Monthly Archives: September 2013

Healthy Hobbies Beyond Fitness

A few years ago, had a goal written on my yearly Goals List to “develop an active hobby.”

I had long ago decided that I was not, and never would be, the kind of person who would work out at the gym. Lo and behold how things change. But back then, I knew the only way I was going to increase my fitness was to find something that I truly loved doing – a hobby, that just so happened to be active.

Up to this point, my hobbies included reading and watching movies, both decidedly inactive. And while I did eventually become the kind of person who runs and goes to the gym (thanks to an obsessive love for Body Pump classes), it’s still important to have healthy hobbies beyond your workouts.

fluent football

For the Sports Enthusiast

Love sports? I happen to be a huge sports fan – with a heavy emphasis on the FAN. I’ve never played a sport in my life and actually find the idea kind of terrifying. Stand up in front of everyone and try to hit a moving ball with a bat? That’s pretty much my worst nightmare. But I know there are other (arguably more normal) people out there who love playing sports – and joining a “fun league” for softball, basketball, even dodgeball is a great way to get to know new people and to incorporate activity at the same time. I know a lot of companies sponsor teams for their employees so that’s a great option to get fit and network with co-workers.

If you’re looking for something a little less competitive (which is where I usually land), practicing tennis with a friend, hitting up a driving range, or going bowling are all wonderful active alternatives to sitting on the couch, or embarrassing yourself (read: myself) with a bat.

For the Adventure-Seeker

I feel like there I no shortage of new fitness crazes these days to satisfy everyone’s tastes. The latest one that I’m really excited to try is Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUPing – awesome abbreviation). I think SUP classes are popping up in most places that have any sort of water nearby – and here in DC they even have yoga and fitness classes that are held on a SUP board. I also recently saw on another blog (based in California) that they took a class at a trampoline gym. Seriously – a gym filled with trampolines. It looked incredible, and as soon as I find one nearby I definitely want to try it!

profile

There is also no shortage of fun runs to choose from. Fun runs (specifically the Color Run) are what first started me towards running. I also recently ran a 5k called The Electric Run which is like a club/rave effect throughout the course. I swear I can’t go the week without seeing 5 different fun runs, mud runs, obstacle runs, or other themed events pop up on Facebook, Groupon, and Living Social. If charity events are more your speed, there are tons of great events that can help you support the causes you believe in – and if running isn’t your thing there are lots of charity walks as well. Form a team and raise money together – it’s another great chance to spend time with friends, family or co-workers. My favorite search engine for events is Running in the USA.

For the ‘Couch Potato’

This is pretty much where I fell (or fall, depending on what day it is) – so I use the phrase ‘couch potato’ with nothing but love. When you’re in a couch potato state – the most important thing you can do is start incorporating little bits of activity wherever you can. I started by parking further away from work/stores so I have to walk a little extra, or walking to the grocery store instead of driving when I don’t have a ton of things to buy. I also like to incorporate extra walking into things I already love – like going to concerts. During the summer months, I usually end up going to between 6 and 8 concerts. Concerts just equal summer to me. So while I’m there, I try to take a few laps around the venue to check out the merchandise booths and people watch. You can apply this same principle to all kinds of outdoor events!

Crunches
(Image Source)

For the Fashionista

Do you love shopping? If you’re already at the mall, the outlets, or a market – take the opportunity to appreciate the free cardio you’re sneaking in! Before making an impulse purchase, take a lap around the store or mall to think it over – it’s good for your health and your wallet! 🙂 In a similar fashion, take time to compare prices for items that can be found in multiple stores. The extra walking you get in allows you to window-shop, and up your step-count for the day. Not to mention hauling those heavy bags gets in an arm workout! Warning: this tip may not be as healthy for your wallet as it is for your body!

