Monday, January 30, 2012

Amazing Trail Run

Civilization over yonder
Well so, its winter right? Where I live in the Bay Area, we have been begging for rain. Our beloved Sierras, which are about 4 hours north of us are no good for skiing weekends if we don't get some snow. We were fortunate to get a few days of rain recently and many folks anxious for snow sports even headed to the mountains last week. It was short lived, and by this past weekend we were experiencing mid-60's and sunny! Friday I went on a 3 mile walk with my ex-running buddy and Saturday Scrappy Mama and I hit the trails at Harvey Bear Ranch Park.
Beautiful scenery
It was a gorgeous Saturday and we were happy to be out. The previous weekend the trails were closed due to the rain so we only managed a pretty wet, flat 4-miler. This time we decided to check out some new terrain. We checked out the map before we started but besides having a good idea of where we were and where we were going, we had no idea what the trail was going to be like. It was super fun cresting peaks and turning corners not quite sure what we were going to find. While there were some nice vertical climbs most of it was a decent grade and it wasn't too challenging to run the whole thing. The distance was 6 miles so I have a pretty good idea of what to expect when I do the Montara Trail Run in March. Although, that race is just south of San Francisco so I do anticipate it will be less  sunny, cooler, and perhaps even wet! I am very, very excited!!
Friends we encountered on the way
Thank goodness my phone had service up there because I was late getting home in time for Chip to head to Monkey's baseball meeting. Fortunately he was able to take the boys and wasn't upset in the slightest. Another key to a successful fitness plan when you are a working mom...a good support system! I feel pretty fortunate that my husband is encouraging when it comes to exercise. Now if only we worked the same type of schedule, wouldn't that be nice?

I was on a runners high all day but that night and the next day I was beat. My legs were a little sore, and I did some stretching and yoga. It was a truly fun running adventure!

Can you think of any super fun runs or workouts you've done lately that stand out? What made them so awesome?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Twice As Good As 21

I can honestly say I am comfortable in my own skin.
I come home to my family every day and feel incredibly blessed.
I truly feel empowered to change the things in my life that are not working for me.
It has taken me all these years to finally find eyeliner and an application method that doesn't make me look like a raccoon after four hours.
I have discovered exercise that I enjoy, and works for me.
I have realized that processed food makes me look and feel yucky.
I can finally see my possessions as just that - stuff.
Did I mention the eyeliner thing already? Wow. Just wow.

I feel the winds of change. I can't explain it, but I feel that finally, after a slump that lasted way too long, that my luck is finally about to improve.

For my birthday, Chip and I took the kids to CreAsian, a local sushi joint. We had a great meal and of course had to get dessert afterwards to bring home. Happy, happy day.

He loves to use chopsticks like big bro!

Hamming it up!

How do you feel about birthdays? Dread them or feel "Another year older, another year wiser"? I'm still not done celebrating even though my official birthday is over. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sin City - Recuperate, Recover, RUN!

Token photo with The Hangover slot machines
Today's post is reminiscent of one of my very first posts. Sound familiar? I went to Vegas, lived life to the fullest - because we all know life is short and happiness can be fleeting - and am trying to undo the damage. I have absolutely ZERO regrets about any of my indulgences. I ate like a saint for the first 12 days of January, but this is my birthday month and typically consists of a lot of shenanigans!

My trip this year is very similar to the trip in my post from 2 years ago. We saw a great show - Zumanity for any of you Cirque du Soleil followers. I had always shied away from that show, I heard there is a lot of nudity and its very centered on sexuality. The website for the show requires that you are over 18 just to view it! In the past I figured since it was so rare that I got out to see any artistic events that I wanted to make sure I got the most culture and enjoyment out of it as possible. I wasn't sure I could put all my money on Zumanity. Since we were going with a large group of couples, we thought it would be super fun to all go and see it together. This was going to be a let-your-hair-down, partying weekend. We were not disappointed! It was really funny actually, which I did not expect. It was certainly entertaining, and I definitely enjoyed seeing it with a large group. It was a sexually uninhibited show, but is not like people were "doing it" on stage or anything.

Of course we caved and bought the photos!
The booze. After finally learning my lesson about drinking (you need not remind me how old I am), I have decided to stick with one type of alcohol, and go easy on the red wine. I absolutely LOVE red wine, but when that is my drink of choice for a night of partying it never ends well. And of course when you are gambling and the waitresses are constantly coming by to take your order, you'd better choose something that will set well with you for the long haul. There was one morning when I had a spicy Bloody Mary, which was so good, but I had to switch to my drink for the day which was a vodka tonic. Vodka tonics are incredibly refreshing and tasty. Because it is made with vodka, a clear alcohol, hangovers are less severe. I can honestly say I did not have any hangovers all weekend! Score!
Nectar of the party people

When night time came around, and the oxygen pumped through the casinos was not enough to do the job, I switched to vodka and Red Bull . I used to loathe Red Bull, and would still never drink it on its own if I needed an energy boost. But hey, when in Vegas, do as the Vegans do. Ok, that isn't right but you know what I mean! One night it really helped me to stay up until 3:30 am.

