Five for Friday XXX

1. It’s almost not Friday anymore and the only reason I am awake is because I am newly addicted to The Blacklist. 

 

2. I seriously had the LONGEST workday ever, and all I wanted to do when I got home was sit on the couch, eat dinner, unwind, and watch a little television.  I am also slightly addicted to Castle reruns.

IMG_20150227_185756562

 

3. But instead I studied for 2 hours while the BOY was out for dinner.

IMG_20150227_203213959_HDR

 

4. And tried to manage the distractions.  When Cooper got tired of sitting on my notebook, he tried to break into a few cabinets, and then started running laps through our downstairs.  This house is not conducive to learning : )

IMG_20150227_203129728

 

5. When the BOY got home, we opened some amazing Sonoma red wine, cuddled up with Cooper, and just enjoyed Friday!

 

Woo hoo!  It’s Friday ya’ll!

What are you up to this weekend?

Mondayness

My Mondays have a bit of a routine and that has been off the past few weeks.  So today, it was time to get back to it (with the addition of printing 100’s of pages of outlines).  I slept in this morning and even fell back asleep after the BOY left the house early for the day.  More surprising is that Cooper let me fall back asleep.  Once my alarm went off around 9am, he came in for a cuddle.  I made breakfast and immediately got down to laundry/printing/tea drinking.  Yesterday’s study session revealed that I am WAY behind and I have A LOT to learn if I hope to be successful with this test.

But there is still housework to be done and food to be bought.  So I did a quick barre class before heading to Target (for printer cartridges and paper), Costco and the grocery store. 

IMG_20150223_124800600

Then came home to eat lunch (Asian salmon salad) while I folded laundry and threw tonight’s dinner into the crockpot.

IMG_20150223_142608750

As I studied throughout the afternoon, my house smelled like Chinese take out (yum!) which I would have much preferred to actually making dinner tonight. 

 IMG_20150223_184153483

Cooper attempted to wrestle my ponytail and after the 15th time that he came pouncing across my notes, I got up and fed him his dinner.

IMG_20150223_184157664

When the BOY came home around 7:30pm, our dinner was hot and ready to go.  Thanks to my trusty crockpot of course.  So I made Kung Pao chicken, but I modified the recipe a bit.  Since the BOY doesn’t like zucchini, I subbed in a big container of Asian veggies.  See notes below…

IMG_20150223_154319563_HDR

Our dinner looked more like stirfry than Kung Pao chicken, and I am not sure if my cornstarch did it’s job.

IMG_20150223_193351111

But either way, dinner was delicious!  I ran through some note cards and after a long day of Mondayness was ready to finally unwind on the couch a bit to blog a bit, and I finally convinced the BOY to start watching The Blacklist.  Oh…the pilot is good!

What do you do on Mondays?

Do you watch the Blacklist?

Meal Planning 2/23/15

Monday: Kung Pao Chicken

Tuesday: Shrimp Fajitas

Wednesday: Burger Night

Thursday: Take Out (I’m thinking ‘tillos)

 

Crockpot Kung Pao Chicken

From Crème de la Crumb

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic

Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon red chile paste (like Sriracha – found near Asian section in more grocery stores)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch + 2 tablespoons cold water
  • ⅓ cup peanuts
  • optional: cooked rice, green onions

Directions

  1. Drizzle a large sauce pan with oil and sauté chicken over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until browned
  2. Add chicken to a greased slow cooker. In a bowl whisk together sauce ingredients: garlic, soy sauce, chile paste, vinegar, brown sugar, and ⅓ cup water. Pour sauce into the slow cooker. Cook on low 3-4 hours or on high 5-6 hours.
  3. About 10-15 minutes before serving, drizzle a pan with oil and sauté peppers, zucchini, and garlic for 2-3 minutes until veggies are tender. Add to slow cooker. *See Note
  4. Whisk together corn starch and cold water until dissolved. Add to slow cooker and stir. Allow to thicken for 5-10 minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with peanuts and green onions as desired.

*Note: I added my red peppers with the chicken and then stirred in the canned veggies and peanuts with the cornstarch.

Curling in the City

Did you stay up late and watch the Oscars?  I only caught the end because I was downtown curling (random, I know!).  I never realized behind the meat dresses and crazy costumes that Lady Gaga can sing?!  I also didn’t realize that the Oscars went so late!

