Friday, October 28, 2016

Measuring Success - 10/28/16

The end of October is here. Next month is November, which is my favorite month. My birthday, Thanksgiving, boots, hoodies. All the good things happen in November. 

October was a good month.  September brought huge changes for my eating habits, my weight and my measurements. October was pretty much what I call an evening out month. I didn't gain any weight back from Clean 14 and even started losing some more, but at a much lower rate than I did when on the diet. Sweet teas and chicken quesadillas from Cookout will do that to ya. 

Heart Rate
At the end of last month, my resting heart rate was between 57-58.  It's been mostly around 60-61 for the past week or so. 

Endurance has definitely improved this month! I ran 2.4 miles! That was huge for me! I don't know that I've ever ran a full 2 miles before, much less 2.4. I was so proud of myself. I've also been doing two two-class days a week. I've been doing mostly spin and yoga classes for a while, so I've started switching it up with some boot camp classes. I've been wary of doing them, but I've found that I strangely enjoy have my butt kicked. My goal for November is to keep doing my two two-class days a week and to do more boot camp classes. Switching it up is good the soul!

I'm officially down a whole size. My pants haven't been fitting for a while now and I requested that my mom take me pants shopping for my birthday. It's confirmed - I'm down to a 12. That's pretty awesome.

There's not a ton of change this month, which is fine. Months like September don't always happen and, when they do, your body needs time to catch up.  So this month, I'm doing two comparisons: the first photo is a compilation of one of my first photos from February, last month and this month. This is the first time since I've started back at the gym that I feel comfortable wearing a shirt that touches me. Big step! Second photo is my side view. I've been pretty self-conscious about this one, but I've put everything else out there, so here it is.

February (my baseline photo), September and last Saturday. Favorite shirt alert!

This is pretty crazy. February and last Saturday.
My measurements changed some, but overall not that much. I can tell that my muscles are bulking up, especially in my arms and shoulders! Thank you TRX! My bust went down 0.5" and my hips went down 0.75". Everything else stayed the same. 

I am actually really proud of my weight this month. Last month I lost a lot of weight, but this month? I kept that weight off! I was really, really worried about what I would gain back when we came off the diet. The first two weeks, my weight didn't budge. Then I slowly started to lose some weight, about 0.5 pound per week. So this month, I lost a whopping one pound. But I didn't gain any, which is more awesome than what I lost. 

How I Feel
I still feel like a bad ass (sorry for the language, but still). I feel like my changes are starting to become habits. I still have my bad habits (does a Southerner ever really give up sweet tea?!), but overall, I think I've made some changes I can live with. This blog has been a big accomplishment for me. I've kept up with my three posts a week, which is a lot more work than you might think, but it really helps with my journey. I get a chance to speak my mind, to write, to share with you. And I get to look back on where I've started and where I've come. Best of all, I get to hear from you guys!     

My goal for October was to keep up more of a Paleo lifestyle, keep my exercise schedule and not eat all the pumpkin, all day, every day. I've been cooking Paleo, but I don't really snack Paleo. Give me all the bad things!  The good thing is that I don't snack nearly as much as I used to and we've pretty much eaten all the bad things in the house (I can't throw away we just ate it). We've done well with making sure we have fruit, baby carrots and Larabars for snacks at work. And we've done well with leftovers for lunches. But those nights I don't cook? Those are fails. So for November, I'm making it a goal to not eat Cookout as much and to make better choices when we go out to eat. That is my downfall - eating out. I've kept up my exercise schedule pretty well. The only thing that would make it better is to add more classes and I'm pretty much booked up except for mornings. That is not happening! As for eating all the pumpkin, does drinking it make it better? Because I'm not giving up my Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Does it help that I've been using soy and almond milk instead of regular milk? Oh well. It's my guilty pleasure! Then it will be white peppermint mocha. This is just a hard time of year!

How was your October? Did you make the progress you were hoping for or were you like me and maintained? Sometimes, maintaining is harder than losing! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Eating and Cooking Like a Caveman! (Juli Bauer's Paleo Cookbook Review)

Another week, another round of destroying my kitchen. It's honestly therapy for me. I like the super simple, make in fifteen minutes recipes and the destroy my kitchen in an hour recipes.

Juli Bauer's Paleo Cookbook is next up on my Paleo cookbook tour.  My friend Jess has been sending me recipes from Juli Bauer's blog, PaleOMG, for at least a year. I've tried a few, but it wasn't until we did Clean 14 and I thought about honestly trying out Paleo that I really started paying attention. 

The girl crush is strong with this one. Besides making really, really good food, she's a sarcastic nut.  I like those people. They are my people. She's written two other books: The Paleo Kitchen and OMG. That's Paleo?.  I was able to get The Paleo Kitchen from the library, but it wasn't my fave. I was a little sad.  I flipped through the pages, but it didn't look like Aaron and Sarah food. I'm not wasting my time making food I don't think we are going to love.  The library didn't have the other two books, so I perused them at Barnes and Noble. 

Confession: I heart Amazon a whole lot. I've had prime since I was a grad student and in the words of Rick Astley, "I'm never gonna give you up." But I do like to preview before I buy. So sometimes I head to Barnes and Noble, get a coffee and peruse my books before ordering off Amazon. Terrible, I know. I consider it my research. 

So, I bought Juli Bauer's Paleo Cookbook. I really, really do not need another cookbook. At all. I have a problem. But I love books. Ipads and phones just aren't the same. And I will say that this book was worth every penny I spent on it. Let's talk the awesome stuff. 

