Creating the first week

I think I’m in the honeymoon phase, if you will, of the new year (and not just because I finally have a functional laptop!). I actually think Brene Brown described it perfectly on facebook the other day:

brene

This week I’ve been slowly getting back into the routine while incorporating my new habits. I love using the Day One app each evening and I think my nightly routine may pay off over time. Thinking back, there was only one evening where the alarm had to prompt me to start gearing down for bed (and I was so proud for wrapping up what I was doing and actually getting ready for bed).

I’ve become more conscious of the time and have found myself starting the process much earlier. Monday night right after dinner, for example, I curled up on the couch with Hurley and Brene Brown’s book while a fireplace Netflix video played on my television. Way more enjoyable than trying to be productive!

Tuesday night

Even better is that I’ve been in bed by 10:15 every night this week. That’s huge for me.

I’ve also made another change in the new year in an attempt to simplify my life a bit. For lunches, instead of bringing leftovers, I’m aiming to stick to salads, soups and/or sandwiches. I’ll admit I’ve resisted this kind of approach for quite some time. I worried (and to some degree still do) that I’ll tire of it quickly. How am I going to stick with the same types of food day in and day out?

By having variety, that’s hopefully how. I decided to start off with a bang this week, which may or may not work in my favor with this new habit.

On Sunday evening I got everything ready — hoagie buns and avocados along with Tupperware for cracked pepper turkey, spicy mustard, cabbage and black olives for sandwiches. I prepped the salad as much as I could with lettuce, mandarin oranges and a hardboiled egg, then used Tupperware for my homemade dressing (purchased a blueberry vinegar and it’s fan-freakin’-tastic) and sunflower seeds.

It took some time, but I had everything ready for nearly the whole week’s worth of lunches. And what I really love is that everything seems so fresh when it comes time for lunch. It only takes a couple minutes to get everything put together, and I’m way more excited about this lunch than I ever was for a majority of my leftovers.

lunches

What’s also nice is that it’s cut down on how much I’m cooking, which certainly adds to my evenings. Last night, for example, I made a turkey taco casserole. It took probably 20 minutes to throw together before it baked (I added in the kidney beans).

Taco casserole

Taco casserole dinner

Even though I started cooking right when I got home from spin class, I didn’t sit down to eat dinner until shortly after 8. By the time I’ve eaten and cleaned up, I barely have any evening left to enjoy. That’s partially how I end up burning the midnight oil, since it’s not until nearly 8:30 or 9 that I can start cramming in my non-cooking tasks for the evening.

That also brings up an affiliated goal. For each new recipe I try, I want to make something (or ideal a few things to have a better ratio) I already know. I’ve already created a list of 10 meals that don’t require me to look at any recipe — pasta dishes, tacos, homemade pizza, etc.  This week, for example, I made the spaghetti and turkey meatballs recipe I tried a couple weeks ago. Made it on Sunday and used the leftovers for dinner this week.

I really went back and forth on whether this was something I wanted to do. As much as I love cooking and trying new recipes, it’s not necessarily conducive to my lifestyle anymore. I got into the habit of trying two new recipes a week when I lived in Columbia. At that time, though, I didn’t have a dog and the only gym classes I went to were on Sundays, Tuesday mornings and Wednesday evenings.

Life now is very different, particularly in terms of my schedule. I want time in the evenings to be with Hurley and there’s a specific class at the gym I could, if I wanted to, attend each day of the week (and I make a point to get to the classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings). That puts more restrictions on how much time I have to actually cook. And quite frankly, I’m tired of eating at 8 or 8:30 in the evenings. With leftovers for dinner instead of lunch, I’m eating by 7:15. It adds almost a whole hour to my evening (which I think Hurley already appreciates given he’s not thrilled mama is back to work).

Like I said, I could just be in the honeymoon phase of the new year. Regardless, though, I’m already enjoying the new habits that are freeing up my time and helping me feel a bit more balanced. I’d consider that a success for week one!

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.

2015-11-26 11.57.14.jpg

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.

Learning to hit pause

It always surprises me that, at least for me, health is generally the first thing to fall to the wayside once stress hits. It generally means half-assed (or no) workouts, lack of sleep and, perhaps worst of all, resorting to quick and often unhealthy meals. And all of this only makes my stress/attitude worse.

