Career Fangirling

THE BLOG HAS A NEW HEADER! PLEASE CHECK IT OUT! Thanks so much to the lovely and talented Mai for designing it!

Can I just continue my nerd-dom and share how excited I am right now that the newest and youngest member of the Starbucks Board of Executives, Clara Shih, tweeted at me last night?!

I follow Starbucks Blogs because it’s a great source of news about one of my favorite brands, and Phillip (who runs the account) tweeted an article about Clara’s recent promotion to the Board. The article’s link isn’t working, but I found a comparable one here. I re-tweeted the article saying “a girl can dream…” and Clara reached out to me and made me feel completely inspired with just a simple tweet!

She is the CEO and founder of Hearsay Social, a social media startup that helps companies “quickly onboard, train, and successfully enable their local offices to create authentic conversations with their clients and customers in real time on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter”. AKA what I am most interested in using my marketing degree to accomplish!

The book worm in me is also excited to read Clara’s book, The Facebook Era. It may be used as a textbook at universities, but I know I’d enjoy reading it for fun. Sorry I’m not sorry – I’m totally career fangirling right now and I’m fine with it. Any inspiration is a good thing!

Chili with rabbit ears?

On a completely unrelated note, I owe you guys some food photos that have been hanging out in my camera for awhile. Pictured above is my mom’s amazing ground turkey/soy and bean chili, topped with fresh pico de gallo and scooped up with two whole grain taco shells.

Aerial view…

I was having trouble coming up with creative/pretty ways to display the meal, as you can see.

Not my food, but had to take a picture.

My friend Matt and I stopped by Giovanni’s the other night because he was hungry and my sister was working, so we figured we’d kill two birds and visit her while he re-fueled. He selected their “manliest” slice, the Stuffed Meat, but was rendered a bit less “manly” when the last two bites were a struggle. With my coaching, he got the slice down.

Also, I was a featured blogger last week over at fellow FitFluential Ambassador Matt’s blog, The Athlete’s Plate. Check it out! I guess my blog’s name has garnered me the nickname of “Cait” in the blog world, which is what my wonderful padre calls me, so OK by me!

Have you ever had a “fangirl” moment over Twitter?

Maybelline Winners and Hidden Gems

First thing’s first, I’d love to announce the winners of the Bzz Agent Maybelline giveaway! Participation was awesome – I really appreciate everyone stopping by and taking the time to comment and enter!

Congratulations Lindsay of Lindsay’s List, Crystal Tewelow, and Kelsey of The Secret Life of Kelsey! Please email your shipping information to!

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Mine was a little bit on the slow side, but I refuse to call it boring, because I told myself as soon as I started work that I’d NEVER say I was bored during my free time. Free time is rare and I should always appreciate it!

For today, I’d like to share the happenings from a fun Sunday I had earlier this month!

Have you ever had the experience of finding something wonderful, and kicking yourself for not realizing that it was right in your backyard the entire time? I certainly did a couple of weeks ago, when a well-versed local and friend took me on a mini-tour of a couple hidden gems of South Glastonbury.

After meeting at the always-adorable So G Coffee Roasters, we embarked for a visit to an art gallery showing just a short walk away. An art gallery – in South Glastonbury? I couldn’t believe it, but it was true. Dave Magee was showing his art in his barn, and I was amazed by his talent. I couldn’t believe I had the chance to converse with the artist himself! The theme of the show was elephants with pink tusks, but plenty of other varieties of work were on display too.

A painting of the elephants with pink tusks, and their legend. All work copyright Dave Magee.

What struck me most about the show was how many different styles Dave was able to adopt. The elephants above were almost part of a fantasy world, but the watercolors below were very realistic, though also unique due to his use of color. For example, I love the “seafoam” color he used for the grass in the painting on the left, below. That one was actually my favorite of the day.

All work copyright Dave Magee.

Some pieces were more abstract, like the one pictured below right. But I still love how you can tell what it’s supposed to be (grapes).

All work copyright Dave Magee.

