Welcome Back…..with a twist

Happy fall everyone!

This blog has sat quiet for over a year, so for any of you out there still subscribed, thank you. Last July (2014) I moved from DC back to my hometown and with that move came a new job, being back home with family and friends, a new relationship, and so many other things to discover and enjoy. With those new things, I dropped so many old things – including this blog. It was never my intention, but as it sat longer and longer it became harder and harder to pick back up.

Part of the problem was that I wasn’t “in love” with the title or focus of my old blog. I love writing about health and wellness but health includes so much more than healthy recipes and fitness. Health is also about the things that speak to us at heart. The things we get out of bed for each day, the things we can’t wait to share with the ones we love because they brought us joy – and we want others to have that joy too. For me, these things are cooking and fitness, but also books, movies, TV, and learning. I wanted to share all these things, but the idea of starting JUST a book blog or JUST a TV blog and running that alongside this one felt overwhelming and a little incomplete. Why shouldn’t sharing great books be just as much about health as sharing great recipes? So I created a new blog – titled ‘Lilfe at Heart’ where I plan to share all the things I used to share, and so much more. As I’ve grown and changed, this blog had to, too.

I hope you’ll click over to Life at Heart and follow me there. I promise you all the recipes and fun you’ve come to love — and so much more. And I can’t wait to take that journey together.


My Oatmeal Review

Through my association with the Sweat Pink Ambassadors I recently got the opportunity to try a free sample of customized oatmeal from My Oatmeal! My Oatmeal is an awesome online company that allows you to customize rolled oats, steel-cut oats, or a blend of the two with tons of flavors, nuts, dried fruit, and other add-ins. Although this is something I could totally do myself at home (like my Banana Bread Oatmeal), it was so much fun to look through the ideas on the site and come up with my own blends :-). I ended up making two 1 pound bags – one with regular rolled oats and one with steel-cut oats which I’ve been meaning to try! In order to keep myself on some kind of path with the myriad of ingredients offered I tried to re-create some flavors I already knew. I used my rolled oats batch to make a “Blueberry Muffin” blend with dried blueberries, chia seeds, ground flax, and sliced almonds. For the steel-cut oats, I made an “Oatmeal Raisin Cookie” blend using dark raisins, walnuts, ground flax, and coconut chips.



I love the way the site works – as you add ingredients to your blend, the price for your chosen size automatically updates, and a Nutritional Facts label updates with all the pertinent facts for your blend – it helped me keep an eye on calories and protein, as well as how much I was spending! It helped reign me in when I started to get carried away! The Nutritional Facts label is also on the bags when you get them, along with all your ingredients 🙂



I chose to leave any sweeteners out of my mix, since I rarely eat sweet things I tend to be sensitive to sugar so I wanted to add my own later own – but the site has a great selection of natural sweeteners you can add, and they are slowly increasing their organic options! 🙂


I cooked up both types of oatmeal as mid-morning snacks this week and loved them both! They are so hearty and filling that I ended up eating lunch really late one day since the oatmeal was really carrying me over. The steel-cut oats take much longer to cook, about 20 minutes on the stove, but the bag gives a great microwave option where you soak the oats overnight and then microwave them the next day. I tried this method (and the stove method) and it worked great for me! I am so happy with My Oatmeal’s products and I’ll definitely be making more blends in the future!


Check out this deliciousness!

Full disclosure: I received a free sample of My Oatmeal in exchange for my fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own 🙂

It’s Finally (Maybe!) Spring

I was so grateful that we had beautiful weather in Virginia last weekend. Maybe Spring is finally around the corner! Although as I type this the weather forecast has another bought of snow headed our way tonight. It’s the never-ending winter! At least for one weekend I got to enjoy the Spring weather, and I was even more fortunate that I got to do it during a three-day weekend at home with my family.

