Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday: On Friends, Exercise, Music and Bed

Sorry for my extended absence this week.  I started a boot camp workout and it's 4 times a week at 6 am.  I have never ever been a morning person so I'm quite tired by the end of the day, hence the lack of blogging.  I'll update you more on my boot camp later ;)

But today I'm participating in Thankful Thursday.  I first started reading about Thankful Thursday on Forward is  a Pace by Lauren (and if you think I link to her blog just about every other post I write, you may be right).  It turns out Ali @ Ali on the Run, was the only creator of Thankful Thursday, and now I'm reading her blog as well!

I'm going to enjoy this thankfulness as it will give me a chance to reflect on my weeks and keep that positive attitude.  Sometimes I get so bogged down in the mundane of each week, I forget to celebrate each day.  And really isn't celebrating each day what it is all about? Finding joy in the simple things in life.  Being happy each day.

I'm thankful for a weekend with my friends.  I got to spend last weekend in Iowa City hanging out with some of my best college friends.  It was great to hang out with them, watch our fav Iowa Hawkeyes kick butt in the Homecoming game against Indiana, and chat about life.  I love reconnecting with friends, especially when there is no awkwardness of getting back together.  We can just fall into our old ways and be ourselves.

I'm thankful for morning workouts.  Like I said, I'm doing a morning boot camp.  And although getting up when the clock still has a 5 as the first number is certainly not my favorite thing to do, I'm very glad to be already done with my workout when I get home from work.  I'm not a morning person,  But I do find myself more energized in the morning after workouts.  It can be so difficult to motivate myself to do a workout after a long day at work.

I'm thankful for Adele.  That's right I'm thankful for my new music.  21 by Adele.  I definitely enjoyed Rolling in the Deep when it came out, but when I heard Someone Like You, I knew I wanted that album.  I hardly ever buy albums anymore (the last one I bought was 3Oh!3's Streets of Gold), but when I do I always buy the hard copy of the CD and I never use iTunes.

I've already listened to this album at least 5 times and I only bought it last Saturday.  Needless to say, I'm in love.  I only wish I had her voice.  Don't worry until then I will just practice in my car.

I'm thankful for PiYo class.  More about exercise, this is crazy.  But I finally found a class at my gym that I very much enjoy.  Turns out I just needed to find an instructor I enjoyed.  PiYo is a mix between pilates and yoga, but it is fast-paced and aerobic.  It's a good stretch out but it's also challenging.  My bootay and arms burn!

I'm glad that I finally found a yoga-esque class I enjoy.  I've wanted to practice for awhile but haven't been able to find a class that I am excited to attend each week.  I know it has a lot of benefits, but sometimes it just feels so sloooooowwww.  I like to be busy!

I'm thankful that I'm now going to bed!  Goodnight friends.  I'll see you soon with a new post.

Friday, October 21, 2011

sweet deals

Sometimes I look in my closet and think "Ugh, I have nothing to wear"?  

Um, Earth to Alyssa, you have plenty of things to wear.  But I don't want to wear that or that.  Bleh. Wear it anyways. (Typical conversation with myself.)

I have a full closet, but recently have been struggling with buying work clothes and buying casual clothes.  The good news is my work is very casual and I generally wear jeans a few times a week to work.  But this casual atmosphere also makes it difficult to know what is work appropriate and what isn't.  For example, I've seen everything from dress pants and button up shirts to jeans and a technical t-shirt with tennis shoes.  Quite the variation.  I usually try to go middle of the road which means nice jeans or slacks with a dressy-ish shirt.  I highly doubt that I would ever get chastised for my outfit, but still I want to look somewhat professional.

So yes I have a lot of clothes, but not a lot of that are things I deem work appropriate.  So I've been trying to buy more things that fall both under work appropriate and casual enough that I could wear on the weekend. 

But I have a rule about buying clothes.  I only buy things that are on sale or on clearance.  Now most of you probably think that items available in clearance are picked over and the leftovers that no one wants, but I assure you this is not the case.  You just have to allow more time to look over and sort through the many items to find the diamond in the rough.  But good items are there.

Just check out these sweet deals I've scored.

All of these were on clearance.  And I had  30 percent discount if I used my Kohl's charge.

Check out this total.

I saved $123.80 and my total was only $12.25.

Pretty sweet deal, eh?

Since I've been buying new stuff, I should get rid of old clothes.

Actually just this week I went through my closet and decided to donate a few items of clothing that I haven't worn in a while.  Which is actually a very common practice for me every time I have to switch the clothing seasons (summer to winter or winter to summer) or move.  

