Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Best Sangria(s) You've Never Tasted...yet

I never tried Sangria until a few years ago, I'm not quite sure when, but I know that I loved it from the start. Then, in 2009 I attended the couples shower of my friend's Wendy and Ben in Minneapolis, and their friend Sarah who writes the blog "Dish and Tell," made this Sangria. It was love at first sip. When I asked for the recipe, she gladly obliged, and when I found out how easy it was, I was sold even more! I've made it for a few parties, including a bridal shower I hosted, and it's always been a hit. Hats off to Sarah!

I've tried many Sangrias in the bottle, and from restaurant bars, and never felt the same love after trying Sarah's blend. I enjoy the Candy Apple Sangria from Chef Geoff's when we visit there, it's also very affordable, so that helps it's cause.

But, now I've finally found a bottled Sangria that competes with the Dish and Tell recipe...and it's about the same price as a glass from Chef Geoff's.

Trader Joes Sangria. That's right, the people who brought you Three (Once Two) Buck Chuck, have now brought you $6.99 Sangria, in a plastic bottle to boot, that's freaking delicious.

So, if you have the time, I recommend whipping up Sarah's Sangria for a party, but if you don't, or it's a night in and you don't need as big of a batch, I recommend stopping by Trader Joes for this summer treat.

This Sangria may go perfectly with a recipe I made this week, Enchilada Rice. Weeknight easy, and pretty cheap to make with the oodles of left overs it produces. 

Any favorite affordable and delicious drinks you've found this summer? Or easy and yummy recipes?

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Biggest Loser 10K Recap

My friend Lauren and I met when I moved to Davenport, Iowa in May of 2006. She and I both worked at the same news station, she as a reporter/anchor, and me as a producer, and lived down the hall from each other in our apartment building. We were fast friends for many reasons, both around the same age, single, similar college and family background, and mostly--neither of us liked Davenport!

We spent every day trying to make the most of our experience there though; pedicures, shopping trips at the tiny excuse for a mall, road trips, nights out dancing, and many nights in watching bad tv and whipping up meals while sipping Moscato D'asti wine. We coined ourselves the "old ladies" because of how we gallivanted around town together, and often provided our snarky commentary on many things to each other, much like the Old Men in the Balcony on The Muppets.

Old Ladies, Alexa and Lauren, at the World's Largest Truck Stop in Walcott, Iowa
Lauren left Davenport in October 2006, and I left in April 2007. We've kept in touch through the last seven years, but never been able to actually see each other. Lauren moved to New York City, got married, and is now a Nurse Practitioner (talk about a career change!) and you know my story. When I moved to DC, we knew it would be easier to see each other being a four hour drive apart, but had yet to do it, this past weekend, that changed.

Lauren and her husband came down from New York Saturday morning, and spent the weekend with us. We had such a great time seeing them, and I was so excited to finally meet her husband Ryan, and have her meet Ben and Austin. Part of our trip, was Lauren, Ryan and I running The Biggest Loser sponsored 10K race.

Saturday, we met them at Union Station, went to pick up our race packets, and then had a great lunch at District of Pi. Their gluten free pizza was delicious, and I've been wanting to try there forever, and am glad I finally did.

We then headed back to Northern Virginia and took these New York City dwellers out the suburbs where we relaxed, had a great dinner, went to Sweet Frog for frozen yogurt before trying to get to bed early for the race.

The race didn't start until 9:00 a.m., which I knew could be trouble with a high of 91 predicated for Sunday, and the DC humidity. The heat, humidity and sun were blasting, much like I predicted, when we started the race just after 9:00.

Seven Years Later: Two Tired Looking Old Ladies Pre-Race
The race was inspiring in many ways. It was all about getting out there and being active, no matter what your athletic ability or size, and I never felt pressure like I was going too slow, or it wasn't OK to walk. There were also several Biggest Loser Alumni at the packet pick up, and throughout the race, including Michael (below) from the latest season, cheering people on on the course.

Michael from Biggest Loser, Season 14
I was disappointed that the race was basically loops through the RFK Stadium Parking Lot. I'm sure this made it cheaper for the organizers, because then they didn't have to get street permits from the city, but running on the black top with no shade was SO hot, not to mention boring. They also didn't have good organization to tell runners exactly which way to go doing these zig zags and loops, especially for 5K vs.10K. At one point I stopped and asked someone which way I should go.

I know they are doing a Biggest Loser race series at various spots throughout the nation, and honestly, I wouldn't recommend it. I thought they really did things on the cheap, besides the tech shirt, for this race, but didn't pass on that frugality to the participants, as it was $50 for a 10K entry. 

That said, I was so glad we ran the race, and it gave Lauren and Ryan further reason to come down and visit us. After the race, we had brunch at Logan Tavern with a couple of their friends who also live in DC. I had a great post meal race there-a chorizo omelet, delicious! I don't get to the Logan Circle neighborhood often, and would surely go here again. Ryan and Lauren enjoyed their Build Your Own Bloody Mary offerings.

I left brunch to head home to Austin and Ben where we hit the pool for some much needed refreshment. All in all, it was a great weekend with wonderful friends, food, exercise and feeling exhausted by the time Sunday night hit.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Post Baby Weight Loss: The Real Deal From a Working Mom on a Budget

I went into pregnancy weight loss mode with the thought that it took nine months to get there (well, technically ten) and then it would take nine months to get back. I knew that real change is gradual, and there was no quick fix.

11 Days Before Giving Birth, October 16, 37 Weeks

I ate a lot of what I wanted when I was pregnant and looking back, I will not be as liberal with my eating in my next pregnancies. However, after having such bad morning sickness in the first trimester, when I hit 14 weeks and enjoyed nearly all foods again (I still can't do ground beef very well) without puking or nausea all day, I let myself go a little wild. I reeled it back in, but then the last month of pregnancy, I ate anything I wanted because I was just feeling so huge and miserable.  I worked out by walking outside and on the treadmill at the gym, and weekly yoga sessions nearly my whole pregnancy, but felt uncomfortable weight training as my abs would pull during exercises, so I didn't do that.
1 Day Before Giving Birth, October 26, 39 Weeks Pregnant: 195 Pounds

As I said before, I was 195 lbs when I delivered, after being 145 pounds when I got pregnant while doing a strict Weight Watchers and workout routine, 145 pounds is a hard weight for me to maintain. I was 178 lbs when I came home from the hospital (I weighed myself a few days after we got home, it was NOT at the top of my priorities when we first arrived home).

Seven Days Postpartum, November 2, New Born Pictures
I was then 166 pounds when I started Weight Watchers and went back to work at 12 weeks postpartum. I went back to work still wearing maternity pants, with mainly regular tops and bigger dresses, and felt fine with it.

So, needless to say, the first 30ish pounds were not that hard to lose. Once I started being more conscious of what I ate, and moving more around eight weeks postpartum I lost about five pounds and got to the 166 number. But these last 20ish pounds, holy hell people, it's been a fight.

I am a woman who enjoys food. Not the huge burgers and greasy fries, but I enjoy munching and carbs, and if I have one cookie, I want two more. And that's what Weight Watchers does for me, it doesn't have me obsessing over everything I eat, but it helps me portion control, and I need that. I need someone to say, three handfuls of Reece's Pieces is not a treat, it's an over indulgence, and one handful will do.

I need a program that tells me peanut butter and jelly toast for breakfast is not a good choice even if other food bloggers try to tell me it's what they eat, for me, that's 11 freaking points--just for breakfast! It tells me that starving myself with cheese, crackers and fruit at lunch isn't a good choice either, and will only lead to over eating later because my blood sugar will be a mess.

Four Months and One Week Postpartum, with a fellow new mama, March 8: 160.2 Pounds
During this process, the weight came off slowly, at my best weeks, I would lose 1.5-2 pounds, at my worst, I'd gain half a pound, or only lose .2 pounds.

The weight came off in my upper thigh and hip area easily, and my arms firmed up by focusing on strength training super sets where my heart rate was up with squats and lunges, while I did arm curls, raises, etc. My stomach has always been my problem area, and no surprise, it's the place that's the toughest now to lose the last of the weight. Some of this is extra skin from my body stretching for baby, and some pants I used to fit into just fine, no matter how much weight I lose, may never fit me comfortably again because of this.

Right now, my body is not exactly how it looked pre-baby, and I don't know if it ever will be. That's not an excuse, it's a fact. I have excess skin, I have stretch marks, and my chest is not what it used to be by any means, and some days, those things get me down. They make me feel discouraged and bad about myself,  and Ben takes the brunt of hearing this lamenting. Some days I look at old two piece bathing suits, knowing I'll never wear them again, and it makes me sad.

