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Off week

One whole week. A week and a day, technically. It lasted from the Thursday before last until this Thursday. I went that whole stretch without any real exercise. I recently started a new job… I am still getting used to working these hours, the training has been pretty rapid fire, and I have been exhausted from it all. Plus, since we’ve had warm weather there’s really been no chance to squeeze in a run after work. These are the excuses I mentally decided on when I found myself putting off every planned early morning run. But that is all they were: excuses.

The silly part? I knew every day I was making a lame excuse. Around Tuesday or Wednesday of the streak I made the decision that I knew would solve nearly every excuse I could think of. I rejoined a gym. Perfect! Funny enough, I joined the gym 3 years ago around Labor Day weekend, so I guess it was appropriate I rejoin now, so close to that anniversary.

I don’t entirely like running alone super early before the sun comes up. Not so much because it’s dark (I own a headlamp) but because I’ve watched Law and Order SVU too many times to put myself in not-so-safe circumstances. It is pretty hot while the sun is still up after work too, at least for now, so one of those earlier excuses does have some merit. And these days I don’t have access for much beyond places to run so I’m missing out on the chance to build up strength through resistance and weight training. Gym solves it all. I’m not alone on a path in the dark, no issues with heat, and I get access to all of the equipment I need.

The streak was happily broken on Friday and I’m feeling a lot better about myself. I kept trying to convince myself the break was nice, it was cool to cut myself a little slack. But I felt guilty every night as I was trying to fall asleep. I don’t know why I felt guilt. I wasn’t hurting anyone and I knew it was temporary. Regardless, guilt was the emotion that was ruling in my brain.

I guess it could be worse, there could have been an extreme backslide with my dietary choices. Thankfully there wasn’t; I ate as I normally do and my weight didn’t change at all from before the slacking began through today. I don’t want to go that long again before kicking my ass and sweating hard from exercise. I love that feeling, and I know how important keeping healthy is. I used to feel like I was drowning in lethargy, and I don’t ever want that to take over again. I allowed myself to become enveloped in it. Maybe that’s why I felt guilty. It’s almost like a guilty pleasure, but without the pleasure part. It’s more like a guilty reminder of what life was.

I don’t think the challenge ever stops. Sometimes it changes shape and different aspects are tougher for me. There are periods of time where it’s easy to keep working out regularly, but food/portion control will become a struggle. Other times it’s the complete opposite. While my habits have become lifestyle at this point, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I suppose this was the most long winded way of saying I joined a gym again and I’m really happy about it. I hope you are doing something that makes you both happy and healthy in one move. It’s a rare pleasure.

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Easy oven baked fried chicken

This recipe is so easy. And it is a healthier alternative to fried chicken. I’ve tried other oven baked fried chicken recipes and they usually involve buttermilk and eggs. This is even easier. It takes just a few minutes to prep, then you stick it in the oven and walk away for a half hour. Brilliant. I also like to make roasted broccoli with it, because it goes in for the exact same amount of time and temperature as the chicken!

Here’s what you’ll need for the chicken:

– 1 lb chicken breast tenders

– 1/2 cup panko

– 2 tablespoons light mayo

– paprika

– garlic salt

– basil

– spray oil

For the roasted broccoli side you’ll need:

– 4 cups broccoli florets

– 2 tablespoons minced garlic

– spray oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Put the chicken tenders on a plate. Sprinkle them with the paprika, garlic salt, and basil. I also ended up throwing on a little cayenne pepper; you can really customize this to whatever flavor you want. Sometimes I will even sprinkle some hot sauce on the tenders with my spices.

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Once I’ve added the spices, I take one tablespoon of light mayo and apply it to the tenders. Once I’ve covered them in a thin layer, I flip the tenders over and add the spices to the other side and then follow with the second tablespoon of mayo

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Put the panko into a bowl, then take the prepped chicken and dip it into the panko, making sure both sides get covered. Place into a baking dish, and spray a little spray oil on top.

