Monthly Archives: January 2010

Dog Days of Winter

The birthday party for Pop-Pop has been postponed because of the winter storm that seems to be hitting the entire state of Virginia today.  I left early on Friday, so I could miss the storm that was only supposed to hit the central and southern parts of VA.  My brothers told me the DC area was only supposed to get a “light dusting”, but as you can see this is no light dusting! 

 

Although I am very disappointed that I can’t celebrate this evening with my entire family, I decided to have a little fun anyway!

I dressed in a crazy assemblage of whatever snow clothes I could find: oversized snow pants, miss-matched gloves, my dad’s snow boots, and my very own ski coat.  Then, because no one else would play with me, I played with the dogs. 

Did a little “Pants on the Ground” dance!

 

Any resemblance????

Hahaha!  Sorry, I couldn’t resist! 

And now the dogs are pooped (Lucy is curled up under the covers between them)! 

While the dogs nap, I think I’ll drink a cup of hot chocolate, sit by the fire, and watch a movie with my  mom and dad. 

We’re having veggie lasagna tonight!  Can’t wait!

How do you enjoy a snow day?  Any dancing in the snow for you today!?!

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Bananas, Carrots and Spinach, Oh My!

I have finally discovered the perfect replacement for coffee, and it involves bananas, carrots, and spinach!  Oh, my! 

I know what you’re thinking!  Ew!  Gross!  I’d rather stick a needle in my eye!  But trust me on this one (especially you, Monica!).

Angela from Oh She Glows started a Green Monster Revolution that I just couldn’t resist. 

IMG_7981 (Source)

Angela claims that Green Monsters raised her energy levels, decreased her cravings, helped her nails grow, helped her hair grow, and made her skin glow.  Who could resist trying something that promised such awesome results. 

Well, I have to admit the first pictures I saw of Green Monsters definitely made me skeptical.  A green drink that combined spinach (yeck!) and berries  (yum!) just couldn’t possibly taste good. 

However, I was tired of drinking coffee and feeling sluggish a few hours later.  Upped energy levels, decreased cravings, longer nails and hair, and glowing skin sounded especially intriguing to me.  And Angela’s  hair and nails are so pretty and glowing I knew she had to be on to something!  I decided to give it a try, and now I am hooked!

I first tried Angela’s Virgin Green Monster, and it was so delicious!  You could NOT taste the spinach, and the chocolate protein mixed with berries and bananas was phenominal! 

Before long I was experimenting with my own recipes.  Here’s the latest creation:

Ingredients:

-3 cups cooked spinach (cover with water and nuke for 5 mins.)

-1 handful of baby carrots

-1 cup frozen blueberries

-2 tablespoons flax seeds

-1 smushed banana

-2 scoops of Chocolate Light Muscle  Milk

-1 1/4 cup soy milk

Stick it in the blender. 

 

Blend.

Pour in a cup and ENJOY!

Larry even enjoys a cup to go each morning!

Ours is more of Purple Monster because of the chocolate protein and blueberries, but the results seem about the same!

There’s just something about filling up early in the morning with two servings of veggies, two servings of fruit, and over 20 grams of protein that makes you feel super healthy all day long.  Knowing that I’ve started the day with such a healthy beginning helps me to stick to a healthier diet throughout the day.  I don’t want to mess up all that goodness! 

Give it a try!  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Now I am off to spend some time with the family.  Tomorrow is Pop-Pop’s 85th party and the whole family (minus Larry) will be here.  Can’t wait!

Stay warm!  Stay healthy!  Stay happy!

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Warning: You may not agree with everything I am about to say.  I’m not asking you to.  I am simply asking you to think about it, reflect upon it, and consider it.

It is hard not to feel some sort of emotion as you watch the footage of the destruction caused by the earthquakes in Haiti.  Some feel sadness.  Some feel compassion.  Some feel despair and helplessness.

  Haitian orphans at the UN compound in Port-au-Prince.

However, I find it most diheartening that some people feel angry or disgruntled by the fact that our country has put forth so much money in an effort to aide the crumbling country of Haiti.

Yes.  America is having tough times.  Yes.  People have lost their jobs and are struggling to pay the bills.  But even still, our country is well off enough to put its troubles aside and make a contribution to help those in need.  Even in the worst of times for us, we are still fortunate enough to have the ability reach out.  