I started my Sunday getting back into the workout groove.  After 2 weeks without a yoga class, I was ready to get back on my mat.  I find that when I am out of my exercise routine, the easiest place to slide back in is a yoga class.  And then I found this on Pinterest…

If anything it starts out: " I almost didn't go, but I'm so glad I did!" {{so true, I haven't been feeling it.. But I went anyway to Bikram Class & had an fabulous class!!}}

So true!  Except that it’s a picture of a gymnast, but you can’t win ‘em all : )  I reveled in my post yoga glow and felt physically and emotionally awesome!

IMG_20150222_114008

The rest of the day went by in a flash and included Mediterranean for lunch and a study session with my study buddy.  At 5:30pm, I met my friends Jen and Megan in the city.  You might remember them from this snow shoeing adventure.  Shortly after that, they moved to Australia. They are back visiting the states and were excited to go snow shoeing again.  Sadly, there just wasn’t enough snow.  Our back up plan…curling at the Beer, Bacon, and Sausage Bar!

IMG_20150222_183841

We had a delicious dinner and then braved the cold (with warm bevvies in hand) to try curling.  Despite the text book form you see below, I was actually pretty terrible at the sport.  But that didn’t mean it wasn’t fun!

IMG_20150222_190353493 IMG_20150222_190421279

It was FREEZING though so frequent rest breaks by the fire were needed.  It was wonderful to catch up with my friends and I love that they always have the MOST FUN ideas!

IMG_20150222_203751866

I awoke this morning smelling like a camp fire (love it!) and have a busy day of Monday-ness ahead!

 

Have you ever tried curling? Any tips on technique?

It’s Good to be Cooper & Weekday Reflections

It was a good morning to be Cooper!

After meowing at the door relentlessly, the BOY woke up to feed him his breakfast.  After scarfing it down, he returned to the door where he continued to meow on and off for about an hour until I finally woke up, opened the door, and returned to bed where Cooper situated himself in the direct path of my arm for a good 15 minutes of love.  When the BOY joined us, Cooper entertained by chirping out answers to our questions.  And then it was on to breakfast number two (for Cooper) who nibbled on a few salami scraps while the eggs cooked. 

IMG_20150221_083217136

He then positioned himself in the perfect place to charge the plate to retrieve the egg + salami mixture he’d been eyeing.  After that, there was a little time to hunt his mousey toy before curling up for the first of I’m sure numerous naps.  And all of this before 10am : )

IMG_20150221_083658 IMG_20150221_083708

Reflections of the Workweek…

It was easy to get myself back into the swing of the workweek.  The kindness of my coworkers and patients was remarkable and left me with a strong appreciation for the people I interact with each day.

Getting back into the groove of exercise, that is an entirely different story.  Partly because of my cold and also because of the –20 degree weather, I didn’t push it this week. And by push it, I mean, do anything!

Somewhere in the middle is studying. I am going through the motions but my heart is just not in it.  The bad news…I am just a few weeks away from my test date. Ugh!

IMG_20150221_124734023

I spent this afternoon studying at Starbucks.  3 Bux beverages later, I swung by Trader Joe’s (where I bumped into one of my best friends and her family).  When I got home, the BOY decided he wasn’t feeling great (I think he’s coming down with my cold) and so I made a Trader Joe’s Saturday night dinner : )

IMG_20150221_184539

Cooper was excited to see the cheese and I think that he even snuck a few bites.

IMG_20150221_190227346

Like I mentioned…it was good to be Cooper today!

IMG_20150219_214704936

Down Day Dinner

Monday I needed a bit of a physical and emotional break.  I didn’t set an alarm and slept almost 12 hours.  Mind you, there were a few interruptions as Cooper kept wiggling his body into my arms for some love, but I didn’t mind.  I missed my little kitty while I was gone!  And he missed us and his pink blanket which we took for the car ride.

IMG_20150216_152626250

The BOY and I did a grocery store run to fill up our empty fridge.  Then, I put dinner in the crockpot, took a shower, and planned to dive back into the studying I didn’t do this past week.  Instead, I got comfy on the couch (next to Cooper and the pink blanket) and worked my way through the DVR while folding laundry and snacking on apples and dark chocolate almonds.

IMG_20150216_125422063_HDR

You see…on top of being exhausted, I have a cold and a random rash on my neck.  I was in need of a little down time…and so I took some!  I’m sure I’ll regret it later as there is much to catch up on.

IMG_20150216_193306255

I chose an easy dinner recipe (to go along with my day of relaxation), and it turned out wonderful!

IMG_20150216_193606

So here’s a tasty recipe for the next time you need a down day.