The Setup
Pretty much every Paleo Cookbook I've read talks about setting up your Paleo kitchen, what you need, what you don't need, etc. I find it helpful because while everyone's lists are similar, they are a bit different.  I liked Primal Cravings lists of food and kitchen tools better, but Juli's is good.  What I l-o-v-e about her book is the rules for making Paleo work. They are simple, but oh so true.  For example - quit complaining about the cost. That was a hard one for me. It is more expensive, but we've found ways to make it work and break the bank less. I also like that she lists what's in her kitchen and she tackles the gray areas in Paleo - potatoes and dairy. I find it's a really nice complement to some of the other books we've tried.

The Food
Really, this is what it's all about. And we've made a ton from this book!  

The first recipes I started with were breakfast. Breakfast was the hardest meal on Clean 14 and trying to stay mostly Paleo meant trying to find some good alternatives.  We made Dirty Chai Chocolate Muffins, Mini Cinnamon Pancakes and Mini Cinnamon Pancake Bake!

Dirty Chai Chocolate Muffins. So, so good!

Mini Cinnamon Pancake Bake. Reminiscent of one of my fave Paula Deen recipes!
When I made the Pancake Bake, I made two batches of the Mini Cinnamon Pancakes.  The Pancake Bake recipe uses one batch, so I made two so we could have the bake for dinner and pancakes for breakfast the rest of the week! It was an excellent decision.

I also made the Buffalo Chicken Casserole (bonus! this recipe is actually online!).

I made everything in one pot, so the pot looks a little gross. Less dishes for the win!
This guy was a beast to make. It was actually a dinner fail! I didn't read the recipe all the way through (I have a nasty habit of that) and started making the meal at about 6 PM. It clearly states it's going to take about two hours. Then, I also misread the part about using ground chicken instead of chicken breasts.  And the chicken breasts I had were huge and not completely thawed, so they took another 40-minutes to cook all the way through. So we didn't actually eat the casserole that night, but the leftovers were ah-mazing! Read your recipes people! Or don't. Whatever makes you happy.

And finally, the Coconut Cashew Chicken fingers.  I made this with sweet potato fries from the next cookbook I'm reviewing, Against All Grain.  This was one of those destroy your kitchen in an hour recipes, but it turned out really good. And it made leftovers, which made all the work worth it.  Aaron's still not finished doing dishes though!

So far, this has been my favorite book. I've yet to make anything that wasn't amazing. And, bonus, she's got a podcast AND a blog. So you're never without your Juli fix!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Drinking the Kool-Aid

This past weekend, I sold the majority of my business and marketing materials for Jamberry. Which is good because I also received the "you have one week to meet your yearly goal to remain a consultant." It's all good. I never drank the Jamberry Kool-Aid, which is probably why I failed.

One of my set-ups for a Jamberry vendor event.
If I learned anything from Jamberry, it's that whatever you do in life, you have to drink the Kool-Aid.

I did Jamberry, a multi-level marketing company that sells nail wraps (or as I liked to call them, high tech nail stickers), for a year. I gave it a good run. I did vendor events, held parties, offered giveaways, etc. I made some money and mostly came out about even. Overall, it went as well I think it could have. But direct sales just aren't for me. I loved the product, but I could never really tell someone how Jamberry changed my life. Because it didn't change my life. I have a career, something I've worked hard to achieve, so a little side gig selling nail wraps didn't do anything for me. That was a big problem, though. In direct sales, the main way you make money is by having a downline or others that sign up under you. You can make a commission off your sales, but the money that will sustain your business is in your downline. Not being able to tell someone how it changed my life kept me from gaining a downline. I couldn't ever say, "This is why I joined, why it's awesome. You should join too!" I don't think I failed at Jamberry, I just didn't excel at it. It didn't hurt me. I just moved on to the next thing.

Getting healthy. Yoga. Working out and eating better food. I've drank all the Kool-Aid for those. I can tell you how much better I feel, more confident I am and stronger I am because of those things. I tell you this pretty much every time I write my blog. Those things did change my life and I can tell you all about them.

I never thought Jamberry was going to be permanent, which was probably my first mistake. I always knew that I was doing it for the product and some discounts to support my habit. But a healthy lifestyle is different. I'm hoping I can make it permanent, with some tweaks as I go.

So what are you doing in life? What Kool-Aid haven't you drank all the way? Are you doing a side business? Are you doing direct sales? If so, why are you doing it? Has the product changed your life? Do you love it? Is it your new career? Or are you trying to get healthy? Maybe trying to go further in your career? Whatever it is, you have to accept it all the way to be successful. Love it. Know why you love it. How it has changed you, how you see it changing you further down the road. Don't be me with Jamberry. Otherwise, it will end up like this, in a box.

It amazed me how all my Jamberry business stuff fit into this box. I still have a good amount of wraps, my lacquers and gel kit. Things I thought I might still use. But the rest, everything I used to run my business, fit into this little Amazon box. Besides my yoga mat, I could probably fit all my gear for yoga and cycling in a box like this. Two pairs of shoes, clothes, head bands. I'm almost at a year with this journey. A year is about as long as I lasted with Jamberry. Hopefully, a year is just the beginning.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Why I Stopped Counting Calories and Started Eating More

Everyone knows that the basic principle of losing weight is burning more calories than you take in. Seems simple enough, right? Except it's not.

I'm a product of Weight Watchers.  I did WW back in college with my mom and dropped a ton of weight, to the tune of about 50 pounds. I religiously logged all of my foods every day, stayed within my points and really didn't work out that much. My 21 year old body did just fine with that. I kept up most of the good eating habits and most of the weight stayed off for about five or six years. It came back after a year or so of eating at my desk and not working out. And when I started to lose some of that weight by calorie counting and not working out? Yeah, it didn't work for my 30 year old body.