I knew I was approaching a particularly stressful time with work. I’ve got two big evaluation deadlines on August 14, and unfortunately my schedule is also packed with trainings that take me out of the office — including 6-day one in California next week. You know it’s bad (though incredibly sweet and touching!) when co-workers start leaving you chocolate because they know all that’s on your plate… (Random side note: it was pure coincidence that they got me the same type of chocolate!)

chocolate

So like I said, my health tends to fall to the wayside (though dark chocolate is healthy, right?!). I’ve been trying to avoid these pitfalls with lots of planning, particularly when it comes to meals. Last week I kicked off my Monday with a one pan cheesy chicken broccoli rice recipe. It wasn’t overly time consuming and I had nearly everything on hand, which is always a bonus.

I swiped out the white rice for brown, and the extra sharp cheddar cheese is the way to go. It was a perfect blend, plus the broccoli cooked perfectly. It was so delicious that I ate all my leftovers throughout the week, serving it’s purpose quite nicely.

broccoli cheese skillet

Unfortunately I still managed to eat out almost every day last week, in part because I was at a two-day training where lunch was on your own. One dinner, however, was entirely worth it. I lucked out in that one of my college roommates was having a quick family getaway to Omaha, a mere 50 minutes away!

liz and kayla

I can’t even tell you what a kickstart that was to my week and attitude. Like she mentioned on her blog, we were laughing the second I got out of my car. It was amazing to me that despite how much has changed in the last seven years, we still had similar mannerisms, attitudes and depth to our conversation. Plus I got to meet her adorable baby boy!

What’s also been fantastic, so I’ll put in a plug for this, is that we write handwritten letters to each other. A few years back when I was doing the happiness project, I made it a goal one month to reach out to people I’d lost touch with over the years. Thankfully this fabulous lady was totally on board for exchanging letters. Not only is it a great way to stay connected, but it also gets me to slow down and reflect on my life. Certainly sending an email or facebook message would be much faster, as would just keeping up on one another’s blog. But I’m telling you, there’s so much value in writing a legit letter.

I’ll get off my soapbox now…

I used the weekend to regroup a bit, including more meal planning. Wanting to start the week off right again, last night I made a Korean beef quinoa bowl. I almost didn’t make it because my mind and body were shot after spin…but when I saw it only took about 20 minutes to make, I knew I could suck it up.

It probably isn’t technically Korean beef given I used ground turkey, but I think that’s the only modification I made. Throw in a side of veggies, and I was set within 25 minutes. I’m happy to say it was very much worth the effort — and now I’ve got relatively healthy leftovers for the week, too!

korean beef

I will say I added in a bit more soy sauce to better mix the quinoa and ground turkey, but otherwise the leftovers worked really well.

Although I can’t say I’m even close to creating a good work-life balance during stressful times, I’m definitely making more of an effort than I have in years past. Speaking of balance, though, I’ve got an adorable yellow laborador who’s ready to distract me with a walk and exciting game of tug. If nothing else, he’s a big proponent of striving for that work-life balance — and makes it easier for me, too!

Beauty in Books 8 and the secret of life

I couldn’t entirely decide which direction to take this post, so I can’t promise it will be cohesive or flow well (and it definitely won’t be short). But it’s something that I’m slowly connecting the dots on in my own mind and wanted to share.

About a week ago the middle and I were watching Girl Meets World (you can laugh, but the show is surprisingly good and very reminiscent of our TGIF days). One of the episodes focused on discovering the secret of life, which Cory Matthews claims is simply that “People change people.”

In some ways that’s very true. I couldn’t even begin to count how many people have shaped and influenced me, whether they’re family members, teachers, colleagues or even dogs. Throughout my entire life, people have absolutely changed me.

I’d argue, though, that another big secret of life (and one I think we often forget) is that you can change yourself.

A few years ago, when I was probably 40 pounds heavier and hadn’t fallen in love with group fitness classes, I asked the middle if she could ever see me, honestly and realistically, running a 5K. After a few moments passed, she said no. I can’t remember her exact explanation, but it essentially boiled down to the fact that while I probably physically could someday, I didn’t seem to have the gumption to actually train and accomplish it. And she was right. At my size, I honestly didn’t believe I could.

