Sunday, February 15, 2015

#wholelifechallenge: oh we're halfway there

I am officially halfway through the Whole Life Challenge - time is flying! I'm sort of shocked by how good I'm feeling these days. I have had a few little indulgences -- honey nut cheerios (awww yea), some homemade peppermint ice cream and apple pie during a Super Bowl party, french fries from Shake Shack, and some movie theater popcorn. What this challenge is helping me remember and realize is that treats should be just that -- something that is eaten and enjoyed occasionally. It's a mindset that I am going to try very hard to keep with me at the end of the eight weeks.

I wasn't as ambitious with my cooking as I had hoped to be, but I did try a few good recipes over the last few weeks:
  • Coconut Squares: I read in the comments that these came out dry so I followed the advice of some readers to add in a banana. In place of the chocolate chips, I included some chopped dates. I have to say -- they came out amazing. I even had a coworker try them and she loved them just as much. They have a great consistency and are plenty sweet between the dates and the ripe banana.
  • Banana Oat Smoothie: I added in some natural peanut butter because, well, why not? I made this for breakfast, so I thought I could use the added protein to keep me full through until lunch.
  • Sweet potato soup: I couldn't find a recipe that I liked so I made it up as I went along. I added in some butternut squash and ginger. After everything had been cooked, I threw it in a blender and added some coconut milk. It's delicious and I'm pretty darn proud of myself. 
  • Carrot Pumpkin Spice Muffins: These came out alright. They're REALLY dense and were kind of blah. If I were to do it again, I probably would have added some dates or raw cacao to give it a little more flavor. 
  • Overnight oats: Again, I went with my own recipe creation -- I combined coconut milk, rolled oats, plain greek yogurt, a banana, and some almond butter. Yum yum. Perfect breakfast.

  • For Valentine's Day, since we were in the midst of yet another blizzard, j2 and I decided to cook at home. We made bacon-wrapped, salsa wrapped chicken breasts. For sides we had some brussels sprouts (with some bacon because.. bacon) and cauliflower/turnip mash. No actual recipes were used because it all seemed simple enough. It was delicious, filling, and a Whole Life Challenge compliant meal!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

an exercise in gratitude

For those of you who live under a rock -- or in a place that is not perpetual winter -- Boston has been getting SLAMMED by blizzard after blizzard after blizzard after, yep, you guessed it BLIZZARD. The current storm system will drop another foot or so of snow, and that's on top of the 70 inches that we've gotten over the last three storms. I'm sure you can look on the internet to see pictures of the insanely high snow piles or reports about the embarrassing hilarity that is our public transportation system right now, so I won't go into too much detail about that. Long story short: life has been pretty miserable across the board.

The weather has really been wearing on me, on everyone. I made a conscious effort to be cheerful, and to put positive energy out into the universe (hippy dippy much?). I shoveled out a total stranger's car and as a result landed a free lunch at a nearby restaurant, and even made friends with the manager. Said stranger is also making me some baked goods as a thank you -- it was pretty much winning all around. 

I was in a pretty good mood on Wednesday morning as I started my day. I woke up early for bootcamp, went to my favorite coffee joint and made my way to the office to check in on an event that had almost been canceled due to the third blizzard. I came up on a intersection with a HUGE snowbank so I made sure to carefully inch out to try to clear the obstruction. Inched, inched, inched and then eventually I had to commit because I was pretty much in the middle of the road. I went and within a second or two, I saw a car coming on my right. All of a sudden -- CRASH -- I had collided with another car. 

I was in another car accident back in November 2013 -- a gentleman looked down to make a phone call and didn't realize that there was a red light in front of him. Between him and the stop light was my car, at a dead stop. He hit my car going about 25 mph (maybe more?) and pushed me across the intersection. Luckily neither j2 nor I was injured, but it was terrifying. The difference between the accidents was that I saw the most recent one coming. Since I had made it into the middle of the intersection, I saw the car approaching (too late) out of the corner of my eye just before the impact. Even though neither of us was going very fast, I was still very shaken up. 

Here's my beautiful, 15 month old, less than 11k miles on the odometer, still unnamed car:

not quite visible is the car leaking windshield wiper fluid and the flat tire. womp womp.
I could go on and on with a list of complaints and negatives about that day, and the stress that has followed. But, as the post title says, this is an exercise in gratitude. I am focusing on the positives, which I do believe far outweigh the negatives. Here is what I am thankful for following the accident:
  • I wasn't injured, and neither was the other driver.
  • The other driver is seriously one of the nicest people I've EVER met. She was calm in the aftermath, and it kept me totally collected while dealing with the police. Her boyfriend even drove me home after the accident so that I wouldn't have to take a cab. How often does that happen?!
  • j2 had happened to be home sick on Wednesday, so when I walked through the door, he was there to comfort me
  • I have a great insurance policy with collision coverage, and covers the cost of a rental so I had a vehicle within 24 hours of the accident
  • My friends and family are amazing -- I received so many calls, texts, and Facebook messages from everyone wishing me well and offering help if needed. 
  • My boss and coworkers were beyond sweet and supportive -- I was out on Wednesday, and then worked remotely on Thursday and received emails and texts from pretty much every person in the office wishing me well and asking if I needed rides to work, or if I needed any help on projects while I was out.
And the most important thing that I keep repeating to myself:
  • It could have been worse.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

whole life challenge week 1: and i didn't even kill anyone

Week one of the Whole Life Challenge is done -- I survived a week without dairy. A week without bread. A week without added sugar. Okay, if I'm being honest -- a week with MUCH less added sugar. As much as I've been label reading to cut down on sugar, it's impossible to nix it entirely, and I refuse to drive myself crazy trying.