For the Nature Lover

Love being outdoors? There are so many healthy things to do outside that take advantage of beautiful weather. The first one that comes to mind is hiking. And you don’t have to hike a huge, intimidating mountain to get the benefits. Just the other night during my usual run around my neighborhood, I discovered that a local park’s trail/bike path connects to my neighborhood so I have a whole new running path to explore! Walking, running or biking with friends is a great way to catch up other than meeting for Happy Hour. Although there’s nothing wrong with Happy Hour! 🙂 I think another great option is to meet at your local Happy Hour joint, take a quick out-and-back run/walk and then enjoy drinks afterwards! 🙂

Walking a dog is another great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors while taking in some cardio. Personally, I don’t have a dog because my apartment doesn’t allow them but I want one really badly so I’m constantly stealing borrowing friend’s dogs. If you have a good friend with a pooch, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind including you on their daily walks!

im-not-weird-im-just-trying-to-lure-her-over-so-i-can-pet-her
(Image Source)
Seriously, I just want all dogs to let me pet them.

I think the moral of the story is that finding any way to get up and moving – while doing something you love is a big step towards a healthy lifestyle! 🙂

Whipped Feta Dip and Herbed Goat Cheese Dip

I hope everyone had a great weekend! Yesterday was my birthday and I celebrated with a relatively relaxing day of football and then dinner and drinks with friends. I don’t think there is a much better way to spend a Sunday 🙂

On Saturday I stopped by Starbucks post-Body Pump for a soy latte and noticed that Godiva has a new “truffle flight” out that is dessert themed. The truffle flight features flavors like Red Velvet Cake, Crème Brulee, and Chocolate Lava Cake. Needless to say, I couldn’t resist buying it. It seemed like the perfect birthday treat!

20130916-182942.jpg

20130916-182952.jpg

When the cashier rung me up at the counter, she noticed that I was buying truffles and offered me a free truffle “sample” (it was a whole truffle) that they had been giving away earlier that day. Free truffle? Yes please! It was a great start to my Saturday. On Saturday night, Heather and I went to the Jason Aldean concert at Jiffy Lube Live. It was a great show, although the weather was a little chilly. I guess fall really is almost here!

Ever since my Mom and I tried the goat cheese dip at Café Caturra I have been obsessed with re-creating it. Well, I think I succeeded at making a homemade version! 🙂 This Sunday I whipped up a few cheese dips to enjoy while watching football, including a goat cheese dip. I had to restrain myself from eating all of it. This is a quick and easy recipe that I will definitely be making for many football gatherings (and non-football gatherings) to come!

Sidenote: I went to Café Caturra last night for my birthday and again failed to take any pictures. #bloggerfail I think the problem is that when I see food, I instantly start stuffing my face. #thingsIneedtoworkon

20130916-182814.jpg

Herb & Goat Cheese Dip

    – 1 log goat cheese (I used a small one – just a few ounces)
    – an equal amount of ricotta (I used this to tone down the tangy goat cheese, you can use less ricotta and it’ll be more tangy)
    – a pinch or two of oregano
    – a pinch of herbs de provence, Italian seasoning, or other herb blend
    – 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    – 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

Process or blend all ingredients together in a food processor. Serve with chips, crackers, or toasted bread.

Once I made the goat cheese dip, I figured I could apply the same technique to some feta cheese I had to use up. It turned out great!

20130916-182851.jpg

Whipped Feta Dip

    – 1 container feta
    – 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese
    – 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
    – 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    – a pinch or two of dried oregano

Blend or process all ingredients together in a food processor and serve with chips, crackers or toasted bread.

I also think either one of these would be great spread on a sandwich or in a pita! 🙂

Homemade Chicken (or Veggie!) Stock

This weekend I took some time to make homemade chicken stock which is one of my favorite cooking tricks. Stock is so easy to make at home, and can be made for practically nothing with a little planning. Today I’m happy to share my strategy for always having homemade stock on hand.

My first trick is that I keep a large container in my freezer and throw vegetable scraps in it. The root end/skins of onions, ends of celery, little nubs of garlic, herb stems, etc – all go into this container. And when it’s full – I use it to make stock. When it’s full, it looks like this:

20130913-164117.jpg

Seriously, stock made out of stuff you would have thrown away? Genius! I just recently discovered this through an article on Organic Gardening and it’s my new favorite trick. So thrifty! 🙂 Once the container is full, just throw all the ingredients into a large stock pot.

20130913-164145.jpg

You can totally make this stock vegetarian just using the saved-up scraps, but I like to add in some chicken to make chicken stock – and you get poached chicken out of the deal! 🙂 Alternatively, you could just add chicken bones/carcass (or any other leftover bones, like from a Thanksgiving turkey) and you would still get delicious stock, just not the bonus of the poached chicken!

