Five for Friday XVIII

1.  Thank you guys so much for your awesome comments on my This is the REAL Me…post.  Did anyone do a Keeping It Real post of their own?  Link it out in the comments!  I probably should have started that post by thanking you guys for being such amazing friends and readers that I feel comfortable sharing myself, faults and all, with you each week.





2.  The Polar Vortex tried to kill my car.  True Story!  On Wednesday, I tried to go to the bank during my lunch hour.  I made it out of my parking lot and my car stopped at the light.  When the light turned green, my car did not proceed into the intersection as planned completely pissing off the truck driver behind me who handled the situation by honking and yelling.  Like don’t you think I would get moving if I could?!  Every time I hit the gas, the car revved but wouldn’t move.  I was able to move my car forward enough so the angry truck could get around (who do you think is having a worse day, man, me or you?).  Thankfully, my car kicked in and I got through the intersection and back to my parking lot.



3.  To assist me in my time of need, my wonderful mother came out Wednesday night to trade cars so that my car could go to the shop near my parents house and I could take hers to work and the bank.  I had enough salmon and veggies to share (what we were able to keep away from Cooper anyways).  We  chatted, had a glass of wine, and played with baby C.  I think my mom spoils him : )





4.  The last Friday of the month, my new gym has a free guest day.  The BOY and I decided to take full advantage of this by reserving a tennis court.  We could only get an 8pm time, so after work we grabbed a sandwich (from our favorite local place), picked up some indoor tennis balls (and a new racket for the BOY) at Sports Authority, and then went to the gym.






We were able to get the ball machine, which was really fun!  It allowed me to practice my swing and by the end, I think it looked a little better.  I loved having an active Friday date night and it felt fantastic to pound away at tennis balls after a busy work week.  Can you say stress relief?!



5.  All of this is leading up to why despite my best attentions, I didn’t get any recipes posted this week.  I have some good ones (spoiler alert…two new banana bread recipes), so will work on getting those out this weekend.  There’s a rumor that a huge snow storm is coming our way, which will give me plenty of blogging time.



And to end with some GOOD NEWS…my car was easily (and inexpensively) able to be fixed.  The Malibu lives on!

Random Ramblings {Tennis, Spin, and Everything in Between}

The BOY and I had our second to last tennis lesson last night.  At the end, we got an evaluation.  We are both around the same point with different areas of strength.  I will definitely be sad when our Adult Beginner lessons are over.  It’s been really challenging and fun.  Although we could continue and do another round of lessons, instead we are going to try to make time on our own to practice.  This is always really tough!  The best thing about our lessons was that once a week, Mondays at 6pm, we had set aside for tennis.  I’d like to keep Mondays as a tennis day, but until the snow starts melting off the outdoor courts, we will have to spend some money to play indoors.  I know that if I don’t keep practicing, I won’t get any better, and I don’t want to waste the lessons we took.  And…I’m not quite to a place where you’d want to play with me yet : )




One positive is that I am trialing a new gym for the end of February and rest of March.  This gym is also a park district from the next town over.  It has A LOT more amenities, but also costs significantly more than my current membership.  I’ve had a gym membership since I was in high school.  Some of have been fancier than others, but I really do LOVE a big, shiny, gym with lots to offer.  It’s not something I’ve had since moving in with the BOY a few years ago.  So…when I stepped in the door of this gym last weekend to play tennis with the BOY, I was smitten from the start.  They have a 25 bike spin studio (my current gym has about 9-10), tennis courts, two pools, well lit clean locker rooms, fit people, a rock climbing wall, a triathlon club, and a lot of classes early in the morning.  Can’t you see the appeal?!




I’ve always been a bit of a gym snot and I just felt right at home here.  It reminded me how much I am missing at our current park district.   Another bonus is that it will allow the BOY and I access to tennis courts until we can play outdoors.  AND, it’s not on the way but not out of the way to my newer job.  Worth a shot in my mind.