I went through some pretty terrible sugar and/or carbohydrate withdrawal earlier this week. I was lethargic, cranky and had an awful headache for two days straight. I felt like death for all of Tuesday. I was so tired by the end of the day that I had to take a 15 minute nap in my car before going climbing. By Wednesday, my energy levels were starting to rebound and my headache was just letting up and then.. I started sneezing uncontrollably. Of course I have since come down with a nasty cold. I doubt that one is related to the other but the cold has really made me crave carb-y comfort foods. I'm also trying to deal with the fact that things aren't as sweet as I'm used to. Sounds obvious, since I've cut out most of the added sugar from my diet. I'm hoping that eventually my taste buds will "reset" and I won't crave overly sweetened foods.

Despite the headaches and coming down with the plague, I managed to have a good week. I even had the chance to do a little experimenting in the kitchen.
  • Mint Chocolate Larabars: I learned a few lessons from this one: 1. Soak the dates before using them and 2. CUT the dates before throwing them into the food processor -- not doing so resulted in me almost destroying my little food processor (which is okay, because it led me to purchase a nicer, bigger one with a more powerful motor). If I had soaked and chopped the dates before starting, then I probably would have been able to get everything to the correct consistency. Texture-wise they start to crumble when they get back to room temperature. Taste-wise? They're delicious and I'll definitely try this recipe again.
  • Coconut Chia pudding: I don't have a link because I combined a few different recipes. I used 1 1/2 cups almond/coconut milk, 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut, and a handful of blueberries. I put it in a jar and shook it every 10 minutes for the first half an hour and then let it sit in the fridge overnight. 
  • Banana Coconut Macaroons: I didn't use full fat coconut milk, so I found the mixture to be waaaay too watery. I made the executive decision to add some unsweetened cocoa powder and that seemed to hold it together pretty well. I love macaroons - though of course the ones I usually eat are full of added sugars, so I wasn't sure how much I'd like these. I was pleasantly surprised - the very ripe banana that I used added a good amount of sweetness. These are great for those times when I just need a little snack. 
  • Green smoothie -- with a twist: I've made a lot of kale and/or spinach smoothies, but this time I tried something new: I added half an avocado to a mixture of banana, kale, peanut butter, and coconut/almond milk. And you know what? It was delicious. Creamy, rich, and perfect for breakfast. 
For week two, I'm going to focus on getting a little more creative with my dinner options. Last week consisted mostly of turkey chili and and chicken noodle soup (hold the egg noodles -- my favorite part!). I have a few ideas in mind, starting with mashed cauliflower and buffalo chicken quinoa. I also think I need a few more meals that involve bacon because, well, bacon.

Have you ever done the Whole Life Challenge, or something similar? Any recipes that you love and want to pass along? Share 'em!  

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Have you heard of the Whole Life Challenge? Neither had I up until a month ago. It's an eight week game that allows me to partner with my colleagues across campus to compete against teams and individuals all over the world. According to the website, the game "works by identifying the areas that almost everyone wants to change, and then making a daily game out of creating new habits in each of those areas." There are three levels -- Kick Start, Lifestyle, and Performance. I'd like to think that I eat pretty well(ish) to begin with, so I went with Lifestyle. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

hello, moneypenny

Once upon a Halloween, five years ago, I was dressed up as the Travelocity gnome. At some point during the party, I started to sneeze and assumed that I was allergic to my beard (duh). I ended up sleeping in the host's guest room on a pillow that was mostly used by the three cats who lived there. This resulted in an almost-closed throat and hives all over my neck. Yikes. And it was here that I thought my love affair with cats was over.

That was, until I met j2. And Kirby.

At first, I was really hesitant to play with her. Between my allergies and her VERY long fur, I thought that would be a death sentence. I've actually said, out loud, to her (yes, I talk to the cat, don't you?) "You're going to be the death of me". It took a long time, but I did eventually build up some sort of immunity to her and her massive amount of fluff. And it's hard not to love this sweet face:

And no one was more surprised than I when I decided I wanted to adopt a kitten back in November. Me, former cat hater, with a very current allergy. I just felt the overwhelming urge to take care of a tiny little creature. I'd be lying if I told you that a dog wasn't my first choice - but condo living coupled with a busy schedule would be so unfair for a pup. Once j2 was on board with the idea, I started looking online at animal rescues in the area and falling in love with every. single. kitten. I found on petfinder. We went to a meow mixer (adorable, right?) at a pet store about an hour outside of the city, I held literally three kittens and then j2 saw Penny. I held her and she purred and immediately fell asleep in my arms and it was a done deal. I mean, look at this cutie pie: