Tag Archives: wedding

Married Life and Meal Planning

Hi there!!

Can’t believe it’s already almost August! This summer has FLOWN by for me, with most of May and June focused on getting married and all the planning that came with it. We’re back from our honeymoon now, and settling in to married life. I love it!

As unbelievable as it may sound, I actually enjoy cleaning and organizing, so having our own little place has been a lot of fun. I’m sure there will be days that I don’t feel like cleaning the toilets or vacuuming the carpets, but for now I am thoroughly enjoying these little chores. I haven’t had my own place since 2010 when I lived down in Dallas, so it’s fun to jump back into that – and this time, with my hubby.

Some of our kitchen creations so far: Roasted Broccoli, Pesto Pasta, & BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza

Some of our kitchen creations so far: Roasted Broccoli, Pesto Pasta, & BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza

This first month and a half of marriage has been full of discoveries regarding grocery shopping, meal planning, and budgeting. My inner nerd has come out in full force, as I pore over budgeting blogs and scour the weekly ads for the best deals at each grocery store.  One week Dierbergs thought they could get me to pay $2.99 for strawberries. Little did they know, this girl reads her Aldis ad every week and got strawberries for $1.89 on sale. Aldis, 1. Dierbergs, 0.

I quickly realized about a week into married life that meal planning is a life-saver. I’ve always coached my clients to meal plan as much as possible, because it helps you avoid impulse trips to Five Guys or eating chicken pot pie every night of the week. And now I’m seeing just how much meal planning helps with budgeting, too! When I don’t have a meal plan for the week, I find myself wandering around up and down the aisles, with no idea what I’m doing. Every few steps, I take something off the shelf, look it over, try to think of a meal I could use it for, and then inevitably decide I have no use for it at all. Or, I panic because I don’t have any kind of plan and just start grabbing random things that sound good to me at the time and stuffing them in my cart. By the time I get home and start putting groceries away, I realize that nothing I bought will go together for a complete recipe. It’s not easy to make dinner with a can of kidney beans, California raisins, and macaroni noodles. Believe me.

So, the discipline of meal planning has become my friend in the kitchen. It takes a few minutes at the beginning of the week, but it’s so worth it in the end.

The way I see it, these are the top 5 benefits of meal planning:

  1. Save money by only buying the things you need for the week

    picking up milk

  2. Avoid ending up with random foods in your fridge that don’t go together. (see example above with raisins and kidney beans)
  3. Enjoy a variety of foods throughout the week and avoid getting bored with your meals.
  4. Eat healthier! By actually cooking a meal instead of scrounging around in the pantry for junk food, you can ensure that you get at least SOME veggies in your stomach every night!
  5. You won’t have to eat PB&J every night til the cows come home. (Although my husband insists that he doesn’t mind if we eat PB&J all the time, I’m pretty sure he’s just being kind. There may or may not have been one night last week where I started crying because I was so exhausted and didn’t want to cook anything for dinner…that might have prompted his PB&J comment. Maybe.)

As you can see, meal planning definitely has its benefits. However, there can be some pitfalls to this process, if you don’t know what you’re doing. (i.e. the first 3 weeks of my married life) Even though I’m rather a newbie to this whole process myself, I thought I’d share with you my tips for streamlining the meal-planning process. (that was a mouthful)

Tips for Awesome Meal-Planning:

1) Figure out which day you are going to grocery shop each week. Then, work on your meal plan a day or two beforehand. I like to meal plan on Sundays because I can look at our calendar for the week and figure out which nights I will be cooking vs. which nights we will be eating out, eating on the run, or be at a party with food.

2) Plan ahead for which nights you will have time to cook vs. which nights you will be rushed for time. If I have evening clients around dinner time, I like to do a crock-pot meal or a casserole that I can make ahead of time. This keeps us from eating at 8pm, which is what happened the first week of our marriage… oops.

3) Try to mix up your flavors and foods. This is pretty simple: don’t make chicken every night or green beans with every meal. Try a variety of meats, veggies, and flavors. As a general rule, I like to do a pasta one night, fish one night, and then fill in with chicken and pork meals.

4) Don’t make it too complicated. As much as it would be fun to mysteriously conclude, “There’s a fine art to meal planning,” …there really isn’t. It’s simple. Which is good. Pull out your cookbooks, search “dinner recipes” on Pinterest, or find a few cooking blogs you love. Ask your friends for their favorite go-to meals, and put together a binder full of your best creations. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If it’s awful, at least you can say you tried something new. If it’s amazing, then you’ve got a new favorite recipe to add to your repertoire. Can’t go wrong with that!