My trusty My Fitness Pal app
I've been on this journey since January. That's when I started at Burn Athletic and started trying to get healthy, not just lose weight. But I had started trying to lose weight the summer before that.  When I changed jobs, I had a better work/life balance and had more time to meal plan and cook. I thought "Yes! This is going to work!"

Until it didn't.

I focused on eating the right amount of calories. I faithfully logged all my food into My Fitness Pal app. But I didn't focus on what I was eating. My diet consisted of a bunch of low-fat this and low-calorie that which was really lots of sodium and sugar. And when I started working out and became the gym rat I am now, I learned I wasn't eating enough calories for all the work I was doing. It was all very, very confusing. I was super frustrated because I was doing all the right things and the weight just stayed in its happy little place.

Then we did Clean 14. That was a game changer for me. I haven't counted a single calorie since September 2, when we started that diet.  The Whole 30, which is what Clean 14 is based off of, is all about eating good, healthy food and taking all the crap out of your diet.  You aren't allowed to count calories or weigh yourself during the diet, which went against everything Weight Watchers had taught me.

Instead of counting every calorie, you are reading every label. Losing weight is never easy and you will be recording something. Label reading is rather eye-opening. The food that you think is "good for you" is actually pretty bad and the stuff you think is "bad" is really fine, but in moderation.

The whole calorie counting thing can sometimes create what is called "goal displacement" (that's right - I just pulled out my MPA degree on you!). Goal displacement is when you're focused on meeting a goal, but you miss the big picture. The end goal is to get healthy, but by focusing on the calories, you're missing what's making up the calories.

Did you know that sugar is added to most "low-fat" foods to bulk them up and make them taste better? Kinda counter-intuitive, right? You make it more "low-fat" by adding more sugar. If you want to get really grossed out by just how much sugar is in everything, check out this sugar cheat-sheet from the Whole 30 website. It lists all the different ways sugar is listed as an ingredient.  Now go look at all your "low-fat" foods and see what's in it. Gross, right? The other thing about calories is that they are just an estimate; the number on the label isn't hard and fast. So you could be logging every calorie and not actually be logging the right amount. The whole thing is pretty confusing the more you read about it.

Instead of driving myself nuts, I stopped counting my calories and I started eating good food. And I eat a lot more of it. When I was counting calories, I was hungry all the time. I was eating fillers and not what I really needed. I snacked all the time and if you didn't feed me on my schedule, Sasha, the hangry version of Sarah, came out to play. But by eating until I'm full, eating enough good food, I'm rarely hangry anymore and I don't even really snack. Even better - I'm losing more weight than I ever did counting calories! When I was on Clean 14, I lost 7 pounds in two weeks. That was on the diet. It's been about a month since the diet. For about two weeks after the diet ended, I didn't gain anything back, just stayed steady. I added back some dairy, some gluten and some legumes, but all in slight moderation. I was really worried I was going to gain a lot of the weight back when I reintroduced food. I've since lost another pound over the past two weeks. Not one calorie has been logged.

Here's what I focus on instead:
  • I eat a good breakfast. I've substituted unsweetened almond milk for our regular milk. It works really well. I've even found a new bottled iced latte that uses almond milk. 
  • I don't drink sodas that much anymore. I think I've had maybe 4 in the past month? I was drinking one a day. Now I drink water, La Croix and have some juice around for when I need something not-water. 
  • I meal plan and make good meals. Not all are Paleo, but a lot are. I make sure we have a meat and vegetable. I make meals that I know we'll like so we aren't tempted to eat out instead of cooking or eating leftovers.
  • I buy good food. We recently did a meat share through Papa Spud's. It was a great way for us to get local, grass-fed and cage-free meat. I also read every label.  General rule of thumb - if the ingredient list looks like a paragraph, I just put it back. 
  • We have healthy snacks for when we do want to snack like Lara Bars, fruit, baby carrots, etc. Easy is key.
Because I do all of that, I get to eat Cookout, huge sweet teas, and dirty chinese when I want it. Which is about once a week. And I'm still losing weight. I'm paying more attention to the food that I eat, making sure it's good food, that there isn't a bunch of crap in it and less time worrying about the calories. They kind of take care of themselves. 

I'm not saying that counting calories is terrible. It works. Like I said, I'm a product of Weight Watchers. But different points in your life call for different measures. So if you've been counting the calories and it's not working, try focusing on the food you're eating, not the calories. You just might be surprised. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Eating and Cooking Like a Caveman! (Primal Cravings Review)

I love cookbooks. Really, I just love books in general, but I LOVE cookbooks.  There's something awesome about following a recipe in a book, making notes on the pages as you make it your own, even seeing some greasy hand prints or stains on the pages. That's when you know it's a good book and/or recipe. Don't get me wrong, I find a lot of recipes on Pinterest, but cookbooks are still my favorite.

When we (and by we, I mean I) decided to start eating cleaner and moving towards a mostly Paleo diet, I decided I needed some cookbooks. I already have a ton of cookbooks, but they aren't Paleo. Instead of spending a ridiculous amount of money on cookbooks, I checked a bunch out from the library (amazingly, I have yet to rack up a ridiculous amount of fines in Durham County...yet). I worked my way through them, finding recipes I liked and tested them out on Aaron.

Some cookbooks went back immediately. One Pot Paleo by Jenny Castaneda was one of them. I'm sure they are wonderful recipes, but they didn't look like recipes I knew that Aaron and I would want to eat. I knew that in order for this to work, we had to like the food we were eating. We're fat kids, people. We love food. Probably a little too much, but that's okay.

