Fitness, Food and Photography

Follow me on my road to fitness… Because it's all about the journey, not the destination.

July Foodie Penpals Reveal

I  am so excited to share with you my first Foodie Penpal experience.  Thank you to Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean  for such a brilliant idea.

foodiepal stamp2 July Foodie Penpals Reveal

This was my first month participating.  I was paired up with a blog reader, Kelly, who lives in New York.  She emailed me to find out what my likes/ dislikes were, and if I had any food allergies.  I told her that I like all foods, I try to eat healthy *most* of the time, I don’t have any allergies, and I love surprises.  So let’s see what she sent:

foodie penpals

I’d never seen those Eli Zabar onion thins before.  The first bite was very interesting, and then it became very addicting.  I couldn’t stop munching on them.  Yum!

foodie penpals

Dark chocolate almonds – who doesn’t love almonds?!?  Especially with chocolate!!  Those disappeared rather quickly with both the hubby and I popping them in our mouths every time we walked through the kitchen.  And a Kind bar – the flavor is Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew.  I’d always seen this brand before but had never tried it.  It was delicious.

foodie penpals

There’s also some tea and a Fiberful bar from Trader Joe’s.  This has the consistency of a thick fruit roll-up, but it’s full of fruits and veggies.  So it’s a healthy fruit roll-up.  It was quite tasty and made an excellent mid-morning snack.  I do have to say – we are getting a Trader Joe’s here next month and I cannot wait to start shopping there!!

biscoff

And finally, Biscoff Spread.  I am speechless.  Oh. My. Word.  Quite possibly the best stuff I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Why have I never tried this before??  Where has it been all my life??  I thought for sure it had to be a specialty item, possibly only sold in big cities.  But lo and behold, I found it at Walgreens yesterday!!  So you better believe this will become a regular purchase for me!!   It says it is a “European alternative to peanut butter” but it’s made from the little Biscoff cookies.  It absolutely melts in your mouth.  Heavenly!

This has been such a fun experience, trying out new foods and meeting other bloggers and readers.  I had almost as much fun shopping for my Penpal, Stephanie at My Freckled Life.

I can’t wait to do it again!

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Celebrating 90 years!

On Sunday, I started the day with a walk around my hilly neighborhood.  I pushed my daughter in the jogging stroller for about 3 miles.  It was deceivingly hot outside.  When I first stepped out, I thought it was nice and cool, but as the walk continued, the hot-and-muggy factor significantly increased.

walk with jogging stroller

After lunch, we headed down to Chattanooga to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th birthday.  Wow.  90 years.

I think he looks great for 90.

It’s my Dad’s Dad.  Sadly, though, my Dad did not get to see this day.  He passed away in 2009.  Today would have been his 63rd birthday.

My grandfather lives in a condo with a gorgeous view of the water.  So we sat out in the screened in porch for most of the afternoon enjoying the breeze and the company.

We just happened to leave at sunset, so we headed over to a park at Chicamauga Dam to snap a few quick shots as the sun was going down.

sunset at chicamauga dam

sunset at chicamauga dam

It was gorgeous.

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Ran Out of My Funk

I admit – I’ve been in a funk all week. It was nothing in particular that got me there, but rather a series of events. And as I told you yesterday I’ve had something weighing on my mind.  But after a full night’s sleep and a 4.2-mile run, I’m feeling much better. It’s hard to be in a bad mood after a run. Oh, and did I mention I don’t have to go back to work for 10 days!?!  That alone is enough to lift my mood.

So back to my run this morning.  One of my favorite places to go is Lakeshore Park.  It’s a 2.1 mile loop around an old mental institution and wastewater treatment facility.  I know it sounds weird, but it’s very family-friendly park with soccer fields, baseball fields, playgrounds and picnic areas.  The best part is it’s very hilly!

Here’s a picture of the first hill I run up. I used to be afraid of hills, but now I just take them as fast as I can.

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There are 2 different ways you can run the loop.  If you go clockwise, you’ll run down a huge hill first and the rest of the way has short but steep inclines.  (The “easy” way).  But if you go counter-clockwise (the way I go) you’ll encounter more hills and potentially get a better workout.  Towards the end of the 2.1 mile loop, there is a huge hill with a switchback.  Right before the hill, there is a quarter mile straightaway. I take that opportunity to sprint as fast as I can, just to see how high I can get my heart rate. Today, 175 was the highest. I consistently kept it in the 150-160 range throughout the tempo run. (My resting heart rate is about 52-54.)  So I was definitely in my zone!