In closing, here are a few of my favorite resources for meal-planning inspiration:

My Pinterest Recipe Board
Real Simple Recipes
Cooking Light Recipes
A great selection of dinner recipe boards on Pinterest

Happy Meal Planning!!

pick up pizza

Advertisements

The Place I Go to Get Away

hopepp9

The family dog and me, circa 1999

Have you ever had a special place of solace, somewhere you could go to think, or get away? It could be a quite coffee shop with comfy leather armchairs, or a wooded trail with scenic overlooks. Mine is a quaint, little park, just up the road from the house where I grew up.

My memories at this park go back to my early childhood, before the park was even a park. My siblings and I used to walk the two-tenths of a mile up the road with our friends to explore what seemed to us like a HUGE expanse of land at that very young age. The owner of the land lived in a sprawling one-story home on the property, and let the rest of it pretty much go wild. As wild as you can be in the middle of the suburbs, that is. There were a few unique features about the property, primarily the stable building and carriage house that sat a couple hundred yards away from the house, which had several actual stalls for horses – a novelty to a bunch of kids from the suburbs! And, as if that wasn’t cool enough, there was also a historic log cabin on the property that appeared unoccupied and abandoned, making it quite mysterious to our group of young adventurers.

When I was around the age of 10, the lady who owned the property passed away and there was a big uproar about what would be done with the land. I don’t remember much about it all, except that people were debating whether the land should be turned into a park or used for a new housing development instead. My siblings and I were rooting for the park to be built – a playground sounded much more fun to us than just a bunch of new houses. In fact, my entire family was pretty deeply invested in the park idea, to the extent that my mom took my sister and me to some of the city hall meetings regarding the outcome of this land. I felt pretty grown up, listening to the aldermen and townspeople discuss what should be done.

Eventually the decision was made: the land would be turned into a park. We were ecstatic. After waiting for what seemed like forever, the land was cleared and the park built, and our town held an official ribbon cutting ceremony on a hot and humid day in June.  It wasn’t long before we were up there all the time – taking the dog for walks, playing cops and robbers with our friends, and just reveling in the excitement of having our own little park. It was a pretty big event in the timeline of my childhood, to say the least.

Fast forward a few years, and the park had sadly lost its shiny new allure and become just another landmark on the drive home every day. I was about 13 years old, and was beginning to go through one of the most confusing times of my life – that terrifying transition known as “puberty.” I’m pretty sure every girl can relate to this in some form or another. All of a sudden, it seemed I’d lost complete control of my emotions and fallen prey to things like mood swings, random crying spells, and other unexplained behavior. My brother joked (years later, when I was able to laugh along with him) that he could have said “Pass the butter, please,” and I would have broken down in tears. It wasn’t quite that bad….but close.  😉

And so, I returned to that park on those days when I just didn’t want to be around anyone. On my toughest days, I would go up there just to cry, where no one could hear me.  I didn’t even know what I was crying about some of the time (oh the joys of being a girl!), but it felt good to cry it out. On the better days, I would take my journal and sit on my favorite bench to process things in my favorite way – with paper and pen.

This park was my spot. My place to get away and deal with all the crazy things I was feeling at the time. Somehow it was comforting, just sitting on my bench and being there.

senior1

Senior year of high school

A few years later, it was my senior year of high school, when I had taken up running as a form of exercise. That park became part of my usual route. The path around the perimeter of the park was only ½ mile long, but I loved running up there, doing a few laps, and heading home. Altogether, it was about 2 miles. As I became a more proficient runner, I abandoned the park for longer routes and busier roads. I’d run 7, 8 or 9 miles at a time, sometimes to the Walgreens on Manchester Road or the seminary a few miles away, but as I ran out of my neighborhood, I always went past that little neighborhood park.

Then again, during another crisis in my life, the park reappeared as a place of solace and comfort. It was 2011 and I had moved home suddenly from India and begun treatment for my eating disorder. This park was there for me (not that the park had a choice, really…) during my recovery from anorexia, when I woke up daily at 5am to run. Obsessed about hitting at least 6 miles before I would allow myself to head home, I would often stop in to this little park to finish out my quota for the day. I remember running along that ½ mile path, thinking about my meals the day before, trying to count my calories and make sure I hadn’t gone over. I remember pushing myself to do one or two more laps, because I knew it would quiet the voices in my head and make up for any calories I’d missed from yesterday’s tally.

Months later, after many sessions with a counselor and a lot of hard work, I begun loosening up on my restriction and extreme exercise habits. But now, my battle with food took on a whole other twist. I couldn’t STOP eating. I began eating in secret, bingeing on large amounts of food, making myself sick, and being afraid to leave the house because of how “fat” I felt. In reality, I’d only gone up about 2 sizes in pants, but it happened so quickly that I was sure everyone had noticed and I felt embarrassed to even leave my house. I wore t-shirts and sweatpants whenever I could get away with it, and baggy tunic-style tops the rest of the time. I was so mad at myself for “losing control” with food and didn’t know how to stop the bingeing and weight gain.