Early Friday morning I drove home and my mom took the day off of work for us to spend together. We started off at the Mermaid Winery in Norfolk. Mermaid Winery is really cool because it’s an “urban winery” meaning it produces its own wines, but sources them from other “traditional” farm wineries. Our tasting was presented in a really cool spiral that held all five wine glasses.


While we tasted, we enjoyed a wonderful light lunch of bread, meat, cheese, fruit, olives and hummus as well as a pesto and tomato flatbread. It was a delicious light lunch that really hit the spot.


Next, we headed to the Norfolk Zoo to walk around and enjoy the sunshine. After saying 'hello' to all the animals, we stopped by the Farm Market to pick up some locally baked cookies and to go to a new Kombucha bar – Kombuchick. My mom knows I love kombucha so she picked up a Living Social deal for this bar when she heard it opened. It's such a neat concept. The bar brews its own kombucha and uses it to make mocktails. I think it's a great way to ease non-Kombucha drinkers into the taste of kombucha, which can be an acquired one. We enjoyed cocktails mixed with ginger, mint and soda water and I had one with ginger and beet. They were all delicious! I also bought a case of kombucha to bring home with me because it was so much cheaper than GTs and I love supporting a new local business! 🙂

On Saturday my dad and sister joined my mom and I as we "brewery" hopped around the Hampton Roads area. First we stopped by O'Connor's Brewery in Norfolk where the tasting was served in such a cute carrier!


While at the brewery we ate lunch at a BBQ food truck (which may end up catering my dad's upcoming birthday party!) and it was a great way to stay outside and enjoy the sun, and our beer, while we ate lunch. After that, we went to Young Veteran's Brewery in Virginia Beach, which also had a cute carrier for its beer tasting but I forgot to take a picture. Also, our neighbors (who own a stone oven pizza business – that's sort of like a food truck) were setting up their business to serve pizzas in the parking lot of the brewery. It was so great to experience so many great local businesses in Hampton Roads all in one day! 🙂 I truly love (and miss) my hometown!

On the way home we stopped by two local farms for fresh ice cream, honey, eggs, and apple butter (staples my mom and I needed to pick up between the two of us). I also got a chance to stop in a see the animals, including petting a donkey, some bunnies and a goat. I also fed the goat, who promptly head-butted me in the shin. I'm not sure if it was a "thank you" for the food or just the goat being a jerk, but I enjoyed it either way! 🙂

I hope everyone else had a great weekend in the (hopefully) good weather! 🙂

Homemade Banana Bread Oatmeal

One of the healthy habits I was able to maintain during my crazy January was eating oatmeal every day for breakfast. Usually, I drink a green smoothie everyday for breakfast but during that month I wasn’t going grocery shopping and definitely didn’t have the time and patience for my usual green smoothie routine. It’s a shame, but rather than dwell on the past I’m going to focus with this delicious oatmeal recipe I came up with as a result!

One morning when I was grabbing myself a ziplock baggie of oatmeal to take to work I decided to mix it up a little. Up until this point, I was usually grab about a cup of plain oatmeal from my large container and add a few shakes a cinnamon and call it a day. This particular morning, I decided to add in a scoop of Banana Bread granola from Nature Box (delicious – by the way!) and headed off to work. When I added hot water at work, the granola broke apart and mixed into the oatmeal but still had that awesome toasted flavor and the nuts/seeds/raisins in the granola mixed throughout the oatmeal. It was really delicious! While I love the idea of using the granola in my oatmeal, I decided to make a homemade version with all the same great flavors!

Banana Bread Oatmeal

Banana Bread Oatmeal
Makes one bowl.

    – 1 cup plain oatmeal
    – 1 1/2 tablespoons dried bananas, chopped (I didn’t chop mine out of laziness, but I think they’d be better chopped up)
    – 2 tablespoons raisins
    – 1 1/2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
    – 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    – 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar (to your taste)
    – Approx. 3/4 cup hot water or milk (to cook the oatmeal)

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add hot water or milk and allow to sit and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Alternatively, add cold water or milk and cook in the microwave for 2 minutes, or until soft.

