The Bucket List {6 Months In}

Since we’re half way done with 2013 (how do these things happen?), I thought it would only be appropriate to check back in with my 2013 Bucket List.  Even though I am countries away, thanks to modern technology, I can still share my update.



Restore Balance

Eat Clean (You can read about this in greater detail in my New Year post)

Practice Yoga More Consistently

Keep Meal Planning

Create/Join a Book Club (and read more!)


So the first two items (eating clean and doing yoga) have been inconsistent and schedule dependent. I think that with my schedule change, I will be able to continue to prioritize these things when I return from my trip!


We are definitely meal planning!  And although I am reading, there is no book club YET!






Improve Fitness

Half Marathon PRI had a speedy start to the year with a 1:49:46 half marathon PR

Another Olympic Tri

Chicago Marathon (Sub 4:00 please)

Do a Century Bike Ride


I’m not sure if I will have time for another Olympic Triathlon, but I did love competing in my first Iron Girl Sprint Triathlon.  Marathon training will return soon!



Make a Change

Write! (maybe even take a writing class)

VolunteerWe had a great time supporting St. Jude at this event!

Take a Professional Risk-I’ve made a huge change to my work schedule and started some new opportunities

Self Host the BlogI have my own website, so that’s something.  Now my big blog goal is get my recipe page up to date!






Other Things Worth Mentioning for January-June 2013

Soaking up some vitamin N (that means nature)

4th Annual Bike the Drive

Starting the Five For Friday Series

Celebrating 101 with Grandpa Al

Trying CrossFit

Obsessing Over Banana Bread

Exploring Sarasota





How are you doing with your 2013 goals and bucket list?

Off the Grid (and the Continent)

My bags are packed (yes I fit everything into my weight limit), and my mom will be here any minute to drive me to O’hare.

When I first heard about this opportunity to go to Israel, I wasn’t sure if it was all going to work out.  Yet somehow it did, and here I am about to leave for the airport.  It’s safe to say that I am still in shock, yet also ecstatic that I will be participating in this amazing trip.




Quite obviously, I will not be taking my computer (or even my cell phone) with me.  I am going to try to post a few pre-written things, so we shall see how that goes.  I look forward to sharing my adventures and catching up with you when I return.  Hope that you are all enjoying the start to your summer!


Where is the coolest place you’ve been on vacation?

Where would you like to go?

There’s always some Bananas…

Before leaving town, I always try to finish the food that we have left in the house.  Often, I will plan meals around what we have or pack snack bags of veggies or fruit for the plane.  Although this time it is just me heading out, I know the BOY doesn’t eat bananas and therefore, I needed to turn these perfectly ripe bananas into something delicious!




Since we also had some berries, I knew Banana Strawberry Bread was the way to go!




I searched online through a whole bunch of recipes before landing at Joy the Baker.




Her original recipe is made with browned butter.  For time sake, I completely skipped the brown butter step, but I point this out because it will definitely add to your bread.




All of my loaves baked up beautifully!  And I couldn’t wait to slice off a corner for dinner.  My thought is to save the rest for the long plane ride ahead : )




If there’s anything left!




Also on the agenda…catching up on some DVR before my trip.  Hooray for new summer shoes and the next season of Major Crimes!


Love the banana/strawberry combo?

Here is another great summer bread recipe!



Banana Strawberry Bread

Inspired by Joy the Baker

makes 1 9×5-inch loaf (but I made 3 mini loaves)



1/2 cup of butter, melted

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup soy milk

3 medium bananas, mashed

1/2 cup diced strawberries



Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla extract, and milk.  Whisk in the mashed bananas.  When butter has cooled, whisk in the butter.

Add the wet ingredients, all at once to the dry ingredients.  Fold together until just mixed.  Fold in the diced strawberries and do not overstir!

Spoon batter into prepared pan and top with thinly sliced strawberries.   Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  (40-45 minutes for mini loaves).  Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 15 minutes, before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.


Note: Freezes well!

Suddenly Summer BBQ

It’s summer! 

And with the thick, muggy weather, it finally feels like it!

I kept this weekend pretty low key on purpose and Saturday was saved for packing and a BBQ!

Around 1:30pm, I felt like I had a good handle on the packing portion of things and decided to go for a walk along the path.  I haven’t done much of anything in terms of exercise this week, so it was nice to get out and moving.




Meanwhile, the BOY was hard at work seasoning and smoking ribs.


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My BFF and her adorable family were coming over for a BBQ.  She brought some delicious appetizers (including grilled salami).  I threw together a summer salad inspired by this mouth watering post on Pinch of Yum.




