Friday, March 29, 2013

Anna Go Bragh

At this point I honestly can't remember if I ever shared this exciting news with y'all yet. No, not the ring--but of course that was exciting too!


Right now! Well, today. I'm leaving this afternoon and will arrive early as hell Ireland time tomorrow morning. I couldn't be more stoked. This is the first real vacation I've taken since I started my big girl job and my first trip to Europe!

I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off at work the past few weeks trying to get everything prepped and together before the trip that I really haven't had time to sit down and think about it. But now I'm definitely starting to get pumped!

My little sister is studying abroad at the University of Limerick this semester so my parents and I are headed over to pay her a visit, and do some exploring of our own. My only real regret in life is my decision to not study abroad while I was in college. Honestly I was just too lazy to make it work and additionally was probably a little bit nervous. Less about traveling somewhere on my own but more about missing out while my friends, sorority and everything at college moved on without me back home. I was a stupid, stupid girl.

Today I pretty much worked my vacation into every conversation that I had with a student because I was getting that excited. A few of them have been before and gave me some suggestions of places to go. Luckily, well not really, my mom has had some insomnia pretty regularly over the past month and has made us a detailed itinerary and scheduled some day trips and tours for us. I'm so glad she took the reigns because I don't think I have any brainpower left at this point to figure that stuff out. 

I bought a real camera and some new clothes for the occasion. I've also watched P.S. I Love You several times within the past month to get me even more excited, although it also had the unfortunate effect of making me bawl my eyes out. That movie gets me every damn time.

Of course I'll have plenty of stories to share after the trip so stay tuned for the adventures. I have a few posts still coming your way so you don't have to miss me too much this week!

Have you ever been to Ireland? Any advice or must see places?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pomegranate Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

After going out to dinner a few weeks ago and having some acorn squash with my dish I had a craving to make a few more squash dishes before winter is gone. Though it's officially spring Sunday brought us a few inches of snow so I'm glad I decided to roll out a few more squash dishes, it was perfect timing!

This was a night where I was totally in the mood to go with the flow and so I did exactly that. I started with cooking the squash and then began throwing things together. As I went to make the quinoa I remembered I had some pomegranate juice and thought it might be fun to infuse this dish with the flavor. I love squash dishes that are both a bit sweet and savory and this gave it a perfect balance. 

Then as things got cooking I realized what would make this perfect...a balsamic reduction!

I had never made it before but figured it couldn't be too hard. I looked up this recipe and made a few adjustments since I didn't need quite so much. Then I figured I'd throw some pomegranate juice in there as well. I did two parts vinegar and one part juice I think I'd change that to three:one ratio in the future. 

Even though I felt like I was just throwing stuff together without much purpose, this dish came out awesome. In the future I might add some chopped nuts, maybe slivered almonds, but since Mr. Charming doesn't care much for them I left it out. He even enjoyed this dish which I was a bit nervous about. 

With no further adieu...

Pomegranate Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash with Balsamic Reduction
1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 + 1/8 cup pomegranate juice (a variety like Pom Wonderful that's pure juice)
3/4 cup water
2 tbsp Craisins (I used the pomegranate variety)
1/4 onion diced
Handful of spinach, about 2 cups
1 acorn squash
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400*.
First cut your acorn squash in half and scoop out the guts and seeds (feel free to save seeds for roasting!), then place face down in a baking dish. Add about a 1/2 inch of water to the dish and place in the oven for 1 hour or until tender. You could also do this in the microwave and cook for 7-10 minutes face down in a baking dish, be careful with time pending on your microwave and squash size.

While your squash is cooking combine 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup pom juice and 1/2 cup quinoa in a small pot. Turn heat on high until it boils. Once it boils turn down to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Be sure to look at the instructions on your quinoa package in case they differ. 

Heat 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot add onion and saute until translucent, then add in craisins and turn to medium low heat. Add the spinach and cook down. Once all of the veggies are cooked turn heat down to low. Then add the quinoa once cooked. 

For the balsamic reduction combine the 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar with 1/8 cup of pom juice (though I suggest trying 1/2 vinegar and 1/8 juice) in a small saucepan over medium to medium high heat. Once it boils reduce heat to a simmer and occasionally stir until liquid has decreased by half and become syrupy. Be careful not to overcook.

Plate your acorn squash and then stuff with half of the quinoa veggie mixture, repeat with the second half. Drizzle the balsamic reduction evenly over each squash and use any extra on side veggies. This is a yummy dish by itself but I think in the future it could be made even more lovely with a touch of feta.

Marvel in the beauty of this dish, dig in and enjoy! Best served with a glass of slightly sweet red wine. Just be sure to not spill on your cream colored couch...

Do you have any acorn sqaush recipes you love? Share them with me!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Boho Cycle Studio

I don't usually do a lot of promotions or ask my faithful readers for favors but today is an exception! The lovely Shannon from Thirsty Richmond contacted me yesterday with some information I just had to share. She has just started a new business Boho Cycle Studio (which came with great timing since I gushed about spin class on Sunday!) and has entered in a Start-Up Competition with the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. They need some votes to get to the finals, and that's where you come in!