Dave’s wife was amazing to talk to – she has traveled all over the world, and has  a yoga studio in the barn! We talked about India, because I had just finished the amazing Miranda Kennedy memoir “Sideways on a Scooter“. Dave also recommended “Shopgirl” by Steve Martin to me, which I have been obsessing about ever since I read it in two days, starting that very evening.

Food and drink was available to all guests, including some local wine (in the clear bottle and cup) and homemade kahlua (in the blue bottles). The wine was at a different stage than most that you buy in the stores, so it tasted so unique to me. The kahlua was probably one of the best things I’ve ever drank, let’s leave it at that.

I also enjoyed a smooth glass (er,  plastic cup) of that Chianti on the right.

Aren’t the napkins sweet? The brie pictured at center, paired with apricot preserves and crackers, was wonderful. Later, some local bleu cheese made an appearance.

My Chianti is creepin on the left.

We received the VIP treatment, and got a tour of the loft of Dave’s barn, which was full of more hidden gems. Apparently he used to hold parties up there in the 90’s – can we bring those back please?! We can keep the 90’s music.

I was in awe of the loft’s contents. I felt like Ariel in her little trove of treasures untold (“Part of your World” anyone?)

I spy Albert Einstein, and a new-car-style bow.

Corkscrews made out of real grape vines!

The barn's backyard.

The loft from the loft's loft…still with me?

I could’ve stayed up there and explored for awhile, but it was time for the next stop on the tour of South Glastonbury – a hike through Cotton Hollow. I’ve been there before, but in a different part of the park. This hike revealed something unexpected.

How gorgeous is that? The ruins are apparently from an old factory. They look completely out of place in the woods, and that’s what I love about them.

What a relaxing, serene Sunday. I feel inspired to find more hidden spots in my town, especially since I don’t see myself moving out of the house anytime soon 😛

Have you ever been to an art show?

Holiday Activities Abound!

STOP! have you entered my Maybelline giveaway yet? And have you seen my cookies on Part 1 of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap Recipe RoundupOK, now you can move on 🙂

‘Tis the season for holiday events – and I love it! Family, friends, food, drink, music, decor…I could go on and on. So far this holiday, I’ve been lucky enough to attend both a fancy Winter Festival at a banquet hall and a cozy, intimate holiday brunch at a blogger buddy‘s apartment!

My fellow marketing/fitness/foodie nerd friend, Alexis, and I.

My mom and I accompanied my dad to his holiday work party as his “+1s”. I was more than happy to oblige! I started the evening off with a couple glasses of Cabernet. There were apps set out, but I was too busy chatting and wine-ing to really notice them! By the time it was our turn to approach the Italian buffet line, I was totally starved (we were one of the last tables sent up). The food was worth the wait, though. For a banquet hall, Maneeley’s of South Windsor did a pretty good job!

Your basic salad.

Steamed veggies (not too much butter either!)

Mmm potato starch.

My plate! The meat is Chicken Marsala, but it looked too ugly in the tray for a pic.

I enjoyed hanging out with Alexis, my parents, and their friends. I met a lot of great people and even handed out a few cards – hello to any new readers from Winter Fest!

The mom and I.

In the same weekend (I know, right, how lucky am I?) I got to attend a holiday Sunday brunch hosted by Bethany of More Fruit Please. I walked into her apartment and was immediately in awe of how well-decorated and organized it is.

A coordinated Christmas tree greeted me when I stepped inside.

Fabulous coffee and tea "station"!

Adorable foyer table arrangement.

I spy Jennifer!

Bethany draws her decor inspiration from Pinterest, of course! And no, I have not yet caved and signed up.

In love with this concept. Each heart is a place she's lived!

As a cinnamon freak, I have much love for this candle.

To continue the cinnamon love, I had the best tea I’ve ever had. No joke – thank you Trader Joe’s for making this cinnamon and vanilla black tea! I made two teabags last through about three mugfuls of hot water. Has anyone else tried this?

Bethany and some of her awesome friends worked away in the kitchen. I swear I offered some help! 😛 Bethany was running all over the place, and I was and still am in awe of her hostess skills!

Potatoes and veggies for quiche getting some saute action.