Liz

(As a total side note, I sent this to the middle and the little about two years ago as part of our Woof Wednesday health motivation emails. The little replied with a “From what corner of hell are you dragging these out?” Reading it still cracks me up! And I should probably apologize for now making it public…)

Flash forward to yesterday, where the middle and I ran a 5K together. It’s my second one, though this one had far less training on my part but surprisingly a much faster time. That’s change, my friends.

Kolor Run

I firmly believe you can change yourself, but I think it’s important to know yourself first. A co-worker and fellow life chatter of mine has a quote on her desk that we often reflect on that, in some ways, applies here — to be a good leader, you have to know people. To know people, you have to know yourself.

In comes Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It essentially outlines a range of research about building and sustaining habits, in part based on your personality. This is a succinct version, but I was struck by the four tendencies she outlines at the beginning of the book. Not surprisingly, I’m an obliger. (The middle is likely a rebel, which is why she did a whopping two runs before showing up for the 5K yet still kicked butt.)

That’s when things started clicking for me. A little more than a year ago I posted about my weightloss journey and mentioned a big part of my success has been because of group fitness classes. Finding physical activity I love to do did make a big difference. But do you know what I think made a bigger difference? Having that external accountability from the instructor and others in the class.

“Because Obligers resist inner expectations, it’s difficult for them to self-motivate — to work on a PhD thesis, to attend networking events, to get their car serviced. Obligers depend on external accountability, with consequences such a deadlines, late fees, or the fear of letting other people down. … Obligers need external accountability even for activities that they want to do.” (pg. 22)

Even though I love kickboxing and spin, a huge motivator for me is knowing I’ve got instructors who will ask where I’ve been if I’ve missed one too many classes. Heck, I love that my old kickboxing instructor in Columbia “likes” all the activities I log on MyFitnessPal. It’s why I religiously track my workouts in Excel and love my FitBit. I need that external accountability. In the case of the 5K, it was having a specific date for the run and knowing the middle was counting on me.  That’s what works for me (though knowing this years ago likely would have saved me a lot of time and energy…).

There’s another concept within the book that really resonated with me as well. It’s this notion that often our habits and behavior are in line with what others think of us and what we think of ourselves.

“Research shows that we tend to believe what we hear ourselves say, and the way we describe ourselves influences our view of our identify, and from there, our habits. If I say, ‘I’m lazy,’ ‘I can’t resist a sale,’ ‘I’ll try anything once,’ ‘I never start work until the last minute,’ or ‘I’m lucky,’ those ideas become part of my identity, which in turn influences my actions.” (pg. 239)

Just a few sentences later I had another a-ha moment: “For years, I thought of myself as someone who ‘hates exercise,’ but at some point I realized that I hated sports. … Thinking of myself as someone who ‘enjoys exercise’ allowed me to change the way I viewed my nature, and that helped me to become a regular exerciser.” (pg. 240)

That’s exactly how I was. It required a mindset shift on my part. Just because I disliked sports and gym class growing up didn’t mean I had to dislike all exercise for the rest of my life. Hell, I’ve reached a point where I almost identify myself as a jogger (and I say jogger because running still seems a bit too intense and implies that I’m fast, which is again an identity thing). It almost reminds me of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Continually tell yourself you’re not able to do a 5K and, chances are, you’re not going to be able to.

It’s all incredibly fascinating to me, but the thing I always want to keep in mind is that it’s still up to me to make that change. I show up. I push myself. I make it part of my life. I’ve had and still have people supporting and motivating me, but ultimately it was me that had to change. And I think that’s why Rubin’s book resonated with me so much. It’s about recognizing your preferences, identifying potential pitfalls and barriers, then finding ways to work around it so that you can create an environment and lifestyle that’s consistent with your goals.

Perhaps knowing that you can change yourself isn’t such a big secret to life. Maybe it’s just that we need a few tricks up our sleeve and reminders of our amazing capability to do so. And I definitely had a good reminder of that yesterday.

Technology bust

I picked probably one of the worst weekends to go technology free. What I thought would be a relaxing experience ended with me angrily throwing in the towel and cursing the entire situation (namely my stubbornness and stupidity). But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last Wednesday I decided I was going to unplug for the weekend. Part of me wanted to be able to cross it off my 30 Before 30 List, but mostly I was looking forward to a break. My brain was on professional and personal overload for most of January, and I hated that I felt so glued to my phone and laptop between the whole house-hunting process and deadlines at work. A break from all the screens and keyboards is just what I needed.