Check out this message from Shannon and her business partner, AnnMarie...

This isn't just about winning and getting money though, it's also about supporting locally owned business (managed by two great ladies nonetheless!) that spread the message of health, wellness and having a great time! Shannon (and I) would love if you could take a second to vote for Boho, and if you feel compelled spread the word however you choose. Blog about it, share some social media lovin', spread it around to other folks you know might have an interest in this venture.

Here Shannon's simple steps for voting:
2. Click to vote and select Boho Cycle Studio
3. Repeat once a day for three days
4. Imagine me high fiving you in amazing gratitude and thanks! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

BL Challenge: Week 2 Recap

Well friends, this past week of the Biggest Loser Challenge definitely had it's ups and downs. I was super busy at work and did make it to the gym three times, but it was rushed and as Jillian Michaels would say I probably was "phoning it it." I also ate a bunch of jelly beans and cheese, whoops.

I'm glad I can at least tell when I haven't been keeping up as good as I should be. Honestly I could feel that I had fallen off the fitness wagon a bit and this morning the numbers didn't lie! The challenge itself went well though, I drink so much water that I didn't even really have to monitor getting my 64 oz. in but it was a bit more difficult for Mr. Charming.

I gained two pounds, whomp! However when Mr. Charming texted me this morning with his weight (since the bugger got to stay home on a snow day, silly teachers) I was overjoyed. He lost four pounds! He's been doing such a good job with eating vegetables, cutting out sweets and unnecessary snacks and doing some workouts with his team at volleyball practice.

Week 2 Winner: Mr. Charming

Looks like I'll be making the bed this week! I was so proud of him that I picked up a few treats at Kroger when I was grocery shopping. K-cups are a privilege for us as we usually just fill the little pod with coffee and the Starbucks kind were on sale-score! I also grabbed some of Annie's gummy bunnies since he's a huge gummy fanatic and they're of a much healthier variety. Finally, we're both leaving town later this week so I got him a box of Fiber One PB&J bars to take with him to a volleyball tournament. They sound weird but are one of our new faves, even though they're marketed towards children.

I'd be lying if I didn't share that I was a bit tiffed about losing this week and having to make the bed. I definitely thought I'd be the winner all through this challenge but it looks like MC is up for the competition. I took my behind to the gym and ate lots of yummy vegetables so I can steal my winning title back next week.

For anyone playing along, how did you do this past week? Were you able to get your water in each day?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

BL Challenge Week 3: New Workouts

Hope that week two of the Biggest Loser Challenge has been going well for everyone! First, I must begin by saying just how awed I still am from the actual Biggest Loser finale this past Monday. From the first time Danni won a challenge by herself I knew that girl was going to win and I was legit screaming when she did. Especially since she won by ONE POUND! How nuts is that?

Not only did she lose 121 lbs. during the season but she came out totally toned and packing some major muscle. I'm pretty sure that the doctor on the show said she made a new record of the amount of muscle gained by a contestant, I think it was 19 lbs? She is totally my hero.

My jaw absolutely dropped when Lisa came on as well. She was one of my favorite earlier in the season and when she left I was sad, but knew she'd continue to lose the weight. I couldn't imagine being a mother of four and going through something that hard while leaving your family at home. When she came out in that red dress I seriously started screaming. So much inspiration from these folks. I'm honestly thinking about making them the background on my phone because when I think about how hard they worked it will hopefully keep me away from eating a pile of cookies in the afternoon...

Ok back to the the actual post! This week coming up the challenge is to try a new workout. As I have started getting into fitness this past year I've tried some new things and have loved them. Doing the same thing everyday is not only boring, but doesn't help you to change your body. It's important to mix up your workouts and when you're running it's especially important to cross train and give your legs a rest.

Bikram Yoga is one of my new favorite things. It was really daunting at first, everyone told me was I going to pass out during my first class. However I totally rocked it (I think my dancing past kicks in to give me great balance & flexibility) and got compliments from the instructor. I'm looking forward to taking more classes with Bikram Yoga Richmond. Two of my other favorite workouts are Spinning and BodyPump.

I love that BodyPump gets me some great cardio, but is also amazing strength training. I'm awful when it comes to doing weights work by myself so I love that this class guides me through it. I'm sad that the gym where I work is no longer offering this so I might just have to join the local gym for some better classes.
Kettlebells are something have been extremely intimidating to me. The other week when I went to the gym with a friend I used one for the first time just for a few minutes. I really enjoyed it and have been looking into getting a set of my own. Since I haven't picked one up since then I'm thinking of trying out some new things with these little guys this week. This article shows eight different moves to do with the kettlebells and I think I'll try and tackle this after doing some cardio.