A quiche setting, just after coming out of the oven.

Some appetizers were set out for munching. I eventually could wait no longer and had to dive into Bethany’s to-die-for sun-dried tomato olive tapenade with Stacy’s pita chips. Make this for your next party. Immediately.

Also available to tide us over until meal time: assorted cookies and pretzels, some of which I contributed from my Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap stash, and a beautiful Harvest Loaf baked by an amazing, spunky fashion blogger I met at the brunch, Lydia. Check out her fashion blog – it’s awesome!

My mug is too the left – I loved all of Bethany's mugs! My plate of cookies is the red one.

Harvest Loaf ready for slicing!

Soon, brunch was ready! Mimosas were poured, but I sat out since I was still feeling the half bottle of wine I’d had the night before

Oops, looks like pouring led to a little spillage.

Bethany’s dining table was transformed into a Sunday smorgasbord (I needed spellcheck on that one).

The tree is just too much – I LOVE IT.

A little tour of the table for you…

Fruit salad (with kiwi – YES) and honey yogurt dip.

Broc, tomato, and pesto quiche.

Turkey sausage and potato quiche.

Whole wheat blackberry-lemon and apple scones from Jennifer.

Plain, chocolate, and almond croissants from La Petit France of West Hartford.

"Carb tower" all together (bagels and yoga bread from Bethany on bottom).

Apple butter and cranberry orange cream cheese spreads for bread. How cute are the spreaders?!

I wanted to try as much as possible! I filled my first plate with a plain croissant, half an apple scone, slice of veggie quiche with reduced sugar ketchup, and fruit salad with yogurt dip.

Plate one of two. Very hard to be patient enough to take pics before diving in.

The scone was wonderful (I don’t care what you say Jennifer!) and so was the dip. But the real stars were the croissant, which was so authentic-tasting, and the quiche, which was MADE thanks to the pesto.

Dying over the plate. Dying of cuteness the entire brunch.

After finishing this plate, I went back for a slice of the turkey sausage and potato quiche. The veggie quiche was still my favorite because the pesto biases me, but the meat and potato quiche was fantastic as well. Perfectly cooked!

After writing this post, I am now ready to eat my entire fridge. I want to go back and re-taste everything! Thank you Bethany for being an amazing hostess, cook, and home decorator 😉

Which component of the brunch would you most want to try? What would you have seconds of?

Maybe it’s Maybelline – Giveaway!

Have you heard of Bzz Agent? It’s a super-cool site for super-cool marketing nerds like me who enjoy getting the inside scoop on and testing out new products. If you sign up and fill out a profile, eventually you will receive occasional emails inviting you to participate in Bzz Campaigns. If you’re interested in reading more about Bzz Agent in action, some interesting articles have been written!

Image courtesy of

I was invited to participate in the Maybelline Baby Lips & Lots of Lashes campaign about a month ago, and was sent some products to test out! Bzz Agent also included a BzzGuide about the product – they like to keep their agents educated 🙂 I also realized that this campaign has just five days left, and I definitely haven’t done enough bzzing. I’m here to correct that!

I’m sure many of you recognize the classic pink and green Great Lash mascara. It’s been America’s #1 mascara formula for quite awhile, but now it’s been pumped up to create lots of lashes – even if you don’t have any! This Great Lash variation hit stores in September. Here are some more facts:

  • Easily reaches the inner and outer corners of the eye
  • Builds your lash look with no clumps
  • Available in three washable shades
  • Available at mass retailers for $6.40

The Baby Lips Repairing Lip Balm has SPF 20 and comes in a variety of colors (or lack there-of for those who want a clear balm) and flavors. The product came out in stores in October, and is made with shea butter, one of my favorite beauty product ingredients.

  • Renews lips to their natural condition in four weeks
  • Combines eight hours of hydration with an optional color tint
  • Available in 2 clear varieties (Quenched and Peppermint) and 4 tinted varieties (Cherry Me, Pink Punch, Grape Vine and Peach Kiss)
  • Clinically proven to provide comfort and relief to stressed, dry skin
  • Protects against damage from harmful UVA/UVB rays
  • Available at mass retailers for $3.99

GIVEAWAY! Ends Sunday 12/18!

