Shifting health gears

Fruitless as it may seem given we’re only a few weeks away from another holiday, I decided to get back on the health wagon. Thanksgiving was a much needed break with lots of indulging — even for Hurley and the family dogs.

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What was also nice is I was able to listen to a great audiobook on my drive up and back. The book (It Was Me All Along) caught my eye while I was in Cape Cod and it seemed to be what I needed to light a fire under me again (and it was incredibly relatable given my own weight loss journey). In fact, I even skipped my normal spin class last night to go to BodyPump with my favorite combat instructor! I won’t lie, my entire body hurts right now and stairs are a real struggle. However, it was well worth it. Time to mix things up with my health routine.

In some ways this renewed focus also impacted what I chose for recipes this week. I knew I wanted to focus more on protein since I’d really been indulging and carbs (not to mention sweets). Sunday night I put a BBQ chicken quinoa recipe in the crockpot. It was relatively simple to throw together, and I loved how well the chicken shredded after just three hours in the crockpot. It may not look all that appetizing, but I can assure you that it was.

BBQ chicken

I should mention the olives were just something I threw on the plate because I was craving them… They didn’t particularly fit the flavor, but I didn’t care.

My recipe the following night, though, did allow for green olives. I was nervous having two similar recipes back-to-back, but I really wanted to try the slow cooker enchilada quinoa recipe.

To mix it up slightly, I actually used a beef roast instead of chicken (great choice, in hindsight!). I also minimized the cream cheese given the recent experiences I’d had with my crockpot dishes calling for cream cheese. I didn’t want it to dominate since I love Mexican food without too much cheese in general.

It took a bit longer for the beef to cook, so I almost wish I would have started that on its own. What was great, though, is that I seasoned it the night before so it had the perfect mix of spices.

In part because I wanted a bit more heartiness to it, I did half a cup of quinoa and half a cup of brown rice. (The other reason I’d done that is because that’s all the quinoa I had left…). I barely even noticed the rice when all was said and done, so I might add more of that in the future.

Enchilada

It was like a thoroughly mixed burrito bowl, and in my opinion you can’t go wrong there. The less healthy addition is the lime tortilla chips I used. All in moderation, though…

This week I’ve also decided that I’d like to make more of an effort to branch out of my cooking rut as well. Although the crockpot can be a lifesaver during the week, I also miss cooking. Thanksgiving certainly reminded me of that, but so did the dishes I made this week (though they were quite delicious).

In a crockpot, all the flavors blend together and nothing really stands out, and oddly enough it was the audiobook that made me come to that realization. The author talked about balsamic glazed vegetables and feta cheese sprinkled on spinach salad and buffalo chicken pizza. It sounded so delicious and…clean, for lack of a better word. Crockpot recipes, while convenient and often delicious, don’t feel as fresh and light to me. It might take a bit more planning on my part, but I’m hoping I start limiting my crockpot use.

Beyond that, I’m also aiming to be more intentional (given that is my word for the year…) about where I’m finding my recipes. Don’t get me wrong, Pinterest is great and will still be where I start my recipe search. But I also recognize that I hate and am terrible at tracking what I eat. It seems like such a chore to me and I get really bitter about it. That being said, I feel like if I can be more cognizant of  the nutritional content of dishes before I make them, it might make at least a small difference.

We’ll see how these efforts go. As I said, it may be a bit fruitless given the holiday season is upon us. But sometimes you have to strike while the iron is hot, and my motivation certainly peaked thanks to this book.

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Lap dogs

Apparently I’ve started a new tradition for myself. Last year I did the exact same thing on a Sunday evening — put bacon cheeseburger soup in the crockpot, officially switched my pandora station to Christmas music and decorated my tree. (I should also mention that this was last Sunday evening. I’m apparently a bit behind…)

I also took it as an opportunity to trial-run some Christmas photos with Hurley. He’s not super impressed, but my goodness does he look handsome!

Hurley Xmas

This is probably my third attempt at bacon cheeseburger soup (and heaven forbid I use the same recipe). Hands down, this was definitely my favorite rendition of it. It’s cheating a little since I technical combined two recipes. I started with this recipe as the base and incorporated parts of this one to avoid using half-and-half. It could also be because I used italian sausage instead of ground turkey since it was on sale, and I also used a block of cheese as opposed to shredded cheese. I’ve also decided the sliced carrots are the way to go, and celery was a great addition, too.