This morning, I tried out the new gym.  I went to the 6am spin class.  I loved that the gym was busy but not overly crowded.  The people were friendly and you could tell they were a consistent crew.  I felt way more at home.  The locker rooms were clean and easy to get ready for work.  It was so different from my old days at the big commercial gym.  I even took a few minutes to sit and watch the news while enjoying my breakfast before drying my hair.  It’s the little things that make me happy!




And the spin class was one tough workout (and an awesome way to start the day)!

The problem is that I don’t want to spread myself too thin or out in too many directions.  I love my yoga studio and it’s where I am doing training and a strength class each one time a week.  Currently tennis is at a third park district, but that will be over this weekend.  And I have my current membership at the park district 1 mile from our house for the next few weeks that I can renew for cheap at the end of March.  Decisions…Decisions!

Obviously, I have to weigh out all my pros and cons and check my financials, but I will definitely spend the next few weeks figuring it all out.

Thanks for listening!!!


So my questions after this random post…

How do you choose your gym?

Does anyone else fall for the high end amenities?

Can I keep running, strength training, yogaing, and add tennis?

How will I ever get better at tennis if I don’t practice? (Ok that one doesn’t need an answer!)

Who wants to meet for a tennis date?

Steel Cut Banana Oatmeal {Crockpot Recipe}

It seems like I haven’t posted as many recipes these last few weeks, but that’s not because I haven’t been cooking.  I took a lot of your advise and have been working to keep my meal plans simple and easy.  That combined with early morning workouts and less social media has kept my stress levels a little lower these last few weeks.  And I like it!




But I also really like trying new recipes and so this week is full of them.  Which basically means, I spent Monday cooking and baking up a storm and will spread the recipe love throughout the week.




Starting with breakfast!  I’ve got an entire bunch of brown bananas and have been wanting to make oats in my crockpot.  Since I also had steel cut oatmeal and almond milk in the house, this recipe was a great place to begin.




Instead of overnight, I made my oats this morning, while I was grocery shopping and working out.




When I got home, the house smelled fantastic.  I love all of the spices (I added a few more).  My pictures aren’t so pretty as I just packaged up my oats in 4 pyrex’s for the weak ahead.  I plan on covering them fruit, nuts, and other clean toppings.  As for this week’s meal plan, I’m sure you’re noticing a trend.  Monday is crockpot day.  Tuesday is the BOY’s day.  Wednesday is the BOY’s late night, so I’ve been making salmon, and Thursday is perfect for leftovers : )  Nice and Simple!


When my oats were done, I quickly washed out my crockpot and got ready for tonight’s dinner.

More Recipes to Come…



Meal Plan 2/24/14

Monday: Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken from Rachel Schultz


Tuesday: Pork Chops


Wednesday: Salmon and Veggies


Thursday: Leftovers


Breakfast: Slow Cooker Banana Oatmeal



Slow Cooker Banana Oatmeal

Adapted Slightly From The Lemon Bowl

Serves 4



1 cup steel cut oats

1 ripe banana – mashed

2 cups almond milk

2 cups water

4 tablespoons flax seed meal

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cloves

Optional Toppings: banana slices, walnuts, coconut, chocolate chips or brown sugar



Place all ingredients in slow cooker* and stir until well combined.

Cook overnight or all day on Low for 8-10 hours.  (It only took me 4-5 hours while cooking on low.)

Stir oatmeal with a fork to loosen the steel cut oats and make sure everything is fully incorporated.

Serve warm with toppings.

Store in fridge in airtight containers or freeze.


NOTE: I probably should have used a crockpot liner for easy clean up with this recipe!

This is the REAL Me…

So I did read Lauren’s Post about Keeping It Real, but it wasn’t until I saw Erin’s post that I was inspired to make one of my own.  On a daily basis, I keep things pretty real.  I think you guys probably see me dressed down often than dressed up.  My hair color is ‘all natural’, which is really just because I can’t afford color and not because I don’t want it : )  I don’t wear make up often.  I wear my hair curly (air dried) almost as often as straight.  And you will mostly find me bra-less at home in soft pants rocking my 8 year old glasses.