Overnight it seemed, I’d become lazy and unmotivated. I’d completely lost my interest in any kind of exercise. It was all I could do get outside and go for a walk, but when I did, I would go up to that park, often in tears, and slowly make my way around the trail. I would mourn the long-gone days of 5am morning runs and the “high” they gave me. I missed the sense of control I used to have and the way I made my body obey me. But, looking back now, I can see that this was an important time in my recovery. During those months, I learned to exercise because I wanted to. I learned (slowly) to give up my compulsion and obsession with working out, and I gradually won the battle over binge eating. As my eating balanced out, so did my exercise routine. Now, I looked forward to those walks in the park and always felt refreshed and content as I soaked in the beauty of nature. Being outside filled me with hope, even on my toughest days. I began once again taking my Bible up to my favorite park, to read, journal, and think. I would talk to God as I walked, sometimes thanking Him for recent baby steps of progress in my recovery, other times begging Him with tears to get me through this hellish struggle. So many ups and downs, but many of them spent at that same park.

By the fall of 2012, I was in a more stable place in my recovery. I had begun to find myself again, learned to relax about my weight and diet, and found new hobbies to enjoy, now that I wasn’t obsessing about food all the time. I’d recently broken off a toxic relationship that had been feeding into my poor body image and insecurity, and I was feeling alive and free. Exercise was a part of my life, but it wasn’t my whole life. I ate a balanced variety of foods and stopped counting calories altogether.

My sister (left) and me, at her wedding

My sister was getting married, and I was the maid of honor. For once, I didn’t diet in order to feel comfortable in my dress. This was a huge step for me, and I felt the gravity of it and the progress it signified. The morning of my sister’s wedding, I woke up and realized I had about an hour until the day began with the arrival of the hairdresser and bridesmaids. I decided to walk up to my favorite park, and just enjoy the brisk, November morning. The temperature was perfect – the sun was out but the breeze made things just a little bit chilly. As I walked by the playground, I stopped to swing on the swings and go across the monkey bars, reliving all the times I’d done those things years ago.

As I left the park, I decided to run the two-tenths of a mile back to my house, but not because I wanted to burn calories; I actually just wanted to run because it felt like the best way to express the peace and happiness in my heart. As I sprinted down the road to my house, I felt like a little kid again, and the excitement of the day ahead made me giddy and free.

A year later, in 2013, I found myself in a new, much healthier, relationship with a guy. He and I went up to the park together in the evenings and made our way around the trail, often with my family’s dog in tow. We’d enjoy the sunset as we discussed our plans for the future, places we wanted to see together and things to check off of our bucket lists.

This is right before I started jumping...

This is right before I started jumping…

By the fall of 2013, he was down on one knee with a ring in his hand, and I was jumping up and down. (Literally, I started jumping and waving my hands around like a crazy person when he proposed… I’m fairly open about expressing my emotions…)

As we’ve made plans for our wedding and future life together, I’ve continued to visit this park from time to time, just to walk and think about everything happening in my life. I’m a very internal processor, so I need those times of solitude to sort through all the swirling thoughts in my head. Being outside, at that park, calms my heart and helps me relax. There are usually kids playing on the playground, who often ask to pet my dog. It feels comfortable and right, being there at that park where so many landmark moments in my life were spent.

A few weeks ago, I woke up on a Thursday morning and got ready to move my fiancé into our new place. We had an appointment to sign our lease together at 10, but I was wide awake at 7 because I was so excited. I leashed up the dog and walked to my park once again, enjoying the morning sunshine and spring breeze that felt just right. As I meandered along the path, I saw the big open field where we used to play catch or kick the soccer ball, or just run around with our childhood friends. I hollered at my dog and the two of us set off in a sprint across the field. We finished with a collapse on the other side of the field, and as I lay there in the grass, I realized how much this park has meant to me throughout my life, and the idea for this blog post was born.

Friends that know I’m into fitness have asked me if I plan to run on the morning of my big day…some even mentioned they’d heard of brides who run a race on their wedding day, which made me exhausted just thinking about it. Who knows, maybe I’ll take a quick run around the neighborhood, or maybe I’ll opt to sleep in and sip coffee on my parents’ screened-in porch. But at some time that morning, before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, I know I’ll make my way up to my little park that holds so many memories for me. Maybe I’ll be swinging on the swings or sprinting across the field. Or maybe I’ll just be sitting on the bench with my journal in hand, soaking in the excitement of the day.
1482862_10201127369570802_544860964_n

Brides and Body Image …a little soapbox rant

Note: This is the first in a series of posts on my experience as a bride-to-be. Yep, that’s right – my guy popped the question on November 14th, and I said YES. Can’t wait to marry him this summer!! 

