Monday, March 28, 2011

Reading Rainbow

Lately I've been doing something, I usually almost never do, reading books for fun. Sure, I usually read your share of magazines, In Style, People, Food Network, Everyday Food (the list here is really far too long, you should see our magazine basket), but I never seem to have the patience to sit down and read a book.

That has changed since I started taking the bus to and from work last year, and now, I love having a book to read while riding.

The first one I read recently was, "The Help," written by Kathryn Stockett.

I had received a lot of recommendations on this book, and was lent it by Ben's cousin last fall. It took me months to read it, as I read a few pages at a time on the bus, but I finally finished it when we were in Idaho for Christmas and I had the time to sit down and read big chunks of it.

It's basically about a group of Mid-Twenties females in Mississippi in the 1960's and the Black help that raised them and how they were treated. Historical fiction, right up my alley. Plus, the author writes each chapter from the perspective of a different character, loved that.

The book is now being made into a movie starring Emma Stone set to come out late this summer, I can't wait to see it!

I also just finished The Pioneer Woman's new book, "Black Heels To Tractor Wheels," the story of when she met "Marlboro Man" and how she ended up ditching her big city dreams, for a life she never dreamed of living on a cattle ranch in her native Oklahoma.


I loved this book because her writing is so descriptive, conversational, and not to mention sarcastic. She is a great story teller from her description of the first time she saw her future husband, to the little black boots and Anne Klein jeans she describes that she wore on their first date.

My dilemma now is, I need another good book to read, and I'm scratching my head trying to find one. After reading both these great books in a row, I need to find something else to keep my interest. I've heard "Water for Elephants" is good, but I've also heard there is animal abuse in that book, and I don't think I could handle reading about that if it goes into great, painful detail.

I'm also thinking of picking up copies of my two favorite books, "The Great Gatsby" and "To Kill a Mockingbird," and give those re-reads since it's been so long since I've read them.

What are your all time favorite books? What are some books you would recommend to a friend?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Surly Brewery Tour

This weekend was Ben's 34th Birthday on Saturday, and since we were going to a wedding that night, I wanted to surprise him with something fun on Friday. So, I arranged some friends to meet us at the Surly Brewing Company in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota and we did a tour there, it was SO fun!

The brewery comes out a nowhere in a little neighborhood of businesses off of Highway 100. Ben was so confused on where we were going, until we pulled into the brewery's parking lot that sits at a dead end of the businesses.

The tour started with mingling in their cute bar area, and you got five tokens so you could try their different beers.

Because I'm more of a fruity, cocktail drink gal, I liked their lightest beer, Bender, although their most popular is an IPA called Furious. I used about three of my tokens and then gave the rest to the birthday boy!

After a good amount of time filling up on beer and visiting the gift shop, there was a presentation on the history of the brewery, which was really interesting, followed by more time to enjoy some beer, and lastly information on how the beer there is brewed.

The tour was completely free, but they fill up fast, so if you want to attend one of the tours (they're only held on Friday nights) you have to sign up fast on their website three weeks before the tour is given.

Sam, Brad, Kari, Jamie, Ben and I on the tour

We concluded our night, by stuffing our faces with pizza, and then going to one of the best bars I've ever found around here, it's a Vodka Bar called St. Petersburg. It's a converted American Legion hall, that offers many different varieties of vodka, and is a "Cheers" type bar where everyone welcomed us in, and was super cheap to boot!

After having my share of beer, I had a fruit cocktail made with one of their signature Vodkas, delicious!

St. Petersburg was definitely a place of regulars, as we sat enjoying our drinks, we heard one of them from the bar say, "this is the place where dreams come true." After our fun night there, and a bill that hardly put a dent in my checking account, I had to agree!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Every Reason Not to Run

I had every reason not to run last night.
  • My running clinic peeps all told me they couldn't make it
  • My friend who I made a running date with had to then stay late at work
  • My head was literally pounding and pulsating with a huge headache
  • It had just snowed, sleeted, rained, etc. buckets on the city, and the after wind of this storm was still pretty wicked in some spots
  • We had dinner plans at 7:30, so the run couldn't be that long anyway
But, with all these excuses, I knew I just had to get out and hit the pavement. So, I reluctantly pulled on my running tights, and put a pair of wind pants over them to deter the wind, strapped on my Garmin, cued up my iPod and took off.

I didn't go anywhere magical, just the nearby neighborhood streets, thought a change of scenery would be nice from the normal lake trail runs.

The neighborhoods were filled with people home from work, shoveling drive ways, some snow blowing. The streets were surprisingly pretty clear, and have little enough traffic that I could run right down the middle of them.

I sung along to my iPod at some points (noted: future post on my favorite current workout songs and to hear some of yours!) and waved hello to kids being put to work shoveling.

I came home 25 minutes and 2.16 miles later, and I felt rejuvenated. My head still pounded with my headache, but it didn't seem to resonate as bad as earlier. My body felt great, and I felt like I had just received the best post work mind clearing possible. I don't remember the last time I ran by myself just to run, and hear my own thoughts. Sometimes, you just NEED that.

So, I had every reason not to run, but I still did. It wasn't record breaking time, it wasn't a marathon of distance, but it made all the difference in my day.

Do you ever feel that exercise is like therapy to you? That even if you dread doing it, it can become the best release?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Favorite Healthier Foods

I've been promising you all a post about my favorite foods that help me stay on track, and I've been wracking my brain about this post for awhile. How would I remember them all? What if they're really not that healthy, but they're just what I need?

Despite those thoughts, I'm putting out there today the foods that are top of mind right now, and as I remember more things, or find new things, I'll add them to other posts like I would anyway.