Primal Cravings  by Megan McCullough Keatley and Brandon Keatley was one of the first that I looked at and pretty much fell in love with.

I was amazed by all the recipes in there that I thought we would like! I made the Gingerbread Muffins as our first breakfast when we ended the Clean 14 diet. I'd never cooked gluten free before and it went much better than I expected! We also tried the Seafood Pot Pie with Cheddar Crumble Biscuit. It was delicious. So delicious that I kinda forgot to take a photo until we were half-way through with the meal. Whoops!

I'm sure it's not the most appetizing photo ever, but it was yummy! It does have a very fishy smell, so I wouldn't recommend it for lunch at work.
Lunch was hard on the diet, so I really liked this page of "Lunchables."  It's how to make sandwiches without bread out of simple ingredients.  I bought enough for Aaron to make a couple different ones and he really liked them.  

What I really liked about this book (and a few others) was the introduction to the Paleo lifestyle. It breaks down all the different types of food you can eat.  For example, it breaks proteins (meats) down by budget, slow and low and quick. It lists the different types of carbohydrates, fats and oils, sweeteners, recommended equipment and how to stock the kitchen.  It's a great tool for people, like us, that are trying out the lifestyle and figuring out how to make it work. I will definitely be buying my own copy of this! Until then, the library is just going to be short a copy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What Not to Say to A(NY) Woman Trying to Lose Weight

Over the past few months, as I've been working my way through my weight loss/fitness/health journey, I've heard a lot of comments. From co-workers, friends, strangers. Most comments are supportive, but not all. Then there are the comments where people just don't think before they speak. I'm a believer that most people have really good intentions with that they say, but it doesn't always come across as intended. My favorites so far have been:

"Why are you doing this? You know you're just going to stop in two weeks, right?" The ironic part of that comment was that it was made back in June, when I was about six months into this journey. Yep. Totally quitting.

"But why? You aren't fat." The last word is normally said as if it's some unspoken disease like leprosy. I'm not really sure how to take that one. Is it a compliment? I'm not fat, thanks. Or is it one of those backhanded compliments like "You aren't enormously obese fat and I know lots of other people your size so you're probably okay." Either way, it doesn't cause warm fuzzy feelings in my heart. Also, getting healthy isn't always about losing weight. You can be super skinny and not healthy.

"You know it's just going to come back, right? Cause that's what happened to me." Nope, I never considered that. I've been fighting my weight my whole life, did Weight Watchers once and lost 50 and then gained a bunch of it back due to a crazy job. But no, I never thought it could possibly come back. Also, life happens. You lose weight, you might gain it back. Whatever. Just get back up and keep going. But thanks for the encouraging words!

"Maybe you should slow down. Are you sure you can handle that?" This one cracks me up. My mom has said it to me before, but with good reason.  She normally talks to me after class when I sound like I'm dying. That's a perfectly normal reaction for her to have.  But you? Person that I work with or talk to once in a while, are you in the gym? Are you my doctor? No? Okay then, sit down. And I know you aren't talking about my weight loss because good lord, 17 pounds over nine months is not quick. In the words of a former co-worker, go somewhere and sit down.

I'll be the first to admit that most of these aren't that bad, but man. When you are working your butt off and people say these things, you just get a little crazy.

When I first thought about this as a post, I thought abut my friend Sarah.

Sarah and I at her gender reveal in March 2016.
Sarah's naturally thin and gave birth to her third beautiful baby girl, Alison, in August. With her first two girls, she lost her weight pretty easily.  Like back to flat belly in a couple of days. With her third, though, it's been more of a struggle. I will admit that I discounted her feelings while she's trying to lose weight because she has a lot less to lose than I do and, let's be real, Sarah at 9-months pregnant is still a heck of a lot skinnier than I will ever be. But that's okay. That's how God made us.

I asked my friend to think of some of the most annoying comments she's received while trying to lose her baby weight. This is what she told me:
  • Seriously?!
  • You can't complain about your weight!
  • You are ridiculous.
  • I don't want to hear that.
  • You don't have a pooch.
  • Rolling their eyes while she talks.
I know that I've said some of these things to Sarah and it made me sad. I know how hard it is to lose weight and how crazy the comments above make me feel.  I can't imagine no one wanting to listen to me! Trust me, I get it. It's hard to think of a skinny person wanting to lose weight as having the same struggle as someone that has a lot more to lose. But losing weight and getting healthy sucks, no matter what size you wear.  When I apologized to Sarah for saying some of those things to her, she said, "It's okay, you don't mean it in a mean way."

Wait, what? 

That was eye opening for me. Who says those things in a MEAN way?! Most of the comments that I found annoying people genuinely meant well, they just didn't realize how they came across. But there were people were actually being mean to her. Who does that? Sadly, probably other women. Women that are in the same boat she is, but can't see that she's dealing with the same things we are. Women are mean. 

Think before you speak.  Think before you make a comment to your friend that might be trying to lose weight or even just get healthy. You don't have to walk on eggshells, because we've probably already heard it.  But take a minute. How would you feel if you were the one getting that comment? What if I was rolling my eyes at you while you were telling me how you were trying to lose weight while chasing two kids with a two month old baby?  And don't hate on the bigger women trying to lose weight and think we can't do it. Guess what? We've already said the same thing to ourselves, just much, much worse. Have a little compassion and be proud of your friend or whoever is telling you that they're trying to get healthy. Because it's hard and it sucks. There are days we want to quit, but we don't. If you don't know what to say, "Awesome" or "I'm proud of you" are always safe bets. It's kinda hard to mess those up. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

To the Family that Moved Out of My Pants...

To the family that moved out of my pants, please don't ever come back.