Stepping into the world of wedding planning websites as a newly engaged woman is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Thrilling, because who isn’t excited about planning their own wedding?? Terrifying, because of the bombardment of headlines and articles, proclaiming 10 Wedding Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make and 12 Things Every Bride Needs to Know. I can feel my stress levels rising already.

One of the more useful things on The Knot is the checklist feature, which organizes your to-do list and keep you on track with all the big and little things that planning a wedding entails. Sounds helpful, right? I thought so too, which is why I eagerly entered my name and wedding date and hit “create an account” a couple days after getting that ring on my finger.
bride ecard
A couple days into my relationship with The Knot, I came across an article titled 10 Things to Do As Soon As You Get Engaged. Sounded urgent and important, so I clicked the link. (Marketing at its finest, right? They sure know how to reel us me in.)

The first item in the glossy photo slideshow was “get a manicure” and I proudly made a mental “check” because I’d already given myself one at home the day before. Nothing like freshly painted nails for showing off the gorgeous diamond, right?

Feeling pretty on top of things, I continued to click through the slideshow, until I came to #5 which boldly proclaimed in big, black letters on my screen:

“Choose a Diet Plan and Start It.”

The picture showed the back of a (size 2) model in a wedding dress with a salesperson holding a tape measure around her waist. Talk about intimidating. And #5 went on to say that brides should “choose a proven plan like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.”

Excuse me?

First of all, since when does a bride-to-be want to start thinking about a diet in the first week of getting engaged?! I was still on cloud nine at that point and showing my ring to every checker in the grocery store that asked how my day was going.

“Choose a diet and start it?” Um, no thanks.

My deeper problem with #5 is this: why do brides even need to diet for their wedding in the first place? I understand that every woman wants to look gorgeous on her wedding day, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get healthy and fit before your wedding. My problem is with the endless pressure on women to always be on one diet or another – and never be happy with our bodies. What if I was a size 18 bride-to-be and I was completely fine with being a size 18 on my wedding day? What if I wanted to enjoy my engagement and the planning process without counting calories (or “points,” in the case of Weight Watchers) all the time and obsessing over every bite of food that enters my mouth? This is something that really makes me mad, so I apologize for the soapbox rant.
contentment

But seriously, can we stop pressuring women about weight loss and encourage them to be confident and happy in their own skin? Since when does a size 4 bride automatically look more gorgeous on her wedding day than a size 14 one does? In my opinion, the media – or whoever you want to call the forces behind these messages – realizes that us brides are a little whole lot of anxious about everything being “just perfect” on our wedding day, and they know just how to play into that fear. All around us there are subtle messages that if we just lose some weight and finally achieve “the body of our dreams” then somehow all the other stress of the wedding will disappear and the day will be blissfully perfect. Which is a big, fat lie.

Believe me, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my battle with food and body image, it’s that size and weight does not equal happiness. Period.

No matter how thin/toned/fit you get your body to be, that alone will NOT bring you true happiness.

So here’s my suggestion to myself and fellow bride-to-be’s:

Instead of starting yet another diet in hopes of creating the perfect wedding day or finally being happy with your body, step back and focus instead on what the wedding is really about.

You’re marrying the love of your life, and isn’t that more important than what size is on the tag of your white dress that day? I know body acceptance and self love isn’t easy – believe me, I still struggle – but let’s do what we can to treat our bodies with care and respect.

Rather than finding a diet plan to follow for the rest of your engagement period, why not start working on loving your body at the size you’re at? That doesn’t mean you can’t work on eating healthier or try lose some weight, but check your motives first. Are you counting on Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig to bring you happiness? Because I guarantee you, they can’t.

Begin today to push back on the messages of our culture. Realize that happiness can come at any size.  Make the decision to stop hating your body and give yourself some grace instead.

You’ll be glad you did.

That Time I Ran a 5K in a Tutu…

Last weekend, I crossed another item off my Bucket List – Race Edition:

– Dress up in a costume for a race.

On Sunday morning, I donned a purple tutu and set out to conquer 3.1 miles on a lakeside trail at a local park.

This all began when my bride-to-be friend messaged me a few weeks ago with a link to a Groupon deal: half off the registration for The Bride’s 5K.

The race – as the name suggests – is for brides-to-be and their bridal parties.

I’m always up for a fun 5K, and after doing some poking around on the race website, I discovered that runners were encouraged to dress up in costume – done deal! I replied to her message with a very enthusiastic “let’s do it!” and so the adventure of the tutu began.