I’m pretty obsessed with this oatmeal blend and I’ve been eating it as an afternoon snack most days – it’s perfect during this last spell of cold weather! 🙂 I love how the dried bananas soften up in the oatmeal – so delicious! I actually ended up making a huge batch of the dry ingredients for this oatmeal in a glass jar and I just scoop out what I need each time. 🙂

Spinach, Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

To get back on track after the craziness that was January/February – I’ve been eating a lot of salads lately. It’s partly in an attempt to detox and get back on a healthy track – but also because I’m absolutely fallen in love with this salad. I think I’ve eaten this exact salad for lunch on the weekdays for the past 3 weeks or so. It’s getting a little out of control, but in a totally great way.

I saw a few different salads in the food magazines I subscribe to that included goat cheese, spinach and beets and took what I liked best from the salads and made one of my own! I forget the exact magazines, because I get too many, but what resulted was a deliciously balanced and healthy salad – and it’s so easy to put together! I always keep nuts, particularly walnuts, in the house and I always have canned sliced beets on hand because I can’t stand the mess of roasting and peeling beets – but I love the flavor. Using these ingredients, I’m already halfway to a yummy salad lunch!

I don’t measure out the ingredients for this salad exactly, I just sort of throw it together (and I usually put 5 together in storage containers for the week during Sunday food prep). I also make a big batch of a simple lemon salad dressing at the beginning of the week and then portion it out as I need it for weekday lunches.


Spinach, Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
Makes one salad. Measurements are approximate – have fun with it!

    – A couple handfuls of fresh spinach, about 2-3 cups, depending on how big you want your salad to be
    – 1/4 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
    – 2-3 tablespoons walnuts
    – 1/4 cup cooked and cooled sliced beets (I use canned – so quick and easy!)
    – 3-4 tablespoons crumbled or sliced goat cheese
    – Juice of a lemon
    – 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a salad bowl or container. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil to serve. Alternatively, whisk lemon juice and olive oil in a container until emulsified and store until ready to use as dressing.

I can’t get enough of this salad. The tang of the goat cheese pairs so great with the sweet beets and the earthy spinach and walnuts. Plus, it’s so quick to throw together! I hope you enjoy 🙂

An Unexpected Break, and GRIT Results!

Well it’s been over a month since I posted on this blog and I have to say it was anything but a planned break. Work got absolutely crazy sort of out of nowhere and I ended up working almost 30 days straight, 10 hours a day – and with plenty of stress. During this time I definitely wasn’t myself, I wasn’t eating well or sleeping enough, I barely worked out (other than making it to my GRIT sessions) and just generally didn’t feel like myself. I barely had time to check my personal email, or read blogs – and I definitely wasn’t cooking anything blog-worthy! When I was cooking anything at all…

But on a happier note, I’m back! I’m not saying you noticed I was gone (though one lovely reader – Kristin – did and reached out – thanks again!) but I am so glad to be getting my life back on the healthy track after a not-so-great start to 2014.

Today was my last GRIT session and thankfully I’ve been working out and eating better over the past week and a half or so, but it wasn’t enough time to really get myself back on track. I’m disappointed with my weight/muscle mass/body fat percentage results but I know they were heavily affected by my January madness so I can’t hold it against myself too much (although it was mostly out of my control). But I am so grateful that my physical tests had better results. I reached my goal of doubling my push-ups by completing 35 push-ups this morning and it made me feel so strong and accomplished. While I can’t afford to do the GRIT program again (although I REALLY want to) right away, I’m hoping to try again over the summer and see what results I can really get with full dedication. In the meantime, I want to share my results for those who are interested! And I’ll be back next week with some great recipes to share! 🙂

Here’s a picture of my amazing GRIT team:


And my results from the program (trust me that most people’s are better as far as the numbers go! But I couldn’t be happier with my beep test/push-ups results!)