In other news, I'm headed to Iowa City to celebrate Iowa's Homecoming! Yippee!  And a very happy birthday to my baby brother who turns 21 today (not that he reads this)! Don't get to out of control tonight!

love your body

*This post inspired by sorry I'm not sorry by Clean Eating Chelsey and What Do You Love Most About Your Body? by Lauren @ forward is a pace.*

Maybe it's an old pair of jeans you have.

Maybe it's an old photo of yourself.

Maybe it's the memory of a dressing room breakdown.

Something that reminds us that in some way we aren't fit enough, skinny enough, pretty enough.  We aren't good enough.

But guess what?

None of that is true.  I think it's safe to say we could all afford to love ourselves a bit more.  To celebrate our bodies and us more.  To admit that we may not be perfect but that's okay and it's okay to love who we are.

We are constantly surrounded by images and messages that tell us we should be thinner, prettier, our hair should be more this, our clothing should be more that.  I bet that at least once a day I see an ad or an article about how to lose x amount of pounds in x amount of days or about some new "diet".  We see slim and trim supermodels in airbrushed pictures.  It's not wonder why people are constantly feeling guilty about eating this or skipping a workout and why so many young girls (and older girls) struggle with eating disorders and disordered eating.

October 19th was NOW’s National Love Your Body day.  It is a message to all women that it is okay and good to love your body.  Celebrate it! Be proud of it!

So today I am here to bare it all for you.

I love my legs.

They've carried me many, many miles not only running but also biking and swimming.  They've powered me through many reps of lunges and deadlifts.  So I might not ever be able to wear a pair of skinny jeans but I kind of like to admire the tone in them.  I might wear out the crotch of my jeans because my thighs rub together when I walk, but I can do triathlons.

I love my dimples.

A smile is the most important accessory to any outfit.  My dimples make my smile unique because it's not something everyone has.  And my big dimples are especially noticeable.  In fact, people often comment that my smile is one of the first things they notice.  :)

I love my butt.

That's right. I said it.  With the kajillion squats and squat jumps and wall sits I've done in my life it should look good.  It's also helped me power through runs and triathlons.  And I like the fact that I got a little junk-in-the-trunk.  It fills out a pair of jeans even if it pulls down the low-waisted ones and exposes my butt crack (I hate that btw).  Because I hate when jeans do that whole saggy butt thing.  It also provides a nice padding when I sit down in a hard chair.  

Sometimes it's hard to stop the negative self-talk and to think more positive about your body.  But I believe that identifying the moments where you are doing and forcing yourself to stop and think positive thoughts is not only possible but contagious.  Celebrate your body.  After all you only get one.

What do you love about your body?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's chilly: {chili time}

Well I think the weather may have finally turned here in Chicagoland. *Sigh* It's chilly, rainy, and generally overall icky.

I was really loving the 80 degree weather and sunshine but alas all good things must come to an end. It made for many outdoor adventures and happy smiles.  I suppose I should just suck it up and enjoy the 60 degree days we might still get in October because that's a whole lot better than what is coming our way in the next couple of months.  But I don't want to think about that at all.  

Fall weather isn't all that bad though.  In fact, there's quite a few things I'm looking forward to for fall weather, namely scarves, sweaters, boots, all things pumpkin, turning the oven on without sweating bullets, and warm foods.  That's right, it's perfect weather for a nice bowl of chili.  Vegetarian sweet potato and black bean chili to be exact.  

Plenty of veggies make this chili nice and chunky.

And the beans help make it hearty.

And the spices make it full of flavor.

Of course, I can never follow a recipe exactly so I added some red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper so my chili could pack a punch.  

Another substitution I had to make was chicken stock for veggie stock.  I made this during my month of non-meat eating but I read the label on my chicken stock container and I really don't think it actually uses any meat anyways, just artificial and non-artificial flavorings.  

I love that chili is so easy.  I'll I had to do was prep the veggies, throw all the ingredients into my crock pot and then the next morning before work I turned the crock pot on low.  When I came home about 10 hours later my chili was all ready for me.  Just tossed on some cheddar cheese and onions and gobbled away.

This chili was so thick and chunky, which is the only way chili ever should be.  And mine was nice and spicy! Yummmmm.

I enjoyed some great cornbread on the side and crumbled on top as well.  Perfect meal for a chilly fall night.  

I love coming home and already having my meal prepared.  Otherwise, I come home and I'm starving and if I don't have anything planned to make I just eat whatever I can find the fastest.  Cereal, chips, almond butter, you name it.  I want to eat the first thing I see.  I'll definitely be using my crock pot much more this coming season.

Another great thing is this chili made a ton of leftovers.  I took it for work several days and ate it at home.  If you are a singleton like me I would recommend freezing half of this batch.  It was getting a little old by the end.  