I always thought that was a weird saying, "looks like a family moved out of their pants." Maybe it's a southern thing? Am I the only one that's heard that? For real, though, people. This pants situation has gotten out of hand. 

At some point when losing weight, you go from enjoying the loose pants to the really awkward fitting stage. I'm there. I've hit the point where most of my pants look like this:

That is not how pants should fit. This doesn't even take into account the waist that barely stays up and the extra fabric that is obvious from the front of the pants. I have three pairs of pants that fit right now and two of them are jeans. I thought about posting a "this is how my pants should fit," but then it's like I'd be inviting you to stare at my butt. So I won't do that.

Yes, I know this is a good problem to have. But it's also a problem. Pants that are too big make you look bigger than you actually are. Not to mention, I spend most of my day keeping them up. 

I need to buy pants. .

This poses a problem. I used to have about three different sizes in my closet. Now, I have two and I'm pretty sure I'm missing a size in between them. The problem, you ask? I've spent a ridiculous amount of money the past few months on pants that aren't pants, namely yoga pants (workout clothes in general) and LulaRoe. Side note - I just scored some Halloween leggings! I'm excited. But Halloween leggings don't count as pants, not pants that I can wear to work at least. I have dresses and skirts that fit, but who wants to shave their legs everyday?! If you are surprised by that last statement and are a guy, you obviously aren't married or haven't lived with a female. Anyways, I need pants and I have spent my pants money on new hair and pants that aren't pants for work. Thankfully, there is a birthday coming up!

I always forget the weird stages of losing weight. Mostly, it's all very exciting, but sometimes it's frustrating. Your forget those points where your pants don't fit, but you're hoping to lose more weight so you don't want to spend money on new pants just yet, but are also acutely aware of how bad the current ones fit. And sometimes, at the same time you're fighting the pants fight, a plateau hits and your weight stops moving. It's an all around annoying time. But it's part of the process. So, do what I'm going to do until I'm no longer broke, or my birthday happens, enjoy the fact that your pants don't actually fit. You've worked hard for it. They can be the thing that reminds you every day just how far you've come, because it's clear to see where you started.

Thankfully, it's dress down Friday, so my pants fit today. Small victories!

Happy Friday folks! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Coconut Curry Shrimp - My Favorite Weeknight Dinner Made Easy!

Coconut Curry Shrimp is one of my favorite meals. It's quick, simple and oh so good. It's a Pioneer Woman recipe and surprisingly easy to make.

I love the Pioneer Woman. I love her a lot. I once stood in line until about midnight (on a work night) with my friend Sarah to get the Pioneer Woman to sign her latest cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime.

I've made so many recipes out of her Dinnertime cookbook, but my favorite and trusty standby is Coconut Curry Shrimp.  I actually found it on the Food Network site first, but now I use the variation in the cookbook.

If you've ever made a recipe from The Pioneer Woman (we'll just start calling her PW for short), you know that she doesn't believe in quick meals.  Even her 16-minute meals aren't really 16 minutes.  At least not for me. I don't chop veggies that quickly.  I like my fingers on my hands. Anyway, I've found that many of her recipes can be shortened a few places here and there.  The Coconut Curry Shrimp recipe is a 16-minute recipe and I've got it down to about 5-10 minutes, depending on the shrimp I use.

Here's how.

This is the recipe in the book.  I love that she has photos for every step.  I'm not that awesome.

I gather all my ingredients.

I heat a pan over medium-high heat and melt about a tablespoon of butter.  For this recipe, I use my 10" pan, which is great for making sauces. I always cut the amount of fat PW uses by half.  I can always add more if I need to, but I generally only need half.  I don't live on a ranch, I work at a desk and don't need more calories working against me. Once the butter is melted, I add the shrimp to the pan.

Cooking after working out. Oh so pretty, I know.
I've started getting Aaron to help with some food prep while I'm in class.  Last night, he thawed, peeled and deveined the shrimp while I was in class.  This allowed me to be able to walk in the door, throw them in the pan and go. I cook the shrimp about two minutes per side.  Then remove them from the pan.

So here's my big time saver.  I don't use actual onion or garlic in this recipe.  I did the first time I made it and I really didn't like the chunks of onion and garlic. And chopping tthem added at least eight minutes (onions make me cry so, so much). By removing the actual onion and garlic, I've removed about three steps from this recipe. Fun fact - one tablespoon of onion powder is equivalent to one chopped onion and 1/8 teaspoon of garlic is equivalent to one clove of garlic. Don't ever forget that! Lazy cooks know this.

Normally, you sweat the onions and garlic in the pan with the curry powder, then add the coconut milk.  Since I use all spices, I measure my spices into a prep bowl and then add them directly to the coconut milk after I pour it in the pan.  The pan is generally still pretty warm at this point, so I make sure that the spices are measured before I put them in the milk so as to not burn the milk.

Now, I've made this recipe enough times that I don't measure how much honey, sriracha or lime juice I use anymore.  Once I add the spices to the coconut milk, I stir them together and then let simmer for a few minutes so the flavors blend.  Then I squeeze in some lime juice, honey and sriracha and taste test the sauce.  I adjust the seasoning as I go.  Sometimes, you want a sweeter sauce, sometimes more of a bite.  Before she put this recipe in the cookbook, it was on the Food Network website and didn't specifically call for sriracha.  I personally think it's an awesome addition. I don't add too much, just enough that it smacks you back a little after a few bites (about a teaspoon or so).

Once you get the sauce where you like it, add the shrimp back in.

I used shrimp that we got in a meat share from Papa Spud's.  They were HUGE so I cut them in half.
I like to coat the shrimp, turn the heat down to medium low, put the lid on top and leave it for a few minutes. This thickens the sauce, but isn't so hot that it overcooks the shrimp.

