Friday, May 27, 2011

Fun Friday: Grillin' and Chillin' Edition!

Happy Friday! It's Memorial Day weekend and (*cough*supposedly*cough) it's going to be a sunny weekend here in central IL! We had quite the tornado scare here on Wednesday, so I think we deserve it! Nothing like a tornado siren going off to make you wet your pants! :)

In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day, I chose a funny Friday video that illustrates one "American family." Remember that show "Wife Swap?" I present to you KING CURTIS!

Oh. My. Good. Gravy. So many quoteable lines in that one! My personal favorites: "Chicken nuggets is like my family" and "BACON IS GOOD FOR ME!" And we wonder why we have a childhood obesity epidemic in America?

Mega props to personal trainer/Wife Swap mom Joy--she tried! I would LIKE to say that this episode/family is overly-exaggerated for TV, but because I'm a living product of the Southeast, I know that the horrifying "fry everything" mentality is real-life. Still, King Curtis is a pretty cute butterball!

Are you grillin' out for Memorial Day? Our neighbors got an awesome new grill (I mean that thing has a jet pack and shoots fireballs), so they gave us their SUPER SWEET old grill! Three cheers for more grilled veggies!

Wes is thinking "YAY now I can finally cook some meat!" hehe.

With Memorial Day this weekend, I thought I'd share two of my favorite "healthy" picnic/potluck recipes!

First up...

Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad with Lime Dressing
This super-fresh salsa-ish salad can be eaten alone or as a topping for fish or meat (veggie burgers--YUM!)

1 can corn or 2 cups fresh corn
2 small avocados, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (grape tomatoes work too!)
1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 tbsp. garlic-flavored olive oil
1/2 tsp. grated lime zest
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Combine corn, avocado, tomatoes and onion in a large bowl.
2. Mix dressing ingredients in another bowl. Pour over salad and fold gently to mix
3. Chill for 15-30 minutes to allow flavors to marinate.

In a pinch, I use these "fresh herbs" in recipes. Since we rent, it's not really practical to have an herb garden so these herbs won't go to waste like the fresh herbs that I buy.

You can find this in the veggie section at most grocery stores.

Where there's food, Fraggles are not far behind!

I used it as a dressing AND topping for my salad. Sprinkle a little feta cheese and WHAM BAM HOT DAMN!

And to satisfy that sweet tooth (the one I'm still trying to stifle for a least another week)...

Laura's Lighter Coconut Cake--in a jar? I'm a regular reader of Pinterest, a website where members post interesting/cool/creative images from all over the blogosphere. Pinterest is loaded with DIY inspiration--I could spend HOURS just surfing the images and getting project/art/food ideas!

Anywhoorah..."cake in a jar" seems to be a huge image trend in the food images, so I decided to buy these:

...and I tried putting my version of Coconut Cake in it! Smaller jars/portions could be used OR, you could just make the cake and "frosting" as a standard sheet cake. Here's the recipe!

Laura's Lighter Coconut Cake

1 box white cake mix

1 package (3.4oz) sugar-free coconut pudding (you can also use vanilla pudding with a little coconut extract mixed in!)
1 tub (8oz.) light whipped topping

1 package (7oz) coconut, toasted

4-8 jars (optional)

1. Heat oven to 350.
2. Toast Coconut on a baking pan for 7-10 minutes or until browned.
3. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
4. Prepare cake mix as directed, but using egg whites or egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Bake cake and let cool.
5. After cake is cooled, prepare "frosting"--make pudding with skim milk. Let sit for 5 minutes.
6. Fold in whipped topping.
7. Frost cake OR layer with crumbled cake in jars. Top with toasted coconut.

Tie a ribbon and spoon on it for an attractive gift!

So toasty mmmmm....

For two more potluck recipes, check out this post!

This week's selected sounds are more of the "chillin'" variety. Let me know what you think!

1. Rise Above 1 - Reeve Carney (featuring Bono and The Edge)
(What I did NOT know before discovering this track, is that it's from the Broadway show, Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark. Okay, corny show, but FAB song!)