I will spare you every last detail of my weekend but I must add that another highlight was our dinner on our last night there, at Fleur at Mandalay Bay. Mandalay Bay happened to be where we were staying, and we wanted an easy, not-so-late and not-so-wild night. Hubert Keller was on Top Chef and we'd heard the food was amazing. Well, have you seen their menu?
Extensive and fabulous
There is an option on the top right corner that says "The Feast", where you can "eat the menu", recommended for parties of 6 or more. Basically, you get to try EVERYTHING on the menu except for the large plates and a few other items. Every.single.dessert. No lie! We had a few big eaters in our group, and most of us were pretty hungry. Plus, we all love good food. So we went for it. Oh.Em.Gee!!! It was fantastic. I did not photograph most things we ate because there were so many and my hands were pretty full at all times!
Brownie lollipops, vanilla cheese cake, pot de creme, and the BEST creme brulee EVER
We had tuna tacos, oysters, an onion soup shooter which was a universal fave at our table. Another notable was a battered and fried chick pea appetizer that was pretty tasty and different. The charcuterie platter was amazing.Wings, which were spicy but not an unnatural color of orange, yummy skirt steak 3 different salads, and black angus sliders which everyone raved about but I was too full to try them! There were too many items for me to list all here, but let me tell you, it was one of the most amazing dining experiences EVER. And so fun. Recommended for 6 or more? We could have used at least 8 people!

Mandalay Bay is not one of the newest hotels in Vegas, but its one of the best in my opinion because there is so much to do there. The rooms are great and the casino is awesome. The House of Blues is there which draws many cool bands, and the House of Blues Foundation Room is a really cool hangout/social scene, there are many fabulous restaurants, as well as a Shark Reef and Aquarium. In the summer, the pool is the best! It's one of the few hotels I can honestly say that if you stayed there you would never have to leave because they have everything.
View of from House of Blues Foundation Room
I am back to reality, waking up early to get my kids ready for school and heading off to work. But not before doing a quick workout in the morning. So far I have been doing my time on the elliptical and yoga, and back to my clean diet heavily focused on greens. I have 2 big trail runs planned for later in the week and I am honestly looking forward to them!

So when are you booking your trip to Las Vegas?? What do you like to do when you visit?

I was not compensated in any way by Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, Fleur or Zumanity.  All opinions herein are my own.
Let's BEE Friends

Friday, January 13, 2012

Making The Most of Outdoor Exercise in Winter

Pretty view on our descent
I know I have lamented the loss of my regular running buddy due to a foot injury many times here, and okay, okay, I won't do it again. I have also mentioned Scrappy Mama who is someone I knew through work many years ago that happens to live in the same town. We started meeting up over a month ago to run, and I was very excited! But like all new relationships/friendships, you never know how its going to turn out. I wondered, Will I slow her down? and also, Will she be reliable? It turns out that yes, she is in a bit better shape than me - and also almost 10 years younger, might I add - and she IS reliable! I know that committing to run with someone early in the morning on the weekend may sound good but when you are cuddling with your babies and the internet is telling you its 40*, you may start to change your mind. Well, she's been great. And I wouldn't say I hold her back that much. Just when we are doing crazy trails at Harvey Bear Ranch Park, the vertical climb kills me and I do ask to stop and walk when the need arises. I love feeling challenged like this, and my goal this year to is to keep up!
This is before we came up on 3 wild boars!
I have registered for a trail 10K in March! All by my lonesome. It is about an hour away, and I plan to make a weekend of it with my family if I can move afterward! I could not be more psyched, although a little scared. I've done 10K's plenty of times but never a trail 10K. It's going to be so awesome!

My old running buddy is not completely out of the picture. We are actually still meeting up, but for walks instead. The cool thing is we are actually hiking, so its more challenging than your typical walk and we can still talk and catch up. I love that I have so much nature so close to me! I feel very fortunate.
Hiking above the clouds at El Toro Mtn
 I have even been getting my family "off road". This past weekend Chip, Monkey, Buddha and I went to hit the trail I normally run on by my house, which I have posted many-an-asphalt photo before. This time, at the suggestion of Monkey we took the road less (paved) traveled and explored many of the other trails that are off the beaten path near Coyote Creek Trail. It was fun!
The boys really enjoyed being little explorers
So while I have not been getting outdoors to run alone in the dark before work, I have still managed to make the most of my weekends and not be all about the treadmill and DVDs. But those have their place as well. Stay tuned for my thoughts of Bethenny Frankel's new Skinnygirl Workout DVD.