To prep the broccoli, grab a second baking dish or oven pan and use a little spray oil to coat the bottom. Add the broccoli florets and then add the minced garlic. Now spray a little more of the spray oil on top.

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Now everything is prepped and ready. Put both in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. That’s it! Delicious and healthier alternative to fried chicken.

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I love this meal because it takes such a small amount of effort and it has a comfort food vibe. Great home cooked meal that can be thrown together easily during your busy work week.

Easy oven baked fried chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken breast tenders
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2 tablespoons light mayo
  • ~1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • ~1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • ~1/2 teaspoon basil
  • spray oil
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Add spices to one side of chicken tenders, spread 1 tablespoon light mayo
  3. Flip chicken, repeat addition of spices and mayo to second side
  4. Dip chicken in panko, fully covering tenders, then add to baking dish
  5. Lightly cover chicken with spray oil
  6. Now for broccoli - add spray oil to an oven pan
  7. Add broccoli to pan, then add the minced garlic to the pan
  8. Lightly cover broccoli with spray oil
  9. Put both in oven and bake for 30 minutes
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Progress – Summer 2015

Back in December I decided to stop tracking my calories and just see what happens. For a long time I stayed in my weight range. I moved to TX, my entire routine changed… and I slowly gained a few pounds. It is not a massive amount so I’m not overly stressed, but I have been hovering around 133-135 for a few months. I feel fine and I know I’m healthy but I made the decision to try inputting my calories into MyFitnessPal again to try to drop back to the mid 120s. I’ll see how that goes! I told myself when I stopped counting calories that if I felt like I was backsliding I could always come back to the app and do what I know worked before. I am doing it for myself, first and foremost. A secondary and very cool reason I am using it again is because Matt asked me to help him start using the app as well. He is doing P90X 3 (yay Matt! So proud of that dedication!) and he wanted to make sure he was mindful of what he is eating. Since I had been thinking about using MFP again anyway, when he asked for help/accountability with inputting his calories I decided this was a good time for me too.

Everyone has a soft spot, something they are sensitive about. Here is one of my honest self-loathing picky things, and one main reason I want to drop a few pounds. I have mentioned it before, but I get fat faced very easily. I feel like my face is looking chunkier with these few extra pounds and my jaw line is less defined. And, quite frankly: I hate that. It’s my least favorite thing about my body. When I was down in the 120s my jawline is fine, my face looks normal. When I crawl up over 130+ my double chin starts to slowly appear. Ick. Time to lose that shit!

It’s rough right now too, we’ve had a pretty tame summer but recently it finally started getting really hot and humid. Humidity can make it tough to run. This article from Runner’s World explains it better than I can, but it boils down to not being able to cool down and feeling like you’re breathing through a straw. Humidity can feel nice when it’s cooler and breezy out because the air on your wet skin instantly cools you down but right now it’s just trapping the heat in. The last few weeks I’ve been spending more time in the gym and less time outdoors to make it through, but I get bored running long distances in the gym. Still getting out at least once a week to run outdoors but for no more than 3 or 4 miles. But that’s ok, I figure by the time it cools off I’ll be primed and ready to run longer!

Went kayaking this past weekend – I loved it! Man, what a fucking workout. My upper body felt like noodles when I finished. I am absolutely going to get out there again soon. It was so cool floating and rowing through downtown, surrounded by green growing things and turtles as well drifting under bridges with skyscrapers on the horizon. What a cool way to spend the morning.

Kayaking on Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake)

Kayaking on Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake)

Kayaking on Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake)

Kayaking on Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake)

I’m also super excited about my new running shoes! I am WAY overdue on getting some new kicks to run in. My sister and her husband have been running in Asics for awhile and love them, I finally went and tried some on, and dude. So comfortable. And they look rad!

Asics Gel-Noosa Tri 9

Asics Gel-Noosa Tri 9

Going to start to break them on today’s run! Stoked.