Featured Foxy Foodie: Danielle!

Today I’m super excited to feature my next Featured Foxy Foodie! If you missed it, I announced this series of posts last month, so check it out and email me if you’d like to participate! 🙂

Today’s Featured Foxy Foodie is Danielle from It’s a Harleyyy Life. She blogs about healthy eating and fitness – and of course her two adorable dogs! I’m such a sucker for dogs and wish I could have one of my own so I love living vicariously through other people 🙂 Danielle also apparently loves Greek yogurt as much as I do, since she gives it a shout-out. And she also had a bad Easy Mac experience, like some past Featured Foxy Foodies which makes me think ‘Easy Mac’ maybe not be quite as easy as the name suggests 😉




Danielle Headshot

Name: Danielle
Blog: It’s a Harleyyy Life
Twitter: @itsaharleyylife
Facebook: It’s A Harleyyy Life on FB!
Pinterest: It’s A Harleyyy Life Pinterest Boards
Location: Lancaster, PA
Age: 25

What kind of “foodie” are you (i.e. Paleo, Vegetarian, Flexetarian, or do you just love all food? :-)) and why?:

I love all types of delicious foods. I have played around with Paleo and Gluten Free.

If you had to eat one food every day for the rest of your life, what food would it be?:

Greek Yogurt. I LOVE IT! It is the perfect snack that I could eat 3 times a day, at least!

Are there any foods you don’t like or refuse to try?:

I hate green beans and sauerkraut! Yuck!

When/where did you learn how to cook?:

I started reading blogs about cooking/baking and fell in love with it. I started when I moved out of my mom’s house and learned eating out all of the time just wasn’t going to work.

What is your favorite thing to cook?:

Anything in a crockpot, haha! Is that even cooking then? CrockPot meals are the best!

What is the best (or most memorable) meal you’ve ever had?:

I made chicken wrapped in bacon with apples in the CrockPot once. It was delicious!

danielle - bacon wrapped chicken

Have you found any new recipes lately that you’re dying to try?:

I’d love to cook more with seafood but I’m scared I won’t cook it the whole way through.

Do you have any embarrassing kitchen stories or recipe disasters to share?:

Well when I was in college I loved easy mac. This one time I came home from a meeting and put one in the microwave and walked away from it. Next thing you knew the whole microwave was on fire and the fire department was on its way. I guess I forgot to add the water. That is an important step!

What is your best tip(s) for eating healthy?:

Meal Prep! Make healthy meals ahead of time that way you are not tempted to eat crap all week.

danielle - banner


Thanks for participating Danielle! I’m definitely hunting down that chicken, bacon and apples recipe because it sounds amazing! 🙂

Interested in being a Featured Foxy Foodie? Email me at foxywholefoodie@gmail.com for details! 🙂

Five Things I’m Loving Friday: Christmas Edition!

Happy Friday everyone! Isn’t Friday the best? Although I actually prefer Saturdays since there’s no work involved on Saturdays 🙂


This Friday I decided to do a Christmas gifts edition of ‘Five Things I’m Loving Friday’ to share some of my favorite things I got for Christmas this year – and that I think would make great gifts for other people! I tried to do a wide variety of both fitness and health related items, as well as just some unique gifts – it was hard to pick only five!

1. Gaiam “Everything Fits” Gym Bag


I first read about this bag on PB Fingers and I’m so glad that she recommended it! It’s a good size bag – with a nice wide strap, lots of pockets and neat features like a separate vented compartment for your shoes and a strap on the bottom for a yoga mat (or I discovered my foam roller fits there too!). You can buy this bag in black or purple from Gaiam at this link. I’m super excited about this gift since before I was carrying my gym stuff in a free drawstring bag I got at the Run or Dye race last year. Also with GRIT starting I definitely needed more space to tote stuff around! 🙂

2. Salt Cellar


This seems like such a simple thing but it was one of the gifts I was the most excited about! This particular salt cellar is from Crate and Barrel and I love the natural wood with the sliding magnetic lid. It’s perfect for keeping kosher salt out near the stove and being able to grab a pinch to add into dishes. Prior to this, I was just pouring the salt into my hand from the big kosher salt container which was a less than ideal situation.