I want to share the Maybelline love with my readers, so I am giving away three pairings, each containing a Baby Lips balm and a tube of Great Lash Lots of Lashes mascara. To enter, please leave a comment telling me your current mascara and lip balm brands of choice (required entry). Don’t worry, if you don’t say Maybelline, it won’t count against you! And if you do say Maybelline, it unfortunately won’t put you ahead 😉 I genuinely just want to know! I will use a random number generator to pick three winners!

For additional entries (please leave a separate comment for each or it won’t count!) you can:

  • Like Cait Plus Ate on Facebook
  • Like Maybelline New York on Facebook
  • Follow CaitPlusAte on Twitter
  • Follow Maybelline on Twitter
  • Subscribe to this blog
  • Tweet “I just entered to win @Maybelline mascara and lip balm from @CaitPlusAte the #bzzagent!”

That’s seven ways to enter – remember, the comment about your brands of choice is the only required way. If you only leave one comment, even if you do all seven entry options, you only get one entry. So comment separately!  Good luck guys! You have until Sunday, 12/18 at 11:59PM EST to enter! US Residents only please – sorry!

FitFluential Holiday Balance: 5 Tips!

I’m so glad you guys enjoyed yesterday’s post about the goodies I received in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! Make sure you check it out if you haven’t had a chance to do so yet 🙂 Can’t wait to see the official link round-up post tomorrow of every single recipe involved!

As a Fitfluential Ambassador, I am always looking to both give and receive tips on achieving balance. FitFluential’s key areas for balance are Eat, Sleep, Move, and Enjoy. I have to say that I certainly agree that balance in those areas is important, but since CMO Danielle Liss has assigned Ambassadors a writing prompt on five tips for achieving holiday balance, I am going to provide my own fifth area so that I can keep things Even-Steven and concentrate on one area per tip.

1. Eat: Focus on what makes you feel good, both physically and mentally.

Let me elaborate. There’s the food that makes you feel good physically. “Clean eats”, some call them. It’s different for everyone, and can often depend on what your body is used to. Some people feel best as vegans, some feel best as raging carnivores. Some feel best eating like Snooki:

Before Christmas dinner last year. Yes, my Christmas dinner came from a Jewish deli. And yes, I'm sunburnt.

For me, some of the foods that make me feel good don’t have too much sugar, are often in their most natural form (whole fruits, fresh veggies, local breads and meats, etc), and aren’t fried (which makes me veeeery sleepy). Those are just some examples.

Chowing down on fried alligator in DC.

But other foods are fun to eat and try, even if they aren’t those foods mentioned above that typically make me feel my best. And every now and then, I try to tell myself that it’s OK to eat those foods and experience them. Just because they don’t leave me feeling my best, doesn’t mean I don’t like to eat them. Fried food is YUMMY! A lot of heavier or sweeter foods tend to pop up during the holidays. Most emphasis is put on avoiding them at all costs, but I don’ t that’s entirely realistic or mentally healthy.

Grease-laden fries sure do TASTE good.

This area of FitFluential balance is, undoubtedly, the area I have the hardest time in. It’s very difficult for me to allow myself to eat the foods that aren’t on my list of foods I typically consume on a daily basis. In other words, I have a tough time breaking the mold. In fact, at this point in this post, I’d like to ask you all for tips! How do you allow yourself to indulge every now and then in some of those special holiday foods, like Christmas cookies or that random relative’s cheesy traditional side dish?

2. Sleep: Get enough of it.

I love my sleep. There isn’t much I will sacrifice it for. Blessed sleep is the reason I refuse to make myself wake up for a workout earlier than 7am, and why I rarely will commit to plans that may potentially have me out past 10pm.

Behold, my college sheets.

One might think this leads me to lead a boring life, but I think my life is anything but that. Getting to bed at a reasonable hour on Friday and Saturday nights means I’m ready to go bright and early during my valuable Saturdays and Sundays. I have enough time to sweat, spend time at my favorite cafes, blog, do my homework, run errands, hang out with friends, you name it. Going to bed earlier than 12am doesn’t mean I have less free time on weekends – it just shifts my free time to earlier hours, which is fine by me.

