, after all.
These muffins are from Smitten Kitchen – her book just came out! (M&D: another hint). I’m terrible. Seriously. I’ve made other muffins from Smitten Kitchen and knew that she wouldn’t steer me the wrong way.
The dog treats I found from AllRecipes. I’ve never cooked any sort of animal treat before, so I was a bit nervous. I chose this recipe because I had all the ingredients on hand and there wasn’t anything weird in the ingredients list. And let’s face it, what dog doesn’t love peanut butter? (And it was also an excuse for me to open up the jar I’ve been hiding in the back of my pantry. The jar is already half empty in the refrigerator. There was a reason I was hiding it from myself.)
Let’s start with the people food. I made no alterations to the Smitten Kitchen recipe and I’m so glad that I didn’t. I messed up a few and got to keep the “mistakes” and dare I say it, they were just scrumptious. Don’t scrimp on the cinnamon-sugar topping! It made them extra delicious. I’m sure you could health-ify these a bit and perhaps even make them vegan with some flax egg, changing the oil to coconut, and going half and half on whole-wheat vs. regular flour. Maybe next time. Maybe.
from Smitten Kitchen
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 c. canned pumpkin
- 1/3 c. vegetable or canola oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. pumpkin-pie spice
- 1 1/4 c. plus 1 tbsp. sugar (for the cinnamon sugar topping)
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Either grease a muffin pan (s) (this recipe yields ~15 muffins) or put liners in.
- Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1 1/4 c. sugar, baking soda and salt.
- In a separate small dish, stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tbsp. sugar.
- Divide batter among muffin cups. I usually aim for 2/3 full. Tip: Use an ice cream scoop. So easy and prevents a mess!
- Top evenly with cinnamon sugar mixture.
- Bake 25-30 minutes (I think my oven did 27 minutes) until puffed and a wooden pick or fork inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes…or until you can resist tasting!
So while these were baking, I mixed up the batter for the Dexter treats. With just six ingredients thrown in a bowl, it was pretty easy. However I do wish I had started with my Kitchenaid. The batter is pretty sticky and tough to mix. I eventually gave up with the spoon and just threw my hands in. (Don’t worry, Dex, I washed them) Whit said that he liked them, so I guess these were a hit! And yes, I did sneak a nibble of the batter because there wasn’t anything weird in it… not for me. Felt like a little truth or dare moment from my childhood when my girlfriends dared each other to eat a nugget of dog food haha.
Snuggly “Save me from Sandy” Dexter Treats
from All Recipes
- 2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
- 2 tbsp. peanut butter
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c. canned pumpkin (if you make these at the same time as the muffins, all you’ll need is a 15 oz. can of pumpkin)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- In a medium sized bowl, mix together all ingredients with a wooden spoon and/or your hands! Add water as needed to help make the dough workable. The dough should be relatively dry and stiff.
- Roll portions of dough into logs, and cut into “nuggets.” Think appropriate size for a dog treat.
- Bake in oven on a cookie sheet for 40 minutes.
- Remove and store in an airtight container.
And these treats made this guy really happy
Question of the Day
What is your favorite PUMPKIN recipe!?
Sandy, I’m just going to come out and say it: you’re quite the bitch.
Here in Connecticut, we got hit pretty hard. I think all of us in the Northeast was watching the weather in the days prior to the storm thinking, “Yep.. another Irene scare.. sure.” But come Sunday night, with the looming clouds and wind, I started getting a bit scared. My family was texting me. My friends were asking if I saw any signs of the storm yet. And oh yeah, the gas stations were out of gas. I was literally driving around for 30 minutes trying to find gas on an 1/8 of a tank in a panic. My poor parents that had to take my phone call as I was getting turned away from station after station.