You can find the recipe at Onion in my Hair: Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili.  (Since I didn't come up with this I'm not posting it here.)

Substitutions and additions:
1 tablespoon garlic salt for garlic powder
Regular diced tomatoes instead of fire-roasted
Chicken broth for vegetable broth
Added 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Added 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

BLT + A - B

Remember when I did that whole no meat thing for the month of September.  So most of the time, my meals were similar to what I regularly ate, especially during the week or when cooking for myself.  There were a few new things I tried including this chili, but most were not new at all.

Then one day I came home from work and decided to make this gem for dinner.

In a nutshell it's a LTA.  You know, BLT + A without the bacon, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado, or maybe I should just write in equation form BLT + A - B.  Watch out, my inner enginerd is coming out!

I was worried it wouldn't be filling enough because it doesn't have a big protein source but I loved it anyways.  Maybe it is just because I love avocado.  (Which by the way, are on sale for 50 cents at my grocery store this week!  50 cents! Can you believe it? I didn't till I went to the grocery store and loaded up!).  

I often find myself creating meals from whatever leftover produce and/or groceries.  And they always end up very random.  I generally don't meal plan each week so I just go to the grocery store and buy whatever is on sale or catches my eye.  Most of the time I can create meals that are well rounded and delicious from whatever I bought, but other times I will make a meal and put things on my plate and realize that I am only eating veggies, or all the food I am eating is green or yellow.  It is kind of funny to see the weird combinations I eat in a typical week.  

And now in this totally random blog post I have concocted.  I would like to share with you this story about this.

I was apparently feeling generous one day and bought some cookie dough from the Farmer's step-sister, Courtney  She was doing some fundraising and I am a total sucker for those things.  (Can you say pushover?)  I don't really like buying cookie dough because I don't really like how it tastes and it's more expensive.  But I gave in and bought a tub of white chocolate macadamia nut because it is something I wouldn't normally make for myself.  Since I live a little to far for Courtney to deliver this to me (read: 3.5 hours), they kept it at their house so I could pick it up when I came home next.

So pick it up I did.  But I made a critical mistake.  Instead of checking to make sure I got a new unopened tub out of the freezer, I ended up picking up this tub.   Already opened and used.  Actually I blame the Farmer for this since he is the one who grabbed it out of the freezer.  None of which I noticed until I arrived back in Chicagoland.  

Unfortunately for me, I ended up not making any of the cookies, but the cookie dough is gone.  Oops.  I ate the rest of that tub with a spoon (not in one sitting mind you).  

And that my friends is why I don't buy cookie dough.  I have no self-restraint.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You've got mail

One of my favorite things to do is read blogs.  After all, reading blogs is what gave me the inspiration to start my own blog.  But since I've started I've found even more blogs that I love.  My Google reader is filled with posts to read every day and I love it.  

Tina @ Carrots'n'Cake did a post that offered bloggers to give a shout out about their blog and location.  I, of course, threw out my shout out, where I admitted  stated my blog was mostly a random assortment of food, fitness, living life in a new big city, triathlons, and the rest of my life.  Obviously I am too random to ever settle on one topic.  I digress.  I looked through a ton of comments to find other Chicago bloggers.  And boy oh boy did I find some good ones.  

One of those good ones, is Forward is a Pace.  Lauren is down-to-earth, funny, runs and is a triathlete.  Not to mention she also loves Dawson's Creek   And Hanson (don't deny that you still love MMMBop).  Now if she only admits that she is madly in love with Seeley Booth from Bones.  (Just so I know I am not the only one.)

Lauren is rad.  Right now she is training to run the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in Vegas while raising money for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America  (CCFA).  About 1.4 million Americans are living with one of these diseases and Lauren is one of them.  When I first started reading her blog, I was so impressed by the fact that she had completed several endurance events and was training for more.  She does all this in spite of living with ulcerative colitis.  She's an inspiration.  After all, if she can train and run races and do triathlons, all while living with this disease, what's my excuse?  I shouldn't have one.

Anyways, Lauren received some sweet headbands from Active Bands and was giving them away to those who donated to her fundraising for CCFA  I hopped right on that bandwagon because I really wanted a headband wanted to support Lauren on her fundraising efforts.

A few days later I had a little package on my doorstep.

Nothing like a package to brighten up my day!

Oh what, oh what, oh what could it be?

Two Active Bands and two Running Takes Guts wristbands.  *These headbands are awesome! I've never had ones that actually stayed in my hair before and these do!*

And a special little note.

Fellow Dawson' Creek fans unite!  Pacey and Joey, were obviously meant to be together forever.