I cheated and went with the store bought salad dressing, but maybe next time I will make my own!




The toughest part of making this salad was searching the fruit section at the grocery store for the ripest nectarines in the bin.




Luckily, I choose well and they sliced up perfectly for the salad.




The gang was excited about their flavorful, smoky ribs, and the BOY threw some chicken on the grill for me.  We had a side of roasted broccoli, and everyone dug into dinner.


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I almost didn’t have room for dessert, but I never say ‘No’ to angel food cake, cool whip, and berries.  It’s the perfect finish to a summer evening spent with friends!


What are you most excited for this summer?



Blueberry Nectarine Summer Salad

Inspired by Pinch of Yum



6 cups baby spinach

1/3 cup slivered almonds

1 cup blueberries

2 ripe nectarines, sliced

Grilled chicken (optional)

Poppyseed dressing



Place spinach in large salad bowl.  Sprinkle with almonds, blueberries, and then top with nectarines.

Serve with salad dressing and chicken.

Five for Friday VII (On Saturday)

1. This mess of a breakfast was an attempt to add blueberries to my Friday Morning Pancakes.  Although I messed up my berry to pancake batter ratio (hence the look), they tasted wonderful!




2. Even though I wore my workout clothes all day today (including gym shoes), I didn’t exercise.  I’ve been one lazy girl this week.  Maybe I can say that I am still recovering from last weekend’s triathlon?!


3. I finally opened the new waterproof, dustproof, dropproof GPS camera that I bought last week.  The BOY immediately started setting it up playing with it and broke a strap.  I’ll have a nice long plane ride to read the manual and figure out how to use it.




4. The BOY and I could not decide what to eat for dinner tonight.  We were both feeling too lazy to cook or grill anything.  We were just about to order a pizza when our neighbor mentioned that he was heading out to Panera to pick up dinner.  So for the second time this week, I am having the Power Hummus Chicken Bowl (from the Hidden menu) for dinner!




5. After dinner, the BOY and I joined our neighbors out back to have a few cocktails.  I didn’t return back home until after midnight postponing this post to Saturday morning : )

Thursday Thoughts and Dinner in the Crockpot

After a few busy weeks of training, it was almost hard to sleep in this week…almost!  I took Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off from working out.  One reason is because I have had a lot to do at work.  Another reason is because I still have EVERYTHING to do before I leave for Israel in less than one week!  Plus, it’s always just nice to catch up on some sleep.


I did figure out dinners for this week even though I didn’t blog about our Meal Plan earlier in the week.  Monday was dinner on the go because I had a late night meeting.  This Hidden Menu has made me fall back in love with Panera.  I’m slightly obsessed with the Hummus Chicken Bowl!  Don’t have a picture, but I do have one of the rainbow in the Target parking lot Monday night.




I’ve been a bad blogger with pictures, but Tuesday the BOY made a Mesquite Pork Tenderloin on the grill (with a huge salad) and Wednesday we had Lemon Pepper Grilled Shrimp with grilled peppers.


For tonight, I am back on dinner duty.  And by me, I mean the Crockpot : )




I may have stayed up late to watch the Hawk’s game last night (darn over times), so did not bound out of bed this morning. Recently I have been channeling my 101 year old grandpa who for dinner, throws everything (leftovers rice from my aunt, veggies) into his soup. I have been doing this for breakfast with my eggs.  Leftover salmon…yum!  Sweet potato…delish!  A veggie burger when there’s nothing else…somehow it still works


Yet this morning, I found myself out of eggs.  After some deep thought, I ended up throwing together a Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Smoothie. 




With a pretty lazy start to my week, I was pondering some activity, but instead I dawdled on the computer and then had to run some errands before my trip.  I am hoping to have time over this three day weekend to actually get packed up, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t slightly stressed out (yet totally excited!) about my upcoming trip.  Ok…back to dinner…I discovered this Crockpot recipe over the weekend and immediately added it to this week’s meal plan.


Is it not crazy that at my new job where I have been working for less than 2 weeks, they already ask me what’s in the crockpot for dinner?  I think it’s because I was raving about these Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps on my first day!




The tricky part of this recipe was that I needed to get everything set and then talk the BOY through the cornstarch portion since he gets home before me (and because this is my last day before Israel, I knew it’d be a later night).




Good News…he was able to figure it out.




Bad News…he misunderstood the timing and I got home a little late from work, so our dinner was slightly overcooked.  Still absolutely delicious but when we make this again, it will be on a non-work day.