I’m not judging anyone who does things differently.  Partially, this is just the nature of my job that does not require me to be dressed in a suit, with perfected hair, and classy make up.  Working as a pediatric therapist means that I can wear comfy khaki’s with a bright colored shirt, and funky socks.  I have most holidays represented in socks, including Easter and Hanukkah.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s just how I roll!




That being said, I do try to choose my more attractive ‘selfies’ for the blog.  Is there anyone who doesn’t?

But the truth is, I have dark circles, my teeth aren’t white, gray hairs keep popping up (literally straight up), and rolls along my middle (those are probably my least favorite and I’d rather not talk about them further).  Even from my pre blogger days, I have PLENTY of action Keeping It Real pictures on my computer.  I spent some time searching through them and it was easy to find some raw (and embarrassing) photos that didn’t make the blog and I’m not exactly sure why I saved…it was harder to narrow down which ones to post. 


Confession: I did find a few that were just too REAL to share, even with you my friends.

But in return, I will start with a throwback REAL (pre blow dryer) picture…


Jen and Jessie 7th Grade 001

7th Grade


And in the spirit of Keeping It REAL


This is the REAL Me…Training and Racing


















And the worst (never before seen)…post Hot Yoga Sweat




This is the REAL Me…Loving Some Vitamin N (Nature)











This is the REAL Me… At Home















What is the REAL you???

Did I set January Goals?

I really have NO idea!

Which means that I have to go back looking through my blog in search of January goals.  I mean it’s mid February already, I probably should have figured this out.  I know that I did set my 2014 intentions with an exciting new bucket list.  But can’t remember any January, or February for that matter goals.




Search complete…Hope you enjoyed the view.

It seems that I never set January and February goals, which is why I can’t remember what they are : )  I’m thinking that I do want to keep going with the monthly goals this year, which means that I need to get thinking. 




Meanwhile, I will just share a recipe with you.  You all know how much I LOVED eating Flax and Chia Bowls last winter!




Which got me thinking…what if I subbed in sweet potato instead of banana?




The result was today’s breakfast, and it was really flavorful, filling, and satisfying!  Sadly, I have no finished pictures to share (the ones above are from the night before), because they don’t really do this breakfast any justice.  Like last winter, I’ve been running intervals around the indoor track for cardio during the cold and dark mornings.  Tuesday it was descending ladders and this morning, I threw some intervals into the end of my run.

This breakfast always hits the spot after a tough morning workout!



Sweet Potato, Chia, and Flax Bowl



1/2 cooked sweet potato, mashed

12 g chia seeds

1 heaping spoonful of ground flax

1 tsp or more pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup almond milk

Optional: honey, agave, or sweetener of your choice



-Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well.

-Place in fridge over night.

-Serve the next morning topped with berries or granola.



And…Let’s just call these my Mid February and March Goals

1. Decrease Sugar Intake

2. Build Strength

3. Play Tennis

4. Sign up for Races



Yup, that’s the gym parking lot this morning.  Yuck!

Recently Reading [February 2014]

So yeah…my blogs been a bit all over the place lately.  But in a good way…right?! 




Right!  To be fair, I blame my week away in Vegas and then all of the fun that followed.  I had a lot of ideas to share and have been working my way through them.  Before I left for my trip, I was able to finish one of the books that I have been reading for a while.  It’s written during an interesting time in English History (The 60’s) and follows a few friends through the debutante season.  I loved learning more about the time and felt that the voice of the narrator was superbly done!



This meant that I was set to start a new book on my trip, which I did the morning of our last day sitting out by the pool.




I have read both of Gillian Flynn’s other books, so I was excited to complete the trio.  I started this one Sunday morning and was so engrossed that I couldn’t put it down until I finally climbed into bed late that night.  I read the last 20 pages the next day.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say this might be my favorite of them all!  Well worth picking up during your next Amazon purchase.

Next up on my list..



I think, anyways!  Right now I am also working my way through some of my magazines.