Regardless of what made this the winning dish, it was delicious!

Cheeseburger soup

The rest of the week was a blur between work and also trying to learn more about a board of directors. As part of my 30 Before 30 list, I went to a board matching event on Veterans Day. It’s more or less a speed dating approach to meeting nonprofits in the area. I really connected with one director who runs a programs for women experiencing homelessness (double win!), so this past week I not only attended a board meeting but also their big fundraising event. It seems to be a promising match, so stay tuned!

Then more excitement came — I’m a doggie aunt again! Meet Millie Vanillie Bean (to match her older sister Mocha Jo).

Millie

I seriously can’t get over how small and light-weight she is! It’s also strange to have to watch where you’re walking. Hurley’s pretty present (especially in the kitchen), but this 5-month old girl is so small that I’m afraid I’m going to step on her. You can barely feel her resting her head on you or standing on your lap. That will change as she grows (and I know all too well that goes with my little bear) so I’m taking advantage of it while I can. I think it goes without saying that Miss Millie will grow up surrounded by lots of love and cuddles, not to mention some fun-loving labrador mentors. ❤

Hurley hasn’t met her yet, so we’ll see how he reacts to the news. In the meantime, I’ve kept him busy with holiday photos. He was surprisingly better this year than he was last. It only took about 30 minutes tonight, which may as well be a record for us. When he sat on my lap and gave his aunt this look, though, I knew he was done.

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I also confirmed he’s not a fan of his jingle bell collar… At least it’s just a once-a-year event, right? And it pretty much secures his place on the nice list (though I’m probably a bit really biased when it comes to this guy).

Needless to say, we’ve officially kicked off the holiday season in our household!

Transition time

This week my body seemed to be utterly confused. I’m one of those crazy people who tends to turn on the Christmas music after Halloween (I figure there’s a short window for enjoying it so I may as well take full advantage of it). The 70 degree weather made it difficult to even attempt anything related to Christmas, though in no way was I complaining about that!

In fact, it meant I nixed the gym quite a bit to take Hurley on long walks along the trail instead. I figure I’ve got the next 5+ months to hit up spin and BodyCombat classes. How many opportunities am I going to get to make this guy’s day (aside from my typical smothering and spoiling, that is)?

Doggie Trail

Regardless, meal planning gets a bit tricky with the shortened daylight. I opted for a crockpot recipe on Monday so it would require minimal prep time while allowing me to eat dinner at a decent time. This time the winner was a beef stroganoff recipe that caught my attention.

I did appreciate the minimal prep, and it’s the first time I think I’ve ever used cream of onion before (which I’d recommend for dishes like this). This dish seemed to have a lot more flavor than previous stroganoff recipes I’ve tried. I’d been tempted to add peas or some type of vegetable to it (instead of having it on the side or with a salad) but sometimes you just have to let yourself indulge.

Stroganoff

In retrospect I would have cut back on some of the cream (either the cream of mushroom or halving the cream cheese). I’m not sure if my stomach can’t handle creamy foods as much or if I just know the impact heavy foods have on my energy level/workout ability, especially having it as leftovers for lunch. It may be that I picked up on it after day four or five of leftovers, though. I really do need to start cutting some of the recipes I try in half…

On Wednesday I tried an entirely new recipe for me — mini muffuletta meatloaf. I’d never come across anything like this, and it sounded delicious. I did switch out the pepper mix and instead used a black olive bruschetta I found at the grocery store. And I used ground turkey instead, which altered the flavor a bit. I also decided it would be less messy on my end to just cook one loaf.

Meatloaf

I was pleasantly surprised by the recipe, though I shouldn’t have been given all the flavors I love. It was also relatively quick. One thing that typically deters me from recipes like this is trying to find side dishes. I wasn’t quite as successful this time (salad and green beans), though I should have paired it with a baked sweet potato. Oddly enough, I think it would have been a good flavor combination.