20130913-164224.jpg

Once you add the chicken to the pot, I like to add a handful of black peppercorns and some sliced lemon, along with enough water to cover the ingredients in the pot. The amount of water you add is the amount of stock you will get, and I usually get about 12 cups from this process.

20130913-164258.jpg

20130913-164307.jpg

Place the pot over high heat, covered, until the water comes to a boil. Note that if you start with frozen vegetable bits, it will take a little longer to boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce it to medium-low and let it simmer for an hour. After an hour has passed, remove the chicken to a cutting board (I use tongs) and allow to cool. Once cool, you can pull the meat from the bones and shred or chop the meat for use in a variety of dishes (soup, pasta, enchiladas, salads – the possibilities are really endless). I like to split the poached chicken up into smaller containers and place them in the freezer so I always have chicken on hand and ready to use in meals.

20130913-164342.jpg

Next, strain the stock through a sieve into a container. I usually have to do this a few times as the stock won’t all fit into one container! 🙂

20130913-164406.jpg

20130913-164413.jpg

Discard the odds and ends from the stock, which are now thoroughly used up! 🙂 Split up your stock into containers for storage. I found these great plastic (BPA-free!) Ball freezer-safe storage jars at my grocery store so I used them to freeze about half of the stock.

20130913-164504.jpg

I saved the rest of the stock and the chicken for use in meals this week – I’m thinking soup!

20130913-164537.jpg

Electric Run 5k Race Recap

This past Saturday I ran the Electric Run 5k race in National Harbor, MD. It was my first 5k since July’s Crystal City Twilighter 5k and I had a great race!

20130909-132023.jpg

Heather and I set out for National Harbor a little early (at 5 pm for an 8 pm race) because we knew traffic was going to be terrible. National Harbor is right across the bridge from Alexandria, and there’s really only one road running into this small area so we knew it would get backed up quick. Good thing we left as early as we did, because we still sat in 30-40 minutes of traffic despite being so early for the race.

Once we got into the area and parked, we headed off to check-in and explore the pre-race set up. Thankfully this race had plenty of porta-potties (unlike Run or Dye), but there wasn’t too much else going on. Most people were hanging out be-jeweling themselves with glow bracelets and glow paint purchased from the booths but Heather and I decided to pass on that. Unfortunately a passer-by bumped into me, thereby forcibly applying paint to my arm. I was actually sort of grateful it was paint instead of just a sweaty person bumping into me. Also, (just like at Color Me Rad) we noticed that the first aid booth was completely unattended. Weird.

20130909-132649.jpg

We crowded into the starting gate around 8 pm to wait to be released. It seems to be a pattern with these fun runs that they cram everyone into one starting corral and then release a few hundred people at a time. I’m not hugely experienced with races but this just seems to be a slow way to do things. Once again, Heather and I didn’t actually start running until about 8:45 pm.

20130909-132247.jpg
Our hugely crowded, and neon, starting corral

Once we got going, it was a great course. It started off with a hill, but that lead to a nice long downhill from about 1/2 mile in just past a mile. It was a great way to shake out my legs and really settle into the run. I felt great throughout the whole run, which I was really grateful for after my de-motivating 2 miler on Wednesday night. It’s amazing the difference a new day can make! Throughout the course there were various sections with bright, neon decorations, lights, and music. I tried to snap a few pictures but since it was dark outside they all turned out not so great.

20130909-132454.jpg
20130909-132544.jpg
20130909-132834.jpg
20130909-132911.jpg

20130909-132936.jpg

Hopefully you get the idea! My one complaint was that there were long(ish) sections of the course that had no lights/music at all so they were sort of dark and lonely in comparison. But I guess there are limits to exactly how much electrical cord you can string throughout three miles. My favorite thing about the course was that it went through such a wide variety of terrain. It started off on the ramp to the highway (shut down of course), then cut down on a crushed stone/shell path by the water, then went through a dirt road area before finally cutting down the main strip of National Harbor. The last part was my favorite part because it was well-lit and had tons of spectators (both on purpose and other unsuspecting people who were just there to have dinner/hit the bars). My favorite part of racing is the positive energy and love you can feel both from the spectators and other runners!