IMG_20150216_152228184

Meal Planning 2/16/15

Monday: Crockpot Pork (recipe below)

Tuesday: Fajita Night

Wednesday: Chicken and Salad

Thursday: Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Super Easy Slow Cooker Pork

From Pinch of Yum

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. pork shoulder
  • 1 cup soda (I used diet gingerale)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup Marzetti Simply Dressed Balsamic dressing

Directions

  1. Place the pork, soda, garlic, chili powder, oregano, and Worcestershire sauce in the crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
  2. When the meat falls apart easily, shred it directly in the crockpot with two forks. Add the balsamic dressing and stir with the liquid in the crockpot. The meat should be saucy and moist.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (or use the broil setting if you have that) and transfer the mixture to a baking sheet lined with foil. Spread it in an even, thin layer (drain some juice if it appears that there is too much) and cook in the preheated oven until the juices are bubbling and the edges are crispy, 10-15 minutes (less time if you have a broil setting).
  4. Transfer to a serving platter and enjoy on salad, tacos, or potatoes!

Still Sad

Thank you all so very much for your sweet words and support his past week!

When I learned that my grandfather had passed, I was somewhat surprised.  He was 2 months away from 103 years old, how could you be surprised, you ask?  My grandpa has been a fixture in my life for 33 years.  While other grandparents got sick and eventually passed, my grandpa was always bright, strong, and healthy.  When he ended up sick and in the hospital for the first time EVER in his 90’s, I was sad but not the slightest bit shocked to learn that he pulled through open heart surgery well and was telling jokes to the nurses day one after surgery.  After that, I made sure not to take for granted any of the time we had left together.

IMG_3049

I have been down to Florida for at least his last 7 birthdays (and possibly more) documenting everything with photos and creating memories that are still vivid today (ie driving with him home from his birthday brunch the day after his 101st birthday).  I made sure to take a trip down with the BOY to introduce him early on and we often visited since, enjoying pancakes and stories by the pool.  I made sure that my grandpa knew that I loved him and shared all of the exciting moments of the past years, including my engagement with him.

IMAG2312

Although we knew that his health and independence were declining, it was shocking to hear that grandpa’s body was aging and his quality of life impaired last week.  The news broke my heart but to hear that he passed quietly, without suffering, after recent visits from family and friends in the community was comforting.  And then, it was a quick transition to GO time.  Planning for a drive out east, rearranging my work schedule, coordinating phone calls with family, and taking care of the last minute little things before leaving for almost a week.

IMG_20150210_205041

My mom and brother arrived in New Jersey first and it was a pleasant reunion when my dad, sister in law, the BOY, and I arrived.  We stayed with my cousins who have two young kids who were thrilled to see us and we were equally excited to spend time with them.  The week progressed with a mix of disbelief and celebrations of life.  There were stories to share, laughter amongst family, and hugs and tears.  I actually do not know the last time that I was in a room with my brother and all 5 of my cousins and I couldn’t help but appreciate this as the 7 of us, plus spouses, and kids got to know each other better at a family dinner.  The energy in the house was electric.  The celebration of life with the underlying tone of sadness.  At almost 103, there was more appreciation for the lifetime of lessons and legacy that Grandpa Al left us than loss.

IMG_20150214_115254555_HDR

I spent time in New Jersey and strolled through Washington Heights, NYC.  I bonded with my sister in law over family dynamics and smiled brightly as the BOY engaged in deep conversations gaining the trust of my family in between playing games with the kids.  His support during this time left me speechless with an entirely new level of appreciation for the life we are about to start together.

IMG_20150214_114944

The days went by and at 5am yesterday morning, it was time to return home.  We ended up renting a second car to caravan home, reflecting on the week while beginning to plan for back to work, getting opinions about wedding plans and texting pins back and forth with my sister in law in the other car.  Once we crossed back into Illinois, we had a stop in the city, drove out to Ohare to return the rented car, then back to my parents to pick up our car before returning to our home and a slightly dazed and mostly annoyed Cooper. 

IMG_20150212_071901

I sat back on the couch to sort through emails and bills and see the adorable face of my grandpa popping up on my blog screen and my throat gets tight as my eyes tear up as the overwhelming reality that I won’t hear him scream Jennifer loudly into the phone when I call hits, no slams into me.  And I am still sad…so very sad.

But I am also happy to have had 6 days surrounded by the love and support of family, creating more memories and passing down wisdom to the newest generation of great grandkids.  My grandpa would be so happy to know that we were all together!