The goal for next week is to have meals that are slightly more well-balanced. I’ve realized I tend to gravitate toward Mexican dishes since it’s easier to incorporate a range of foods (vegetables, grains, protein). Perhaps that’s what I’ll find on the docket for next week (along with putting up my Christmas tree since we have a holiday on Wednesday)!

Crockpot season

With all that was going on last week I had a delay in posting the recipes I tried. Coincidentally enough, this week’s recipes were relatively similar so I was able to merge both. I love when things work out like that.

I’m not sure what prompted me to try the healthy buffalo chicken bowl, but that’s how I started last week — mostly because I had chicken on hand and was able to get that going in the crockpot before I even hit the grocery store for the other ingredients. To hopefully make it a bit more filling, I also added quinoa to the chicken bowls, which I think helped.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised how well avocado goes with buffalo chicken. I don’t know that I’d ever intentionally paired the two, but it was delicious! I may attempt to make a wrap out of this for lunches at work. It’s filling with lots of flavor.

Buffalo chicken bowl

On Tuesday I decided to make crockpot mojo pork with cuban style black beans. I figured it was a perfect day to have it cook all day, since donating blood that afternoon meant no gym for me that evening (aka: much earlier dinner time so I wouldn’t have to worry about overcooking or drying it out). Sadly when I got home, I realized I didn’t have the lid all the way on so there were still raw spots…

I put the crockpot on high and used the extra time to take Hurley for a long walk (and to work up an appetite). I’d been really excited about the recipe since I love carnitas and this seemed to be a new twist on it. The little assured me it was delicious when we talked on the phone that night…and I realized as I was about to hang up the phone that I never made the cuban style beans. Fail on my part.

Regardless, it was delicious. And I loved having a different flavor on the pork. Surprisingly the lemon and orange juice didn’t come out quite as strongly as I thought, but that could also be because I had quite a bit of lime with my cilantro lime rice. I can’t seem to help myself!

Mojo pork

Flash forward to this week, and I’m once again using the crockpot. Last night I made crockpot Italian beef sandwiches. This time I didn’t have the roast cook all day, partially because I knew I didn’t want it to reach a point of shredding too easily.

Since I’m not a huge fan of peppers, I didn’t incorporate those into the dish. And as with last week (where has my head been?!), I realized as I was about to dish up that I forgot an ingredient — banana peppers. Instead I put them on the side. Just to try something new, I use havarti cheese instead of provolone (though I love that as well) and both proved to be a great addition.

The salad proved to be a nice contrast with feta cheese, pomegranate and green olives with a balsamic dressing. Full on flavor explosion! I probably would have been better off using a hoagie just from a juice/mess perspective. I also chose the wrong meal to be lazy about using my old placemats. Naturally I’ve got beef broth on the white strip of my placemat. What can you do?

Italian beef

Hurley certainly approved of the meal. I poured a little bit of the beef broth into his dog food for dinner and he licked kept going back to lick it the rest of the night.

Tonight he wasn’t quite as impressed with dinner (not that he got to sample it since it packed some heat). I made a variation of buffalo chicken meatballs recipe that caught my eye over the weekend. By that I mean I made the meatballs almost as directed and then paired it with spaghetti squash so it made for a relatively complete meal. The one modification I did make to the meatball recipe is that I used kale instead of celery (and used my nutribullet since it seemed like too much work to pull out my food processor).

This time I attempted making spaghetti squash differently — in the crockpot, of course. It was actually really nice to throw the squash in there before going to the gym and having it be ready when I got home. After putting the meatballs in the oven to bake, I scooped out the spaghetti squash and added in some cream cheese and the remaining 1/4 cup of buffalo sauce that was supposed to be drizzled over the meatballs.

The timing worked out really well, and I ended up putting the meatballs in the crockpot (in part to get it out of what I assume was the butter from the recipe) to heat it all together.

Crockpot

I wish I wouldn’t have used quite as much cream cheese, but that was my attempt to use up stuff in my fridge before it went bad. Same held true for the sharp cheddar cheese I threw on top. Although it was a bit overkill on the creamy factor, I loved the combination! The meatball recipe would actually make for a really great buffalo turkey burger recipe.