Sometimes holiday parties start on the later side, at 8 or 9pm. If it’s not too far away, there’s still always time to drop by. You can make a decision about how late you want to stay once you arrive! If you’re having a blast, by all means, stay and enjoy. If you’re like me, and on a steady sleeping schedule, your eyes will start getting droopy and you’ll be out of there by 10:30 (aka last Friday night for me). It’s easy in these instances to suffer from a classic case of FOMA (Fear of Missing Out), but then again, I often find myself suffering from FOMA in regards to the morning and early afternoon hangouts, group fitness classes, and blogging sessions I will miss if I hit the hay too late and end up sleeping in.

3. Move: Do so when you can, but don’t skip a special event for a workout. Or better yet, combine the event and the workout!

I like how FitFluential goes with the verb “move”, not “exercise”, because there are many forms of movement that your typical athlete might not consider “counting” toward physical activity. I know I myself am guilty of this. But the dancing you do at that holiday party? That’s movement! So is the pole dancing Groupon you might use with a few girlfriends for a girl’s night out precursor to a festive cookie exchange party, or the hike you may take after a Christmas brunch.

Greek dancing, anyone?

I always say, when you have time to move, make sure you take advantage. If you have a free afternoon or evening, going to the gym may be the last thing on your mind. But it won’t even be present in your mind at ALL the morning after a festive shindig that didn’t send you home until about 3am. So if you have the time, get that movement in so that when the busy holiday season leaves no space in  your calendar, it’ll be no biggie.

Speaking of calendar, scheduling movement is a big help to me as well, especially with my love for group fitness classes. Since those run on a schedule, I can prepare for when they occur in advance and fit them into my schedule!

4. Enjoy: Not just the obvious “fun” things (parties, presents, etc), but also the food you eat, the rest you get, the moving you do, and the drinks you drink.

No one can follow any of the tips in this post, on any Twitter feed, in any fitness magazine, etc if he or she isn’t at least somewhat enjoying life at the same time. It’s human nature not to stick with something that we dislike doing. So for each area of FitFluential balance, try to figure out what you enjoy most.

Had to have one holiday photo in here, right?

It may take trial and error. You may try a thousand group fitness classes before you find one that works up a sweat AND makes the time go by at a reasonable pace (I’m not going to say makes the time fly by – I know that’s not realistic for most). You may go through twenty “healthified” holiday cookie recipes before you find one that doesn’t taste like cardboard. But don’t give up! There is a way out there to lead a balanced, healthy life of enjoyment. You just might not have found it yet!

5. Drink (my own addition): Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – but also, one or two glasses of wine don’t hurt!

First of all, I cannot stress the importance of water. Drink it as often as you can. Drink a ton of it! I always have water on me, no matter where I go. I recommend using it to pace yourself during holiday parties and dinners as well. After you clear your plate, try finishing your glass of water, then see if you still want seconds. Alternate each run for finger foods with a glass of water.

Not exactly a holiday photo, but I'll drink sangria year round!

Water can also be used to help you enjoy alcohol in moderation. Firstly, it’s another pacer – always make sure you order a glass of water at the same time as each drink. Make sure you finish it before you consider ordering another. Secondly, water will help to ward off the dehydrating effects of alcohol. There’s no guarantee against a headache the next morning (I usually get one no matter how much water I drink!) but taking every “precaution” is smart.

If you don’t drink, that’s your choice, just like the foods that make you feel good are your choice! Don’t let that make you nervous about attending any holiday gatherings where you know most people will be drinking. There’s always substitutes you can fill your glass with – seltzer water is a good option, or diet soda. Everyone will assume there’s something “intoxicating” in there, trust me!

As for choices of what beverages to partake in, if you do wish to do so (I know I sometimes do), I recommend something that you can sip on and savor. Spring for a wine that you know you will enjoy, even if it’s not the cheapest. It will satisfy you more! Many banquet halls and even party hosts are now offering “skinny” or “natural” cocktail options for those that dislike wine.