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One pot zucchini noodles

I have become mildly obsessed with my spiralizer. I’ve used it to make several things, but I think my favorite creation is “zoodles” aka zucchini noodles. They are so easy! Plus they are a delicious and healthy alternative to standard noodles. If you are like me and looking for way to cut out more of those tempting carbs, this is a fantastic option. It’s not quite like noodles but the texture and feel when eating them is very similar, plus you get the added benefit of tasty zucchini. My husband loves it and asks me to make it, which is honestly the biggest compliment I can give the dish as he tends to be pickier and slightly more wary of “weird” foods than I am. This is my version of one way a coworker told me she likes to make zoodles. I make it as a one pot meal, but if you want to be fancy about it you could brown the meat separate from the vegetables. I just like an easy meal – I’ve made it both as a one pot and browning them separately and honestly there is little difference. So in the spirit of keeping healthy options simple, here is a step by step one pot option. This will serve roughly 4 people. (Although I like to make it as dinner for 2 then reheat it for lunch for the next few days. Your call)

Ingredients:

– 1 package of fully cooked sausage (I prefer chicken sausage. H-E-B makes a wonderful natural artichoke and parmesan chicken sausage that goes great with this recipe)

– 4 zucchini

– 1 sweet onion

– 2 green bell peppers

– 2 cloves minced garlic (I always have a jar in the fridge, garlic fanatic here)

– Oil, preferably coconut oil (I prefer the coconut spray oil… once again very convenient)

You will need a spiralizer – there are a ton of options out there. I love this one I got from Bed Bath and Beyond, the hand crank helps make sure your fingers are protected:

Spiralizer

I like a super thin zoodle, so if you have multiple settings I recommend the smallest cut. Here you can see it collect at the bottom of the spiralizer:

Spiralizer

I cut the ends off the zucchini so they are flat, then I halve them so they fit easily into the spiralizer.

zucchini

I spiralize all the zucchini and put that aside. I chop the onion and the bell peppers, also putting that to the side. Finally, I slice the sausage.

prepped ingredients

Once I have all the ingredients cut and ready, I put a pot on the stove and spray it with my coconut oil (If you are using standard oil, just pour in about a tablespoon or more into the pot and swirl to coat). I then add the chopped onion and peppers and cook them for about 5 minutes on medium high heat until they start to become translucent. At that point, I add the minced garlic and the sliced sausage.

One pot

I continue to cook at medium high heat for about 5 more minutes. I usually end up turning the heat up high and brown it for another couple of minutes – be careful to keep an eye on it so nothing burns, and you just get nice browned edges on your onions and sausage.

browned meat and veggies

Once the mixture is browned to your liking, turn the temperature back down around medium or medium high and add the zoodles. Stir those in with the browned meat and veggies. The zoodles warm and cook pretty quickly – within 3-5 minutes. Zucchini tends to sweat out a lot of moisture as it cooks, so make sure you keep stirring this while it’s on the stove to coat.

That’s it. It’s really easy – basically the only time consuming part is chopping veggies and spiralizing which really takes no time.

Zoodles

You might want to add other vegetables to this, or a different meat, or no meat at all — really the sky is the limit. I personally feel like there is a lot of moisture produced by the zucchini so I don’t think a sauce is necessary. For me, the moisture mixing with the flavors of whatever else you have in there, which then coats the zucchini noodles is more than enough. But feel free to play with this! If you try something different and want to share, please feel free to leave a comment, I’d enjoy learning other things that folks love with these tasty vegetable noodles.


 

One pot zucchini noodles

One pot zucchini noodles

Ingredients

  • 1 package of fully cooked sausage
  • 4 zucchini
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Spiralize zucchini, set aside
  2. Heat pot with oil, medium high heat
  3. Chop onion and bell pepper, sauté about 5 minutes
  4. Chop sausage, add sausage and garlic to onion/pepper mixture
  5. Cook until sausage is hot and browned to your liking
  6. Add zucchini and stir, zucchini will cook within a few minutes.
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Summertime

Jesus I am in love with my city. I really love living here in Austin. I’m so happy with all there is to experience here, there is no way I’ll ever see and do it all. Summer here is fantastic, it gets hot but we can still get out and enjoy our surroundings. Refreshing after spending years in a scorching desert.