2. You've Got the Love - Florence and the Machine
(This girl's got some PIPES! A soulful song a la Adele)

3. Season's Trees - Dangermouse & Daniele Luppi (feat. Norah Jones)
(1/2 Gnarls Barkley + Italian Producer + old spaghetti western sound = THIS album. Norah Jones' voice is flawless. Totally gonna use this for Pilates/Yoga!)

4. C'mon (with fun) - Panic at the Disco
(Okay, okay, so last week I also posted a PATD song--but they really do rock! This is their newest single.)

5. Will Do - TV on the Radio
(A techno-y love song)

On my way to get my HAIR DID. It's a hot mess right now!

Q.O.D. (Question of the Day): Are chicken nuggets like your family? :) What's your favorite potluck/picnic grilling recipe? Post it in a comment below!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stop and Swap

I woke up with a severe case of anxiety this morning. I dreamed that our house was destroyed by a tornado and we lost everything--money, clothes, possessions. We were forced to live on a cruise ship and we had to sneak onto the ship because we couldn't afford to pay for the cruise. Okay, so the last part was kind of weird, but the last couple of days of news about Joplin and the other tornadoes in the Midwest have been devastating. I'm a little anxious because we're supposed to get SEVERE storms tonight!

BTW, I looked up both "cruise" and "tornado" on (my trusted dream dictionary source!):
Cruise: To dream that you are on a cruise, represents some emotional journey that you are going through. The dream may also be a pun on "cruising" through situations in your life with ease and little effort. 
Tornado: To see a tornado in your dream, suggests that you are experiencing some extreme emotional outbursts and temper tantrums. Is there a situation or relationship in your life that may be potentially destructive?
Hmm...didn't know I had inner turmoil...go fig.

Anyway, I couldn't sleep after the crazy dream, so I got up at 5:45am to this lovely sight:

Ugh. Raaaaaainnnnn.

It's sunny as can be right now, so hopefully, that storm front will pass right by us tonight. Still, Wes made sure that our basement was FULLY prepped just in case--he was clearing it out, putting emergency supplies down there and everything. He's definitely "Mr. Preparedness." Me, I'm "Ms. Oh Sh*t Time To Panic."

On to happier thoughts (like Peter Pan says--"think happy thoughts")...

Next weekend, I'm gonna be a bridesmaid in my friend, Pam's, wedding! I picked up my bridesmaid's dress from the tailor shop yesterday. It turned out fabulous!

I need a fake bake tan for realz.

Now I'm in super-serious-weight-maintenance mode--I can't gain too much or lose too much or that dress is not gonna work! Picture me either suffocating in that chiffon or that top falling to my knees. So, I'm making a few "stop n' swaps" (haha--that sounds like the "bend and snap" or possibly a new rap song):

Instead of: Blueberry Bagel with Light Strawberry Cream Cheese
(ohmyfavorite breakfast! It's totally devoid of protein and overwhelmed with sugar and carbs. booooo.)

I'm having: "B's Healthier McGriddle"
(Protein-packed, low-fat and filling!)

B's Healthier McGriddle

-1/2 egg whites or egg substitute
-1 slice of cheddar cheese (REAL cheese, not the processed kind)
-2 Frozen Low-Fat Blueberry Waffles (Eggo makes some!)
-Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Cook waffles in toaster
2. While waffles are cooking, cook eggs in small frying pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Assemble sandwich with waffles, eggs, and cheese. Enjoy!

Breakfast of CHAMPIONS!

Some other "stop n' swaps" I'm investing in to save calories (and that anyone can do!)...

Stop: Eating Lunch Out
Swap: Lean Cuisine
Low-fat frozen meals are perfect for people with little to no time in the morning to make lunch. During the school year, I just pop a meal in my lunch bag and I'm ready to rock. In a perfect world, I would have time to cook up a fabulous organic-quinoa-kale-chickpea dish and take that with me for lunch. But this is reality and with two jobs, I don't have time for all that jank :) These are better than skipping lunch (don't ever do it!) and are portion-controlled.