What are you reading right now?

Has anyone read Sharp Objects?

I Should Have Bought Snow Shoes

I was this close (imagine me pinching my fingers close together) to buying snow shoes on sale at the end of last season, but got myself talked out of it.




Go figure…I could definitely use some this winter.  Along with everyone else in the mid west!




It’s been a real long time since I’ve been outside running (other than Las Vegas, that is), and so when the sun was shining this afternoon and I hadn’t gotten in my workout yet, I decided to bundle up for an outdoor run.




I carried my Yak Tracks in my hand and ran the 3/4 mile to the path.  Once I got there, I donned the tracks and made my way onto the snowy path.




Some areas were packed down while others were fluffy and tough to run in.  What I learned today…running in the snow is hard work (almost like running in the sand) and I look really uncoordinated doing it.




I ran most of the 45 minutes, but also walked through some of the denser areas.




The views were incredible, and I was so happy to be out enjoying winter (instead of just complaining about it).




It was much more enjoyable to be running outside than along the indoor track or circles in my neighborhood.  But next time, I hope that I have snow shoes!




Do you have snow shoes?

Any tips on running in the snow?



On another note, here is the game plan for the week ahead!


Meal Planning 2/16/14

Sunday: Crockpot Butter Chicken


Monday: Jen’s Jumbo


Tuesday: Premade Turkey Burgers


Wednesday: Out to Dinner


Thursday: Salmon and Broccoli

Foodie Finds {Las Vegas}

I know that you guys are all asking yourselves…how did I get the BOY out hiking in Las Vegas???




Nope…it’s not his undying love and devotion to me…




We promised him In and Out Burger : )




I certainly joke about the BOY’s love of food on the blog, but I have to say that having a ‘Foodie’ boyfriend has it’s benefits!  We eat very well when we are on vacation and Las Vegas was no exception.




And I’m not just talking about this ginormous turkey sandwich from the deli?!




Here are a few of our favorite Las Vegas meals…





Sushi Samba (Venetian)





Julian Serrano’s (Aria)







Carnegie Deli (Mirage)

I recommend going for breakfast and dessert (not at the same time…or maybe at the same time?!)







American Fish (Aria)


IMG_20140207_212846506 IMG_20140207_212920420_HDR





*Best brussel sprouts I’ve ever tasted!



Secret Pizza (Cosmopolitan)

Hint: It’s on the third floor and tough to find!


IMG_20140208_205841475 IMG_20140208_205829446


IMG_20140208_205924174 IMG_20140208_210203618



5 Fifty (Aria)




IMG_20140208_213129229 IMG_20140208_214717412

*I recommend the truffle pizza!


Serendipity (Outside Caesars)




IMG_20140209_101458327 IMG_20140209_103231903



And for Dancing and Booze…


1Oak (Mirage)





Chandelier Bar (Cosmopolitan)


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Happy Eating (and drinking) in Las Vegas!





Do you like to try new restaurants when you travel?

What are your foodie finds?

My Gym, My University, My Temple

My mom, a new friend, and I all attended this workshop at Tribalance this afternoon…


Chakras Mudras, & Bandhas

Presented by Gabriel Halpern

Yoga posits 7 vortexes of energy, up and down the cerebro-spinal system. According to yoga philosophy, our evolutionary energy moves up from the base of the spine (1st chakra) its final destination in the top of the skull (7th chakra), enriching and illuminating all of the centers it passes through. Today’s workshop features a Power Point presentation on the chakras and their respective outlooks and then offers a class of hatha yoga poses, which show yoga asanas open up the different “lotuses.” Mudras seal pranic energy in our bodies while building a reservoir of vitality to draw from and Bandhas distribute that prana from one section or region of the body to the rest of our anatomy. Mudras and Badnhas will be demonstrated and taught.


And it was really neat!!! 

I have been doing yoga for over 10 years now.  And although I have gained understanding of the poses, this was an eye opening lesson in the non physical aspects of yoga.  I couldn’t help but wonder…would my yoga practice have been different had I known all this from the start?  Would I have liked it more or less?