So, my other cheat.  Uncle Ben's 90 second rice.  I like basmati rice and I always buy two - one for dinner and one for leftovers for the next day.  One package feeds Aaron and I and it's a good way to portion control your rice.

After about ten or so minutes of cooking, you have dinner.

She also calls for cilantro, which Aaron isn't a fan of, so I didn't add.
This is one of the few Pioneer Woman recipes that is fairly easy to make Paleo.  You can substitute the rice with cauliflower rice.  Now, true Paleo would get rid of the Sriracha and substitute a Paleo version. I honestly don't think there's enough in there to matter. Sriracha does have sugar in it, but you've got honey in the recipe already, so you could probably get by with just adding red pepper flakes for the heat.  I also hate cauliflower rice (I'll keep trying, but so far, no luck). I researched why rice was so terrible for Paleo and actually found a few sites that said white rice is better than brown (who would've thought that?!) and that it was okay to eat if after a big workout. Its not recommended, but whatever. I don't eat enough of it to kill me. So I decided to keep eating my white rice, but only eat my after big gym days.

This has been a big favorite recipe of ours for a while. I've played with it a lot because it's so versatile - I've made it with chicken, with stir fry noodles instead of rice, etc.  I also love that I can make it Paleo if I want or I can cheat a little. What's your favorite go-to recipe that you've made so many times that you've now made it yours?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


The weekends are usually pretty busy for us. I go to class, meal plan, grocery shop, do laundry. Blog. This weekend, that didn't really happen. I'm glad that it didn't, especially the blogging part, because if it had, you would be reading a planned post and not my general thoughts. Keeping up a blog is hard work and you sometimes forget that the whole reason you have a blog is to write, not to just post content. And there are times that what you feel is deafening and you just need to just say it.

If you've watched the news at all lately, you've seen the sad parts of our world: politics, bombings, shootings, etc. It's hard to believe that there is any good left in this world. This past week and weekend has been a constant reminder of all the good that God has put in my life and in the lives of those closest to me. With all the bad going on, I felt the need to share some good.

I was scheduled to attend a training this past week in Jacksonville, Florida.  I left Tuesday morning, October 4, for training to take place Wednesday and Thursday and fly back Friday morning.  My mom called me panicked the morning of my Tuesday flight, worried about Hurricane Matthew and possibly being in its wake.  I told her I had prepared to be stuck, if that happened, and that I really wasn't that worried. I thought she was crazy and told my dad as much. I boarded my first flight and during my layover, I checked my work email.  When I started my current job, I never linked my work email to my personal phone. It's pretty much impossible to separate work and home otherwise. I learned that lesson the hard way. While I have enjoyed not seeing my work emails after hours, it does make it a challenge to check them when not in the office. I have to actively think to check my email, it doesn't just show up anymore. I logged in to my work email and saw that the agency hosting my training had decided to continue the training, but that instead of two days, it was being shortened to one and a half days.  I texted my co-worker that handles the travel in our office and she started working on changing my return flight from Friday to Thursday. It was going to cost an additional $300 to get me home before the hurricane. At that point, American Airlines hadn't added Jacksonville to the list of cities that you could change your flight and not be charged. For some reason, you also can't change return flights until you arrive at your destination. I guess they want to make sure you actually get to that destination? Weird. This turned out to be a blessing because by the time they were able to change my flights, Jacksonville had been added to the list. I was able to come home a day early with no extra charge.

When I arrived at training Wednesday morning, the trainer informed us that the last few versions of this particular training had been for one day, not the two days that we were signed up to attend. Since many of the participants were from Florida and other areas that were going to be hit by the hurricane, we all decided that it would be best to continue to do the training in one day and let everyone go home. So I managed to get the full amount of training in the one day that we had.

Let me tell you, leaving an evacuating city is an interesting thing. I flew out Thursday morning. Everyone in Jacksonville, FL had been ordered to evacuate. I wasn't sure if traffic was going to be bad on I-95 heading towards the airport or not, so I reserved a taxi early in the morning for my 10:30 am flight. While there were some people on the road, it was mostly deserted. The airport was a weird combination of completely full when flights were leaving and then completely empty. I flew out at 10:30 am Thursday, October 6.  The hurricane neared Florida on October 7, when I was originally scheduled to leave.

On Saturday, October 8, when Hurricane Matthew was making it's way through North Carolina, I sat in a chair for three hours (three hours!!) getting my hair done. I had it washed, colored and balayage completed. I've never sat in a chair for three hours for my hair in my life. It was worth it, though. It looks awesome. But I sat there and watched two weddings take place in the venue on the top floor of the building. I watched trees sway and rain fall. It honestly never got that bad in Durham, North Carolina. My husband had to go help his dad with their sump pump and septic system in south Raleigh, but overall, it wasn't that bad for us.  Then I saw the reports about the flooding in Fayetteville.

I grew up in Fayetteville.  It is not my favorite place, by a long shot.  But some of my favorite people, blood and not blood, live there.  The flooding is staggering. Roads washed away. The Cape Fear River at 58 feet (the flood stage is 41 feet!). People not able to leave their homes because of all the water. Power outages. No water or now having to boil water. It honestly breaks my heart. In the past few days, many cities across the state that I used to work in have also experienced staggering damage due to the flooding. And the flooding isn't even over yet. Knowing the capacity of these cities and what they are facing breaks my heart that much more.