The worst days for most of us can never even compare to the catastrophic calamity that has touched so many lives in Haiti.

First, this situation has caused me to feel most fortunate to live in such a great nation.

Second, it has caused me to consider the power that we have.  We have the power to come together and to work toward a cause that helps the common good.  We are problem solvers.  We are thinkers.  We are compassionate.

What would it take to hold a telethon to raise money for local schools?  How could we use this power and compassion to raise funds to stimulate the economy that is crumbling right here in our very own nation?  What would it take to get us to come together in such great magnitude for our own countrymen (and countrywomen!)? 

We have seen that we can do it.  If we can raise over $57 million during a two hour telethon, what else are we capable of

I think the power is definitely in our hands.  We need to put aside our differences.  Forget about our anger and our grudges.  We need to come together and use our power for good

We are America.

(Ha!  I bet you’re humming “Proud to be an American” to yourself right about now, huh?)

I know this is pretty deep for a Thursday night, but it has been on my mind for several days now.  Even if you disagree with everything I have said tonight, no hard feelings!

I hope you have a Fabulous Friday, and that you keep your mittens and snow boots handy!  Looks like we’re in for a snowy weekend!

  

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Be the Change You Want to See

Thank you so much for the compliments on the blog!  I was incredibly nervous about sharing my writing with the public, but the warm regards and warm reception have definitely made it well worth it! 

This New Years I made a Vision Board to illustrate the goals I want to accomplish in 2010.  They aren’t like other goals I have made in the past.  There is no grad school on this list.  No loose 10 pounds by bikini season or run a marathon in the fall.  Just simple changes I would like to make in order to feel more balance in my life.

 

My Ten for 2010 Resolutions are:

1) Save Money for a New House

2) Be Active!

3) Eat Clean

4) Slow Down

5) Compliment Others More Often

6) Read Every Day

7) Write More Letters and Send More Cards

8) Be Proactive

9) This one is a “Just for Jen” Resolution!

10) Be Creative

I’ve hung the board in our guest room, and I look at it every day as a reminder of my goals.  It may seem silly, but often just looking at it persuades me to make a sudden and simple change.  If I’m feeling tense, I take a deep breath and slow down.  If I am feeling lazy, it makes me strap on my shoes and take the dogs for a quick walk around the block.  Seeing those vibrant fruits and veggies on the wall gets my tumbly rumbling for something fresh and crunchy!

These resolutions are one of the reasons I began this blog.  This blog has provided me with the opportunity to slow down and be creative.  Many people have asked me how I find the time to do this every day.  Honestly, it is simple.  When I’m writing I am focused only on the task at hand.  I can let go of all other stressors and focus on what I want to say… and how often do we really get to do that?

I hope you continue to follow as I chronicle the challenges I face and the changes I make while trying to accomplish these goals.  I truly enjoy your “blogging” company!!!   

What would be on your Vision Board for 2010?  Do we share any common goals?  Do you have any reservations?  Encouraging words for others? 

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Oh and by the way!  Even though I groaned and grumbled profusely while doing research for grad school, I thrived on the challenge!  If there are any topics you would like to read about specifically, just let me know!  I’ll do my best to read up and report back!

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Happy Monday!!!!   

After working all day, spending an hour at the grocery store, and messing up making dinner, I’ve realized that I really do wish it were Sunday.  Or better yet , how about Friday?!?!?!?

In some ways I love grocery shopping, but in more ways than one, I hate grocery shopping. 

I love the neatly stacked, boldly colored produce, and the way the floral department smells so fresh and inviting as you pass by.  I love the glimmering bottles of wine just waiting to be  opened and sipped and enjoyed.  I love the colors and the quiet and the order.

But I loath the process.  I mean come on!  Load the cart with what you need.  Unload the cart onto the counter.  Load the bags into the cart.  Unload the bags into your car.  Unload the bags again out of your car and into your house.  Unload the contents of the bags onto the kitchen counter.  Load the groceries into all nooks and crannies of your cabinets and fridge.  I and I do mean every nook and cranny!  I wasn’t kidding when I said we need to move!