Dinner

There was also an unintended consequence in that I’ve been drinking a ton of water since dinner. Perhaps I should try this recipe again the night before I need to donate blood again. Good way to increase my water intake for sure! Plus it’s the first time I feel like I created my own recipe of sorts. I’d say I’m progressing in my culinary efforts, but this would be coming from a girl who made crockpot recipes for two weeks straight… Tis the season!

New searching technique

I tried something a little different this week when I was searching for new recipes as I made my meal plan for the week. Typically I search for things on Pinterest like “healthy dinner recipes” or “low carb recipes,” depending on what mood strikes. This week, however, I searched for recipes that had great leftovers.

For some reason the first thing that jumped out at me was a crock pot ham and potatoes au grautin recipe. Following my grandma’s funeral when I was in middle school, I was overdosed on scalloped potatoes. For that reason, it’s rare that I crave something like this dish. It’s not that I don’t like it; it’s probably more that I’m indifferent to it.

The one slight modification I made to the recipe is that I didn’t use reduced fat cheese. In part it was because I couldn’t find it at the store and there was no way I was using the fat free cheese. I think I settled on colby jack or mild cheddar — can’t quite remember which.

Cooking it on high resulted in dinner in about three hours, which was perfect timing for a walk with Hurley and a few household tasks. So it wasn’t too much carb overload (particularly for lunch leftovers at work, which would knock me out), I tried to make half of the plate veggies (with lemon pepper, since I love adding that to steamed vegetables).

potatoes

Thankfully the recipe was a success! Tomorrow I’ll be on day three of the leftovers and I have no doubt it will be just as good. It might be a recipe to consider again around the holidays when there’s leftover ham.

The second recipe would be good at any point in the year, though this cool (and glorious) weather seems to be perfect timing for it. Last night I whipped up taco soup, and I’ll admit I was a bit nervous for this one. Mixing beef broth, rotel and cream cheese? I definitely had my doubts. Apparently they were unwarranted, though.

I did add two cans of beans to this as well and was tempted to add corn, but figured I would keep it relatively simple. I love that I could make it in about 20 minutes. Paired with veggie tortillas, this really hit the spot (especially with all the seasonings I added to it).

taco soup

The leftovers of the soup tonight were delicious, so Pinterest proved to be right again. In fact, I almost think the leftovers are better since it had a chance to thicken and the spices were more prominent. Heck, maybe searching this way will help me have more luck in not getting tired of leftovers so quickly… One can only hope!

Ladies night

This is probably a clear sign that I’m getting older, but given how energized I felt after a night of crafting, I’ll take it.

Last night a friend and I decided to have a girls night focused on making a canvas. It’s been something we’d talked about doing for months, and now we’re hoping to make it a monthly event (just in time for holiday crafts!). It was also nice to discover my canvasing skills weren’t too rusty. It’s been probably a year and a half since I’ve made any type of canvas.

We started with dinner — pizza in a crockpot. What was nice is I was able to whip everything up and throw it all in the crockpot before we ran to the craft store. As usual, I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, and I nixed the green peppers. I did throw in mushrooms and black olives, which are typically staples on my pizza. I toyed with the idea of throwing in pineapple but decided against it.

I also made a homemade sauce, using this recipe as a starting point. Of all the foods I’ve made, I’m fairly certain that pasta sauce is my favorite. There’s something magical about it (strange, I know). It’s different each and every time, but it always turns out delicious. And naturally we paired the pasta with some garlic bread.

Crockpot pizza

Next time I make it, I’d probably mix the noodles with the sauce prior to putting it into the crockpot. Although my leftovers may chance that approach. Having the sauce on top of the noodles instead of mixed in, I find, doesn’t dry the sauce out as much for leftovers. We’ll find out tomorrow!

After dinner it was time to get down to business. Before dinner we’d spent roughly an hour at Hobby Lobby trying to figure out what to make. Initially I was just going to mod podge a collection of calendar quotes that I had. Seemed like an easy way to get myself back into the canvasing game (plus I really need to do something with the stack of quotes on my desk…).

But then my brain went into over-drive, as it tends to do when I’m in Hobby Lobby. Plus I had Pinterest loading tons of sample DIY canvas projects. It took some time, but finally I settled on something for the dining room, using these as inspiration:

Inspiration

The color scheme came together a lot easier than I thought. I’d been wanting to incorporate more of an olive green into my house, and the blue helps tie into the living room rug. Plus these two colors offered such a nice contrast to each other.