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Onion Creek Wildflowers

 

 

I have been trying new things – one night I went longboarding with an old friend. I loved it! (I’m the goober in the center) Planning to meet up and do it again this weekend. She has a rad blog as well: The Sartorial Skater.

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Longboarding

 

As usual, Matt and I have continued exploring the city and parks. Everything I’m posting is within just a few miles from my home.

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Barton Creek Greenbelt

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Thistles Growing at Circle C Park

Lady Bird Lake, Austin TX

Lady Bird Lake, Austin TX

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Barton Creek Greenbelt

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Arbor Trails

I am very happy that Matt has decided to try running with me as well. He has never been too much of a fan of it but recently he had a change of heart and we are running together once a week. We are alternating running and walking and he is already running more than he is walking on 4-5 mile loops. So proud! It took me so much longer to get to where he is, it’s awesome. And it’s really nice to have a running buddy again.

Matt and I after a run

Matt and I after a run

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Focus: positive

Something has been running through my mind lately, so I figured I’d devote a little post to it. Maybe this stems from how I’ve been embracing my hippie side (thanks Austin, for basically being a melting pot of hippies). Over time I have noticed a pattern with people in real life or in the virtual world of social networking who always seem to be struggling through something terrible. It’s a little crazy, because it seems like I see the same people dealing with one huge struggle after another. One more dramatic, horrible event. One more asshole they are adding to their long list of enemies. One more reason the world is against them.

So it made me wonder. Are all of these people just really unlucky? Do they attract bad situations or jerks who do them wrong? Are they asking for it?

I don’t think it’s any of those things. First of all, don’t be mistaken: everybody has bad shit happen to them. There is something to be said for how an individual handles hardship though, as to whether it resolves itself or amplifies the issue to breed more problems. Negativity feeds off and creates more negativity. I’ve seen it first hand. When I was in a funk in my own life it seemed like everything went wrong. And when I gave voice to my problems, I seemed to get buried under more problems.

For a long time now I have worked hard to focus on the positive aspects of my life, and I can say without hesitation I am a happier person. This is not by ignoring my problems, but instead by not giving them a great deal of weight. I deal with my issues, I allow myself to feel the emotions that come naturally for whatever I am facing — but I try to make a point to not make a fuss in public about the shitty stuff. And it seems like there is something to this. Here comes the hippie – but energy is real. And every person has this magic ability to choose whether they want to spend more of their energy on positive or negative thought and behavior.

Yes, I know this can be hard. We all succumb to a negative thought, that’s human nature. We all silently curse the jerk that cuts us off, or maybe it’s the ex in your life you don’t want to deal with, or perhaps the thankless job you struggle to wake up and go to, or maybe it’s that weight that just won’t come off no matter how hard you try (and so on, and so on…). But how much negative energy are you spending on these things? Is bitching about it making it better? And while we are looking at it, when you bitch loudly about one thing, do you start to notice other shit that’s bad piling up around you? How many times have you uttered something to the effect of “what else could go wrong” or, “everything bad seems to happen to me.”

I’m no shrink, I’m no psychic. All I know is that it seems the same people who complain loudly complain often. Maybe it’s your attitude when dealing with the ups and downs of life. My blog is about more than my attempt to keep myself physically healthy. You can’t truly be fit if you’re not tending to the most important part of your body – your brain. Mental health matters. If anybody reads this and it strikes a chord, then I hope you consider a little introspection. Try to remember this: “self awareness.” I had this written next to my bed for about a year when I felt like I was at my lowest mentally. It reminded me to look at myself and how I was fitting into the big picture. It reminded me to ask myself how I was dealing with whatever I was facing. Was I doing something positive to fix a problem, or wallowing in negativity? You may not be able to choose all that happens to you, but you definitely have a choice on how you react and what you spend your energy on.