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in one of those countries where the market was just around the corner, and you could walk down once or twice a week to buy freshly baked bread and just picked produce?  I think these countries are on to something! 

The aisles and aisles of choices in the grocery store also lead me to think about a company I’ve come across a few times within the past few months:  NuVal.  Nuval is a company that analyzes the nutritional value of common foods you eat, and scores it on a scale of 1-100 with 100 being the most nutritious choice (hence the name NuVal!)

 Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

“NuVal Scores summarize comprehensive nutritional information in one simple number between 1 and 100.  Each NuVal Score takes into account more than just the nutrition fact panel.  It considers 30-plus nutrients and nutrition factors – the good (protein, calcium, vitamins) and the not-so-good (sugar, sodium, cholesterol).  And then it boils it down into a simple, easy-to-use number; a number you can trust to make better decisions about nutrition in just a few seconds.” (Source)

 This afternoon I decided to browse their website.  While browsing I found an extremely intriguing game called Nutrition by Numbers.  

For this game, you put products in order from highest score to lowest score.  I was extremely surprised by some of the results!  Although, I knew that an apple held a higher nutritional value than apple sauce, I had no idea how incredibly low the apple sauce would score.  I mean, isn’t it just puréed apples?   

Instead of Mott’s Plus Plain Applesauce Try a Red Delicious Apple

(Source )

How did you do??? 

The first couple of times I tried the game I scored in the low 20s…  and I consider myself “nutrition” savvy!  I may not always eat that way (um, I just finished two homemade chocolate chip cookies!), but I sure do know that a baked potato is better for me than the super sized plate of golden crisp french fries that I can barely resist.    However, some of the products’ packaging made me think they were healthier than they actually were.  Baked Lays are better for you than a freshly baked loaf of Italian bread?!?!?!  Wowzers! 

This site has definitely made me reconsider the way our food is packaged and marketed.  With aisles of food items labeled with word such as “whole grains,” “heart-healthy,” “0-grams of Trans Fat,” “All Natural,” “Fat Free,” and “Low Calorie, it’s hard to tell what is actually the healthiest choice.

This is one reason I try to stick to a “clean” diet.  Eating clean simply means eating as many unprocessed foods as possible.  If you can read and pronounce the contents on the label, you can probably bet that it is a “clean” choice.  Food that is close to the source, such as fresh produce, is also a sure bet. 

In her book Clean Food, Terry Walters recommends making small changes to your diet to include food that is closer to the source. 

For example, I made a small change by choosing old-fashioned rolled oats over quick cooking, pre-flavored microwave packets.  I then flavor the oats with fruit, organic peanut butter, and cinnamon; all of which are closer to the source.  I’m not eating steel-cut oats yet, but maybe over time I will gradually move in that direction.   

Someone once told me that sticking to the outer edges of the grocery store is one way to guarantee that you are choosing healthier products.  Think about what products are on the outer edges: produce, butcher, fresh bakery, etc.  Think about the inner aisles: crackers, processed cakes and cookies, pre-cooked and salted beans and soups, etc.

Here is my challenge for you!  Make one small change to your diet this week that moves you “closer to the source.”  If you do, please share in the comments!!!  I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions!!!!

 

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Saving Bones

Happy Weekend!  I hope yours has been as happy as mine.  I woke up this morning to breakfast in bed served by Mr. Thoughtful himself! 

 After breakfast, we ran some errands and headed to the gym.  Yes!  The gym!  It felt so amazing to walk up to the counter, have my card swiped, and sweat it out in the company of my hunky hubby!

 We did about 35 minutes on the Expresso S3 Upright bike.

 

Talk about killer cardio!  This bike has a simulated riding course where you are actually racing other “bikers.”  The course I chose was about 9 miles and was hill-y

After working up a good sweat, we walked one lap around the indoor track to bring our heart rates down.  Then we each did our own strength training moves. 

 I went to the GroupX room and did the Winter Shape Up 2010.   

Like last time, I did the beginner and advanced/intermediate moves two times each.  I feel great!  Today was the best workout I’ve had in a LONG time! 

Yesterday, I got the chance to meet my mom for a girls outing in Fredericksburg!  We ate a lovely lunch together.  Then we hit the shops and browsed around.