Cheap + Good + Lean = WIN

Stop: Mayo
Swap: Guacamole
This is an age-old "duh" swap, but I always like to remind people of it. I like to make my own guac with extra tomato and onion in it! Also, don't let all those new "Olive Oil Mayo" commercials and ads fool you. It maybe made with Olive Oil, but it's STILL loaded with cholesterol and fat.

Mmmmm...homemade guac with extra veggies!

Stop: Cocktails
Swap: Wine
I love a good lemonade-vodka concoction like the next person, but classic cocktails are LOADED with sugar. Stick to wine for healthier (haha--as healthy as booze can be!) punch of antioxidants. A friend of mine introduced me to Bonterra Merlot, an organic wine--it's now my fav!

Baby, if you were a wine I'd drink you all day! :)

Stop: Cheese and Crackers
Swap: Hummus and Veggies
I eat, sleep and dream cheese I love it that much. But a simple swap from the standard happy-hour pairing to hummus and veggies saves both calories and carbs. cheese with my whine...

Stop: Sugar and Dessert (those evil, evil b*tches!)
Swap: 100-Calorie cookie packs, Low-fat Frozen Yogurt, Jello Mousse Cups
Look, I'm not saying give up sugar completely. If someone told me to do that I'd look at them as skeptically as if they asked a 30-year chain smoker to give up their cigs. But small changes = calorie savings. Right now, I'm loving the Sugar-Free Jell-O Mousse cups. They are spot on for chocolate cravings!

Have a wonderful day! I'm back to watching The Weather Channel!

Q.O.D. (Question of the Day): Do you "believe" in dream dictionaries? What are some of your favorite stop/swap tips? Please share! :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mental Holiday (aka Lazy Monday)

Happy Monday! I have a SERIOUS case of "the Mondays." And you? :) Mostly I just needed a mental holiday after the last few weeks of stuff. The beginning of May was CRRRrrraAAAAazy stressful! Sometimes ya just have to be selfish and call a mental time out.

The Summer freedom is starting to set in, which is both amazing and frightening. I haven't had this much free time in...well...a year! I refuse to say I'm bored--I am NOT going to take this summer break from teaching for granted! I'm still teaching group fitness, but I enjoy the time off from my "real" job to recharge my batteries and focus on my other passions (fitness, FOOD!, creating, etc.). I decided to have a Bruno Mars moment and take the lazy route today, but I still managed to fill up my time...

I'm stoked for the summer produce to start rolling into grocery stores, so I used my two favorite summertime ingredients (tomatoes and fresh mozzarella) to make lunch...

B's Caprese Salad! I added a veggie burger for extra boost of protein. It's just organic field greens, tomato, diced fresh mozzarella, veggie burger, a drizzle of garlic-flavored olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Fresh!

Lunch fit for a queen! If you're wondering, that napkin says "Give me a nice tiara and I can save the world." Definitely my mantra :)

After lunch, I was in a "crafty mood," so I got out the ol' craft box. Since summer break started, my creativity has been pounding at the door of my subconscious ("Creativity" lives next door to "Inner-13-Year-Old Girl" lol)

Something about painting elicits a calming effect--the repetitive brush strokes maybe? I definitely recommend coloring, painting (finger painting!), or doodling to relieve stress-related tension. I swear it works!

Voila! Two small canvas mixed media collage postcards for two very special people in my lives ;) They say, "Home is where the heart is.You are my heart."

I got done painting and looked over at the couch and I caught the two Fraggles being sweet to each other. Like true siblings--they really do love each other when no one is looking.

Ha--and then they immediately separated. It was lazy day for these pups too. They snoozed ALL DAY. Must be nice! 

Bay Bay and her massive eyelashes.

Boof is in Slumberland. I love watching him sleep because he's always chasing something and barking in his sleep.

Since the painting didn't quench my creative spark, I decided to paint/glitter-fy my nails. Orange paint and gold-glitter. Now my hands look like those of a cracked-out fairy.