Crafting

It was the writing part that worried me the most. I’ve used paint markers on a canvas with mixed results, and I didn’t trust myself to write it out with a paint brush. Thankfully in the aisle was an acrylic dimensional writer. It’s similar to paint you’d use on a shirt. After a few trial runs in pencil, I decided to just go for it.

Around that time, Hurley decided to join the party. The poor guy gets anxious during thunderstorms, so I had a sidekick for awhile.

Hurley

What I love about these projects is how quickly they can come together. The paint dries relatively quickly, so I was able to hot glue gun the letters on before going to bed (which these letters coincidentally spell out). I woke up this morning and fell in love with the canvases all over again.

Canvases

I may go back with the hot glue gun again or maybe even super glue to make sure the letters are really bound to the canvas. Once that’s done, though, I’ve got the perfect spot for it in my dining room. I’m itching to hang them up but know I need to be patient…

I’ll be sure to post more photos in a week or so. I may even have a photo of the canvases my friend was working on, too, since I loved her concept. More importantly, though, in a week I should be able to showcase the DIY project that middle and I have been working on (for what seems like forever now…). I literally am giddy about starting one of the last two tasks today!

Crock pot recipes to the rescue

I’m finally DONE!

May was rough, but I almost feel like that was a training program for the last few weeks. A series of deadlines and work travels had me burning the midnight oil and using up any ounce of brain capacity (not to mention free time) I had.

Thankfully on late Friday afternoon, I got to submit my huge evaluation report (48 single-spaced pages of pure text plus 27 attachments) and the evaluation plan for this next grant year (another 30 pages). It was exhausting, but the silver lining is that my love for evaluation runs deep. Even as I was submitting the report, I was thinking about how we could do it differently for next year. Quality improvement at it’s finest!

Needless to say, I took the weekend (and the first two days of the week) to celebrate and let my mind relax. As an aside, if you’re near a Cheesecake Factory, you should try the blueberry white chocolate cheesecake. It was delicious, and both of us were surprised when our server told us they were taking it off the menu. I may need to venture there again before that happens…

cheesecake

My efforts to stay somewhat healthy amidst the stress didn’t pan out quite like I’d hoped, though what can you do? At least I tried to get a few homemade meals in the mix. I started last week with a crockpot beef stew. Despite the heat, for some reason this sounded like it would really hit the spot.

Plus this was the first beef stew recipe (I think) where I’ve used mushrooms. I actually sautéed them first, but otherwise I followed the recipe as is (this is also one of the first beef stew recipes where I’ve used tomato soup). Paired with sourdough bread, I definitely had some home cooked comfort food to get me through the week.

beef stew

This weekend I made parmesan chicken in the crockpot. I meant to make it earlier in the week, but better late than never right? It was something I’d been craving the week before during my work travels, but it was never on the menu. Thankfully this was really easy to whip up, though normally I think I’d prefer making my own spaghetti sauce.

It probably doesn’t make a huge difference, but I used chicken tenderloin. It seemed to make it easier to coat the chicken to have a good chicken to breading ratio, and it made it a little easier to eat. I threw this into the crockpot before going to work on a DIY project (should hopefully have that post up in about two weeks – it’s been a long time coming!), which made the house smell fantastic by the time I got back with the dogs.

parmesan chicken

It’s also nice that you throw on the mozzarella cheese right around the time you start making the pasta (I went with whole wheat linguine), so the timing works out really well.

parmesan chicken2

The next item on the docket? Meal planning for the week. Now that I’ve let myself splurge and get off schedule for the last few weeks, it’s time to buckle down and get more intention about life (more on that soon!).

Food oddities

A blog post on a Saturday night? Only because my hope is to crawl into bed early tonight so I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the 5K tomorrow… Woof.

Tonight I was trying to avoid eating out so that I could stick to my goal of eating out only once a week this month. In comes the slow cooker pulled pork recipe. I think I’ve tried a similar recipe, though this one included chicken broth.

I couldn’t find sugar-free BBQ sauce like the recipe mentioned, so I opted for a new mesquite flavored one. Definite win.