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Springtime

One of the many reasons I was excited about moving to Texas from Arizona is the change of seasons in hill country. Don’t get me wrong, AZ runs through the seasons too, but the summer lasts most of the year. Winter typically doesn’t get very cold. Spring in the desert is glorious but very short lived. It always leaves me wanting more and cursing the 100+ degrees that seem to appear as soon as I would get used to mid seventies. It frustrated me year after year while I lived there.

Springtime in TX has not disappointed. We’ve had some warmer days (high 80s) and then cool days down in the 60s. AND RAIN! This weekend we had badass thunderstorms roll through; all the rain makes everything bloom. I fall more in love with living here every week.

I’m also glad how willing people are to come visit! We’ve been here less than 2 months and already had visitors from AZ, plus all of my immediate family in Houston has come by to spend weekends in Austin. It is not hard to convince people to spend time here, this city has such a heartbeat. There is so much happening here all the time! Lot’s of great craft breweries, great venues to see live music, and amazing food trucks and restaurants. One thing I also dig about the food here is that so many places really like to rely on what is grown and found locally. Fresh local grub – right up my alley. And going back to the weather: by this point of the year in AZ many adventures would be harder to plan as it’s already getting close to triple digits some days there. I wanted to live somewhere that I could enjoy the outdoors for a greater portion of the year. I don’t want to feel trapped by my environment. It’s just like I wouldn’t want to live someplace that snowed all winter long.

I’m so happy! I’ve already discovered so many spots I love to explore. I’ve fallen in love with a couple of the local independent radio stations and discovered tons of new music, rekindling that somewhat forgotten passion. I really missed going to little rad shows here, I hated most of the venues in Arizona and I adore the fantastic locations here.

I need to get more hardcore with my fitness though. I’m not doing bad… I still run 3 times a week. I’m active at work. But there is WAY better food options here and that’s my achilles heel. I also drink more beer than I used to. As a result, my usual 125 is now up above 130. Usually about 132, 133. Now, I’m not stupid. I know that isn’t a huge deal and I can drop it. But even though I know that, I’ve definitely been beating myself up about it. I don’t look like I’ve gained much weight, but it is more obvious to me when I’m naked or in a bathing suit. I’m trying to find a good balance because I want to go out and have a good time here without worrying myself over every little thing. But at the same time I’ve worked so hard to get where I am with my fitness journey. It’s really driven home that idea that we are always a work in progress. I’ve found myself in a different phase now. It’s even more confusing when there are women at work who tell me how skinny I am, how “lucky” I am to be so teeny, or how they wish they could fit into my clothes, etc. I’m not a fan of being called skinny because it always sounds sickly to me but whatever – I know it comes from a nice place with these ladies. But as soon as these conversations begin, I want to tell them how fat I feel, how they don’t know how much I want to be about 7-10 pounds less. But of course there is no way I can say that, so instead I have this bizarre little freak out in my head and muster up a ‘thank you’ or find a way to change the subject. I know I am still healthy and other than a few extra pounds I really do look good, and I am in great shape. I just know that previously I got further than this, so the little backslide feels gigantic. I thought about using MyFitnessPal again but I’ve decided no. I know what I need to do, and I know how to do it. If I can’t get things back towards my 125 goal after some time then maybe I’ll consider it, but not yet. I want more freedom.

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Settling in

Still getting settled here in Texas. I’m learning my surroundings better every week and finding great spots to enjoy in Austin. After being here a month, I found a job that I’m really enjoying so far. Still waiting on our house to sell in Arizona. We had a buyer, but last night we got news that there is a problem with his lender so it looks like we might have to start over with a new buyer. Man, what a pain in the ass. I just want that part to be done, it’s a scary dark financial cloud hanging over our head. I guess I shouldn’t worry too much; the weekend we listed we had an open house, by that Monday we had 7 offers to choose from. From here the next step is to reach out and see if any of them are still interested. If not, another open house should bring plenty of potential again! I just hate this feeling, like this long cord that is forcing me to stay attached and keeping me from completely getting comfortable here. It stresses me out.