Check out my Health and Exercise board on Pinterest for some inspiration as you look for a new workout to try this week. Doesn't matter if you do well, but go out there and try something new. Don't forget to check back tomorrow for a recap of week two's challenge!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

KitchenAid Mixer Giveaway

KitchenAid mixer giveaway
Good morning lovelies! I hope you're excited for this great post. I have teamed up with Emily from Newlywed Moments and some other fabulous blogger ladies to giveaway a KitchenAid. Soon after I recently got engaged I knew this was going to be the first thing I put on my registry. One of you lucky ladies is going to get win one right now!
Today is the first day of spring!! To celebrate, Newlywed Moments and friends are giving away a KitchenAid Mixer!! Why? One lucky reader will win this white-colored KitchenAid Classic Series 4.5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer! Rules & Information: -- Giveaway is open to U.S. readers only. -- The winner will be verified, so please enter honestly. -- The winner will be notified by email on 3/27/13 and will have 24 hours to respond.

The lovely ladies of the giveaway!

In addition to the Rafflecopter links below, with the recent news about GFC and Google Reader go ahead and follow me on Bloglovin' as well. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 18, 2013

BL Challenge: Week 1 Recap

Time to look back at the first week of the Biggest Loser Challenge! It was a great week eating lots of fruits and vegetables and event though I regularly eat quite a few I'll admit some days it was a challenge to grab some sugar snap peas instead of pretzels for a snack.

clockwise from top left

1. Had one of the best veg meals at a restaurant ever this past Saturday night! The portobella caps had this awesome balsamic reduction. Isn't that plate just gorgeous? | 2. Made one of our favorite dishes, Mexican Baked Eggs, which is full of lots of yummy veggies. I love the colors! | 3. Started Saturday out with a produce filled meal of egg sandwiches with guac, sauteed veggies and some mango. | 4. Went to Kuba Kuba on Tuesday and I got a massive bowl of veggie paella that I ate for three more meals after that, it was loaded! | 5. Mr. Charming sent me a text of this lunch he had at school with the caption "See I do eat vegetables!!" well sir, I see fries on that plate...but yes fruit, veggies and veg soup. 

As per our rules we saved all of our sweet treats for the weekend and treated ourselves to froyo on Saturday. Sweet Frog now has Nutella froyo and my mind is seriously still blown about just how amazing it was. I think I made my best froyo combo to date with the Nutella base, raspberries, almonds, snow caps and some chocolate covered waffle cone pieces. Drooling just thinking about it...

So who was the winner of this week's challenge? Well at this morning's weigh in the numbers didn't lie...

Week 1 Winner: Anna

I mean duh, who did y'all think won? On a serious note though I didn't win by much I lost just under a pound and the scale stayed the same for MC. I'll admit there were a few times I slipped up this week by indulging in some small sweets, but I've learned it's not good to deprive yourself. Looks like MC better get excited about making the bed all week!
If anyone else out there in blog land actually did follow along and wants to link up with a recap of their first week I've included that below and will leave it open until next week's update. Can't wait to hear how it went! I shared a button on yesterday's post. 
Good luck on starting out Week 2's Challenge to drink 64 oz. of water each day. I shared some tips and tricks on this one yesterday if you missed it. Happy Week 2 Biggest Losers!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

BL Challenge Week 2: H2O

I hope everyone had a good first week of the Biggest Loser Challenge! Tomorrow will be the day to post about how the first week went, but today I'll share some tips for this week's challenge.

Biggest Loser Challenge @ My Semi-Charmed Life

Week 2: Drink 64 oz. of Water Each Day
Drinking enough water everyday is important for a variety of reasons. When I see people constantly downing sugary juices and sodas it makes me cringe to think about what's happening inside their body. I'm not perfect and love a good soda every once in a while, but H2O is the way to go!

Water is...
A nourishing agent
Flushes your body of impurities 
Reduces risk of kidney stones
Helps to lower blood pressure
Improves your skin
Bonus: It's calorie free!

A few ways I try to get my 64 oz. each day...
  • Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning before breakfast
  • Drink tea instead of coffee (which can actually dehydrate you)
  • Keep my 24 oz. Tervis Tumbler at work and always keep it full (three of these and I'm good to go!)
  • Take a water bottle when running errands--Camelbak is my favorite!
  • Keep track of my water intake with MyFitnessPal so I don't forget how much I've had to drink!

Luckily I love water, I will most always choose water over any other drink any day of the week. However I've come to learn in life that there are quite a few people out there that can't stand the stuff. This completely boggles my mind, but I know I have a challenge with trying to remember that everyone isn't just like me (how unfortunate, right?). 

If you're not a big water fan here are a few tips to spruce it up:
  • Add in a slice of lemon, lime, or orange to flavor it
  • Infuse it with fruits, vegetables or herbs (so many recipes on Pinterest!)
  • Make tea with it...just don't dump loads of sugar in 
Just don't go grabbing for the Crystal Light--it's full of artificial sweeteners and colors, and not real fruit ingredients. They've just introduced a "Pure" line of drink mixes that are supposed to be free of artificial sweetener, they're a bit better but still don't really have natural ingredients. 

So use these tips to try and get all of your water in this week--it's much easier than it seems I promise! And don't forget to come link up and share how your first week went tomorrow. 

What's your favorite way to enjoy water? Any other tips to help you drink your 64 oz. throughout the day?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Extra Extra, Read All About It!