(I should mention that while I went technology free, I still used my Roku to stream movies and Pandora. Primarily I wanted to get away from the constant information overload the false sense of productivity I typically get just for keeping up with emails. Plus the thought of not having any music or noise in the house for an entire weekend creeped me out a bit.)

At 5:40 p.m. on Friday, I shut my phone off and shoved it into a drawer. And up until about Saturday afternoon, I felt really great about not using that or my computer. I didn’t feel as rushed and suddenly my to-do list seemed a lot smaller since I couldn’t use my laptop. Time that would have been spent on pinterest was instead spent reading with Hurley curled up right next to me. Even playing with Hurley was better since I wasn’t texting or refreshing my facebook feed in the other hand.

But imagine my surprise when it started snowing around 9:30 on Saturday morning and by 3 p.m. was still going. Last I’d checked my weather app, there was only a small chance of snow flurries on Sunday. Imagine my bigger surprise when the cashier at HyVee later that afternoon said we were supposed to get 4-5 inches.

Sure enough, I woke up to 7.5 inches of wet, heavy snow on Sunday morning. I dug myself out (slowly and painfully) with plenty of time to get ready for BodyCombat. And that’s when I lost it.

After braving the slick streets, I got to the gym only to find out all classes had been cancelled — except for a special two-hour BodyCombat session being held so two new instructors could tape a class for their certification process. Naturally that was wrapping up in 30 minutes. It goes without saying that I wasn’t amused as the gym manager told me all of this. “Didn’t you get the email or see our update on facebook?”

Under normal circumstances, yes, I would have. I would have been at the two hour class. Or I would have nixed it entirely had I known how crappy the roads and weather were. But I wasn’t about to go into my whole “I’m technology free this weekend!” spiel with this poor guy. At that moment, I’d had enough.

In the end, I did make it a full 48 hours without a computer and I was just a few hours shy of reaching that point with my phone. But at what cost?

It’s one thing to take a break from the constant consumption. That part I didn’t mind. What I didn’t like, though, was feeling in the dark when it came to my safety and schedule. The power went off twice on Saturday night. We were in a winter storm warning and then a wind advisory. The interstate was closed, meaning the middle’s volleyball tournament in Omaha was cancelled. And I knew none of this because I wouldn’t let myself cave and turn on my damn phone. In this particular instance, ignorance was not bliss. It was annoying frustrating and, frankly, just not smart.

Perhaps once the weather and crappy roads aren’t a thorn in my side (which probably won’t be until next weekend…) I won’t feel as bitter about my technology free weekend experience. I mean, the first part of the weekend was quite successful. It was nice to prioritize my time and attention in a different way (which I know Hurley loved). There was certainly some value in unplugging and giving myself that break.

If nothing else, I’ve learned a valuable lesson (don’t screw with Nebraska winter weather) while gaining insights about how I use technology in my everyday life. I feel better knowing that, at least with my phone, it’s moreso about meal planning, grocery shopping lists, checking weather and making plans with people. The time suck that is my laptop could use some work, but I know that’s something I can be more intentional about this year.

For now, though, I’m off to use the wonderful thing that is technology to see if my spin class is still going to be held tonight. Imagine that!

Go big before going home?

I often joke that I workout so that I can be more a little (or in some cases, a lot) more flexible with what I eat. This week is certainly proof of that, even before the Thanksgiving holiday hits. Thankfully (or perhaps not) this morning officially kicked off the “we’re going to work you extra hard because it’s Thanksgiving” instructor punishment at the gym. Woof.

Initially I’d planned to make this dish last week but ended up eating out more than I thought thanks to a two-day work training. Not wanting to throw out perfectly good vegetables, I decided to make a skinny chicken and broccoli casserole for lunch. And to think I would have missed out on this recipe!

I did make one minor addition in that I added green peas to it and only had unsweetened almond milk. One of the potential downsides (though it could be an error on my end, especially given the type of milk I used) is that it turned out somewhat soupy for me. But it wasn’t anything a little brown rice couldn’t fix. It’d be really good with pasta, actually, but I didn’t want to push my limits…

casserole

I kept my portion small knowing what I had in store for dinner: crockpot bacon cheeseburger soup. Don’t ask. I found it on pinterest a couple days ago and figured this was as good a time as any to give it a shot. Plus it meant I could use up the potatoes and carrots that I still had from the beef stew I made last weekend. I did use turkey bacon and Italian ground turkey, though that probably doesn’t make it that much healthier…

cheeseburger soup

I know what some of you may be thinking. Pickles? In soup? Really? But it was surprisingly good. Almost like adding banana peppers to nachos or a taco. The soup was better than I anticipated, and I’m really digging my crockpot capabilities now that I’ve got a larger one. Now let’s hope I can practice some moderation and keep pushing myself in gym classes before I really indulge on Thanksgiving…

Chow down central

So…does carbo loading count when it’s post-workout?

No? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what I ended up doing last night…

The recipe I intended to make before I got side-tracked by the zucchini dish earlier this week was a chicken broccoli and mushroom stir-fry. I didn’t follow the directions quite as planned in that I put everything in the pan at once. I guess technically I started cooking the chicken first, but then I figured it would save time and dishes if I just cooked/sautéed it all together. Priorities, right?

 

Otherwise the only real modification I made was throwing in some crushed red pepper, among a few other seasonings. And sadly I couldn’t track down ginger (which I love!) at the grocery store, so I opted for ginger seasoning instead. It surprisingly did the trick. There was just enough spice to add flavor but not too much.

stir fry

I probably should have waited until it cooled down or at least stopped steaming before I tried to get a photo of it…

It was completely my intent to pair it with brown rice to keep it somewhat on the healthy side. Then I spotted the wheat angel hair pasta and decided to run with that instead (though I wish I would have had a slightly thicker noodle to make it more like a lo mein). Given how much sauce I ended up with, I’m glad I went with pasta — if only because it really hit the spot.

stir fry 2

I’m not sure if it was a rough spin class or what, but I couldn’t get enough. Thank goodness I’d already portioned out the leftovers or I really would have been in trouble…

Thankful Thursday #13

I’ve been meaning to get the Thankful Thursday posts going again, but it’s felt a little overwhelming with everything I’ve been thankful for as of late. I can’t even really explain how lucky I’ve been, especially with how well and quickly things came together this year. Suffice it to say I’m still eternally grateful about being a doggie mama who’s seven minutes away from the middle and has the job she’d described as her dream/ideal position for the last five years. Rarely do I forget to count my blessings.

Phew. All that being said, I can get back to the simplicity of this series.

Today I’m thankful for something relatively small. And I literally mean small: my FitBit.

There are certainly pros and cons to it. It’s a product that’s gotten a lot of hype and there’s a lot of chatter about which brands/products are better and if it’s really worth it. I wasn’t even aware of it until my dad put it on his Christmas wish-list, at which point I immediately put it on mine.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not for everyone. I do know that it does wonders for me, though. As someone who loves data and setting goals (especially when it comes to health and self-improvement), this little device is perfect. It allows me to track my amount of physical activity (or lack thereof) and sleep (or again, my lack thereof) on a consistent basis to see how I’m doing.

I wrote earlier this year about what an eye-opener my FitBit was in those first few weeks. I’m all about health and consistently get to the gym. But that doesn’t do me a whole lot of good when the rest of the day I sit. And sit. And sit some more. I wasn’t leading quite the active lifestyle I thought I was, and that became very apparent.

That’s when lap-walking at the office became a thing. A few times a day, myself and whoever was feeling up to it would walk laps around the board room (I would not at all be surprised if we wore a path down on the rug…). It’s a habit that continues for me even now. Right around mid-morning each day, my new counterpart (also another L name, which makes me chuckle a bit) and I lace up our tennis shoes and walk laps in the basement of our building. Beyond just getting in those extra steps (and believe me, they add up), it’s also a great time for brainstorming, de-stressing and just chatting. And that change helps with my overall health, not just the physical activity.

When I got my weekly stats email just a few days ago, I couldn’t help but be thankful that my dad got me a FitBit for the holidays. Granted, my higher numbers are also impacted by the nicer (on some days, anyway) weather, having to park in a parking garage two blocks from the office and having Hurley as a walking buddy. But even so, it’s pretty great progress that I attribute in large part to my FitBit. We’re talking double and triple some amounts compared to my first week.