IMG_20150215_132929187 IMG_20150210_215745659

IMG_20150211_205404490 IMG_20150213_120306849

And so along with the sadness, this is what I will take with me over the next days, weeks, and years!

A Life Well Lived

Sadly, my grandfather passed away this weekend after 102 1/2 incredible years!  We are so lucky to have had him as a role model and patriarch of our family. 

IMAG0936

100th Birthday Celebration

I am grateful for all of the stories he has shared and lessons he has taught us.

IMG_1250

My grandpa lived every day like it was his birthday.  He respected others, invested in his community, and let the little things go!  In my 33 years, I have watched him age with grace, staying active and involved in our family.  I am deeply honored to be able to call him my grandfather.

IMG_0544

You may remember that my family has a beautiful way of making the most of every situation, celebrating a life well lived with stories and love, even during the saddest times.  Tuesday morning, we are off to New York.  Already, it is looking like quite the adventure.  My mom is in Florida, my brother in Vegas, a snow storm on the east coast, and my dad, the BOY, my sister in law and I will be tackling our first long car trip together. 

IMG_0286

It will feel good to gather as a family and celebrate this special man!

IMG_20140427_222716839

We love you Grandpa Al and will always remember your kindness and zest for life!

No Bake and Go Red

I love the bulk aisle at Whole Foods.  Well, I love EVERYTHING about Whole Foods, but the bulk aisle is always fun!  I have been craving some kitchen/baking time, so I stocked up on some no bake ingredients last weekend. 

IMG_20150207_073009924_HDR

And then, never made anything : (  This BLOG used to be FULL of recipes and I haven’t made anything new in a few weeks.  To fix that, I bought ingredients for some no bake energy bites to snack on during study sessions and after workouts.  When I woke up this morning, I decided to whip them up before doing some work. I pulled out all the ingredients, found the recipe I wanted, and got to work.  What I realized is that I bought ingredients for two different energy balls and got them a bit messed up, which is why my recipe differs slightly from Erin’s.

IMG_20150207_073902998_HDR

And because everything didn’t blend together as smoothly (I have a smaller food processor than is suggested and did eat a few of the figs during the week), I added in a bit of honey to help it all stick together.

IMG_20150207_075103291_HDR

I packed up a few energy balls to take with me on this afternoons adventure at Macy’s and stored the rest in the fridge.

IMG_20150207_075140309

It was a gorgeous 40 degree day, and I was almost sad to be heading indoors to the mall.

IMG_20150207_123639594

I volunteered to demo yoga poses at the Go Red campaign at the local Macy’s to support women’s heart health.

IMG_20150207_134256645IMG_20150207_135234343_HDR

It was a fun afternoon educating women on how they can stay active and strengthen their hearts.  When I got home, the BOY started on dinner.  We did ‘make your own pizza’ night and it was fantastic!

IMG_20150207_180616313 IMG_20150207_181628414

What is your favorite heart healthy habit or recipe?

 

Fig and Peanut Energy Bites

From Well Plated Erin

Ingredients

15 dried Mission figs (6 ounces)
7 pitted Mejool dates (4 ounces)
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
3/4 cup oats, either old fashioned or quick cooking (gluten free if necessary)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Optional: 1 tbsp of honey

Directions

Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of your food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to loosely combine, then with a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Blend and pulse for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture begins to clump and sticks to the sides of the bowl, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.  If it doesn’t stick, then add in the honey.

Portion the mixture into your hands, then roll the mixture into any sized balls you like.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Five for Friday XXIX

1. Yesterday was my last day teaching the after school enrichment program at the elementary school by work.  They were a fun and energetic group of kindergarteners, and I will miss doing snowga and taking African safaris with them.  On the other hand, I am happy to have a small yoga break until the end of March.  Creating exciting new lesson plans and age appropriate playlists takes a lot of time and although it is well worth it, the break is necessary to focus on studying.

IMG_20150205_141111

2. Last night instead of studying, I met one of my close friends and her two beautiful daughters at Portillo’s.  They are in the process of moving from Michigan to Texas.  After a crazy week of snow storms, water heater drama, and work, it was so fun to spend the night catching up with the girls.

 

3.  I was quite distressed when I discovered that I missed free frozen yogurt day at Yogurtland this week.  The only thing that got me through was knowing that I had a second chance.  Tonight, Menchie’s was celebrating National Frozen Yogurt Day with free yogurt. I drove straight home from work to collect the BOY and drove us to Menchie’s.  We devoured our yogurt…then figured out what to do about dinner.