3. Cookbooks – ‘Super Natural Every Day’ and ‘Tidewater Table’


I’m always excited for new cookbooks! You can see a few others in my collection lined up next to the new ones. My mom gave me a copy of ‘Tidewater Table’ which is a new cookbook written all about the cuisine of my hometown – the Tidewater area of Virginia! I’m really excited to try out some of these classic recipes – just flipping through it I noticed tons of seafood! The other book was given to me by my best friend that I’ve known for 12+ years – ‘Super Natural Every Day.’ I cannot express how much I love this book. I’ve already read it cover to cover and there are dozens of recipes I can’t wait to try! The cookbook is vegetarian and features some of my all-time favorite ingredients – like coconut oil, chia seeds, and quinoa! I can’t wait to try these recipes and share the results with you on this blog 🙂

4. Origami Owl Necklace


My mom gave me this necklace and I am absolutely in love with it. I had heard Origami Owl mentioned a few times in passing, but I had never really seen one before – it’s a really neat concept. It’s sort of a clear locket/pendent that you can buy and add charms to for your individual personality. My mom gave me three with the necklace – a cat paw, a running shoe, and a blue sapphire. So pretty! I don’t think I’ll add too much more than that – I think the simplicity is nice. I also love that the length of the necklace is a little longer so it sits really well on top of higher V-neck sweaters or crew neck sweaters. I’ve been wearing it a lot! 🙂

5. Fitness Gear!


So I cheated a little on this one – it’s more than one item! I told you choosing just five was hard! My best friend Heather gave me an awesome pairing for Christmas – a “Strong is the New Skinny” shirt from the Strong Girl Clothing Etsy shop. I’ve been coveting this tank-top for a while and I have to say that it’s just as nice in person as it looks in her shop! I know with “homemade” stuff you can really be taking a chance on quality but I love everything about this shirt – the fit, the color, and the fabric! Definitely check out her shop because there’s lots of other awesome fitness apparel! Heather also got me a water bottle with a built-in infuser for fruit/herbs and a built in core to keep the water cold! I’ve been wanting one of these since water with lemon is one of my favorite things! I’m excited to try it with other combinations too – like cucumber and mint!

The Start of GRIT

Last week was the first week of the Les Mills GRIT program that I signed up for a month or so ago. Although the program is a little pricey ($350) for 7 weeks, I truly loved the demo classes I had taken and knew that this program would get me to the next level of fitness.

For those who don’t know, GRIT is a new program from Les Mills (the same company that does Body Pump, Body Step, all those “body” classes) that focuses on high-intensity interval training in a team atmosphere. You meet with the same team of participants at the same time, twice a week. Personally, my GRIT team consists of 7 people who meet at 6 am Wednesday and 6 am Friday with our two coaches – Colleen and Arnold. The idea is for your group to become a team – and I’m really loving the atmosphere so far!

For those who are interested, I am taking the GRIT series at Arlington Health and Wholeness which is a great personal training studio. Or if you don’t live near DC, look for a GRIT program in your area!

The first GRIT session (last Wednesday) was the pre-test (and the last session will be the post-test). The pre-test consisted of getting on a very neat scale that measures body weight, body fat percentage, muscle mass, hydration levels, bone density, and a few other things I can’t remember. Then we did three physical tests – a push up test (as many as you could do), a vertical leap test, and a beep test (50 m sprints). We documented our results so we can see how we improve over the 7 weeks. My body fat percentage was just 1% higher than the “healthy” range so my goal is to bring that down into the healthy range for sure – and hopefully build some muscle mass along the way!