At the end of the course there was a stage with more lights and a DJ so we hung out and enjoyed a beer and the rave-atmosphere before heading to one of our favorite local bars to relax and listen to some live music. It was a great night and a great way to kick off training!

20130909-133053.jpg
The after-race party

Of course on the way to the bar we stopped to take “strong woman” photos with a statue we found. It couldn’t be helped.

20130909-133153.jpg

20130909-133243.jpg

Oh, and I have to share a picture of my awesome rainbow of glow bracelets! 🙂 I picked these up for $1 at Michaels before the race – so much better than spending money at the pre-race booths!

20130909-132405.jpg

Some Things I’d Like to Share

I hope everyone is having a great week! The weather has been beautiful here in DC, it’s cooling off but it’s still warm and sunny out. Even though I am a summer child, I think I’m ready for fall. Especially with so much race training coming up! Yesterday evening I went for my first official training run – a slow, and short (but solid) two miles around my neighborhood. It felt great to be out there again, although I think I have lost quite a bit of running stamina over the past month which will certainly make this Saturday’s Electric Run 5k a challenge! But I think another 5k is the perfect way to celebrate being back in the running scene.

walkrunning

Speaking of running, a former manager of mine experienced a terrible tragedy earlier this year – his house burned down and he lost two of his young daughters in the fire. In the wake of this tragedy, they have started a charity to build a playground in their honor. You can check out their Facebook page for Sophie and Madigan’s Playground and tag any posts about your running mileage with the hashtag #runningforsophieandmadigan . Also, they have an Official webpage. Running with those little girls in mind helped me get back out there and on the road.

On a lighter topic, I recently discovered Nature Box. Nature Box is a service that provides monthly healthy snack boxes to it’s members. I discovered the company through their Facebook page and I ordered my first box! It hasn’t come in the mail yet, but I’m pretty excited about the variety of snack options that they ship. And the box is only $19.98! I feel like I would definitely spend more than that at the grocery store so I figured this was worth a try. I’ll report back when my box comes in the mail! Also, since I ordered a box, Nature Box offers a discount to people who I refer! 🙂 My personal link for Nature Box is: http://fbuy.me/ibPE. If you use this link, you get $10 off your first box! 🙂 And I get $10 for referring you. I’m not working with Nature Box, and I didn’t receive anything from the company – I just thought I’d spread the word! 🙂

I was also happy to see my Chai Tea Concentrate recipe featured on Healthy Living Blog’s Recipe Wednesday! Check it out, and click over to the original recipe if you missed it. It’s one of my favorites!

Labor Day Weekend Recap

I took this past Friday off so that I could have a nice, long 4 day Labor Day weekend – and also because my Mom was coming up to visit and her train came in first thing Friday morning! I was super excited for us to spend a girl’s weekend together and we had lots of fun adventures planned.

Unfortunately I think I only took 4 pictures the entire weekend. #bloggerfail I’ve never been a natural photographer and it’s really something I need to work on reminding myself to do. There was probably at least 4 times during the weekend that I was half-way through eating a meal before I said: “Oh shoot, I should have taken a picture of that”

I think part of the problem is I’m enjoying living in the moment a little too much to even think about stopping to take a photo. I’ve never understand, and therefore never been, one of those people who spends most of a concert zooming in on my phone trying to take a picture of the band. I just enjoy the experience. I’m starting to realize this tendency is completely at odds with being a blogger. Oops. Looks like I’ll just have to keep trying harder!

First thing on Friday morning after my mom’s train arrived, we stopped at my place for a quick brunch of zucchini pancakes and sliced fruit. Then we headed off to the National Zoo! Even though I’ve lived in the DC area for nearly four and a half years, my mom and I had never made it to the National Zoo (I have been several times with other people). I warned my mom that the National Zoo is kind of a hike, with lots of hills so we both wore comfy shoes and prepared ourselves for a side of workout with our zoo animals. Speaking of which, my mom and I are a little too immature to visit the zoo without making inappropriate comments – but we had a good time. We are also apparently bar flies, as around 2 pm we hallucinated a bar near the Elephants exhibit. Legitimately, we saw this gift shop in the distance and both thought it was a bar. We were making plans to sit down and enjoy a drink when we realized it was a gift shop. #depressing

20130904-131613.jpg

Seriously – this means we have a problem. And it also would be an awesome idea for the zoo to have a little bar for people to relax in. Take a look at the picture, and the colorful t-shirts in the background were frozen margarita/daiquiri machines in my eyes, my mom thought those neon green stick-souvenirs (rulers?) were celery for Bloody Marys. That innocent looking tourist was the bar-tender. Sadness. None of this was true. We basically hallucinated a bar like a thirsty man would hallucinate an oasis in a desert.