The course started with an opening meditation to set our intentions.  Gabriel asked us to think of times when we were skillful and at our best and then reflect on times when we were unskilled and not our strongest self.  We wrote a silent diary in our head focusing on these times.  Then moved on to a powerpoint, using pictures to activate the right side of the brain while listening to the explanation from Gabriel.  To learn more about Yoga Circle or Gabriel, you can listen to some of his chats on his website.  One of the ideas that Gabriel presented was that yoga is really our gym, the place where we get moving and see physical changes.  It is also our university, a place of learning and study.  And lastly our temple, a place of spiritual enlightenment.  What an interesting thought…it stuck with me for the rest of the class.  As I look back on 10 years of my yoga practice, it has encompassed all three of these aspects.  Currently, I feel so lucky to have found a studio near my house that I feel comfortable enough to learn and grow!  And I am hoping to continue on this journey through more workshops in 2014.




My other form of enlightenment came from my intention to stay present throughout today and throughout this year.  I noticed that other people were taking notes during the workshop, which got me thinking that maybe I should have brought a notebook.  But then I realized that when I’m taking notes, I’m not as good at participating.  This of course made me think of my blog.  Sometimes when I’m doing a new activity, I’m already thinking about blogging about it.  I think in some ways, this makes me a lot less present.  Now don’t get me wrong, I was narrating my life (in my head) way before I even started blogging, so it’s not my blog’s fault, it’s just who I am.  And part of what I’m hoping to change this year as I try to be more present with everything I do.  Afterwards, I can try to remember as much as possible to blog about and share with you.


Shoulder Stand yoga pose creative chakra 6 Yoga Poses to Improve Memory & Help Combat ADD



Next, we moved on to numerous poses intended to open our chakras and move energy up towards the 7th and highest chakra.  These movements were challenging, especially as we added in the breath of fire.  Since I didn’t write them down, I don’t remember all of them, but I can say it was fun to participate in this unique yoga journey.  We completed the session with a long relaxation that had me almost asleep.  By the end of the 3 hours, I felt more knowledgeable and physically fatigued and this seemed to be a common theme amongst the other participants.  I guess my take home message for you is that if you practice yoga as a beginner or have been for many years, I recommend trying a workshop to learn more about the poses in sun salutation or the deeper meaning of chakras and pranas.  It is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with friends learning more about yourself and challenging yourself to be a more skillful person.  In this early part of the year, I look on towards the rest of 2014 with excitement knowing that I will be a more skillful and present participant in every day’s journey.



Do you practice yoga?

Have you taken workshops?

What other parts of your life have become your gym, university or temple?

Are you more or less present when you are blogging?

Five for Friday XVII

1. Happy Valentine’s Day!

In honor of the holiday, I wore my favorite (and totally obnoxious) fringe heart shirt with matching socks to work today.  It’s possible that my coworkers at my new job think I’m crazy!



2. We had plans to do a ValenThai night (bringing in Thai), but in a last minute change, the BOY picked up Mediterranean…ValenTerranean just doesn’t have the same ring : ) but tastes just as delicious!





3. Staying in for dinner tonight is perfect.  I am exhausted adjusting back to the cold weather and early morning work week.  I got up before 6am for my strength class yesterday and Cooper was singing to us at 5:30am today.  Yuck!  We do have reservations to celebrate Valentine’s Day at Season’s 52 tomorrow.



4. Are you watching any of the Olympics???  I have been catching pieces here and there this week.  I’m a total Olympic junkie, but check out who else is getting in on the action.


IMG_20140214_195549085 IMG_20140214_195544882 IMG_20140214_195542569 IMG_20140214_195633498_HDR


Got him!

Even better than a laser pointer…right?!



5. Tomorrow, my mom and I are taking our second yoga workshop of the year.  The first one was a little more physical working on sun salutation.  This one has more of a mental focus.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it!



What are you doing this Friday?