I wish that I could say this was going to be like Oprah's Favorite Things, and at the end you'll click a button and get a year supply of all of these items. But, I'm no Oprah, so just buy these things if you want to try them, OK?

Emerald Cocoa Roast Almonds 100 Calorie Packs

These bad boys taste delicious, like almost eating dark chocolate, and will tie you over in between meals. I love them as my mid-morning snack at work!

Chobani Greek Yogurt

You know from my previous give away, I LOVE it. I like to mix it with with cereals and fruit. My favorite flavors right now: Strawberry, Raspberry, Pomegranate and Lemon.

Pop Chips


They're light, crunchy, and come in delcious flavors. Plus single serve bags are only 100 calories. They're great to add a salty treat to your lunch, and you won't miss fatty potato chips, or the baked ones that have more calories than Pop Chips, but in my opinion, a lot less flavor.

Single Serve Carrots and Dip Packs


A great way to get in another serving of veggies, these Earthbound ones I've found at Whole Foods are 90 calories for the pack.

Mini Luna Bars


The big Luna Bars can pack a mean sugar and carb punch, even though they don't use things like HFC's, or Hydrogenated Oils. But, these mini ones are a great treat, and come in two variety boxes.

Apple Crumb Vita Tops


Warmed up for 30 seconds in the microwave, they taste like a little apple cake. Yum! 100 Calories, and a good portion of fiber and protein too, love these!

Sargento Light String Cheese Sticks

I pretty much eat one of these everyday. At 60 calories, they satisfy my cheese craving, obviously low in carbs, and take awhile to eat.

So there you go, a few of my favorite food items! Please let me know yours as well, I'd love to hear them and so would others I'm sure!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's not you, it's me Starbucks.

It's no secret among most people who know me, I love Starbucks. Sure, there are other independent coffee houses I would feel better about supporting, and sometimes I go to them, but I think nobody does coffee like Starbucks. To get to the Starbucks near my work, I walk by two Caribou Coffee's, and a Dunn Brothers, but it's all worth it when that delicious latte is in between my hands.

Lately though, I've been trying to cut back on spending on little things like this that add up. For awhile, I had Starbucks gift cards to use from Christmas, so that helped with my addiction, but they were running out, and I need my morning caffeine, it's impossible to live without.

So, I tried the free office coffee, deplorable and disgusting. No creamer could make that crap edible. Trust me, I've done third shifts at TV stations and poured some extreme sludge down my throat, but I had to draw the line somewhere. Not only did this coffee taste bad, it made my stomach do back flips after drinking it.

I've done the morning can of pop (we have free pop at work as well), and it leaves me feeling like a bloated bubble, plus that much diet pop, is never good.

So, last week, I bit the bullet and bought this little guy:
The Mr. Coffee Four Cup Pot

Can I tell you how in love I am? It makes the perfect amount to fill up my travel mug, and add a dash of skim milk and Truvia. I've been brewing up Folgers Vanilla Biscotti blend, and it's absolutely wonderful. I love having the warm coffee in my mitts while standing at the bus stop and not having to waste 20 minutes going to get coffee at the beginning of the work day.

So, Starbucks, let me tell you, it's not that I'm just not that into you, I am, I SO am. I love your petite treats that make me feel OK for a small splurge, I love your delicious made to order lattes, but it just can't work out.

Did I mention the coupon that popped out of the automated coupon dispenser when I checked out with the new coffee maker at Target?

OK, so maybe just ONE more latte Starbucks...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gel Nail Polish

Recently, my salon told me about these new gel nail polish options that are being offered, where basically, your nails are painted with a Gel Polish, rather than a normal one, and will stay in tact for two weeks or more. It's a hard polish, almost like fake nails, but not quite, as they never apply the fake tips.

This weekend I tried the OPI Axxium Gel Polish for the first time, and oh my word, I love it! First things first, when you leave the salon, your nails are completely dry and intact. For a notorious smugger, this was huge for me!

Second of all, I really feel like you're getting more bang for your buck. To do the Axxium, I paid $12 more, but I know this polish will last a week or more longer than a normal manicure, which I love! I hate walking around with chipped polish, but oftentimes time slips away from me from removing my tattered manicure during the work week.

These are my nails as of Monday morning, after the Saturday afternoon manicure, still looking good! I chose the very deep purple shade, "Lincoln Park, After Dark," as I felt it would be the most versatile for outfits of all color schemes.

Have you tried any of the new gel polishes out there? What are your thoughts?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

30 Day Shred Check In

A few months back, I mentioned how I was going to step up my 30 Day Shred workout, and I have been, and let me tell you, it's such a great workout!

I've been doing it about two mornings a week on and off, and I've completed Level One and am now onto Level Two. Since I don't do it religiously like so many people do when they do this program, I haven't progressed as fast as other people normally say they do (it is, 30 days after all), but I'm still doing my running clinic, random personal training sessions, yoga and other classes along with the 30 Day Shred.

The Shred is such an easy workout to get in (but NOT easy exercises!), because:
  1. It's only 20 minutes
  2. I can do it in my living room
  3. There is little equipment required, hand weights and a mat if your floor isn't carpeted.
Today, my booty is hurting from all the squats level two makes you complete. I'm loving that on days when I think I have no time to workout, I can get up a half hour earlier, and do the shred, burn 200+ calories, and feel great that I got my workout in.

Also, after my rant on terrible things to eat last Friday (could you tell I was feeling passionate that day??) I wanted to give you guys a great recipe I made this weekend, Spark People Potato Soup. Besides peeling and chopping the vegetables, which merely takes time, it's super easy. I made a double batch and froze some to take for lunches when we need quick options. I hope you try it out!

I'm also still compiling a list of easy, healthy snacks that I'll share in the next few weeks!