In case you somehow missed breaking news in the world of blogging yesterday, Google Reader will be officially shutting down on July 1st. The New York Times Bits blog even covered it yesterday and I find it rather ridiculous interesting that a petition was put together on which has garnered 50,000 signatures. Seriously people?

While I know some people have been up in arms, I honestly could care less about Google Reader as I've probably looked at it about once in my life. Unless you seriously follow hundreds of blogs (in which case I think you need to calm down and go play outside a bit) I think it's perfectly manageable to keep up with a list of links in a blog scroll, which was my old school way. I for one really enjoy seeing someone's actual site, it makes for the true blog reading experience.

Then a while back I discovered bloglovin' and it changed my life. It's such a clean and manageable way to keep up with blogs you enjoy reading. One of my favorite features is that I can quickly scroll through posts and if I don't like the initial "blurb" I just keep on moving. Second, when you go to view you're seeing the actual live blog page within the bloglovin' frame so I still get the "true blog reading experience."

Bloglovin' has made it ridiculously easy for you to switch to their platform and will even let you import all of your blogs from Google Reader if that's how you've been operating. In addition, the app for BL is awesome and I use it to scan through and keep up with blogs during the day. It's clean and easy to look at. Another favorite feature of the site is that if you go to someone's page you can click on "similar blogs" to discover more sites that you might enjoy.

So moral of the story, if y'all are currently just following via GFC and Google Reader hop on over and follow me on bloglovin' sometime between now and July 1st!

Have you used bloglovin' before this blogger drama came around? What are some of your favorite things about the site?

ps. head over to Mal's blog today for an awesome picture of me presenting to her 5th grade class earlier this week, they were too adorable but I think I'll stick with college students!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Oodles of Noodles

Interesting fact about me is I'm actually not a huge fan of spaghetti and pasta. I'm probably like 85% Italian and grew up with lots of it. Pasta was a weekly meal in our house and that consisted of pasta, sauce, bread and Parmesan cheese. Even when I was younger I think my subconscious somehow saw that there was no veggies in this meal and turned me away from it.

Don't get me wrong I do occasionally enjoy pasta, though I'd much rather eat my empty calories in macaroni & cheese, but my hips hate it! That is why spaghetti squash is one of my best friends. I really love all squash and this is probably my third favorite after butternut and acorn. Once you cook it you can scrape the insides to produce spaghetti like strands of squash that are yummy and a great substitute for nutrition-less pasta.

Cooking spaghetti squash can seem like a daunting task to those who have never used it before but I have some tips and tricks for you. You could cut it in half (if you have the strength of an ox) and bake it for 40 minutes...OR you could pop it in the microwave for 10. Take your pic, but clearly there's a winner here. Take your squash and stab it with a knife 8-10 times all around, get decently deep with your stab so you get to the inside. The weight will depend on the cooking time so I suggest first popping it in for seven minutes test it out to see how tender it's gotten and continue to add time until the squash is softer and there's some water coming out of the stab wounds.

Be careful with smaller squashes because they will explode. No joke. Last week I was preparing some other things for the dish when I heard a loud POP! I opened the microwave to find this... just watch out on the cooking time! Once it's cooked slice it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and some of that weird junk like pumpkins have. Then scrape away for tons of delish spaghetti strands. You can use them like regular noodles and top them with sauce or mix them up with additional ingredients. I made two different casseroles with them recently to give you some ideas.

The first was a Southwestern dish inspired by this recipe. Unfortunately when my squash exploded I couldn't stuff it anymore so decided to mix everything up into a casserole. This was an awesome combination and I'll definitely be making it again. In addition to the recipe I topped it with some avocado and a bit of Greek yogurt (as a sour scream sub).

Isn't that just gorgeous?
Mr. Charming hadn't had spaghetti squash before (not that I was surprised) and he really like it. What he liked even more is that he could have a good heaping portion of it as opposed to regular noodles where we are sure to stick to a serving size. When I said I could make it again he put in a special request for one that would have tomatoes, basil and mozzarella  "Spaghetti squash caprese!!!" I screamed, but he didn't know what caprese one. You win some, you lose some.

This was one was super easy. Pop your squash in the microwave and while it's cooking chop up two tomatoes and cut fresh mozzarella into small cubes. Transfer your cooked "spaghetti" to a large bowl and mix with these ingredients, add basil (I only had dried but it worked) and a handful or two of spinach. Next time I would definitely chop the spinach up some. Actually I'd chop up some onion and garlic and sautee it along with the spinach to break it down some. Trial and error!

Save some of the mozz cubes (or cut larger pieces...) and after transferring this mix to a casserole dish (8x8 worked great) throw the cheese on top. Bake for 15 minutes and then broil for two to let the cheese get extra gooey and the veggies crispy.

After starting this post I realized that over a year ago I posted about making "Easy Breezy Pasta Caprese", how funny? I went back and read it and the beginning of the post is pretty much identical. At least I'm consistent right?

Have you tried spaghetti squash? If you've cooked with it what some of your favorite ways to prepare and eat it?