We served dinner over rice with a side of green beans and an ice cold Wisco beer.  I don’t think that the pictures due it justice because this dinner is fantastic!




And so is this new New Glarus beer that I brought home from my camping trip.




There have been plenty of dinner leftovers for lunch this week, which has been awesome.  One of the best things about my new schedule is that I have two work days where I am eating lunch at home.  It is great to prepare my meal, sit down, and enjoy a laid back lunch (as opposed to a stuff your face with food during a meeting in between patients kind of lunch).  Over the past two weeks, I have been making healthier decisions and mindlessly snacking less.  I’ve lost ~2 pounds and feel refreshed.  It’s pretty incredible to notice how much stress was impacting my life and my health!


Speaking of that…it’s time to chillax with my beer, the BOY , and our DVR!

Thanks for listening to my Thursday thoughts!



What are your Thursday thoughts?

Does anyone else like New Glarus beer?




Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Smoothie


Place the following ingredients in blender and blend on high.

1 banana, sliced

1 cup almond milk

1/4 cup oats

2 Tbsp cacao powder

1-2 Tbsp almond butter

2 handfuls of ice



Crockpot Honey Sesame Chicken
Recipe From Chef In Training

*Note: this is the doubled recipe…I only made half (or one) portion for tonight!



2.5 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thighs would be fine too)
Salt and pepper
1 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons diced onion
4 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoon canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
4 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 6 Tablespoons water
Sesame seeds


Season both sides of chicken with lightly with salt and pepper, put into crock pot. In a small bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken.
Cook on low for 3-4 hours or on high 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours, or just until chicken is cooked through.
Remove chicken from crock pot, leave sauce. Dissolve 4 teaspoons of cornstarch in 6 tablespoons of water and pour into crock pot. Stir to combine with sauce.
Replace lid and cook sauce on high for ten more minutes or until slightly thickened.
Cut chicken into bite size pieces, then return to pot and toss with sauce before serving.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice or noodles.

Why Tri Iron Girl and Race Recap



Sunday June, 16, 2013

PRE RACE: So I probably stayed up 1 hour too late and had about 1/2 glass of wine too many, but here I am, it’s 5am and I need to be awake.  I lost the BOY to last night’s festivities with my brother and dismissed him from early morning triathlon duty knowing that my parents would meet me at the course.  The race location is about 20 minutes north, and I was impressed with how smoothly transition set up went.




On the way to the race sight, I realized that I forgot my bike gloves.  I was able to catch my parents before they left, and my Mom was happy to lend me a pair.  She arrived just as transition was closing, but they let me run in to add my gloves.




To wet suit or not to wet suit?!  That was the pre race question.  I had multiple opinions from my family, and others were discussing it in transition.  In the end, I decided not to go with the wet suit.  I began to doubt my decision (along with all of my ability to swim) as I walked down towards the beach where participants were ‘warming up’ in the water and starting to line up by waves.




I kept myself busy chatting with my parents and some other racers, and then strolled over to the beach for the race start.  Man, that looks like a LONG 1/3 mile swim, I thought as adrenaline started pumping through my veins.  I think this photo sums it up perfectly!

Here goes nothing…




SWIM (1/3 mile 12:59):  The wave before us takes off and into the water we go.  With nervous energy and 3 minutes to sit and wait, I strike up a convo with the girls around me.  Then remembering a tip from a fellow blogger, I splash some water on my face and dunk my body.  It’s actually much warmer than I expected.  The countdown begins…10…9…8…


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Go!  I start swimming and immediately forget all of my pool practice.  Not being able to see through the murky water, I find myself picking up my head often and using the breast stroke right away.  Wait a minute…I can do this!  I can swim!  I start to find my rhythm and then pop my head back up.  Stay calm, I tell myself.  The goal is to swim this efficiently and not waste precious energy by panicking.  1/3 of the way down and I’m rounding the corner hoping not to get run over by the younger girls trailing at my feet.  Rounding the next Buoy and the end is in sight.  With less swimmers near by, I find my swim stroke groove (better late than never) and head towards the beach.  Shoot, I realize, I forgot to start my watch.  OMG!  I didn’t wish my dad a happy father’s day!




TRANSITION 1 (4:02): I emerge from the water and start my watch.  I see my Mom waiting for me and cheering me up the hill.  I continue my run remembering to wish my dad a happy father’s day before entering transition.  Transition???  It’s been a year since I’ve done this…where to start…swim cap and goggles off, feet dry, socks clean, bike shoes on, fix hair, helmet on, sunglasses, check, gloves, thanks mom!  A sip of water and my bike and I are on our way.