This (strangely) leads me to the topic of this post: Saving money.

Larry and I are planning to sell our teeny-tiny townhouse and buy a bigger and better single family home this year!  We began saving right before Christmas and are already half way to our goal!  Here are some of the things we have done that have helped us to save big bones, but still have fun.    

 1)      Plan a weekly meal menu and grocery list.

Each week, I plan a weekly menu.  As I am planning what we will eat throughout the week, I type the groceries I will need in an organized table.  This keeps me from impulse buying, and prevents me from having to go back to the store several times throughout the week for things that I have forgotten.    

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Dinner in Petersburg Corn Chowder with Jiffy Panini with sweet potatoes Grilled Chicken Salads Turkey Burgers/Veggie and Potato Fries Honey mustard Chicken with Rice and Sugar Snaps Beth’s Engagement Party
Tuna Steak and Portabella spaghetti          
ProduceOnionCeleryRed potatoesChivesSweet potatoes

Portobello mushrooms

BreadsPanini breadBagelsEzekiel MeatsChicken stripsTurkey meatVeggie crumblesChicken breastFake chicken

Lunch meat

Dry Goods/cannedJiffyRoasted peppersPestoHoney bunches of oatsKashi wheat cereal

Almond butter

EthnicSpaghetti noodlessauce Frozen3 cups frozen cornSugar snaps Dairy Panini cheese½ gallon milkhummusAmerican cheeseEggs

Laughing cow

Otherritz

 

I keep this document saved on my computer, so each week I just have to update the contents. 

 2)      Plan quick and easy emergency meals for those nights when you want to call it quits and order in.

One thing that I am famous for is staying too late at work, and then wanting to punk out and not make dinner when I get home.  But ordering in, or going out to eat, really adds up!  If you spend $40 a week on take-out, that’s $160 a month ($720 a year!) you could be putting into a high interest savings account. 

To prevent us from ordering in, I keep a few “emergency” quick meals in the house.  Nothing beats breakfast for dinner on a cold, blustery winter night.  Pancakes, anyone?  Another favorite of mine is to add a little bit of sharp flavored cheese and rosemary to scrambled eggs.  Believe it or not, it goes great with a glass of wine!

 3)      No Fast Food

Not only is fast food high in sodium, fat, and calories, but paying for it can really add up!  Just think, if you cut fast food out of your diet, you could make your waist smaller and your wallet bigger!

 4)      Take leftovers for lunch.

I used to be the Queen of Lean Cuisines.  That was until this summer when I discovered how much cheaper my grocery bill was without these weekly purchases!  While I was working from home on my masters classes, I would eat leftovers from the fridge. 

 Now I take leftovers every day for lunch.  This keeps me from having to throw leftovers away, keeps my grocery bill lower, and helps me control my sodium intake!  It’s a win-win-win situation!

 5)      Invite friends over for a night “in” instead of a night “out.”

One thing I hate about pinching pennies is how many social outings we have to miss.  I’m not talking about the actual night out, but I hate having to tell people “no.” 

Now instead of saying no, I tell those friends that I am unable to go out that particular night, but that I would love for them to come over to our house for dinner or cocktails one evening in the near future.  And I always try to set a date right then and there. 

A couple bottles of wine, an appetizer, and dinner prepared in your own kitchen is healthier and cheaper!  You get to control the ingredients and the cost! 

 6)      When you pass up spending in order to save, write a check for that amount and put it in savings. 

Otherwise, I find that I just spend that money on something else.  This way you know you are guaranteed to save it!  For example, this past New Years Eve we were invited to celebrate at an event that cost $75 a person.  We decided to stay home and make our own dinner.  We then each wrote a check for what it would have cost us.  That was an extra $150 we put into savings in one night! 

7)      Track your finances on a website such as http://www.mint.com/ to see your spending trends.

This is a secure program that allows you to link all of your accounts, debts, and investments together.  You can track your spending and savings trends.  It’s amazing to see where your money is actually going!  Once you’ve analyzed your monthly spending, you can create a plan to spend smarter.

 8)      Before checking out, check in. 