735593_10100108489358416_1824995545_o

As a bridesmaid, I felt it my duty (and pleasure) to be in charge of our outfits for the race. I’m not usually a procrastinator when it comes to these kinds of things, but somehow I found myself in Walmart the day before the race, buying yards of tulle and googling “how to make a tutu” on my phone.

In case you’ve never made a tutu from scratch before (I sure hadn’t), there are many different options suggested online (and countless Youtube tutorials) and each one claims to be the best. I settled on the one that looked the simplest (considering I had less than 24 hours til race time) and picked out some $3 Walmart tank tops to go with our tutus.

The bride, of course, would be decked out in white: a white tutu and veil, accompanied by a matching tank top with some glittery fabric paint proudly announcing her status as the bride.

I, on the other hand, chose purple for my tutu and a turquoise tank to go with it.

The tutus didn’t turn out as ruffly and obnoxious poofy as I would have liked, but I consoled myself that this was my first tutu endeavor and each one from here on would be much better. (If you ever need a tutu, let me know… the next one is sure to be a huge improvement)

We showed up at the race on Sunday morning and mingled a little bit with the other bridal parties. They were apparently very intent on winning the award being given to the best dressed bridal party…one group was decked out in redneck gear, camouflage viels, overalls, and carried a huge sign that said, “My Big Fat Redneck Wedding.” We passed them halfway through the race, mopping the sweat off their faces with red bandannas. I’d be sweating too, if I tried to run a 5K in overalls.

This race definitely got me thinking about other ways I could embarrass myself costumes that would be fun for a race… (I’m kicking myself now for not getting a picture of that redneck bridal party)

My friend and I set off in a flurry of excitement, as she had arrived late (GPS glitch sent her to the wrong side of the park) and it was well past the starting gun. It didn’t matter, though, because we were definitely just running this for fun. (Is it even possible to race competitively in a tutu?)

1149101_10100108489433266_1615179197_oThat being said, we did keep a good pace and even passed several brides that had started way before us – score! After a quick water break at the turnaround point, we finished strong and crossed the finish line with a cheer. Post-race pictures followed, of course. 😉

I’ve heard of women running half or full marathons on the morning of their wedding, and always knew that was NOT kind of my thing. (I’ve only run a half marathon once, but I definitely did not feel up for getting married afterwards! I spent the day watching movies on the couch and eating copious amounts of chocolate covered almonds.) However, after my tutu experience on Sunday, I think it would be really fun to do a casual 5K with my bridesmaids (when that time comes) and burn off some wedding stress a few months before the big day.

Plus, it would give me chance to perfect my tutu-making skills.

Fueling After a Workout

Over the weekend, a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile was asking me for some health eating advice. We got talking about what to eat after a workout, and he asked me what I typically go for to refuel after a workout.

Refueling: What to Eat

My refueling food of choice definitely depends on what kind of workout I’ve just completed. Simply speaking: if it’s a weights day for me at the gym, I focus on protein in my refueling meal. If it’s a running day or some other form of cardio, I’m more intent on getting some good carbs in my system post-workout.

Lately, my favorite refueling protein snack is an amazing combination of Greek yogurt and fruit. I start with about a cup  Greek yogurt in a bowl and mix in some cocoa powder and a dash of Stevia…which makes it taste like chocolate mousse…yum! Then I dice an apple (Fuji is my favorite at the moment) into small pieces, toss it on top of the yogurt chocolate mousse, and sprinkle on some cinnamon. To add a little healthy fat and some delicious crunch, I top the bowl with a few peanuts or cashews and munch away!

Greek yogurt is a great source of protein – one serving can contain anywhere from 13 – 22 grams, depending on the brand. Greek yogurt has less sugar, less carbs and more protein than regular yogurt, and it’s now sold in most every grocery store. I’ve tried several different brands (here’s an article comparing the various options out there) but my favorite is definitely the Trader Joe’s brand, because of the consistency and creaminess!

For my post-run carb fueling, I usually opt for a bowl of oatmeal, with some frozen blueberries, cinnamon and peanut butter mixed in. There are lots of other good options for post-run refueling options – generally anything with (approximately) a 3-1 ratio of carbs to protein is  best! In the past, I’ve tried everything from toast with peanut butter to sweet potato fries dipped in Greek yogurt (sounds weird but tastes delicious!)  Don’t worry about getting the ratios exactly perfect…just focus on getting some healthy carbs into your system!

Refueling: When to Eat

Generally speaking, it’s best to refuel as soon as possible after a workout.  A lot of fitness experts even suggest that you start sipping on a protein shake toward the last 15 minutes of your strength training workout to get a jump-start on the refueling process and get the protein to your muscles as soon as possible. As for post-run/cardio refueling, it’s best to get the carbs (and a little protein too) into your system within 30 minutes because your muscles are best primed to assimilate and utilize the nutrients directly after a workout. Your goal is to replace the glycogen stores in your muscles that were depleted during the run, and the first hour after the workout is the best time for that! Here’s some more information about this optimal refueling window of time: Refueling at Its Best!