Pulled pork

To complement the pulled pork (though I was tempted to put it on my sandwich) I made an apple and poppy seed coleslaw. As a confession, I love coleslaw. Like I’ve been known to go to the grocery store just to pick up a container of coleslaw… I was a little nervous to try this tangy variation, but it turned out to be fantastic. I did cheat a bit, though, and got the coleslaw mix instead of getting the cabbage and carrots individually. Seemed a bit easier and more cost-effective.

Apple coleslaw

I also couldn’t resist fresh green beans and that really hit the spot. Another food oddity of mine? Putting lemon pepper on most vegetables. I kid you not, it’s delicious. Plus it was a really great contrast to the coleslaw.

Final meal

I’m not sure if that’s what you constitute as carb loading (or if that’s even a thing for just a 5K…), but the dinner was perfect for a Saturday night in this evening.

Cravings and favorites

Here it is, only the second week of June, and I’ve already made more new recipes than I did in all of May. Things are definitely starting to get back on track, and thank goodness for that!

For some reason I’d been craving Chinese food. With my goal of only eating out once each week, I thought it was safer (given it was only Monday…) to make my own dish. I decided to try skinny orange chicken with quinoa. I’m pretty sure I’ve made something similar to this, but the sauce on this was much thicker, which I appreciated.

Orange chicken

It didn’t quite get rid of my craving (I think because I wanted fried rice or lo mein noodles, but quinoa felt like the better choice) though I was really impressed with the leftovers. With such thick sauce, it was packed full of flavor up until the last serving of leftovers. At that point I’d also added some broccoli as well.

Later in the week I thought about making the black bean tacos I made about a year ago that I absolutely loved. As I scoured pinterest for the recipe or something similar, I found honey-lime sweet potato, black bean and corn tacos. Given I love all those things, I decided to give it a whirl.

What was really nice about the recipe is it literally took me 15 minutes. In part it was short prep time because I didn’t bake or broil the sweet potatoes. Instead I sautéed them on the stove along with the onions. I got back from a run with Hurley around 7, and I was eating by 7:20. That’s my kind of prep.

sweet potato taco

In part I mention the prep time on the tacos because, despite being a rock pot recipe, this recipe took a bit longer to pull together than I thought, though it’s entirely of my own doing.

 

Somewhat as a sidenote, I love Swedish meatballs. Love them. Growing up, one of my mom’s friends made fantastic Swedish meatballs and I always wondered what her secret was. My version was simply browning meat, adding in the sauce packet from the grocery store and milk, then mixing it with egg noodles. Good, but definitely not anything to write home about.

Monday evening I decided to try slow cooked Swedish meatballs. As I mentioned, I made the process a bit more complicated for myself. For starters, I decided to make own meatballs using ground turkey. It didn’t take long, but it’s usually a bit messy (at least for me) to blend in all the seasonings and bread crumbs so it’s thoroughly mixed.

I also made the decision to make my own gravy. They were the packets from HyVee, mind you, but it was half the price of the jars of gravy and seemed a bit more legit since I’d be “making” it. And making gravy demands my full attention. I’ve been accused of ruining Thanksgiving or Christmas gravy one too many times, count, so that’s one cooking task where I don’t dare multi-task.

Once it was all in the crockpot, it was smooth sailing. I got back from my 5K training with Hurley and the kitchen smelled heavenly.

Swedish meatballs

I’ll admit I wasn’t as over the moon with it as I thought I would be on Monday night. Then today for lunch I had leftovers. Holy Toledo. So delicious! The gravy/sauce thickened up and it was the perfect blend. Even in the photo from Monday night you can tell the sauce is a bit runny and didn’t really stick to the pasta. But today it did. I still can’t get over the difference between the two. If it increases the odds of me finishing off leftovers, though, I’ll take it!

Then came my favorite recipe — healthy blueberry banana bread. Blueberries were on sale at the grocery store, and berries are something I can rarely turn down. I’d already done my typical blueberries in oatmeal, cereal and salads. Why not bread too?

Blueberry banana bread

I think this was one of my first times using applesauce in bread, and it turned out surprisingly well. But then again, it’s got blueberries and oatmeal. What’s not to love (at least for me)? It’s proving to be the perfect snack at work, too (very needed today given I was in back-to-back meetings for seven hours today).