Like I said, Lauren is rad.  I'm glad for new bloggy friends.

And by the way, she is currently hosting a raffle  for some pretty cool prizes if you donate to her fundraising page.  Check it out!

Friday, October 7, 2011

It tastes better out of this glass

Sometimes I've been known to make impulse purchases.

Okay, okay, who am I kidding? I make impulse purchases all.the.time. 

That's why I try to stay away from shopping centers and department stores.

Because every time I go to Target, I buy more than I went in to buy.  I get sucked in by the nail polish, clothes, makeup, home goods, kitchen supplies, and even the popsicle molds.

It's also bad when I get coupons in the mail, such as from Kohl's or Bed, Bath, & Beyond.  30% off! How can I resist?  I should have never signed up for that Kohl's Charge Account.

It's even worse when it's spend $50 and get $10 for your next shopping trip.  Because, duh, I have to go back and spend that money.  But I never spend just $10.  It's all a scheme I tell ya.  And they are taking me for whatever I got.

That, in a nutshell, is why I try to avoid going to those places unless I really need something.

As it turns out, I'm not the only one with impulse buying habits.  The Farmer has a little impulsiveness himself.

We went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond the other weekend because I, of course, had a coupon that was soon to expire.  The Farmer exclaimed that he really wanted some beer glasses.  

Of course, I knew right where they were because I've looked at them a million times. (I've lusted for them for awhile.)

Since the Farmer decided he didn't really need all 4 glasses in the set.  We decided on a shared custody arrangement.  He gets two and I get two.   

Meet my two newest glasses.  Pilsner babies.  I'm adding to my collection of drinking glasses.  I now have mugs, shot glasses, wine glasses (red) and these.  (I still want some margarita glasses and martini glasses and a few different sets of beer glasses.  Did I mention I don't even have tumblers? Pathetic.)

Of course I had to break in the new glasses by having one of my favorite beers in them.  Love me some Fat Tire.  

Mmmm perfect for a summer night.

The beer tasted even better out of this special glass ;)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I won! I won!

A while ago I entered SOYJOY's Something Borrowed Sweepstakes. 

The sweepstakes entry form was accessed via Facebook.

I put in some info and clicked submit.

Then I promptly forgot anything about it.

That is, until a few weeks ago when I got this email.

Thirty-five lucky winners were picked to receive the Something Borrowed DVD and a box of Pineapple SOYJOY.

And I was one of those lucky winners!

Yeah! Yahoo! Yippee dippee doo!

I love when I win things!

A few days later this arrived on my doorstep. 

Inside was the DVD and the box of SOYJOY.

Something Borrowed is a chick-flick about a single girl sleeping with her self-absorbed best friend's fiance.  
And seems to involve several love triangles.

I have yet to watch it, but it doesn't seem to be getting rave reviews.
Oh well, I'm sure it will be a nice Friday night movie.
Especially with some popcorn and m&m's.

I'm not sure if I have ever had a SOYJOY before this, but the box looked promising.
Seems like a great snack.

Not a lot of calories (140), wholesome ingredients (real fruit and soy), protein (4g) and some fiber (3g).

But the truth is, the pineapple SOYJOY leaves a little something to be desired in my book.

It just seems dry and not sweet enough.

I'd rather have a granola bar, a Larabar, or a piece of fruit and some nuts.

This just isn't doing it for me.

So before I continue to eat these bars that I don't very much enjoy, I'm offering some to you.

If you've never tried a SOYJOY before and would like to, I would be glad to enable you.

Or if you happen to love SOYJOY's and want some of these babies, I would be glad to give you one or some.

All you need to do is leave me a comment with your email or send me an email at alyssa(dot)neiers(at)gmail(dot)com.

This giveaway will be open until supplies run out and is based on my discretion.

I <3 free things.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monthly Goals: October

I liked doing the September Goals so much (even though I failed at some of them) that I'm going to do it every month.

Setting goals is a great way to challenge and improve myself.  I also find that writing them down (and posting them) makes me much more accountable.

Goal 1: Volunteer

This was a big fail in September but I'm going to make it happen in October.  It can be an ongoing opportunity or something as easy as volunteering for a few hours.  I think this might possibly end up being volunteering at a race.  We shall see.

Goal 2: Improve sleep schedule

I have this really bad habit of watching TV till way too late in the night and then having trouble falling asleep.  Or reading blogs till midnight.  Then I wake up super tired in the morning and press snooze way too many times and then have to run around in a panic to get ready for work. Not a great way to start the day.  So this must stop.  