Refueling: What NOT to Do

Refueling can be a downfall for some people because they can easily go overboard with their post-workout feast snack. If you’re truly wanting to see results in your fitness and weight, you can’t go blowing all the progress you made during a workout with a refuel meal that sends you into a food coma! I’ve talked to a lot of people who are frustrated because they’re not seeing results from their workouts. Often, I find out that they’re going home after burning 300 calories on the elliptical and devouring a whole box of Girl Scout cookies or a huge plate of mac and cheese! Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional Girl Scout cookie or other indulgent treat, but again, if you want to see RESULTS in your fitness and weight, you need to be smart about refueling! You may feel ravenous after a long run or strength training session at the gym, but start by just consuming an average refuel meal, sipping some water or tea, and waiting for your food to start digesting. It’s easy to scarf down a lot of unnecessary calories as soon as you get home because you feel like you could eat the whole fridge. Pace yourself, eat slowly, and chew well. Listen to your hunger cues and stop when you feel satisfied – not stuffed. And in general, choose healthier options for refueling like whole-grain toast, milk, oatmeal, yogurt, and eggs, rather than hitting IHOP for a huge plate of flapjacks. 😉

Another mistake that is on the other side of the spectrum, but just as easy to do, is the mentality that because you just worked out (i.e., did something healthy) you’re going to continue your healthy habits by not eating AT ALL after your workout. FAIL. This isn’t going to help you in any way! You’ve just finished exhausting your muscles and pushing them to their limits…the best thing you can do now is give those muscles some protein and carbs to help them rebuild and grow! Don’t think you’re being “healthy” by denying yourself food for hours after a workout – get some good calories in your system ASAP so your body can start the rebuilding and refueling process.

Wedding Pics!

There’s always more to say and write about this topic, but I’ll end here and leave you with some pictures from my sister’s wedding last weekend! It was a blast…everything went so smoothly and we had a great time party-ing it up! 😀 So happy for my sis and her new husband!

My family!

My sister and I right before she walked the aisle!

 

Goin’ to the Chapel…

My sister will be tying the knot on Saturday! Wedding Countdown: 4 days!

This past week has been crazy – a frenzied mixture of cleaning, running errands, making phone calls, and other last-minute details! I can hardly believe my sis’s big day is almost here!

The beautiful bride-to-be!

Saturday night, the bachelorette party commenced! First, the girls all gathered at our house and we started with wine and presents:

Around 6:30, we headed over to Maggiano’s for dinner, which was delicious! My sister and I both ordered the Grilled Salmon Salad and were delighted this meal! A lot of the girls ordered pasta dishes and we all raved about how much we enjoyed our dinner. Maggiano’s is a great restaurant with a very peaceful and elegant atmosphere – perfect!

One side of the table!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple hours of giggling, wedding discussion, and delicious Italian food, we hit the road again and ended up at Bailey’s Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square. I had never been there before, but so many people have given it great reviews. My sister is a huge chocolate fan, so this was a perfect place to get dessert and drinks! The menu at the Chocolate Bar is amazing – unique, homemade desserts, fun drinks like Dark Chocolate Martinis, and much more! The lower level is more of a bar atmosphere but upstairs is very quiet more of a restaurant feel. The Chocolate Bar does also have a full dinner menu, although we stuck to dessert and drinks. I split the Flourless Malt Cake with my friend Sarah; it came with a scoop of coffee ice cream in the middle! I nibbled away at the cake for the most part, and Sarah took care of the ice cream – perfect set up for dessert sharing! The cake was rich and filling…just the way I like it! 🙂

Sporting our tiaras at The Chocolate Bar!

We made it home around 11:30…not the latest bachelorette party in the world, but we were all pretty tired and had almost lost our voices from talking and giggling for 6 hours! Sunday morning, I woke up with the worst headache, even though I didn’t drink at all at the party! (I was one of the drivers) I joked with my dad that it was a hangover without the alcohol. Not fun at all! I lazed around most of the morning and finally got dressed to join my family for lunch at Senor Pique. I felt so out of it during lunch and my stomach felt a little off, so I stuck with a marinated tilapia appetizer dish that was served with pico de gallo and avocado.

I knew I would feel better if I got in a short workout, so after lunch I headed to the gym to spend a little quality time on the

Spinach smoothie

elliptical. I ended up feeling inspired to pump some iron, so I knocked out a great upper-body workout that I made up as I went along. It felt so good to sweat and clear my head!