And given my long day, I’m off to curl up with Hurley, a mug of hot tea and a new book. Perfect soon-to-be-stormy evening.

Starting fresh

I knew going into May that the month was going to be a marathon, not a sprint. And I was absolutely right. Although I’m finally feeling like I can catch my breath, my brain is still playing catch-up (aided heavily by coffee). Long story short, this blog post is a bit lengthy but provides mostly includes snippets and photos (primarily because I’d been updating it throughout May so I wouldn’t lose the recipe links).

As mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, the month started out with travel frustrations and a sinus infection that knocked me on my ass. I honestly don’t remember the last time I felt that sick. It did, however, provide the perfect opportunity to try a spinach tortellini tomato soup.

Tomato tortillini

My view is probably a bit tainted in that I couldn’t really taste anything. I think I just prefer soups that have a bit more substance, though, so making it more like a chili would be more up my alley. At least it hit the spot for my sore throat.

I tried to get up and running the next week with helping the middle paint and move into her new house. It also coincided with work picking up for our CDC site visit. To keep myself going that week, I made a slow cooker turkey and wild rice casserole. I figured it was a good way to have some comfort food while also getting in some protein and veggies. It was hard to talk myself into eating leftovers after a long day, but it was much easier than having to whip up something else and less expensive than eating out (again).

Turkey rice

The three days of the site visit proved to be exhausting but oddly enough energizing. It was great to put faces with names and have two-way dialogue about our work. I’m not one who’s typically comfortable tooting my own horn, but I also had a fantastic #careergoal (as they say) moment during that visit. Twice (on the first day, no less) CDC staff jokingly asked if I would move to Atlanta. I also get to be part of a pilot evaluation project, which I’m beyond excited about. Have I mentioned I love what I do?

I’m also still loving my involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association. The third week in May wasn’t as hectic work-wise but volunteering picked up with two evening meetings (naturally it was the only month where both the committee meetings fell in the same week). One of those, however, was primarily a crafting meeting. My committee decided to create promotional fans for the Jazz in June events that we have a booth for each Tuesday night in June. I love having such a creative bunch!

ALZ fans

Then came the really hard part of the month. One week after the middle moved, my parents started their moving process. (We almost hit the trifecta given I moved just two months ago, so lots of life changes.) This one was a bit harder in that we’d been there for 23 years. It’s hard to say goodbye to your childhood home, especially with how much we all loved it, but there’s some excitement in the opportunity for a fresh start. Last weekend we also squeezed in a wedding and family photos, which turned out super cute. I especially love this sisters picture, taken by Perry Imagery. The funny thing is all three of us saw a similar photo on pinterest and loved it. Before we even had a chance to suggest it, the photographer lined us up and got the shot.

sisters

Needless to say, last week I’d reached my limit. Not even coffee helped refuel my mind or body. Enter the sour cream noodle bake. Comfort food that’s simple to make and reheats well. It was almost a cross between spaghetti pie and the lasagna skillet I made a couple months ago. The sour cream was an interesting twist, but I didn’t not like it. It certainly kept it creamier than I think it would have been otherwise for leftovers.

Pasta

Heading into the weekend, I finally started to get back on track. I even tried a Jazzercise class (though much prefer my Combat and spin classes, which were pretty hit and miss in May…) and started spring cleaning my house given it’d been relatively neglected for a month.

And through it all, I snuggled up on Hurley any chance I got. He’s been a trooper with all my schedule fluctuations and traveling. (If he doesn’t look overly happy in that photo, it’s because he isn’t. He was picking on his cousin so mama stepped in to break them apart for a few minutes. The fact that he stayed in that position for a few minutes is pretty impressive.)

Hurley

To say I’m ready for normalcy again (if there even is a normal) is an understatement. I’ve decided to give myself a fresh start this month, focusing heavily on self-care. I’ve also made it a goal (for health and financial reasons) to only eat out one time each week in June. Oh, and there’s also that 5K in two weeks. Because who wouldn’t let the middle talk her into training for a 5K in the midst of everything else? YOLO?

Marathon May, completed.

(I almost feel like I should quote Chevy Chase from Christmas Vacation — “Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?”)

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