Whew...I'm exhausted from all of that chillin'! :) I'm off to teach Zumba tonight--I'm introducing a new dance for Teach Me How To Dougie!

Q.O.D. (Question of the Day): Do you take "mental holidays?" What do you do to relax?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Five Personal Trainer Secrets!

Hello there! Are you having a wonderful "dooms day" mean SATURDAY? I'm rockin' out to this jam today:

haha--scare-mongering "rapture" aside....

By no means do I classify myself as a "fitness expert." I have a boat-load of fitness-related knowledge, but I feel like "expert" is  a pretentious title reserved for people with years of health-related schooling and/or training and/or research. I prefer "fitness guru" :)

I'm always picking up tips and information to add to my mental library and the three-day personal training workshop was no exception. Today I'm gonna share five fabulous, little known secrets I learned in the personal training workshop (shhhhh)...

1. Wii Fit doesn't know what it's talking about.

To anyone who's played Wii Fit and been shamed as "obese" in the Wii's brutal initial assessment, fear not! The Wii Fit is measuring BMI, which is not the most accurate measure of a person's health or fitness. For a majority of AVERAGE adults, BMI is a good informative tool (e.g. for your height, you are okay, too skinny, obese, etc.). BMI is more of an illustrator--a wake up call for clients. HA! Take that, Wii Fit!

Lol from JoyofTech

However, BMI does not take into account bone structure, muscle mass or build. Some people genetically have more or less muscle, a larger or smaller bone structure or frame. For example, an athlete that has a larger frame and genetically more muscle mass will always measure out of their designated "healthy" BMI range, even though they are in top physical shape and have a healthy body fat percentage.

For a total gauge of health, one should take into consideration all factors--fat percentage, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility, in addition to BMI. Just because a 100 pound, 2 pack a day smoker with 35% body fat, falls into their "healthy" BMI range, does NOT actually make them healthy!

2. The best thing you can do for yourself (or help your loved ones with) is to quit smoking.

During the workshop, we spent a good hour and a half talking about health-related illness and diseases. A huge proportion of them are caused by smoking. Here's a CDC fact sheet describing a few. We also talked about the effects of cigarettes on the lungs and body (the heart and tissues of the body are affected too!).

Here's the short version: our lungs have little air sacs called alveoli. The alveoli process the oxygen. If you take the surface area of all of those air sacs and stretch it out, it would equal roughly the size of a tennis court.

So, really, we born with more alveoli than we possibly need. But, smoking, age and inhalation of other hazardous materials slowly disables them. We've all seen the biology class pictures of "smoker's lungs" compared to healthy lungs (so I won't post them here). Irreparable damage and tar demolished those sacs. The heart has to beat harder and becomes enlarged. The good news is that quitting prevents further damage to those little alveoli and immediately stop all those diseases.

We want our organs to look as happy as these "Plush Guts!" :)

3. To ramp up the fat burn, ramp up the intensity.

Let's say you're walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes working at a low to moderate 50% of your max heart rate. At this rate, you're burning 50% fat, 50% carbs. Let's suppose you burn 170 calories.

Now, you add sprints or intervals to your 30 minutes of walking. Because you're now working at 50-70% of your max heart rate sporadically, your body is now using more carbs than fat (70% carbs, 30% fat), but your OVERALL calorie burn is higher--250 calories burned in 30 minutes.

So even though you're proportionally burning more carbs, you are STILL burning more calories overall doing the high intensity workout--and subsequently more calories from fat.

Awwww. Cuteness.

Speaking of heart rate...

4. Use heart rate, and NOT sweat, as a sign of a "good workout."

I knew this one, but it was nice to have it confirmed in the PT workshop. I hear so many people in group fitness classes gauge how well of a class it was based on how much they sweat. A lot of factors affect how much you sweat--room temperature, body temperature, humidity, hydration, etc. Sweat is just thermo-regulation, but not necessarily a sign of a good workout.