I hope you all enjoyed my 5 tips to achieve FitFluential Holiday Balance! 

Which of these five areas is it hardest for you to achieve balance in? Is there anything you think I left out, or anything I said that you disagree with? Do you have any tips for me on how to achieve balance in the area of Eat?

C is for Cookies

WARNING: Today’s post contains more COOKIES! And it should be the last cookie-centric post for a bit, now that my cookie swaps have wrapped up. To balance things out a bit, I’ll talk about some stuff that isn’t cookie-related. I still know how to!

I had a most excellent workout yesterday in the form of a Step class. Non-stop combos, with cardio intervals mixed in. I performed the moves very well and only had to stop for a break a couple of times. I felt so energized, but by the end of the class I was ready for it to be over. I just love those workouts that boost the mood and provide those endorphins that put the benefits beyond just the physical. Such a fun class! I’ve been a bit of a Step monster lately (I went on Friday and Sunday as well) so I probably will not be doing another one of those classes until Saturday so that I can keep my routine fresh. We’ll see though – I try to do what I like.

This past weekend was full of all things excellent. Delicious coffee

…as well as one of the best Italian red wines I’ve had in awhile, courtesy of the best package store in town, Sonoma Wines & Spirits. I also participated in a tasting of sherry and port, which I wrote about on Facebook yesterday.

Lidia and I headed back to our alma mater and saw Connecticut Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” at Jorgensen. It was an excellent performance (thanks Groupon!) and also made me feel silly, because I didn’t realize that so many orchestra pieces that I know so well are from that ballet!

Gotta get as many holiday pics as possible.

The weekend wrapped up on Sunday night with an excellent dinner of chili topped with leftover coleslaw and black beans. And a festive tiny fork!

And now it’s game time AKA cookie time. I’d like to share the wonderful cookies I was sent by three talented bloogers, through the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

My first batch was a pleasant surprise because it arrived earlier than expected, and also on a day when I had been particularly ravenous! Faith of The Stirring Place made my day with her Smookies – NOT to be confused with Snooki.

Each s’mores cookie was different than the rest. Some were drizzled with white chocolate, some were dipped in milk chocolate and sprinkles. But each and every single one contained marshmallows and was honestly one of the best cookies I’ve ever had.

You’re drooling, right?

Faith called the cookies a “work in progress” in her note to me. I beg to differ – DON’T CHANGE A THING!

Meg of Eat, Drink, and Be Sperry wins the award for cutest packaging. Snowman wrapping paper, glittery Santa tag, and a green bow – need I say/show more?

She also wins the award for best smelling cookies. As soon as I opened the box, the minty aroma of her Double Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies hit my nostrils and had me ready for dessert.

They retained so much of their softness! Even my picky little brother loved these.

Last, but certainly not least, are Jamie of J-Fit‘s Cookies and Cream Cookies – once again, little brother approved! And more Caitlin-approved packaging – I love cookie tins! My mom practically stuck her nose in the tin, inhaled deeply, and proclaimed, “They smell like ice cream!!”

The card she sent was so cute as well. I love the design! These cookies were amazing – I really lucked out. 3 for 3 with great bloggers and great cookies!

Thank you to the three bloggers who sent me such amazing baking creations!

Which of these three do you think you’d like to try most?

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

What an amazing weekend! They seem to keep piling up one after the other, which is never a bad thing. I have plenty to recap later on as usual, but for now please head over to the amazing Bethany’s blog, More Fruit Please, to check out her post on the brunch she hosted and so kindly invited me to yesterday. It was just beyond amazing! I can’t wait to share my post on it.

NOTE: This post features a recipe I used in a post last week, but has many new photos, so you may want to tune in!

It’s time for another cookie swap – the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap to be exact! Unlike last week’s Virtual Cookie Swap, this one involved the actual exchange of the cookies with other bloggers. Each participant baked three dozen of one cookie, and sent one dozen each to three other bloggers. Love that concept – spreading the love to more bloggers, and I get three different cookies in my mailbox!