My goal is to set up and nightly routine in getting ready for bed and to have a set time to get to sleep.  This way I can wake up more refreshed and rejuvenated instead of exhausted and sleepy.  And maybe I will even start getting up and including some morning workouts!   

An old roomie snapped this picture of me napping in college.
Goal 3: Budget

I've been meaning to do this for a while, but haven't.  I will set up a budget on a spreadsheet and then promptly forget about it.  Well, no more my friends.  This month I will keep track of my spending and stay within my limits.  I must start saving money instead of blowing it on things like a new computer, a new bike, a new TV.  Bad Alyssa, bad.

I am planning on paying for more things with cash instead of whipping out my debit/credit card at the cash register.  I am more conscious of what I am spending when I actually have to part with my cash.

Goal 4: Hike at Starved Rock State Park

Laura and I have talked about hiking here for over a year.  October would be a great month to go as the leaves will be changing colors and the weather is cool.  The nature-lover inside of me is jumping for joy at this prospect.

Goal 5: Carve a pumpkin

Okay, so this isn't a goal that is going to greatly improve my life, but it will be a lot of fun.  It is Halloween month, after all.  That way I can roast the pumpkin.

I'll follow up on these at the end of the month!

*sources of images can be found by clicking on the image

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Monthly Goals: September Recap

I know, I know.  It's already October 4th and I am just getting to the September goals recap.
Sorry to disappoint you.
My weekends back home are always very busy with very little down time to blog and then I am recovering from not enough sleep on Mondays.  And by recovering I mean that I veg out on the couch for a few hours.

So here's the recap.

Goal 1: Meatless Month

This was actually a lot of fun for me.  I tried out new recipes and new combinations of food.  I also paid more attention to the protein I was eating.  I made sure to include a source in every meal which is something I didn't do a great job of before.  I ended up eating more Greek yogurt and beans.  I still need to post a few of the things I made during the month.

I did however, have a few slip-ups on the whole meatless thing.  Once I completely forgot about the whole no-meat thang and ate some chorizo that a coworker brought in for breakfast.  Oops.  The other time we had a customer in for work and sandwiches were ordered in for us.  Since I didn't really tell anyone at work that I wasn't eating meat all the sandwiches were of the meat variety.  I didn't want to make a scene and not eat the sandwich or pull the meat off so I just ate it anyway.  It was only half a sandwich so it was only a few slices of turkey.  A few other times I *might* have accidentally eaten some meat.  I ate some loaded tater tots once and another time I had some loaded fries.  Both had bacon on them and I was trying to pick around the bacon but I cannot guarantee that I didn't eat any.

The most difficult part for me was what to do when I wasn't in charge of the meal plan or making the meal i.e. eating out, visiting a friend, eating at a potluck.  Most of the time, I was just able to tell the person I wasn't eating meat, but when I didn't it was a little awkward.  I dislike making an inconvenience for someone else (even though this probably wouldn't have been an inconvenience for anyone and I may have imagined that).

Although, I have since eaten meat (chicken and salmon), I didn't really miss it that much.  I will continue to consume less meat and work at more of a flexitarian lifestyle, but I will eat meat when that is what is served to me.  I didn't cook a lot of meat before September and I think that will continue.  I have set a goal not to buy any more meat (except fish) for the rest of the year and eat only what is stored in my freezer.

Goal 2: No more pop

I definitely found that the longer I had gone without drinking pop, the less craving I had for it.  I did make it a whole month without drinking any pop but I didn't make it all the way through September.  I had a whiskey and diet the last weekend in September while visiting Laura in Champaign.  And this past weekend I had a Diet Mountain Dew which I had been craving.

I do love pop and I definitely missed it, but I am going to continue to try to not drink it.  Maybe limited to once a week?  It is something I really enjoy but also that I know is not good for me.

Goal 3: Strength train 3x a week

Check! I got in 3 strength training workouts each week in September.  Some weeks I did have to do a leg workout one day and an arm workout the next to get three workouts in but I did it nonetheless.

I forgot how much I enjoy strength training and I hope to continue getting in sessions this month and beyond.  It makes me feel strong! :)

Goal 4: Read a book

Um, fail.  Unless reading blogs count? It doesn't? Darn.  I'm in the middle of several books: The Omnivores Dilemma, The Delivery Room, and The Great Gatsby (via the e-reader on my Zune and I'm reading it for the third time).  But I have failed in finishing any of them.  Reading is something I am trying to incorporate into my bedtime routine to help me unwind because watching TV is not helping me relax.

Goal 5: Volunteer

Again, big fail.  I looked for opportunities but nothing was really stood out to me.  I filled out an information sheet for volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters but they don't have any mentoring positions available at this time.  This goal is moving over to October.  And I will find something.

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