But the most important thing to come out of the pre-test was this – I smashed my ‘Fitness Bucket List’ item to do 10 “real” push-ups in a row. I was reluctant to ever count this as completed before now, because I never feel like I’m getting my chest low enough — but with my coach Colleen counting reps for my pre-test I did 17 solid push-ups, on my toes, before collapsing. I. Am. Ecstatic. And looking to smash even more on my post-test!

Friday’s session was our first “real” session with was a pylometrics session. The GRIT series rotates between three different types of classes: plyometrics, cardio, and strength. Plyometrics was the only one I hadn’t tried before and boy was it hard! I felt like I was dying the whole time (pretty standard for GRIT) but boy did I feel accomplished afterwards!

In addition to two GRIT sessions a week, I am maintaining my two Body Pump classes a week with a yoga and/or cycling class thrown in as I can. I can’t wait to continue this journey and report back to you! 🙂

Featured Foxy Foodie: Sarah!

Today I’m super excited to feature my next Featured Foxy Foodie! If you missed it, I announced this series of posts earlier this month, so check it out and email me if you’d like to sign up! 🙂

Today’s Featured Foxy Foodie is Sarah from The Fit Cookie and Fit Betty. On The Fit Cookie Sarah shares awesome recipes – and seeing as she has to work around dietary restrictions and allergies there is something for everyone! Then, on Fit Betty Sarah shares great workout tips, gear, giveaways and more! I’m seriously in love with both sites, and especially love the blog design (is that a weird thing to fall in love with? Because I have!)



sarah post pic - main image

Name: Sarah Jane Parker
Blog: The Fit Cookie and Fit Betty
Twitter: @Fit_Betty and @TheFitCookie
Facebook: Fit Betty Facebook Page and The Fit Cookie Facebook Page
Pinterest: The Fit Cookie Pinterest Boards
Instagram: The Fit Cookie on Instagram
Tumblr: Tumblr Fit Cookie
Location: Wyoming
Age: 29

What kind of “foodie” are you (i.e. Paleo, Vegetarian, Flexetarian, or do you just love all food? :-)) and why?:

I am an allergy-friendly foodie. I have a dairy and soy allergy and several other food intolerances, and my 2 kids have peanut and tree nut allergies (along with dairy and eggs), so we eat what works for us! Lately I have been eating less grain, but I’m not quite Paleo.

sarah post pic - kids

If you had to eat one food every day for the rest of your life, what food would it be?:


Are there any foods you don’t like or refuse to try?:

There aren’t any foods that I don’t like or won’t eat based on taste, but I can’t eat foods for health reasons (dairy, eggs, soy, gluten,

When/where did you learn how to cook?:

I learned to cook at home with my mom and sisters when I was growing up, but I didn’t really start cooking in earnest until I got married and had to cook (my husband doesn’t cook much!).

Sarah post pic - family

What is your favorite thing to cook?:

I love to bake cookies 🙂

What is the best (or most memorable) meal you’ve ever had?:

I cooked shark once – it is memorable in a bad way since I didn’t prepare it correctly and it was horrible!

Have you found any new recipes lately that you’re dying to try?:

Crepe cakes. Making them takes so much time and it’s hard to make good crepes without eggs!

Do you have any embarrassing kitchen stories or recipe disasters to share?:

Aside from the bad shark recipe, there are so many kitchen flops it’s hard to pinpoint just one! I experiment in the kitchen a lot so there are plenty of failures, the latest ones being candies and caramels.

What is your best tip(s) for eating healthy?:

The things I tell my kids: eat the healthy food first and make sure you eat fruits and veggies at each meal. If you are full, you don’t need to clean your plate. 🙂

sarah post pic - plank


Interested in being a Featured Foxy Foodie? Email me at foxywholefoodie@gmail.com for details! 🙂