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BIKE (14 miles 47:47): Oh no…did I just miss the timing pad?!  Who knows, but not much I can do now that I am on my bike and speeding away.  What a gorgeous day for a bike ride!  I hope this isn’t a hilly ride!  I quickly settled into my bike and started shifting gears from muscle memory.  I felt light on my bike and started passing other racers.  I felt energetic throughout the entire bike ride, moving quickly down the little hills and using momentum to power up the inclines.  I chatted and cheered on bikers that I passed, and only got passed by 2-3 other racers.  About 45 minutes into the race, I ate 1/2 a Larabar while reminding myself to drink water throughout the bike (even though I kind of needed to pee).  Swift and steady, I continued riding my ‘biking high’ deciding instead of riding today, I was going to race.  The bike has never been a strength of mine, but I knew that this would be one of my fastest races. I ended up with a 17.6 mph average.  If I bonked on the run, then I bonked on the run, but I was interested to see how far I could push myself.




TRANSITON 2 (1:46): To pee or not to pee?  This was the new question.  Biking gear off and running shoes on.  Plus a tshirt and a race belt.  Then, I was running out the other end of transition past the potties and around the lake.


RUN (3.1 miles 23:45):  Today’s goal…8 minute miles for a 24 minute run.  My legs felt heavy, but I was happy to have completed a handful of BRICK workouts during my training.  The run started off sunny, but I found some shade as I rounded the far side of the lake.  Mile 1…under 8 minutes.  Sweet!  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Mile 2…7:51.  Almost done!  I focused on keeping my pace reminding myself that I didn’t need to go any faster or any slower.  I past a few other racers and one shouted out to me ‘When you finish, come back and pick me up,’ which made me smile.  I spotted my mom with a little over a 1/4 mile to go.  She started shouting and cheering me on as I kicked it into a sprint.




I later saw video of this self-described sprint and it really was more like a run : )  My parents said that my bright orange tshirt was easy to spot and they were able to find the best locations on the course to encourage me and document the day with photos and video.  I rounded the last corner and pushed towards the finish line.  My run ended up being the 9th fastest out 39 in my age group.  Woo Hoo!




FINISH 1:30:19




POST RACE: I immediately received my medal, a freezing cold sponge, and took 2 bottles of water.  My parents were waiting to congratulate me on my race!


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While I’d been working hard, my Mom had made friends with multiple people including the Athleta sales girl who she was eager to introduce me to.  I was feeling great, not sore at all, and proud of my strong race.  I was happy to walk around the post race expo before finally making it to the bathroom.  I couldn’t stop raving about how well organized this race was and had the opportunity to tell one of the Iron Girl employees how much fun I had (and beg her to come back to Lake Zurich again next year).  Because of the location and awesome venue, this is a race I would do again next year for sure! 

We happened to be standing next to the billboards when they posted the results.  Since I didn’t start my watch on time, I wasn’t sure what my final time was and couldn’t find my name.  I gave up, grabbed some breakfast and more SWAG (including another 2 jars of Biscoff…ha ha!) while chatting with my parents.  The post race expo was so much fun that when we looked at our watches, it was already 10am.  We were able to find my name on the way back to transition.  I was pleased to find out that I finished 64/322 and 13/39 in my age division.  Already, I am contemplating what my next race should be…


I was a huge fan of the Iron Girl race series!  If you are looking for your next race, I would definitely check out their website!



Why Iron Girl?


Everything from packet pick up to transition was organized perfectly!

There is a table of hand sanitizer, sunscreen, chapstick, and other necessary beauty products by the port-a-potties.

This is your post race breakfast…




It never felt crowded (even in transition!)

The staff was really friendly.

The race course was filled with inspirational messages.




The next day they mailed me a colorful certificate

A really cute, actually gonna wear, race tshirt + more SWAG




Who doesn’t love an event dedicated to girl power?




Have you ever done an Iron Girl event?

What was the best race you’ve ever done?

Magically Delicious!

On this Father’s Day, the BOY and I are so lucky to spend the day with our families and honor our fathers!  Since I had my morning triathlon, the BOY and I decided to invite everyone over for a BBQ.  Since then, we are adding the engagement of my brother to his amazing girlfriend and the BOY’s first EVER straight A semester to our list of reasons to celebrate.




Everyone brought some food to the BBQ and the BOY, as always, was in charge of meat.  For dessert, my Mom brought an apple pie and I whipped up an easy no bake treat!




Just like Rice Krispy Treats with another childhood favorite cereal.








This morning’s race went well (I will have a race recap coming soon), and we were all happy to spend some time outside in the sunshine enjoying a fantastic meal afterwards.