I came home and made another great spinach smoothie!These are my new go-to refreshment!

********************************************************************

Despite the craziness with the wedding preparations, I’ve still found time to take pictures of the Beagle…

“Are you seriously taking ANOTHER picture of me?!”

Squirrel Sighting!

I’ve also managed to get my health coaching website set up! Check it out: HopeDarby.com!  I’m accepting clients now! So excited. 😀

I’m off to edit and finalize my Maid of Honor speech for the reception on Saturday! Eeek!

Weekend Happenings

It’s been a full and fun weekend so far!

Friday evening, I went out to dinner with my friend Megan who was in town for the weekend. She was craving Chili’s, so that’s where we went! I chose the grilled salmon and it was surprisingly delicious! Often when I order fish at restaurants, they cook it too well-done for my taste…and I always forget to order it medium-rare. This salmon was cooked perfectly, though – win, win! After dinner with Megan, I drove about 40 minutes to a completely different area of town to attend an event for International Crisis Aid. I’ve volunteered with ICA in the past and I really love the work they are doing.

Here’s a blurb about ICA, from their website:

“International Crisis Aid’s mission is to assist in sustaining life, bring encouragement to those suffering and collaborate with other relief organizations in bringing necessary foods, materials and medicines to people in times of crisis, particularly where life and death situations exist. Additionally, we attempt to bring public awareness to these situations and to solicit citizen involvement whenever and wherever possible. All assistance and resources are traditionally secured in the country of need when possible, so as to develop relations with the local business people and foster a true spirit of cooperation.”  (source)

Specifically, ICA is doing a lot to stop human trafficking – both overseas and here in the States. Human trafficking is a huge – and sickening – problem. It’s basically a form of slavery and it’s still going on in our world today.

The stats on human trafficking even here in the U.S. are unbelievable; here are some links I found online:

Human Trafficking: The Facts

The FBI on Human Trafficking: “It’s Sad but True”

Sex Trafficking in the United States

On Friday night, Pat and Sue Bradly, the founders and directors of ICA, spoke briefly about the work they are doing and the new safe home they are opening here in St Louis for victims of sex trafficking. A couple months ago, I visited the safe house with a group from my church and helped paint and clean the house in preparation for its opening. Pat and Sue stopped by while we working and my friends and I got to meet them and hear more about the work ICA is doing.

With the founders of International Crisis Aid, Pat and Sue Bradley

Saturday

On Friday afternoon, I sent a quick text to my mom, asking if she was interested in a Saturday morning hike together. She responded with an enthusiastic “YES!” so Saturday morning we hit the trails at Queeny Park, with Cocoa in tow.  🙂  The temps were brisk but not miserably cold by any means…my favorite kind of weather! We had a great 4 mile hike and fun conversation on the trails as we walked. Love my mom!

Enjoying the fall weather!

And of course, no post would be complete without a picture of my Beagle love…  😉

Saturday afternoon, my sis and I went shopping for dresses for her wedding rehearsal and dinner! I came home with two amazing dresses but I’m not sure if I’m going to keep either one because I just don’t feel like spending the $$$ right now. I did get them both on sale (at Dress Barn) but still…I keep asking myself how much I’ll really wear them or if I truly need another dress.  Will probably end up taking them back, haha.    😛    The sister and I had a great time together, though. After our shopping expeditions were completed, she took me out for a late birthday dinner at a new-to-me restaurant: Big Sky!
Can’t rave enough about Big Sky! It’s an amazing place and I will definitely be recommending it to everyone I know. haha. The food is from local farms, the meat is grass-fed, free-range, etc etc. Everything tasted so fresh and healthy – the health coach in me was in heaven! 😉  I was in the mood for fish (again) so I went with the pan-roasted trout and my sis got the swordfish. Both of them were delicious and mine came on a bed of fresh spinach with goat cheese sprinkled on top. Goat cheese is one of my absolute favorite foods, which I largely why I chose the trout! And it did not disappoint.

I didn’t get to take any pictures inside the restaurant, but I did snap one of this cute wood plaque that came with the check:

Good rule of thumb! 😉

Not only is the food delicious at Big Sky, but the decor and ambiance is delightful as well! They also have great service and a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. I would definitely give this place 5 stars! I wish I could eat there more often, but because of my current budget, it’ll probably just be a special treat, reserved for celebrating birthdays and such. Oh well. I can still dream about relish the memory of the amazing goat cheese and delicious trout…  And if you’re ever in the St Louis area, I definitely recommend you take me there you stop by Big Sky!

This morning, I completed my “Burnin’ Leg Workout” in the comfort of my basement…and it definitely did the trick! My legs are still feeling wobbly and weak after all the lunges and squats. Love that!