Sunday night I emailed my boss and regretfully admitted that I was too scared to drive to work in the morning. She agreed that it could get bad and agreed. I worked from home on Monday with power all day. Sure enough, the highways closed at 1 PM. By 6 PM, my power was out. By 8 PM, I was hiding under the pillows trying to ignore the grueling winds. There may have been some cheez-its involved. Whatever. Times of need. By 10 PM I could barely stay asleep with the weather and I was trying to read Gone Girl (way too creepy for a storm) by candlelight. (Hint: M&D, one of those fancy lights for your Kindle would be great for Christmas. Stocking? Can we bring those back please? I’m only 24.) I gave up and turned in. I woke up at 5 AM in the dark, freezing, and freaked out.
With no power in sight and no sign of work for the day, I decided it was time to leave.
You see, I tried to be stubborn during Sandy. I thought it was no big deal. I didn’t lose power during Irene, so I was really surprised I lost it during Sandy. But Sandy, as I said, is a huge bitch. I decided that I’d take my amazing cousin, Whitney, up on her offer to stay with her and her wonderful boyfriend and cocker spaniel at a hotel in Stamford. The last available room it seemed. Oh yes, we were class class class at La Quinta! Compared to my situation at 5 AM, it was the Four Seasons.
I drove over during a little lull in wind. I passed through broken stoplights, debris, and a town that was lights out. I felt so silly going to the hotel at 5 AM, but I just knew that I couldn’t be alone anymore. Luckily, their pup, Dexter, had to go out early, so I met up with Whit’s boyfriend, Chris, downstairs very soon after I arrived and he told me where they were staying. Aaaaand that’s when I jumped into their bed, snuggled with the pup and thanked whatever God there is that I had family in the area.
Whit and Chris live in an area that is very close to the coast. They had to evacuate. We decided to visit the area that day and assess damage. My cousin is very on top of her game and more of a planner than I am. It’s amazing, really. However, plans were foiled when we were turned away by the town cops because it wasn’t safe. Twice. Fail.
Insert…umm… well I guess I’ll go work out? Shower? Do my hair? Yep. Did all those things except my work out was essentially a few planks and core work. Eh, made up for it this week. (so sore)
We went back in the afternoon as our little La Quinta Family and got in to the neighborhood. It was really bad. Areas you couldn’t access, FLOORS flooded. Thankfully, Whit’s house didn’t have any internal damage. Their gorgeous furnishings and interior was fine. And 1,500 pieces of candy were preserved. Like I said, she’s a planner and planned for an awesome Halloween celebration. We’ll save it for our Sandy Soiree.
The unfortunate part was an oil spill from the tank at their house. It spilled into their yard and a neighbors. Hello, EPA, nice to meet you. Felt like a war zone, I tell you. Everyone stayed calm and rational though, Whit got their information, follow up steps and from what I know today, she is making sure everything stays in line. Amazing.
After rearranging the house and taking town all the furniture that was elevated, we feasted on some Whole Foods goodies, did a bit of crafting, email checking, and then called it a night. Never fallen asleep so quickly. And that being said, i was on the floor. It felt glorious. I’m not even being sarcastic.
By Wednesday morning, it was about time to check out if I still had a job or not. Turns out, I did. Not a lot of people had been in or were able to be in the office. It was good to get back to a sense of normalcy.
I got a text from my superintendent that my power was BACK. YES! I was so thrilled and left somewhat early to check out the situation, the fridge, what lights I left on, etc. When I realized it had been on since noon (only 36 hours or so) I was thrilled. Not that I don’t love my La Quinta family, but the luxury of having a hot shower steps away from your lit bedroom, I will never regret again.
After picking up my bags from La Quinta Weds. night (after I forced myself to take a Boot Camp class), I brainstormed about ways to repay my incredible cousin Whit. You all know me by now: food. Stay turned for an incredible recipe for PUMPKIN MUFFINS and for the dog lovers out there: PUMPKIN PEANUT BUTTER DOG TREATS!
Hope everyone is safe, dry and has plenty of pizza at their disposal. If not, come see me. I’ll make it happen.
I don’t pray but today I do:
For everyone that has been effected by Sandy, including many of my friends, I pray for hope, rebuilding and safety. I love you all.