Nearly Five Months Postpartum, March 23: 159 Pounds
And then, honestly, when I go in public and see what others are dealing with for obesity in this nation, I feel pretty damn good about myself. I feel good that I have fought to not only look and feel good, but to be healthy for my family, and for me. I feel grateful for a husband who has supported me 100% through losing weight and reminds me when I get down that he loves me, and the way I look always, and appreciates all my body accomplished for our family.

Mostly, I feel grateful that I get to have these problems. After wanting and trying for a healthy baby for what felt like forever (in reality, it was nine months, but when you're trying, that feels like forever!) I feel so lucky to have a beautiful little boy, who brings more joy to my life than a flat stomach, or two piece bathing suit ever could. I wouldn't trade him for my old body in a heartbeat.

With all that said, I have to say, I'm not as caught up in my weight as I was pre-baby. It's not that I don't care, I mean, obviously, I did Weight Watchers for a reason, so I care to a certain extent. But that's just it, I care to a certain extent, but, I just have bigger things to deal with. I don't beat myself up as much for missteps in eating, or missing a workout, but chalk it up to that day, and move on.

There is no special trick to losing the baby weight (shocker, I know!), just like there isn't with any other weight loss process. If you're an average American woman like me, who returned to work at 12 weeks postpartum, and doesn't have the money for a chef or a full time trainer, it's hard, but it's not impossible.

I did work out with a personal trainer at my work's gym a few times for some 30 minute sessions during my lunch hour to get a base for strength training again when they were running a training price special. I also trained for my ten mile race and half marathon with my friend Lynne. Having those race goals made me go out for runs even on days when I didn't want to. I would surely have a goal like that again post baby, but maybe not the length of a half marathon, a ten mile would do.

I'm not down the complete 50 pounds I gained. My goal was to hit 149 pounds, and I've done that, and a little better some weeks. I'm at the weight category now where my weight fluctuates by a pound or two depending on my eating and exercise routine that week. I'm most comfortable and able to still live life without being insanely strict around 148-149 pounds, thus the reason I don't think my pre-pregnancy weight of 145 pounds is a realistic everyday goal for me.

So there you have it. My post baby weight loss journey. The journey isn't over, being healthy and not eating desserts for breakfast is an every day thing for me. I hope to share this journey with you again as we forge ahead and one day welcome Baby Cush 2.0, 3.0...and beyond to our family.

8.5 Months Postpartum, July 11: 149 Pounds

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I'm coming to you as a 30 year old woman. In the two weeks I've been MIA, I've had good reason to be MIA, as it has been craaaazy. We had family at our place the end of June, including my adorable three month old nephew and two year old niece. Besides spending some great time together, we celebrated my thirtieth birthday with a trip to the National Zoo, Lunch at Redwood in downtown Bethesda, Maryland and dinner at my favorite restaurant in the DC area, Chef Geoffs.

Ben also surprised me with gluten free cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake. They are still the best gluten free cupcakes I've ever tasted. He also surprised me with a gift card to Lululemon to finally buy myself a pair of Wunder Unders. Ahhhh!! I am so, SO excited to finally buy a pair of these. These are the pants so ass flattering that they have their own tumblr created in honor to them. Can anyone who owns a pair, or pines for a pair, recommend a certain style or color?

I was awful about taking pictures during that weekend, and during 4th of July festivities.

I did document the way my co-workers decorated my cube for my birthday.

It was hilarious to come in on a Friday morning and find these decorations.

Check out my allergy story that appeared on My Wise Mom recently. I love putting the word out there about being diagnosed with Celiac, and hopefully helping others who are suffering and this story may help them get diagnosed.

I've also found a new favorite Gluten Free Snack Bar from Van's Natural Foods, that I actually spotted at Target of all places! Great to be able to to find them at a "normal" store that I regularly go to, instead of having to make a trip to a specialty store.

These are really delicious, a great snack at work, and only four Weight Watchers Points.

Speaking of Weight Watchers, I have an update on my post baby weight loss situation that I'll write about next week. The good, the bad, and the ugly, and what it's taken to try and lose the 50 lbs I gained while pregnant.

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