Jan fitbit

 

fitbit

I’d like to think the lap walking and concentrated effort to walk more (and throughout the day instead of just relying on one workout) would continue without the FitBit. But I can almost guarantee that if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be as committed. There’s something about seeing those numbers and getting that weekly email that keeps me motivated. (Now if only I would be more goal-oriented with my amount of sleep…)

Coincidentally enough, on the day I decided to blog about my FitBit, I got an email about a new red FitBit Flex. Not only am I obsessed with the color, but some of the proceeds (albeit small) go to the American Heart Association (heart disease prevention is one of my areas of interest in public health). To say I’m tempted is an understatement, in part because I want to see if I like it better than the FitBit One I currently have. Today I convinced myself to be thankful for what I have and not buy the new FitBit. But tomorrow is a new day…

Regardless of the brand or specific product, though, I’m thankful I’ve got this little gadget. While I can’t say it’s translated into weight-loss, it definitely makes me more aware of my overall health and helps me improve it. It might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely a great tool for me.

Saturday night in

For some reason I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking on Saturdays. It could be that the combination of BodyCombat and the dog park in the morning gets me energized for the day.

(Side note: I was really bummed last month when I had to say goodbye to my favorite kickboxing, zumba and spinning instructors. Just when I’m adjusting to new instructors, I found out today was my favorite BodyCombat instructor’s last class and the zumba instructor I really like is leaving in three weeks. Seriously?!)

Anyway…this evening I was on dog duty so I decided to make garlic parmesan chicken lasagna bake. Needless to say, I had a captive audience.

helpers

I decided to make one modification that I started to second guess after the damage was already done. While the butter was melting for the sauce, I threw in mushrooms to sauté them a bit for the lasagna bake. Thankfully it turned out fine and I’m glad I added them, but I wasn’t sure if that would mess with the consistency of the sauce.

Although I was really nervous about the sauce (I’ve mentioned before that the whole butter/milk/flour sauce mixture rarely works for me), luck must have been on my side. It was a little questionable when I got clumps after adding the flour. But adding the milk in one cup at a time and throwing in a whole bunch of seasonings (why is it that most recipes call for so little seasonings?! Or am I just the weird one?) did the trick. It thickened well and thankfully wasn’t runny like my other attempts have been.

When I added the breadcrumbs to the top at the end, I also decided to add cheddar cheese. It felt like it might need that extra pop of flavor, and that proved to be the case. I wish I would have added more seasoning or even cheese to the sauce to give it more oopmh, but lesson learned. It’s definitely the top layer that sells the lasagna bake.

lasagna bake

I’m not entirely sure if I’ll get through all the leftovers, but it was definitely a dish worth trying.

Interesting twist

Tonight’s dinner prep and execution required a bit more finangling than I bargained for when I initially had the idea… I’d say it was a pinterest fail, but I can’t really say where I went wrong.

When I let the middle and her boyfriend know I was making parmesan meatloaf at some point this week, both of them were up for trying it. Not wanting too many leftovers, it seemed like a fabulous dinner night.

Given all my indulging last weekend when the parents were in town (I’m happy to report they loved little Hurley, too!), it was in my best interest to get to one of my favorite gym classes tonight. The only difficulty was that it was at 5:30…and I now have a dog. It seemed unfair to leave him home for the work day and then some.

Thankfully the middle invited Hurley over to see my little doggie niece while we went to class, so I planned accordingly. I made the pasta sauce on Monday night, using the linked sauce from the parmesan meatloaf as a basis. Once I got home from work, I whipped up the meatloaf and had everything ready to be put in the oven. Her boyfriend put the meatloaf in the oven while we were in class and, had the timing work out the way I’d planned, we would have been back just in time to cook the pasta and eat.

Unfortunately after it had been baking for an hour, it still wasn’t done. Or anywhere close to done. The center was completely rare and, according to the meat thermometer, 40 degrees lower than it should have been at to be considered even remotely done.

Seriously?

Being impatient and hungry, we decided to speed up the process. I cut the loaf into slices and laid them out in a baking pan, at which point we put them back into the oven on broil Probably 15 minutes later, they were ready for cheese. Then it finally looked edible.

meatloaf

The final product looked more like pasta and meatballs…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At least the meatloaf had lots of flavor (I probably quadrupled the amount of seasonings listed in the recipe…) and we were able to enjoy a great Italian dinner.

pasta

Like I said, this ended up being a bit more work than I bargained for and it doesn’t score any points on presentation. But I can’t deny it was a pretty good meal and now I’ve only got two meals worth of leftovers. Always look on the bright side, right?

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