Do you manage to get out much for exercise in winter? Or do you hit the gym when the temperatures drop? I'm sure my California "winter" pictures make some of you roll your eyes!

Stay fit and fabulous! 

Today I am linking up with Fitness, Health and Happiness for Fitness Friday. Stop by to meet new friends, find new blogs and get new followers, subscribers and readers!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Trying New Foods - Back to Basics

I can't say enough how much I have been branching out in the food department lately. It's really been helping me stay healthy without being bored. I thought I would share some of my new-found yummies lately. Grab a cup and stay awhile, I have a lot of catching up to do!

Colorful and sweet
SO not a tomato!
A plan to make my neighbor persimmon cookies (something new I was trying) went awry when I was told by my mother-in-law that I had bought the wrong kind of persimmons. What to do with these beauties? Well, I ate them! Like an apple! Sweet, mild flavor. I had never tried to do that before because they look like tomatoes. And I am not one to grab a tomato and eat it like an apple. I am now a fan.

What's this? Tastes like chicken?
Have you heard of seitan? I had first heard of it from a Facebook friend who started a creative cooking group of mostly vegan members. I'm not vegan, but I do lean toward vegetarian meals most days, and I enjoy the recipes and food discussions. Seitan is also knowns as "wheat meat". Doesn't sound that appetizing, does it? Well it doesn't look so appetizing either. But, I wanted to give it a go. It is essentially high-protein gluten. When its cooked, it actually does have a similar texture and look to meat. I cooked some with taco seasoning, and ended up with some very yummy seitan soft tacos that were garnished with salsa, kale salad, and a tiny bit of cheese.
Very interesting! Tastes even better.
On the side I had these awesome new chips I bought at Whole Foods. They are quinoa chips with chia seeds! I was a little apprehensive about the taste before I tried them because of how they look. Well, you can't judge a book by it's cover! Although they are dark, these chips blow blue corn chips away. I will surely spend a small fortune buying these from Whole Wallet again!
Even my hubby liked the chips. Not present for the tacos.
Brussel sprouts make most people wrinkle up their nose. I think they are pretty tasty. Well guess what, I had never made those either. Nor had I ever made cranberry chutney either, which made the brussel sprouts taste...well, even better than brussel sprouts! 
Easy to make these healthy beauties

Chutney of Love
A bit much but I couldn't help it. You would do the same!

Love portobello mushrooms? I do as well, but don't eat them very often, and have never made them. Last night, after a terribly unfortunate, high fat/calorie Panera Bread salad for lunch, I couldn't decide what to have for dinner. I knew NOT eating was not the answer, but wanted to have as low impact of a meal as possible. So, I happened to have some portobellos in the fridge. I heated up less than a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan, sliced up a large garlic clove to flavor the oil, chopped up half a small onion, sliced up 2 large mushrooms and sauteed them until the onions were soft and the mushrooms were blackened. I seasoned them with black pepper and sea salt, and shook a little grated parmesan cheese over them before I ate them. Yum. Portobellos, for the win! By the way, the salad I had was the Mediterranean Salmon Salad. Sounded very healthy, but had 580 calories and 38 grams of fat! I didn't eat even half the dressing, so it possibly wasn't that bad. But I was very disappointed when I looked that up.
More filling than I expected and full of flavor as well
After reading this article about ditching recipes that @citymama tweeted, I have also decided to try to get back to basics in the kitchen. I realize how much easier it is as a working mom to eat good food if I try to keep it simple.

After yesterday's lunch debacle I am going back to my homemade salad for lunch today. I think my waistline would agree. Stay healthy and delicious my friends!

Has your quest for health and wellness driven you to try anything new lately?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Night As A Single Gal

My night without the husband and kids last night did not involve any tight dresses or any bars, but I definitely got a taste of what my life would be like today if I was single. My parents have my boys overnight for 2 nights, so I wanted to take advantage of my "me" time by scheduling a badly needed massage after work. Aaah. Since Chip was working, I came home to a dark, quiet and empty house. I flipped on the lights, turned on the TV and started the DVR. It was late but after the light amount of food I had eaten that day, I needed dinner. And fast.