But my parents are safe. My friends are safe. Houses have been damaged, but the people are okay. And that's what matters. I look at Haiti and my heart breaks all over again. I'm blessed. So, so blessed. Blessed that I have a crazy mom that made me pay attention to my email. Blessed that I have a co-worker that could work some travel magic and get me home without costing my employer extra money. Blessed that we really didn't get terrible weather where we live. Blessed that my parents live on high ground and were only without power for a few hours. Blessed that I serve a God that put all these people in place at the right time. I'm blessed and to not shine a light and say that in this dark, depressing world we live in just seems wrong. For those that are still in the aftermath of the flooding and the storm, I'm praying for you and what you might be facing. You might not feel it right now, but you are blessed, too, because we are in the US with the resources to handle this type of disaster. We aren't in Haiti. It might not be on the time table that we want, but recovery will happen.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Workouts on the Go

I was in Jacksonville, FL this week for training. I came back yesterday because of the hurricane. This is my third out-of-town trip for training this year. In my previous job, I worked as a consultant and traveled all the time, but it was in state and I was always home by bedtime. Sometimes later than my actual bedtime, but I went to sleep in my own bed. With this job, I don't travel in the state nearly as much anymore, but now I travel for training.  Because those trainings are with the federal government, I travel out of state more.

Working out on the go was never really a thing for me before. I never actually thought about it. Now I do. I'm used to being in the gym a lot and I really don't want to undo all the hard work I've done, so when planning this week, I thought a lot about what kind of exercises I could do while I was in Florida.

There is always the hotel gym. I personally hate the hotel gym. I tell everyone that if left to my own devices, I do thirty minutes on the elliptical, ten minutes on weights (that's probably a stretch) and I'm done. I won't have pushed myself very hard and will be very lackadaisical about it. This is why I do classes. Put me in a class and I have just enough (read: ridiculous, it's ridiculous) amount of a competitive spirit that I push myself every time so that I'm not the last or the worst. Some might think that's not what you're supposed to do, you're probably right, but I also know that's how I get results. Also, I hate the treadmill. We aren't friends, not even a little.

So the hotel gym doesn't really work for me. It can if it absolutely has to, but no. So here's what I've done so far this week and what I've done in the past!

Hotel Yoga
I love hotel yoga. I don't take a yoga mat with me because I need that precious space in my luggage for clothes and shoes. A girl needs options. But most hotels have carpet or a rug on the floor, so I make due with that. I do hotel yoga in the morning when I get up. It takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on what I'm doing, and if you do nothing else while you're out of town, at least you've done this.

I start with Sun Salutation A. The version I do is this:
  • Begin in mountain (standing).
  • Inhale your hands overhead and bring hands to heart center.
  • Forward fold.
  • Inhale to lift and lengthen, flat back.
  • Forward fold.
  • Plant hands. Step back or hop into plank. 
  • Take a chaturanga. 
  • Inhale for cobra.
  • Exhale into downward dog. 
  • Step or hop your feet to your hands.
  • Start back at the beginning.
This is the variation that one of my yoga instructors taught me and there are multiple versions of Sun Salutation A. I do this four to five times. After the fifth time, I move into Sun Salutation B. This is where I add in whatever I'm working on.
  • Begin from your last Sun Salutation A, stepping or hopping your feet to your hands. Lift your hands into chair pose. 
  • Exhale to forward fold.
  • Inhale to lift and lengthen.
  • Plant your hands. Step or hop back into your chaturanga. 
  • Inhale for cobra or updog. 
  • Exhale for downward dog.
  • Sweep the right leg up into three-legged dog. Bring the foot between your hands.
  • Come into high crescent. 
  • Pull the right knee up, hold. 
  • Send the leg back into Warrior III. Hold.
  • Land the right foot onto the ground, move into Warrior II.
From there, I like to add in whatever move I'm currently working on. Right now it's crow and working through pigeon. I used to hate pigeon, but I've been doing it long enough now that I've started to play with it. So I would cartwheel the hands down and frame my left foot, bring my right foot up to my left and forward fold. Then work into crow. Then do the same thing for the left leg. I close with doing pigeon, bridge and few twists.

I did my yoga in the I didn't take photos. I'm not that coherent in the morning.

Find a Gym
I like classes, so I found a gym in Jacksonville near my hotel. I had a very short trip, so I didn't end up using it.  I also checked out Class Pass, a service that allows you to pay one fee and use multiple gyms in your area and where you're traveling.  Unfortunately, Class Pass isn't in Jacksonville, so I didn't get a chance to check it out. If you travel a lot, though, it's worth a look into!

New cities are fun, so go explore! I did this my first and second night in town. I traveled by myself this week, so I made sure to do most of my exploring in the daylight. It was super rainy, so I didn't do as much as I would have liked, but I made sure to venture out for dinner along the river. I also like to walk around airports instead of sitting in a chair the whole time.  My airport days always get me lots of steps on the Fitbit!

Just a few photos from my wanderings around Jacksonville. I loved their bridges and views over the St. James River.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 Pants?!

I had this co-worker in my old job that was obsessed with the fact that women wore leggings as pants. And pointing out that leggings weren't, in fact, pants.  We had lots of conversations about this during our many car rides together. I used to agree, and still mostly do, but I have committed the sin and have worn leggings as pants.

For years, I swore girls with big thighs (ahem, me) shouldn't wear leggings. Then LulaRoe came about.  I did nothing with LulaRoe until my cousin started selling it. I tried it out to support her and became slightly addicted. Then I got leggings. I actually bought three pairs of leggings before I ever wore the leggings, mostly because it's been a perpetual sauna in NC for the past three or four months and way too hot for those babies. Anyway, this past weekend, I wore leggings. As pants. In public. I did it again for my trip down to Jacksonville and I'll do it again coming back. 