My cookies, ready to ship out the door.

This swap was organized by Julie of The Little Kitchen and Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil (can I just say that I’m in LOVE with that name). They did such a great job keeping participants updated regularly via email, creating a Facebook page, and spreading the word about the #fbcookieswap hashtag.

Since the Virtual Cookie Swap did not involve sending any physical cookies, I used the same recipe that I did for that swap, from Luisa of The Wednesday Chef. Only now, bloggers were actually going to get to taste my baking! Remember, this recipe is Luisa’s property, not mine, so please visit her blog to check it out! I simply doubled all the ingredients to ensure that I would have enough cookies to send out – and taste test.

First, I mixed my brown sugar, butter (the real stuff!), eggs, and vanilla extract in a big bowl. I’m sure you could use imitation vanilla extract, but I didn’t realize that at the grocery store (my mom informed me later) so just like the butter, the vanilla extract was the real stuff. I did not use the almond extract that the recipe calls for because I couldn’t find it at the store!

Secondly, I mixed my salt, baking soda, buckwheat groats (courtesy of Tara, my November foodie pen pal), and whole wheat flour in a separate bowl…

…and then slowly combined the dry mixture, little by little, into the wet ingredients.

This took a bit of arm strength – and with a rubbery bendy spoon too! Oops.

Third, I broke a bunch of Whole Foods dark chocolate squares into chunks by hand.

I liked the idea of using dark chocolate instead of semisweet, and chunks instead of chips, because I think this made for a heartier cookie!

It took a lot of willpower not to eat this.

Fourth, I lined the cookies up on some special silver cookie baking trays we have. Only one tray could go in the oven at a time (top rack only), so while one tray was baking, I worked on prepping the next tray. Thank goodness we had multiples!

Fifth, it’s bake time! Instead of baking the cookies for 6 minutes, flipping the pan, and then cooking for another 6 minutes, I did 5 minutes. Every oven is different! Always check on baked goods before the time on the box/recipe is up, just in case.

Sixth, I removed them from the trays fairly soon after taking them out of the oven – otherwise the trays continue to cook the cookies, and they get too hard. Another Mom-tip!

I packaged the cookies by putting each dozen in a holiday-themed plastic bag, and then putting the bag in a cookie tin!

I also wrote each blogger a note to send off with my cookies, letting them know they could find the recipe at The Wednesday Chef.

I sent my cookies to Sarah of Both Sides Now, Talida of Talida Bakes, and Susan of Happy Hippie. Another pro of this swap, aside from the obvious receipt of COOKIES, is learning about blogs I otherwise might never have found!

Soon I will be posting about the three different cookies I received, so be on the lookout for that! Thanks to Julie and Lindsay for doing such a wonderful job on this!

A Couple of Meals

Totally forgot to share my race shirt in yesterday’s Santa’s Run recap – oops! I wore it to work on Monday to continue my own little celebration of my time.

Eats have been pretty good this week. Last night’s meal of leftovers was quite blah, but Monday’s dinner of leftovers was actually quite amazing. I put together a hodge-podge bowl of shrimp, sauteed peppers and onions, chili, broccoli, coleslaw, and refried black bean dip. Yes, that all fit in one bowl and it was so so SO good.

Festive fork!

Wednesday night my mom went all out and prepared a dish she hadn’t had the time to make in awhile – healthified breaded chicken. She didn’t fry it, and used whole wheat flour for the breading. We also had the love of my life, roasted Brussels sprouts. I had two HUGE helpings and had to stop myself from finishing off the rest so that I could have some to use in my salad the next day.

Also had a little baked potato with the last of my Mariah’s Chow Chow Relish – oh no! Gotta restock.

Today I’ll be doing either Group Power or Group Step – not sure which yet, it depends on what time I can get outta this office! I have a holiday party to attend tonight where food and wine will be a-plenty. Don’t worry, pics will be taken – in between trips to the dance floor!

Do you like making hodge-podge leftover bowls? What’s one meal that you love but don’t make a lot because it is time consuming?

Santa’s Run: A New PR!