Fortunately I had frozen stir fry vegetables. I needed a protein source, so I went with this extra firm tofu I picked up today:

I put a little less than a tablespoon of oil in a pan, with two cups of frozen stir fry veggies on medium high dashed with salt and pepper:

Meanwhile, I cut off a small slab of tofu about 1/2 inch thick and cut into squares. I wanted it to be as meat-like as possible, and this firm tofu came through. In a separate small pan, I put a small amount of oil (approx 1 tsp) on medium high heat and cooked the tofu on both sides to make it crispy. I periodically shook the veggies in the pan to make sure they cooked evenly, and doused with low sodium soy sauce for flavor:

When the veggies were done according to my preference (still firm, slightly softened and heated through - nothing worse than soggy stir-fry), I combined the tofu with the veggies and served this very easy, single serving meal to me, myself and I while I watched TV.
Dinner for One!
At about 10pm, I was a little hungry, but I was NOT going to snack that late. I turned on my iPad, got into bed and read The Hunger Games until I couldn't keep my eyes open.

And how did I like this night alone? Honestly, I probably needed it. But I MISS MY BOYS. It's always good to have a little break, it makes me a better Mom. And Monkey and Buddha are on vacation, so its good for them to get outta dodge! Since I was sick for a whole week, the poor little guys had been at home pretty much since they got out of school. While I can't wait for them to come home, I will relish in this time where I can eat however I want with no one else to please. No competition for time to make my lunch this morning, and no  interference with my morning work out. How often do I get to be selfish? Rarely. And I'm getting a pedicure after work tonight. YES.

Have you had a whole night to yourself lately? How did you spend it? If you could have a night alone and could do whatever you wanted, what would you do?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hello 2012!

I could not be more excited to get up and brush myself off after being so sick these last couple of weeks. I still hack occasionally but my energy is back and I'm operating at 98%. I am back at work (BOO) and my kids still have this week off. They are going to a little sleepover at their grandparents tonight and mama is getting a massage! The Christmas decor is packed away, and I am looking forward to a quiet night reading The Hunger Games and watching some TV and drinking tea. I plan to wake up tomorrow totally healthy, and kick 2012 into gear.

Don't worry party people, I did manage to enjoy myself on New Year's Eve despite still being in recovery mode. Our good friends came over with their kids and a babysitter. We drank, we nibbled, we laughed. And then we left our children at home with the sitter and went to a great dinner at a restaurant here locally that we love called Odeum to ring in the New Year. This is the first time in our 7 New Year's Eves that my husband and I have gone OUT. We always do something, head out of town or host friends at our home. We usually avoid going out because everything is over-priced, over-crowded, and service is terrible. However, this year, we had faith that our small town restaurant would not be any of the above. We were not disappointed and had a great time. We returned to our house and sleeping children to continue the festivities and this year I made it to 2:30 a.m. Our friends spent the night and we had champagne and watched the 49er's win the next day. Later, we spent the afternoon/evening with my family for more eating and football. It was a great day.
I am not a huge "resolution" gal but I don't think its ever bad to have a goal at any time of the year. Right now I am focusing on de-sugaring my body. Please note I did not say detoxify...only because I am not giving up coffee and will still have the occasional glass of wine. I just indulged in way too many desserts over the holidays and have been having way too many carbs in general. My plan is to try to prepare healthy lunches that are less bread and meat centric and to keep my snacks small and healthy. I am stocking up on almonds, greek yogurt, and bringing big salads to work. I usually focus on eating healthy, but I don't typically pay much attention to calories and need to be better about portions. I am going to start off hardcore and taper off after a couple weeks, as I know once I start running again I will need more fuel than this:

Breakfast: Soft boiled egg and coffee
Snack: A cutie
Lunch: Mixed greens salad w/chopped cucumber, tomatoes, 1/2 packet of tuna w/ 1tablespoon sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Afternoon snack: An apple and green tea
Dinner: TBD
Heaping Mound of Healthy Salad

One for My Mid-morning Snack

I really want to try to shrink my stomach and lessen my appetite. When I start to feel hungry, I will stop and drink a glass of water first. I am curious to see how starving I am going to be when I get out of my massage after eating a majorly reduced amount of food like this today. I will make sure to have some almonds beforeI go in so my stomach growling doesn't freak out my masseuse.
If I am up to it I may do a walk on my treadmill tonight, which sounds crazy after a massage but I need to take advantage of the fact my kids will be at my parents. I plan to try my new Skinnygirl Workout that I got in my Christmas stocking tomorrow morning. I am DYING to run, but I need to get rid of this chest congestion for good...I don't want to prolong it by hitting the pavement to early.

Did you indulge during the holidays? Have you stopped your holiday eating or are you having trouble putting the brakes on?