After that experience, we decided it was getting a little too hot outside and we were tired of walking so we headed to Port City Brewery (one of my favorite places!) to relax in the AC and taste the new Oktoberfest beer that they had just tapped that day. I really enjoyed the Oktoberfest, although it was lighter than other Oktoberfest varieties I’ve had. And it’s always nice to relax at a local place!

Friday night we went to another of my favorite local places, Café Caturra for their awesome happy hour. Most of their appetizers/pizzas and wine/beer are all $5. We gorged ourselves on roasted tomato bruschetta, bread with three dips (hummus, goat cheese, and pimento cheese), a margherita pizza and a dessert trio. It was delicious and we were so starving that I inhaled it all before even considering taking a picture. #foodbloggerfail

On Saturday morning my mom and I had breakfast and lounged around the house until it was an appropriate time to drink – and then we drove to the Paradise Springs Winery for a tasting. I hadn’t been to this winery before – which was exciting because I got to add a pin to my wine map!

20130904-131153.jpg

The winery was beautiful, had great wines and really wonderful staff. We did a tasting, then sat down to enjoy some bread, salami and cheese on their back porch while we decided what bottles to buy. As my wine collection has gotten a little out of control lately (seriously: someone come drink it with me), I only bought two bottles. But one of them was my all time favorite wine: Cabernet Franc. I can’t pass it up – and the grapes grow so well in Virginia so lots of local wineries offer it!

20130904-135514.jpg

20130904-135718.jpg

Saturday afternoon my mom and I went to see The Spectacular Now. It was a pretty good movie – not one of my favorites from this year but with solid performances from two strong young actors: Miles Teller and Shailenne Woodley. Saturday night my Mom and I took advantage of Alexandria’s restaurant week and had dinner at The Wharf in Old Town Alexandria. If there was food worthy of pictures, it was this food. But alas I continued my #foodbloggerfail streak. We had calamari, blue crab fritters, horseradish crusted salmon, bacon wrapped scallops, and white chocolate raspberry and chocolate tart for dessert. It was so delicious, and put me in a total food coma.

On Sunday we took it a little easier since we had such a busy weekend and went to Tysons Corner for some shopping. There were some great Labor Day sales going on, and we both got some great new stuff. Best of all, I discovered the Athleta store at the mall which I previously didn’t know existed and could be seriously bad for my budget. We also got to have lunch of one of my favorite places – Wasabi. Wasabi is a conveyor belt-style sushi place in the middle of the mall and I always have an awesome experience there.

20130904-131949.jpg

Sunday night I made my mom and I a quick dinner at home after yoga and then took her to catch her train at 7:18! The weekend went by too quickly, and I’m glad I had Sunday to lay around and do basically nothing (which I totally did) before I had to go back to work.

Black Forest Cake Smoothie & Protein Shake Recipes

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend! 🙂 I took Friday off of work to spend a long weekend with my mom. It was great catching up – and I’ll share a full post of our adventures tomorrow! 🙂

Yesterday, I guest posted on Domestic Superhero with another dessert smoothie recipe! (<— click to check it out! :-)) I was inspired by an article I found on Greatist about how cherry juice can help with sore muscles and thought the combination of cherry juice and chocolate protein powder would make a great dessert smoothie! Not to mention, it’s pretty healthy and tastes like Black Forest cake! Yum!

20130903-170017.jpg

In addition to the smoothie recipe, I also whipped up a Black Forest Cake Protein Shake recipe – all the goodness without the blender!

20130903-165954.jpg

Black Forest Cake Protein Shake
Serves one.

    – 2 cups cherry juice
    – 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (or 1 scoop unflavored protein powder with 2 tablespoons cocoa)

Blend or shake together ingredients in a blender bottle.

This protein shake is great for muscle repair and recovery immediately after working out – but the smoothie is too if you’re looking for something a little thicker or you aren’t into protein powder.