When it came time for dessert, we were all happy to be back around the table.




These bars turned out perfectly!




And were exactly what I was looking forward to after our amazing BBQ and sunny race day!




Thanks Dad for getting up early to take pictures and cheer me on during my race!




I loved spending the day with you!




I hope that you had a wonderful weekend and Father’s Day!



Lucky Charms Treats

Adapted from Rice Krispy Treats



3 tbsp butter

1 10 oz package mini marshmallows

1 tsp vanilla

7 cups of Lucky Charms cereal



Spray 9×13 pan with cooking spray.

Melt butter over low-medium heat in a large saucepan.  Stir in marshmallows and continue to stir until smooth and all mallows are melted.

Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla.

Stir in cereal until well mixed.

Spray your hands with cooking spray and use them to press cereal treats into prepared pan.

Let cook.  Cut and serve.  Store in an airtight container.



What is/was your favorite childhood cereal?

This is the day that Doesn’t End…

Our alarm went off at 6:30am, and the BOY and I snoozed twice before actually walking up!

We were able to get ourselves pulled together and out of the door on the way to the Heartland 5k for K9’s.




A friend of mine was doing her first 5k, and I was tagging along or moral support.  This run/walk was a tiny, well supported event to race money for a local animal shelter.




I was super proud of my friend who ran the entire 3.1 miles and even had enough push to sprint to the finish!

After the race, the BOY and I swung by Starbucks for a warm beverage and a change of clothes for me before our biyearly trip to the dentist, where I hoped they wouldn’t find chia seeds stuck in my teeth after this morning’s race.  The office was busy and seemed to be running late, so we were there for way longer than expected.  After the dentist, the BOY and I planned to swing into Naf Naf for lunch.




I’m telling you if you’ve never been to Naf Naf and live in (or are visiting) Chicago, you should definitely check it out.  They make their pita fresh, and it is by far the fluffiest, and most tasty pita around!




I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that I devoured my sandwich and some hummus in a short time : )  The BOY and I came back home after lunch, where I spent about 15 minutes replacing the battery in bike commuter.  When I finally got it figured out, it still didn’t work.  The BOY loaded my bike onto his car and we drove up to Lake Zurich for packet pick up and bike drop off for tomorrow’s triathlon.




I was hoping and was correct that there would be a local bike shop at the expo.  The guy was super nice, got my biked all tuned up, and showed me how to move my receptor on the wheel to get my computer working again.  I know that I will be happy to have it tomorrow as I pace my way through the 14 mile ride.




I placed my bike in transition and picked up my race chip (with this soft and comfy ankle band).


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This is my first Iron Girl event, and I have been looking forward to it for months.  Of course, seeing the lake got the butterflies bouncing about my stomach, but that is just par for the course with me.  All of the volunteers at check in and transition were helpful and friendly.  I got an adorable shirt AND a huge jar of Biscoff Spread amongst my other goodies in my SWAG bag.




When we finally made our way home, the BOY went down for a nap (it was a lot of action for him for one day), and I started to pull together my shoes, equipment, and clothes for tomorrow’s race.




I also threw a crumb cake into the oven (a box mix that I picked up at TJ’s this morning in between Starbucks and the dentist). 




By 5:00, I finally got around to taking a shower before the second half of our day began.  My brother and his fiancé just walked in the door for dinner and the Hawks game.  The BOY will be grilling up some sea bass and potatoes for dinner, and I stocked the fridge with wine to celebrate their engagement.  I changed into my new race Tshirt for inspiration before tomorrow’s race and to remind myself not to stay up too late…ha ha!

Five For Friday VI

1. I started my Friday at a play date with my BFF’s and their adorable mini-me daughters!  Woo hoo to Friday’s off!




2. So I am running a 5k tomorrow morning.  Typically, I don’t sign up for a race the day before a triathlon, but I’ve been talking with a younger friend of mine about doing her first 5k for over a year and I am looking forward to running with her tomorrow!


3. The BOY and I had a very nontraditional pre race dinner of sushi…Mmmm!




4.  Tomorrow is a crazy busy day starting with the race, followed by a dentist appointment, and then I have to check in for my triathlon and drop off my bike.  After that, my brother and his fiancé are coming over for dinner and the Hawk’s game.


5. Since tomorrow is so busy, the BOY and I spent this afternoon getting prepped for the Father’s Day BBQ we are hosting.  I cheated a little bit with dessert by making White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies from a cube. 





What are you up to this weekend?

How are you celebrating Father’s Day?