Went to the late service at church today with my siblings and a few friends. It was good; the main thing that stood out to me was what the pastor was saying about being a leader. He said that we can each be a leader in some capacity – whether it’s at school, at work, in our families, among our friends. We always have opportunities to be a good example to others; to lead in a godly, humble way. This was really thought-provoking for me because I can easily grow lazy about this kind of thing and just go through the days without much thought of how my life can be a blessing and example to others. Good stuff to think about!

Off to watch some Sunday afternoon football and hang out with my fam!

I hope you’re enjoying your weekend!  🙂

Flying By!

Whew, this week has been crazy!

Saturday was the boyfriend’s birthday, but since we had another friend’s birthday party that night, we celebrated C’s birthday on Sunday. So, it was one, big birthday weekend! Loved it! Saturday morning I went out for Starbucks and a walk with my sis. Her wedding is only about 6 weeks away so we had lots of wedding details to discuss! It was a blast and such a beautiful fall morning to be sipping coffee and having girl talk.   🙂

Saturday night, C and I went to Dave and Buster’s for a friend’s birthday party! It was so much fun! I’d only eaten at D&B’s one other time; this time I got the Lawnmower Salad, which was filled with tomatoes, peppers, avocado, radishes, and hard boiled egg. I loved it. After lots of eating and general party banter, we moved into the arcade room for some games!  C and I did some Mario Kart races, skee ball, and several rounds of the claw game! He always wants to win stuffed animals for me, haha. Usually we play the small claw game, but this time we also tried the huge one. The huge claw game is much more difficult, but the prizes are…well, huge. This time we really hit it big and I walked out carrying this baby:

I have since moved the whale to the top shelf in my closet, and every time I look in there, that big whale eye creeps me out just a little.  😛

Sunday morning after church, C and I enjoyed an amazing lunch at one of my favorite lunch spots – Jason’s Deli. I never get anything but the salad bar there, because the salad bar is just too great for me to pass up! Such a good variety of toppings and some extra-special touches like Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt, and whole, hardboiled eggs! What’s not to love?

After lunch, we drove out to C’s house, where his relatives had gathered for a birthday party! There was a lot of delicious-looking food, but I was still full from lunch so I just had some of the fruit.  After our early dinner, C opened his presents and we sat around the living room, talking for awhile. It was so good to see his family again; I hadn’t been out to his house in awhile.

This week has been really busy with the final preparations for my sis’s bridal shower on Saturday! Lots of emails flying back and forth among the bridesmaids, lots of grocery shopping and errands. I’m really excited for tomorrow! We’ll have lots of delicious food, a fun “how well do you know your groom” game for the bride, gifts, cake, and lots of good girl time. 🙂

The other highlights of my week included a great coffee date with the sweetest friend on Tuesday evening, followed by a nighttime run when I got home! It was such a beautiful night and I was itching to be outside. I had a great 5 mile run with no ipod, just the nighttime sounds and my own huffing and puffing.  😉

Wednesday night, I went to A’s church with her. It was great service and an awesome time of worship. We sung one of my current favorite songs, Forever Reign, by Hillsong. It’s such a good song that it’s impossible to excerpt, but you can read the full lyrics here: Forever Reign

On that note, I wanted to share something neat that happened on Tuesday! I had a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, and without going into a bunch of details, there was something a little concerning that needed further testing. Everything turned out to be ok, (thankfully) but the bill was $150, all of which I have to pay out of pocket. (That’s a whole other complicated story) Combined with the $200 I had to pay a couple weeks ago for the x-rays of my wisdom tooth, that adds up to a good amount of unplanned expenses in a short amount of time. Needless to say, I was stressing a little  a lot about money on Tuesday afternoon! I hate spending money in big chunks, especially on medical things. (Somehow it’s not as painful when I’m spending it on clothes?!)  I kept trying to just calm down and stop freaking out about it, but it was not going so well. I left my house to meet my friend at Starbucks, and as I was pulling out of the driveway, I noticed it was sprinkling. The sun was still shining, though, and you can probably imagine what happened next…  I looked up  to see a rainbow stretching across the sky, poking out of the clouds with gorgeous rays of color! It took my breath away.

This blurry phone pic doesn’t do it justice!

Seeing that rainbow reminded me to focus on the positive things in my life, of which there are many! I am incredibly blessed in so many ways. Yes, the $$$ stuff is stressful, but it helps me calm down when I focus on all that I have to be thankful for. As cheesy as it sounds, the vivid image of color coming out of the clouds reminded me of all the beautiful color in my own life, despite the clouds that may be there too. Even in the midst of my stressful expenses, my personal struggles, my failures and shortcomings, I still have so much to be happy about!  And that rainbow was just the reminder I needed on Tuesday afternoon. 🙂