It was really muggy out today, even at 8am. I was sweating like crazy.

When I got home, I chugged a mixture of chocolate protein powder and Mike’s Mix, with a splash of coffee. Yum.  It’s a great recovery drink.


We finished it off the workout with a round of pushups and pullups –  P90x Chest and Back DVD. Hello shoulders. 🙂

What workout did you do today?

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Eggplant and Kale Lasagna

I’ve actually never bought an eggplant before.  I don’t know why not. They are such pretty vegetables.

eggplant

I found a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan, but I was lacking a few of the ingredients and I also wanted to add some kale.  I always take recipes as suggestions anyways.  And you can take this as a suggestion too.  In fact, if you don’t have kale, fresh spinach would work great!!  And if you wanted to make it more like a normal lasagna, you can add the usual layer of cottage cheese mixture.  I personally don’t care for cottage cheese so that’s why it’s absent in this dish.

You’ll notice there aren’t any measurements in my recipe.  That’s because it’s totally up to you.  If you want more cheese, add more cheese.  If you don’t like kale as much as I do, then don’t add as much.

Eggplant and Kale Lasagna

2 large eggplants

kale

tomato sauce (I used Prego Heart Smart traditional)

parmesan cheese

mozzarella cheese

garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  We’re going to roast the eggplant first.  After skinning it, cut in 1/4″ slices and lay on sprayed cookie sheet.  (They will stick if not properly sprayed).  Should take about 15 minutes, but keep an eye on them.

roasted eggplant on a pan

When you get the roasted eggplant out of the oven, turn the oven down to 350 degrees.  Now we’re going to start assembling the lasagna.  First, pour about a cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Then arrange a layer of eggplant over it, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and garlic powder.

how to make eggplant lasagna

Then top with kale and mozzarella cheese.

how to make eggplant lasagna

Repeat the layers again until you’ve used all the ingredients and filled up the casserole dish.  (I had 3 layers of eggplant and 2 layers of kale).  Top with more cheese.

how to make eggplant lasagna

Bake in 350 degree oven for around 30 minutes.  But watch it, I overdid it just a little.

eggplant and kale lasagna

eggplant and kale lasagna

Serve with white wine.

And as you can see on my last WIAW post, it makes great leftovers!!  Enjoy!!

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It’s Going To Be a Rough Day

It’s only 7am, so it seems a little early to predict how a day will go. But I just have that feeling.  Usually, I’m a positive person.  I try to look on the bright side, most of the time. But not today … today is different.

Why?  Well, for starters, I only got 2 hours of sleep.  I tossed and turned and stared at the ceiling til I finally went downstairs.  I’ve been struggling with something for a while now and it just got the best of me last night. I stayed up reading blogs and catching up on my DVR til around 3:30am when I finally convinced myself to go to bed.

So, two hours of sleep before the alarm woke me up. Yet amazingly, I still got up and walked my hilly neighborhood for 30 minutes. Usually I find it difficult to muster up the energy to workout in the morning even after a full nights sleep.  I guess I was hoping the endorphine release would improve my mood.  Sadly, it did not. Nor did it give me any sort of mental clarity.

Add to that the  fact that today is my Friday.  (Yes, I am well aware that today is Thursday, but the fact I’m off tomorrow makes it my Friday).  And I’m going to be on vacation all next week.  Well, not a real vacation.  I’ll just be at home cleaning out the basement.  Sounds like fun, right?  It also sounds like I may be doing some work from home next week. That does not sound like fun.  Especially if I can’t get a LOT knocked off my list today. Worst part is I’m at the mercy of others.  I can’t do these projects unless my clients send me their data in a timely fashion.  Oh the wonderful world of insurance.

So I don’t want to seem like Debbie Downer or Negative Nelly.  I’m just being realistic.  It’s going to be a rough day.

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WIAW – 7/25/12

I kinda forgot it was Wednesday.  And I forgot all about WIAW until dinner time.  So you won’t get many pictures from me today.
This really shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.  I told you in my last post I was a slacker. 🙂

This morning I was running a tad late so I didn’t have time for the usual kale shake. Instead, I used my handy GNC shaker to mix one scoop of chocolate protein powder and one scoop of Mike’s Mix recovery drink. I poured in the rest of my mug of coffee for some extra caffeine.  Yummy!