IMG_20150206_183417

4. I may or may not have done both cartwheels and headstands at work this week with my coworkers.  This has taught me two things: (1) It is awesome having experts in body mechanics as your coworkers (who can give you form advise for barre and practice yoga headstands with you and then mobilize your hip/spine/etc to give you the necessary range to them better) and (2) My coworkers are really fun (although our patients might think we are nuts).

5. Tomorrow I am participating in the American Heart Association’s Go Red event at Macy’s in Woodfield.  If you live in the area, swing  by and do some yoga with me!

IMG_20140708_105140812_HDR

Do you like fro yo?  What’s your favorite flavor?

I had a chai latte and cake batter swirl while the BOY enjoyed Cinnabon with frosting topping!

My Top 5 Health and Fitness Decisions

IMG_5732

I saw this post on Renee’s blog (forever ago) and loved that it was fun and introspective.  She has made a lot of healthy changes and is a huge inspiration!  It was tough to pick just 5 meaningful healthy moments in my 30+ years, but here it goes…

1. Joining Junior High Cross Country

Okay, so in all fairness, this was not really my decision.  It was my mothers.  She sent me to school on the first day of 6th grade with a bag and proclaimed ‘You’re on the cross country team’.

Jen Cross Country 001

I was lucky to find that some of my friends’ moms did the same thing (along with some of my soon to be friends).  Together we tackled 6th grade cross country, chatting through most of our runs and learning how to push ourselves and compete.  Although few of them showed up for cross country on the first day of 7th grade, I was hooked.   And as they say…the rest is history!  (I really did do a post on my running history and lifelong love of running from here to now that’s a fun recap of the years since 6th grade)

2. Listening to my Stomach

In high school, I started really struggling with my stomach.  Sure, there had been signs before then that dairy was not my friend but in high school, it was at it’s absolute worst.  I even remember one day declaring that I was ‘allergic to all food’ because everything I ate disrupted my stomach.  It was here that I learned what I could and could not eat (yes, peanut butter I’m talking to you) before exercise and cross country meets.  Although I can’t tell you the exact day that I became fed up and ready to listen to my body, eventually I did.  I learned what worked for me and what didn’t and changed my diet accordingly.  I was able to go off the meds I’d been taking daily and no longer had to leave a restaurant mid meal to curl up in the car because my stomach hurt so bad.  It was empowering!  Although there have been bumps along the road (I was less conscious in college and had a huge flare up in grad school), overall I am much happier and healthy since listening and respecting my tummy!

3. Buying a Bike

When I lived in Tennessee, I talked about wanting a bike but really didn’t have anywhere to ride one.  Fast forward to my move back home and life in Evanston.  With great access to the lake shore path and plenty of places to ride, I bought my first bike since elementary school and rode it everywhere.  I did Bike the Drive with my family and my first triathlon.  I rode some of RAGBRAI with my mom and then purchased a second (faster) bike.

IMG_5681

There is much fun and fitness Ode to My Bike…and many more bike adventures to come!

4. Committing to 8 Hours of Sleep

Yes, you heard it…I get 8 hours of sleep a night (most nights) and make a point to get myself into bed with enough time to read and unwind before falling asleep.  Although I can’t always get the full 8, I rarely get less than 7 during the week and try to stock up as needed during the weekends, napping when necessary.  Adequate sleep is important for me to function at my best.  When I am well rested, I make better food and health decisions, stay healthy, and manage my stress….all good things!

5. Taking Rainbow Kids Teacher Training

It was on my mat one day at a studio in the city with my mom and friends that I decided that I wanted to teach kids yoga.  Not just incorporate it into my treatments, but really learn how to teach kids yoga. I announced as much to my mom and set out to make it happen.  June last year, I took my training in New York. 

14393925296_358bb2bae8_o

I loved every moment of it…spending three straight days with like minded yogi’s (some of which who also work in health care) was unbelievable!  I learned so many techniques, games, and ideas that have guided my teaching throughout the past year.  It also encouraged me to push myself to be more creative, energetic, and fun with every session.  I have much more to learn but this definitely sent me down the path of becoming a kids yoga instructor, expanding my therapist role, and reaching my goal.

What are some of your best health decisions?

Honorary Mentions

Adopting Cooper

Flossing my teeth daily

Giving up fast food

Drinking more water

Taking my first yoga class

Cleaning up my diet

Wearing daily SPF

Committing to strength training

Giving up Crystal Lite and (almost) giving up diet soda

Running a marathon (then two)