Last Sunday, I ran a 3.5 mile road race I’ve done several times before. The Santa’s Run is a town tradition, and during the race, it’s guaranteed that I’ll see many a person I know. In fact, my friends Mollie and Angie literally pulled up right next to me after I parked, out of total coincidence! I was excited to run this race because it was the first time I was doing so in a good athletic condition. It used to be the Santa’s Run was my one workout of the month, back when I loathed working out and anything to do with moving. I made a decision the night before to try to run it quickly and achieve a PR. With good lucks from Twitter, I set out to the race, doubtful about my goals since my hamstrings and glutes were at their tightest.

The costume contest, and costumes in general, are a big part of the race and make running it a lot more fun and entertaining for both spectators and runners. I’ve never really dressed up before, but I do enjoy checking out what people are wearing!

I thought this headband was so clever!

I started with Mollie and Angie,  who pointed out that we were lined up in the “serious runner” section. Just what I needed to motivate me! We started, and I took off. Immediately  I felt great. I bounded ahead, and eventually passed my dad with a happy wave.

I was still feeling great after mile 1. When I passed mile 2, the timer called out that it had been 15 minutes. I got so excited – I was more than halfway through, and I knew if I could pick up the pace for the last 1.5 miles, a PR was in sight!

I started picking out runners to try to beat. My sister did that during the Manchester Road Race and she said it worked well, so I decided to try her tactic. It definitely helped – I even became locked in a “battle” of sorts with a man and his son. They could tell I was trying to beat them and picked up their pace every time I began to pass. Eventually they overtook me, but I was still grateful for the push they gave me.

As I rounded the last corner, I could see the finish line and the large timer. An announcer called out “28 minutes!”, and I began to sprint. I wasn’t going to let myself come in a second over 30 minutes.

I crossed the finish line at 29:03 – a new PR achieved! That comes out to an average pace of 8:16 miles!

I attribute the fact that I achieved a PR, despite the fact that I haven’t run outside since August, to regular cardio and strength training workouts that have kept my heart and legs strong. I also had a banana on my way to the race – bananas ALWAYS fuel my workouts best. And I’m sure my HELLO LADY t-shirt from the Elvis Duran Show brought me luck!

I am still so proud of my achievement! I don’t have the passion for running to train for future specific races, but I hope to keep signing up for the occasional race to see what I can do. Who knows, maybe I will bite the bullet and train for a half marathon someday. I have always wanted to finish one!

What was the last fitness related goal you achieved? What is your 5K PR?

Wednesday Funk

Oh my goodness. The dreary weather has got me in such a funk. Someone help me! I am in the home stretch of my semester and of the time before my first week-long vacation from work (to FLORIDA). I need to just get through these next couple weeks, and try to enjoy them for the holiday time that they are. Is anyone else feeling winter blues?

A daily lunchtime salad beast.

At least I can say I have no qualms about the food I’ve been eating lately – it’s all been delicious!

Giovanni's veggie pizza, crisped up under the broiler and served on my favorite childhood plate.

Is there anything better than burnt crust pizza loaded with chunky veggies?

Giovanni's marinated chicken salad, and a festive little fork.

How about more veggies, combined with feta and some of the most delicious chicken in the world, to pair with that pizza? Or some good old-fashioned carbs?

Post-dinner snack of satisfying local kalamata olive bread.

My workouts have been going well too. I still need to re-cap the Santa’s Run and tell you guys about my PR (along with about a thousand other posts I’ve been drafting in my mind…), but I’ve been lazy with uploading photos from my iPhone, which is where the race photos are. But I’ve been doing a lot of stepping and a lot of lifting. It feels good to get back into lifting, actually. I did two Group Power classes in one week, for the first time in awhile, and am already excited about trying to continue to keep up with attending those classes. I just love the way I feel when I can lift a heavier weight, or lift the same weight for longer.

I’m outta here…sorry for such a short post, but I’ve got some (real life) work to do – bummer, ha.

Real life work lunch and snack packing.

If you strength train, do you feel more accomplished when you can lift a heavier weight for the first time or when you can lift a weight you’ve done before for a new longer length of time?