This last tip has helped me to save a lot of money.  I love, love, love to shop at Target!  Where else can you find groceries, cute clothes, accessories, home goods, cleaning supplies and cosmetics in one place?!?!? 

So here is what I do to avoid spendint my entire pay check at Tar-jay.  Before going to the checkout counter I look at all of the items in my basket.  I really think about what I am buying, and if I really need it.  I then remove any items that are not necessary and return them.  This is also a helpful strategy to use at the grocery store.  Do I really need those cute heart-shaped sugar cookies????

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So, there it is ladies and gentleman.  Eight simple tips for saving and spending smart.  I am by no means an expert or an angel.  I did buy a cute purse and two tops yesterday that I didn’t necessarily need (but they were both on clearance!).  Sometimes a girl has just got to shop! 

 What are your best money saving tips?  Do you have a goal you are working toward???  Please share!

Up Next: Nutrition Lables and Marketing

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Toooday is Friiiiiday, and I’m so haaaapy!

It has been a loooooong and under-productive week.  I’m glad the weekend is finally here, so I can catch up on laundry, clean the house, and just RELAX!  What is it about a four-day week that makes it seem to last so much longer?  Is it that we try to get as much done in four days as we would normally in five?

Anywhoo! 

Last night I had one of my favorite tofu dishes: Thai-Style Tofu & Noodles.  I’m not really sure how to cook tofu properly.  This is the first recipe I ever tried, and it’s the only one that I make on a regular basis.  

I got the recipe out of a Clean Eating magazine last year, and instantly became hooked.  This magazine is chock full of recipes for health conscious cooks!  (For both vegetarians and meat eaters!)

Larry even tried it!  He wasn’t a fan of the tofu, being a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but I’ve adapted it for him by preparing the chicken the same was as the tofu.  Then we just mix our own “meat” into bowls of sauced up and veggied noodles. 

So, if you’ve ever thought about trying tofu, here’s one for the books!  If not, stick with the chicken, and I’m sure you will still love it!

Ingredients:

2 quarts plus 2 tbsp water

1/2 lb whole-wheat linguine

olive oil spray

1 (14 oz) pkg extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

4 cloves of garlic

1 tsp low-soidum soy sauce

1 medium red pepper, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 medium green pepper, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1/2 tsp sea salt

SAUCE: (I sometimes double the sauce since I usually make one with chicken and one with tofu)

2 tbsp natural unsalted peanut butter (or soy nut butter)

1/3 cup salsa

1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes (no pepper flakes for the hubby!)

1/3 cup water

Instructions:

1: in a large pot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil, add linguine and cook for about 10 minutes.

2: Meanwhile, puree sauce ingredients in a blender for about 15 seconds until creamy; set aside.

3. Mist a large nonstick skillet with olive oil spray and place over medium heat.  Add tofu cubes and spoon minced garlic and soy sauce evenly over all pieces.  Saute tofu, stirring frequently, for about five minutes.

4. While the tofu is cooking, spray a separate medium nonstick skillet with olive oil spray and place over medium-high heat.  Add red and green peppers and sprinkle with salt.  Saute peppers for 2 to 3 minutes; pour 1 tbsp water into the pan and immediately cover with lid.  Cook for 3 or 4 more minutes, until peppers are tender and slightly blackened. 

5.  After the tofu has cooked for about 5 minutes and is slightly golden brown, add sauce and turn heat to low.  Gently stir once or twice as sauce thickens, about 1 or 2 minutes.  Serve peppers and tofu sauce of linguine.

Calories: 357

Total Fat: 10 G, Sat. Fat: 1 g., Mono. Fat: 4.5 g, Poly Fat: 1 g

Carbs: 52 g

Fiber: 10 g

Sugars: 5 g

Protein 21 g

Sodium 209 mg

Cholesterol: 0mg

 Although this has a bit of fat, it is mostly unsaturated, and this dish satisfies a whopping 107% of your daily vitamin C requirement. 

Let me know if you try it out and like it! 

Well, I’m off to a baby shower for a co-worker!  I’ve got to get the Bruchetta in the oven, and get dressed and ready to go!

Have you ever tried tofu?  What were your thoughts?  Do you have a favorite way to prepare it?

Up Next This Weekend by Reader Request

Tips for saving money and setting goals!

 

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