I’m already getting very comfortable at my new job after a week. It’s great because it has me on my feet for most of the time I’m there. Running errands, organizing, working on projects, even dashing between two buildings with a few flights of stairs between them. It’s nice having a job that helps keep me active! I can’t sit still for very long at work, it makes the day drag. Days fly by when you keep moving, I love that. It’s only part time at this point, although I’m already being asked to stay longer some days here and there. I am hoping to get closer to full time hours before too long. One benefit to having shorter work days is that I’m easily running 3 times a week during the week (as well as getting out and hiking/exploring with Matt on the weekends). I’m back on track with my running, which makes me happy. Matt is still getting used to his life working full time in an office. It’s tough, as he primarily worked from home before. I hope he feels more comfortable in his routine soon. He’s amazing though, I have no doubt he will figure out how to juggle this new schedule.

Per usual, photos of some of my outdoor adventures:

A heart cactus found at Onion Creek

A heart cactus found at Onion Creek

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Barton Creek Greenbelt

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Barton Creek Greenbelt

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Barton Creek Greenbelt

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The view from Mt. Bonnell

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Garrison Park

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Arbor Trails

 

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Hello, beautiful

I am all settled in. The move to Austin was successful. It was a frightening move; there was a major freeze that overtook the state of Texas which just so happened to coincide with us driving across it in a giant U-Haul. But we made it! The apartment is great, we are about 95% unpacked, and Matt is doing well at his new role at work. The dogs seem to be settling in, and now that we are getting sunnier days we have finally been able to do a little exploring. Boy, we picked the worst stretch of weather to relocate. It has been unusually rainy and cold ever since we got here.

I have been getting runs in when I can – I am a total wuss when it comes to trying to run in cold + rain, so if that combo occurred I was not having it. But I’ve run at Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake) a few times now, plus I’ve explored a few other parks and trails. I am definitely not in a routine yet, and I feel less in shape than I’m used to because of the sporadic nature of my ability to get out there. But I guess I’ve at least still managed at least 2-3 runs per week, so it’s not like I’ve fallen off the wagon completely.

I’m loving it here, I’ve already been able to make a quick trip to Houston to visit family and my brother and sister have also come here for a visit. It’s so great to have the people you love nearby. Not being close to them for so many years was rough. The surreal feeling of living here is still very strong, I’m wondering when it will fully sink in.

Per usual, I have taken lots of photos of my new surroundings. Most of these were taken while out running…

Tree in Zilker Park

Tree in Zilker Park

Bridge over Lady Bird Lake

Bridge over Lady Bird Lake

The State Capitol

The State Capitol

Along Lady Bird Lake/Zilker Park

Along Lady Bird Lake/Zilker Park

Onion Creek Greenbelt

Onion Creek Greenbelt

Longview Park Trails

Longview Park Trails

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Goodbye desert

I am really looking forward to the environment we will find in Texas; green trees, grass, and lush plant life. But there is one aspect of nature I will completely miss from Arizona: desert views and rocky mountains. I’ve had a love affair with South Mountain over these last few years and saying goodbye has been difficult. This weekend I went out with a friend to run it one last time. My husband and I want to cram in one more hike if we have time once we’ve wrapped up the last of our packing. But this pristine playground will no longer be a few miles from our front door.

I took a few photos during yesterday’s run, it was a perfect cloudy morning.

Hidden Valley, South Mountain

Hidden Valley, South Mountain

Early morning at South Mountain

Early morning at South Mountain

cactus

The desert has been really good to me. It helped to inspire me to wake up at the crack of dawn for over a year now to get out there and run it. It will be missed, but I am excited to explore new terrain in Austin and elsewhere in Texas!

Just a few days left, and we are out of here. SURREAL.