Me and my leggings and tunic waiting for the shuttle. The trick is calm paired with wild. That's what I tell myself.
My first thought about leggings as pants was "where have these been all my life?!" It's literally like not wearing pants, while wearing pants. I think I told one of our friends that the other day. My entire goal is to wear pants as little as possible. I hate pants. I understand their necessity, but those that have been around for a while, know my resistance to wearing pants. And if you come over to our house unannounced, you'll probably have to wait for me to put on pants. So in this aspect, leggings are amazing. No pants while wearing pants. And LulaRoe makes these long tunic tops to go over the leggings, so you're butt is covered. I don't feel exposed in the leggings. So far, so good. 

I ran errands in my leggings. I expected to get some stares. Afterall, I had on purple floral leggings with a gray and white striped shirt. But, no stares. Not that I could tell, at least. I felt fine wearing my leggings for errands to multiple grocery stores and the library. They were super comfortable in the airport. I even had a lady call me and my LulaRoe leggings out and complimented me on how I'd made them into capris.  But both times I wore the leggings, when I got home and it was time to go out to dinner, I put on real pants. I didn't feel like the leggings were okay to wear to dinner. It just didn't feel right. Plus, I was also really tired of having to constantly hike them back up.  

So I'm going to keep to the main idea that leggings aren't totally pants. Will I keep wearing them? Yep. On weekends, on days that I have to spend hours either on a plane or in an airport, on car trips, running errands, etc. But I also think that for me, real pants are still needed. I like to look nicer when we go out to dinner and I certainly can't wear them to work. And given those thoughts, I think it's totally acceptable for me to find ridiculous pairs of leggings with things like shoes, cupcakes and coffee cups on them.
The whole airport outfit. I think it's pretty cute together, actually.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sports Bras for the Busty Gal

Alright, ladies. Let's talk bras. Sports bras at that. I can hear a loud, audible sigh from everyone.

Why this has to be so hard, I don't know. You would think that they (sports bra makers) would have figured out gravity a little better than they have by now, but no such luck. Especially if you are what I call a "busty gal."

First off, no one is sponsoring this post. This is all me, a busty gal, helping out other busty gals that also like to work out, but need a little help. 

Like I said, I am a busty gal. And I have been searching long and hard for a bra that can handle the gravity during high impact sports. This has been no easy feat. I also hate spending a lot of money for a sports bra that I am going to do nothing but get really gross in. It seems ridiculous to spend $50 on a bra that I wear for an hour at a time. Alas, I have finally found some good, affordable options, so I thought I'd share them.

I started my search with Target. I had a bunch of old basic Target champion bras, but those things do nothing for you. I also tried a few of their high impact bras and they weren't very comfortable. The good news? I didn't spend a lot on them. Then I graduated to buying a few bras from Marshall's and TJ Maxx. I found some good New Balance bras that work well for medium impact workouts like yoga and m'bala, a more athletic version of yoga. But they don't work as well against gravity in bootcamp and spin classes. Then I started getting clothes from Fabletics. I got a few good bras from them.  My favorite was the Sentra bra, which they don't offer anymore. The Sylvia bra (below), still being offered, is also a good option. It's listed as high impact and does pretty well, but not as well as I wanted. It is a little higher on the neckline, which I appreciate. I did size down for some extra support.

Sylvia Sports Bra from Fabletics
A few things about Fabletics. I love them. I have gotten many, many outfits from them and will continue to buy them. If you click on the link in the caption above, it's my referral link. I get a credit if you order from Fabletics. It is a subscription service, so you have to log in by the 5th of each month and either order something or choose to skip it.  If you don't do this by the 5th of the month, your credit card gets charged. I personally have no issue with it and have skipped the past few months for financial reasons. I've read lots of nasty reviews from people online that didn't read the not-so-fine print and wanted to make sure you were aware before you decided to purchase from them. I highly, highly recommend using Fabletics, especially if you work out as much as I do. Moving on!

After trying some of the sports bras from Fabletics and still not being 100% satisfied, I decided to try out Victoria's Secret. Some of the ladies in my classes were telling me about their sports bras and how much they liked them and they are bustier than I am! I went to the store, tried on numerous and fell in love with the Knockout Bra.
Knockout Sports Bra by Victoria's Secret
This bra is amazing. I bought both the wireless and the underwire, but I really prefer the wireless. It's much more comfortable, in my opinion, and still offers a lot of support. I like that this bra is a regular bra and then zips up to hold you in. To test it out in the dressing room, I did squat jumps and high knees. The girls didn't move, so I bought two.  I've now done multiple classes in both and love them! Disclaimer - if you're bigger than a DDD cup, this won't fit you.

My favorite features of this bra, to help those that might be bigger than a DDD trying to find a bra, are:
  • No uniboob. I hate the uniboob. 
  • There's an actual bra in the bra, so no uniboob. Then it zips up over the bra to give extra support.
  • Front closure is key. Most high impact sports are a work out just to get into them. And half the time I size down for extra support, which makes getting into and out of them that much more fun. 
  • The straps are adjustable and padded. When you've got a lot to support, some padding on the shoulders is key. I don't have ugly red marks on my shoulder at the end of a workout. I also like that the adjustments for the straps are on the front and not on your back, so you can easily adjust.
  • It's currently $35. I even got mine on sale for $25. Sold!!
The only down side to the bra is that the piece of fabric that covers the zipper does irritate my skin a little. It's mostly on the one with the underwire.

There are a few other bras I'd eventually like to try from Athleta and Lululemon, but they don't currently fit in the budget. The Knockout is my favorite so far. Until it goes up to it's full price of $55, I'm sticking with it.

What about you? Is there a bra that you love that I need to know about?!