The real question is at what percentage of your heart rate were you working? Were you in a moderate-high intensity range (60-80% of your max HR)? To find your heart range, read this step-by-step article and invest in a heart rate watch. I REALLY WANT a pink ONE like this!!!

5. A few sessions with a personal trainer is TOTALLY worth the cost!

There's a reason that personal training costs are additional to a gym membership--because it's worth it! A few sessions with a PT can make all the difference in your workout. They can show you proper form and technique, help you with a workout plan to meet your fitness goals, or just help you over a workout slump.

Let me clarify, however, and say that a "GOOD" personal trainer is worth the $$$. A lazy personal trainer is not worth two cents. Ask around for recommendations and make sure that you are getting the best training for your money. I've been in this business long enough to know that not all PTs are good ones. A good personal trainer is not only friendly and experienced, but also gives you exactly what you want from your sessions--and they don't waste your time.
I'd SO work for cupcakes!!! Cute mug from Zazzle.

Okay, so maybe these aren't secrets, but hopefully they are as informative for you as they were for me! Have a great day everyone!

Q.O.D. (question of the day): Have you ever worked with a personal trainer? Was it helpful for you or a waste of time? Leave a comment!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun Friday: Hottie Edition!

Hey! It's been awhile! Where have I been!?!?!?


Making wedding stuff for my friends.

A World Of Warcraft cake topper I made for my friends Pam and Greg

Grading Final Exams.
Take your Boof to Work Day. Yeah, he's all paws--not good at helping me grade exams. Good for being a window decoration.


Dealing with these messy creatures in our backyard (I swear...geese are the traveling hobos of the sky).
Bird feeder moochers.

AND...Getting my Personal Training Certification! After seven years of group fitness, I figured it was time to go for it. I'm not sure what I'll DO with it, but at the very least it gave me a a wealth of MORE invaluable information to share you you all and others! :)The workshop was THREE LONG DAYS, but I learned SO MUCH! My brain hurts, but it was worth it. Now, I just have to wait 4-6 weeks to find out if I passed the test. Stay tuned with fingers crossed...

I'm working on some new recipes to share with you next Friday, but to kick off my first Fun Friday back blogging for the summer, I present to you...

Rep. Aaron Schock. Um yeah, that's OUR super-stone-fox-30-year-old Illinois District 18 Representative on the cover of this month's Men's Health Magazine. You jelly? ;) Rep. Schock is promoting the Fit For Life Summer Challenge--an admirable cause. I definitely give him props for using his abs to promote a healthy lifestyle. I don't care about the rumors--if they're true, oh well...he's still eye candy! All I can say is whatever Mr. Schock is doing--it's working for him!

I'm also a huge fan of the Colbert Report, so I was glad Stephen decided to bring up the cover on last night's episode. Hilarious!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a District - Illinois' 18th - Aaron Schock
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

*Sigh* We may be a corrupt state, but our congressmen are so dreamy :)

I have so much music to share with you too! Five (hot) tracks I'm feelin' right now:

1. Party Rock Anthem -- LMFAO
(Not only is the song contagious, but the video is giggle-worthy. Choreographing this one for Zumba because I can't get it out of my head!)

2. Tonight Tonight -- Hot Chelle Rae
(Woooaaah oooaah oooooh. I dare you not to sing along with this! One hit wonder? I hope not--these guys are cuties!)

3. Ready to Go -- Panic at the Disco
(Awesome, upbeat song.)

4. Don't Turn Off the Lights -- N.K.O.T.B.S.B
(Okay, I admit that this song is my guilty pleasure. Maybe it's just my nostalgia for both of these EPIC boy bands? That 13-year-old girl will always reside somewhere in my subconscious :) Anyway, this new, New Kids On The Block/Backstreet Boys collabo is kind of fun)

5. Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not -- Thompson Square
(Maybe you're not a country fan, but this is a sweet cool down song. Reminds me of when Wes and I started dating. Aww-sauce.)

Well, I hope you've met your hottie-quota for the day :) Have a wonderful weekend and come back and visit my blog! Lots of stuff to come!