Monday, March 11, 2013

BL Challenge Week 1: Fruits & Veggies

If you missed yesterday's post for my Biggest Loser Challenge then you better go catch up! Mr. Charming and I are kicking off our challenge today and I couldn't be more excited. I've decided that on Sundays I'll be posting some tips and tricks for the week ahead, particularly centered around the weekly challenge. If you'd like to also share some tips that day I'll provide a means to link-up. Mondays will be recaps of the week before, what went well, did you learn anything, what's your progress so far? Of course there will also be an opportunity to link-up there too. Also, let's use the hashtag #BLchallenge for Twitter & Instagram to connect with each other!

Biggest Loser Challenge @ My Semi-Charmed Life

Week 1: Eat 7 Servings of Fruits & Veggies

I absolutely LOVE my fruits & veggies! Not just because I'm a vegetarian either. I was fortunate to grow up in a household with lots of them around, and while I used to not be the biggest veggie fan I've always gotten my fruits in. It's crazy when I see meals that consist of no fruits or vegetables at all, and typically they're of the blandly colored variety. If it's a colorful plate, it's probably got your fruits & veggies!

So how many should you really be eating in a day? Well the USDA is now promoting us to fill half our plate with fruits and veggies which is good to aim for. The remaining half should contain your protein and grains. If you consider doing that for three meals in addition to some snacks, it's pretty easy to get in the amount of fruits & veggies you need. This site even has links to a calculator for you to see how much a woman, man, girl or boy should be eating within these food groups.

There are plenty of studies out there that link eating more fruits & veggies will help your health and can even ward off (and reverse) diseases. Forks Over Knives is an awesome documentary (available on Netflix!) that highlights this, and though it's promoting getting rid of all animal products from your diet--the main point I take away from it is about the produce.

Here's one of my favorite things to think about--if you just concentrate on eating more fruits and veggies, you'll naturally eat less junk right? Pick up an apple instead of a pastry. Eat some carrots instead of chips.

T i p s  &  T r i c k s
Head over to my Fruits & Veggies Pinterest board for lots of great ideas on how to eat your produce!
After you grocery shop cut & prepare your produce and put it into containers & baggies so they're easy to grab and pack for the day
Put spinach in your smoothie--seriously!
Smoothies in general: fruit & veggies together before you even head to work or school
Put spinach in anything & everything you're cooking, toss a handful in and there ya go!

While I was doing some searching I also found this video which is hilariously ridiculous--in case you need some more motivation!

Good luck with this first week of the challenge friends! Do you have any additional tips on getting in your fruits and veggies? Which ones are your favorite? Any fun ways you have to snack on them? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Biggest Loser Challenge

This season Mr. Charming and I have made a ritual out of watching The Biggest Loser on Monday nights. While I've watched the show before this was his first time and he's really enjoyed it. We have absolutely fallen in love with (most) of the contestants. I know I've shared my love for Danni on the blog before...

Each time I watch it I am so inspired to go out and do good with my health and fitness for the rest of the week. It gets me so pumped, well, Jillian Michaels gets me so pumped. I would seriously kill for a personal training session with her. Most likely want to kill her at the end, but still. 

What I've found to be the most interesting about the show is the reason that so many people may not be at their peak levels of fitness and health (and I'm in no way claiming to be), there are so many simple things you can adjust in your daily life to be healthier. I'll be the first to admit that sometimes I don't eat all of servings of fruits and veggies, or I might blow off a workout to stay at home and watch TV. 

I've been toying around with the idea of doing a challenge between MC and I, not to see who can lose the most pounds, but to more or so challenge ourselves to be healthy. And so I've come up with the Biggest Loser Challenge! It will begin tomorrow and go for the next eight weeks (until May 6), and I invite you to challenge yourself along with us if you wish!

Biggest Loser Challenge @ My Semi-Charmed Life
For this challenge we've come up with a set of "rules". These are flexible, we made them based on how we know ourselves so if you're going to come along on this journey with us, feel free to add additional rules and "up" the numbers on things. (For example, I'm setting a goal of five workouts a week for myself, but for MC I thought three would be a good number.)

No soda
No fast food
At least three workouts per week 
Keep up with MyFitnessPal
Sundays are Last Chance Workouts*
Sweet treats only on the weekends (fruit & other natural desserts during the week)
Eat as much real food as you can, think twice before eating out of packages!

*On the BL show the day before weigh-ins are "Last Chance Workouts" and these are super intense and longer workouts 

In addition to rules, each week on the BL show there is a challenge. Now we can't get crazy and do some of the things on the show that involve foam pits and lakes, but we came up with some different challenges

While we already go meatless, I've added that as a challenge idea for those who are participating along with us. I'll actually be on vacation that week so our personal week 5 challenge will be to "Do It On Your Own" since we won't have each other for motivation--or to keep us on track! Feel free to adapt, but each week on Sunday I'll share some tips, tricks and recipes to make the week's challenge easier for you.

In order to keep track of stats I made a handy dandy spreadsheet that you're welcome to use as well. The link will take you to a Google Doc document that you can save your own copy of, or download as an Excel spreadsheet. I included the rules and challenges (which you can adapt for your needs) in addition to a "stats" page.

For us, it's not as much about the pounds as getting fit, eating well and building some more muscle. We're still going to keep track of weight loss, but each week we're also going to do measurements too to see the difference it's really making. If you're doing the challenge solo feel free to delete out the second person's columns, or adjust to you and your partner's initials. 

Now you might ask what does it mean to be the winner? Well, this is another thing that's totally up to you! We both have a major sweet tooth so we're leaving our one indulgence of sweets (most likely fro-yo!) to Saturdays. The loser will be buying dessert and in addition has to make the bed all week! The winner will be tasked with putting together the "Last Chance Workout" for that Sunday. 

So who's ready to come along on this journey with us? I'm signing up for a 10k that is on May 5 at the end of the last week of this challenge so I'm really hoping that this will keep me on track with my training and really whip me back into shape after my hip injury last fall. 

If you're coming along for the ride, then feel free to link-up on Mondays with a recap of your week. How did your challenges go? Are you sticking to your rules? Try something new that worked well? Share it with the group. I'm going to go and indulge in a yummy meal with my mom and brother this evening before kicking things off tomorrow morning!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

MC Is My Hero

Mr. Charming is gone this weekend at a volleyball tournament with his kiddos and that means a few different things. First, I came home from the gym yesterday, made myself a scrumptious dinner and finally watched Pitch Perfect. Yes, I'm behind the times. I enjoyed it, but I feel like it was way too hyped up for me. There were some good parts, but it's no Mean Girls or Bridesmaids. Then I cleaned the house like a mad person, read and went to bed at 11pm. A perfect Friday night in my book!

On the other hand, it means I'm helpless when it comes to technology. I've definitely mastered our TV which includes four remotes. Yes, four. The TV, cable box, DVD player and sound system. I had to write directions down when we first moved in because I would be home alone and get stuck with a messed up TV. After I had a nice little breakfast I came into the office to poke around the computer and I found my worst nightmare... THE INTERNET WAS DOWN! I quickly tried to see if I could connect to any of my neighbor's networks, fail. I immediately thought about getting dressed and heading to Starbucks for some internet, low point. Then I smartened up and texted MC.

I'm sure this is exactly how he was hoping to wake up and kick off his volleyball tournament weekend. Thank goodness for the only thing I like about Comcast (aside from them having the complete Downton Abbey series OnDemand) is you can call them and do a reset to your internet that always works. Looks like maybe I should spend some time understanding how the technology works around here?

Now that this trouble is behind me I'm gearing up for a big day. I'm going to look at one of my top wedding venue choices!! No specifics yet, but it's in downtown Richmond and I absolutely adore everything I've read about it. Hopefully we'll get to see our second favorite next weekend and make a decision (eeek!). I'm also going to go look at a house today, we're only looking to rent but it's still quite the task. The house is adorable but it's not really in the area we'd like to be in. I figure I may as well see something to kick off the house hunt and get an idea of what's out there.

I'm already feeling way too grown up for my own good today. Looking at a wedding venue and house hunting in one day? Who am I? Good thing I'm rounding this grown up day out by finding my inner high school Anna and going to paint pottery with Mallory this afternoon. Did y'all know I used to be a ceramics queen way back in the day? Next time I'm home I'll have to snap some pics of all the pieces still at my parents house!

Have a lovely day and enjoy this sunny weather, hopefully it's nice where you are too! Also...keep your eyes peeled for tomorrow's post...some big news coming your way!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

National Ritual Celebration Week

After anticipating Panhellenic's International Badge Day for weeks I definitely forgot to wear my badge on Monday. At first I was a bit sad, mostly because I don't get the opportunity to wear it often these days but then I realized something. Every day you should act and live as if you are wearing your sorority's badge so it's definitely nice to put it on sometimes and have people ask me about it and share my values, but I lived out the day just the same.

Badge day made me think about this blog so I hopped over there yesterday to see what's been cookin' as it had been quite a while since I stopped by. I saw that they were hosting a link up with impeccable timing: An International Badge Day Link-Up.

the observant turtle

I may have missed posting yesterday but National Ritual Celebration Week goes for a few more days, and I can talk about my sorority experience until I'm blue in the face. I've shared my Tri Sigma story on the blog before but am excited to participate in this link up and share some more!

What does being Greek mean to you?
Wow--loaded question! Being Greek to me is being a part of something larger than myself. It's being a part of a community that has been around for almost 200 years. It's having a set of shared values and standards for my actions and the way I live my life. It's a commitment to be a leader and to engage in my community. I've been thinking a bit about what this means to me in my current role and now I really enjoy working with Greek students in a career advising role to get them thinking about how to leverage this awesome experience when it comes to their career.

That time I got so excited to see someone in a Sigma shirt at another college
What did I learn from my sorority?
That 10 women really can live together in a very small space without killing each other. Ha, seriously though it was a crazy year! I have learned incredible amounts from Tri Sigma and am continuing to learn everyday. Tri Sigma helped me to step outside of my comfort zone, and step into the person I really am. She taught me how to be a leader, how to boost morale in a group and how to play the fine line between working with people that are your friends. She has shown me incredible friendships and from working for Tri Sigma she has shown me the country. I have learned to always stick with my values no matter what and to stay steadfast with that throughout life.

One of my littles & grandlittles at my senior formal
What's your favorite memory about being in a sorority?
Bid Day 2008 hands down! For any non-Greek readers bid day is the last day of formal recruitment where each sorority gets to see who their new members are. In addition, recruitment counselors (sometimes going by Pi Chi, Gamma Chi, etc.) are women who disaffiliate from their chapters to guide new members through the process without bias. Bid day is also when these women get to return to their chapters. 

Britt, Me, Mel & Mere Bid Day '08
2008 was my senior year, my last recruitment, and I was president of my chapter. That year our chapter recruited the highest number of women in our history on campus which was an incredible feeling. My best friend and roommate in Tri Sigma, Brittany, was a Gamma Chi that year and I seriously was sobbing when she got to run back to us. An entire month without my best friend was not an easy one, especially when it meant that I could celebrate her 21st birthday with her.

How Has Your Sorority Continued to Impact You After Graduation
In more ways then I ever imagined. I had a wonderful collegiate experience but I never would have imagined that I would gain just as much, if not more, from my post-grad involvement with Tri Sigma. First, I worked for the organization for a year as a traveling consultant and gained so much through meeting women in our chapters all over the country. Since then I have stayed involved as a national volunteer assisting with our colonizations at new institutions. Now that I'm finally back in a town with a chapter I'm advising which is a great experience. I have met some of my closest friends from all around the country through this involvement and it's crazy to me just how far Tri Sigma has taken me thus far.

Me & the gals I traveled with "the wolfpack" getting ready to go see Carrie Underwood--did you know she's a Sigma?
So head on over to meet Whitney @ The Observant Turtle to read even more awesome stories about Greek experiences. And link up!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Kate Spade Giveaway

Do you like Kate Spade?

Do you like purses?

How about FREE Kate Spade purses?

Yes, you read correctly! My friend Mal @ Mal's Miles has teamed up with a group of bloggers to sponsor a Kate Spade giveaway. The lucky winner will get to pick the bag of their choosing (up to $300)!!!! It's almost spring which means it's time for a fun colored new bag to tote around.

Head to her blog for details on how to enter. The giveaway runs from today until Thursday, March 7th at 11:59pm EST and is open to US residents only.

What are you waiting for?! Go enter for your free Kate Spade purse!

Tea Time

Since I gave up coffee for Lent (oh and Facebook too, but I blew that already due to MC putting a ring on it!) I have been drinking tons of tea. I'll be honest that at first I was pretty afraid of turning into a monster because I have at least one cup of coffee if not more in the morning. Additionally I've never been a huge tea fan, to me it has always smelled amazing and then tastes like hot water.

I immediately went to Kroger and picked up a few flavors and have been pleasantly surprised. I think I never let the tea bag steep long enough to give real flavor...I've learned that's key! The tea is still giving me some caffeine, but I think I just like something hot in the morning to hold on to and sip. Some of my new favorites are Pomegranate White Tea, Acai Pomegranate and Blueberry Green Tea and an Orange Spice variety.

Boxes of tea have gotten rather bulky so when I stumbled upon this jar at Marshalls today I knew just what I could do with it...

I love that now all of the pretty colors from the tea can be displayed and it will be much easier to grab then having to go through tons of little boxes.

What I would ultimately love to have one day in my house is a coffee & tea bar. I've been starting to see some of these on Pinterest and it's right up my alley. We have so much on our counter with our Keurig, coffee ground holder, sugar dish, jar of sweetners and now our tea jar. The Keurig means we also have tons of random k-cups and they're a beast to store, especially with limited counter space.

At first I loved the chic look of this coffee bar, then I realized something--it's totally not my style. We have tons of fun mistmatched mugs (which we love and they show our personality) and I'm much more of a funky and bright colored person. So when I saw this I was in love...

I absolutely love the eclectic look to this and it's always easy to find a cheap dresser you can fancy up for something like this. A fire engine red or bright yellow would look awesome as I'm hoping to have a kitchen full of bold and bright colors some day. Dresser drawers would be perfect for storing k-cups and other extra coffee & tea items in addition to other random stuff I can never find a place for in the kitchen!

What do y'all think about this idea? Do you or anyone you know have a coffee/tea bar in their kitchen?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday Social: 5 Things

It's been a while since I've engaged in some blog linkups and reading Mal's Sunday Social post this morning gave me the inspiration to join along. One thing I love about linkups is it makes me think about things that I normally wouldn't give thought to, and of course meeting other bloggers out there is always a plus!

Sunday Social

This week's Sunday Social is centered around "5 Things". I love making lists and 5 is typically a great number for me to talk about favorite things because I'm indecisive so it gives me a chance to pick more than one thing!

5 Songs You'll Listen to For the Rest of Your Life
1. Yellow by Coldplay: my hands down favorite of all time. I was so stoked when I finally got hear this song live this past summer!
2. 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins: I have no clue when I first hear this song but I'm mildly obsessed with it and it's always on my running list
3. Home by Phillip Phillips: I scream everytime this comes on and then crank up the volume! I also still get goose bumps when I hear it because it makes me think of the Fab 5 winning the gold for America last summer...
4. Hey Soul Sister by Train: they're a favorite hands down and this song can never grow old!
5. Hey Ho by The Lumineers: I probably listen to this once a day and always gives me a big smile 

5 Things On Your Bucket List
I like to refer to this as my "Life List" which you can view the entire thing on this page, but here's a select five I'd like to accomplish...
1. Run a half marathon
2. See the ball drop in Time Square on New Years Eve
3. Take a cross country road trip
4. Ride in a hot air balloon
5. Go to the summer Olympics to see gymnastics, swimming & diving in person

5 Celebs You'd Love to Hang Out With For the Day
1. Jen would be the absolute best day of my life!
2. Bethenney Frankel
3. Jillian Michaels: and yes I would love to have her yell at me while I work out...
4. Barack Obama
5. Jennifer Lawrence: I think we're kindred spirits and she'd make me laugh until drink comes out of my nose

5 Things You Always Carry In Your Purse
1. Chapstick, preferably Burts Bees!
2. My Vera Bradley wallet in Bali Gold
3. Hand lotion
4. Hand sanitizer
5. A koozie--a lady can never be found without a koozie to keep her drink cold and hand dry!

5 Books You Want to Read
Trying to read 52 books this year I have plenty of things on my to-read list, check that list out on my Goodreads page!
1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson (to finally finish the series!)
2. Divergent by Veronica Roth
3. Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
4. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter & How to Make the Most Out of Them Now by Meg Jay
5. Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch

Last 5 Pictures From My Phone
1. This morning's kid inspired breakfast of eggs in a basket & cinnamon apples!

2. Funfetti cupcakes I made for Mr. Charming's volleyball team. We made an appearance at their team sleepover last night to share some goodies and spend time with them. So much sugar!

3. Some friends shared the wonderful store of Garden Ridge with me yesterday and I was dying to purchase this. It's what I'd love to have in my kitchen one day and encompass all of these bright colors into my appliances and dishes!

2. Another great Garden Ridge sign--I may try and make one of my own!

5. Mr. Charming & one of our friends testing out comfy chairs at Big Lots after a dinner date

Link up and share your 5 things too, have a great Sunday and savor the rest of the weekend!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Happiness Is:

A lazy Saturday morning. 
A great workout. 
A filling and nutritious meal. 
Indie/Alternative music in the background. 

Yesterday I shared a list of happy things from this week, and one being my current read, The Happiness Project. Well, I'd have to say that it's already wearing off on me. It has truly made me stop thinking about all of these big, huge things that I need to be happy. I know what makes me happy so why don't I just let myself indulge in those little things?

One of my favorite revelations of her book is that your happy is not the same as someone else's. Eureka! It seems like common sense, but I'll admit that my biggest challenge in life is trying to remember (and understand) that not everyone is like me. And it's a tough one, let me tell you. 

Sometimes I get jealous of people that I follow via social media or blogging that are hopping on a plane once a week to go and explore a new place. Or maybe they're just jam packing their days full of activities that seem like so much fun. Then sometimes this make me sad that my life is not like that. But alas I've realized a few things:

1. I've already had an entire year where I jumped on a plane every week to go to a new place and I had my fill. 
2. When I go out of town every weekend I get tired. I get grumpy. I get mad that the laundry isn't done and my house isn't clean and that's not a good way to start the week.
3. My happy doesn't have to be their happy!

So I take I took mine (ok and Gretchen Rubin's) happiness advice and did exactly what I wanted. I woke up this morning and lazily laid around with my sweet fiance. I ate one of my favorite breakfast combos of peanut butter and banana toast. 

Then I finally took my butt to the gym for the first intense workout I've done since I've been cleared for activity. First I almost died on the elliptical because my endurance is that of a 85 year old. Then I powered through this weights workout I found on Pinterest which I was pumped about because I like doing weights but I can never remember what to do with them-ha!

I finished it up with my second post-injury mile, and I did it one minute faster than the first one clocking it just over 12 minutes!!! After doing my PT stretches I came home and knew just what I wanted to fill my belly back up. A BIG bed of veggies with an over easy egg. Two more happiness confessions here:

1. I am enamored with vegetables and especially the fact that I can eat a huge delicious pile of them for a low amount of calories. I really don't get why more people don't eat their vegetables. 
2. I'm slightly obsessed with runny egg yolk. Anyone follows me on Instagram may have already picked this up. It might be a problem actually. #yolkporn

Thank you for coming on this happiness journey with me. I hope that you gained something from it too. If you haven't yet read The Happiness Project, I highly recommend that you begin to. Immediately. And do something today that makes you happy.

What are the simple things that make you truly happy? Have you realized the small effort big impact things you can do in your life for some pure pleasure?