For lunch, hubby and the kids picked me up at work. We grabbed some Chick-Fil-A and took it to the park. I really wish I had taken some pics there.  My 2-year old daughter was so cute dipping her nuggets in ketchup.  And my 7-year old son lost his 3rd tooth after eating a chicken sandwich.
I had the chargrilled garden salad.  (Pic is from the Chick-Fil-A website).  Only 180 calories, 5 net carbs and 23g protein!!  I used half a packet of the Spicy dressing, which added 70 calories and 2g carbs.  Not bad.

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Leftovers were on the menu for dinner. The previous night I tried my hand at an eggplant parmesan.  I strayed from the recipe, added kale and tomato sauce and turned it into more of a lasagna, without the noodles.  It was absolutely delicious!!  Add a fresh salad and some jalapenos on the side, and you have a fine meal.

image

It doesn’t look that pretty, but trust me, it tasted wonderful!!
I will post the recipe tomorrow, if I can remember it.  🙂

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Yeah, I’m a Slacker…

And not just with my blog postings (no posts in 3 days), but also with my workouts too (no workouts in 3 days either).

After my confessional post on Saturday, I did have a fabulous run.  4.2 miles at a hilly park. It felt great.  I meant to blog about it afterwards but the pics I took on my phone didn’t turn out so well. I think my sweaty hands made the lens fog up.  Ha!

But then all the good my run did was undone by Girls Night Out on Saturday night. We gorged on sushi and margaritas, neither of which are low carb. And we stayed out way too late, which then derailed any exercise efforts on Sunday.  Double Slacker!  But it was worth it – we had a blast.

Fast forward to Monday and I’m still recovering from the night out.  (I’m getting old!)  Hubby and I talked about doing the Chest & Back DVD (P90X), but that’s all it was – just talk.  Slackers!  Instead, we sat on the couch and watched the DVR’d finale of The Bachelorette.  (Don’t laugh – you know you watched it too).  🙂

Oh, but I have to tell you about these ice cream bars I found!!  Only 5 net carbs.  But how do they taste, you ask?  They are AMAZING!!!  You must get you some!!

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Confession Time

I have a confession to make – I blew it.  And not even just a little bit.  I totally went off the deep end.

I wish I could take it all back.  I’m almost embarassed to admit it.

Ok here goes – I ate Papa Johns last night.

There, I said it.  And it was so good.  Well, at the time it was good.

Now I regret every last bite.

I wish I could blame it on the kids, but it was totally my idea.  We had accumulated these Papa points which would allow us to get a free Large 3-topping pizza.  But we had to use those points by the 25th.  My son had an awesome week at karate camp, and on top of that had just lost his second tooth.  So I wanted to surprise him.  Plus, I wasn’t in the mood to cook.

So I ordered the free pizza, then I added an order of wings…. for protein.  My hubby wanted breadsticks.  And then somehow, I’m not even sure how, the cinnapie dessert pizza jumped into the cart too.  We ended up paying $20 for this “free” pizza.

After I ordered, I had planned to eat only one piece of pizza and a couple of wings.  But all that flew out the window when the food arrived.  I ended up eating one breadstick, two pieces of pizza, four wings and a one piece of the cinnapie.  Holy crap.  I really don’t even want to know how many calories and how many carbs that totalled.  I should enter it into My Fitness Pal, but it would probably just depress me.

I figure confession is good for the soul, right?  So I had to get that off my chest.  Although, I’m sure the food didn’t go to my chest area – I’m sure it’s sitting right on my hips.  I think I’ll feel better if I get it off my hips!!  And with that, I’m out the door for a tempo run.  I don’t know how long it will take for me to burn all that glycogen stored from dinner, but I’m hoping an hour will do it.

Have a great Saturday!!  🙂

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Hike: Alum Cave Trail to Mt. Leconte

Distance:  11 miles (roundtrip)

Elevation:  6,593 (highest point)

Difficulty:  moderate to strenuous

Time:  Allow at least 4-5 hours

To find the trailhead, drive 8.7 miles past the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road.  The parking lot will be on the left.  (Only about a 45 minute drive from Knoxville).

alum cave trail to mt leconte

alum cave trail to mt leconte

After we biked 11 miles at Cades Cove on Saturday, we thought hiking 11 miles was a great way to round out the day.  LOL

After all, the theme of the weekend was to do things we couldn’t do with kids around.  And we certainly can’t hike to the top of the mountain with a 7-year old and a 2-year old.  (The 2-year old is too heavy to carry and the 7-year old would just whine about his legs hurting the whole way).

hazy day at newfound gap

This was the view from Newfound Gap.  The clouds and fog were so thick you could barely see the mountains.  This was how the hike started.  We were afraid we might get rained on, but we didn’t completely care.

waterfall smoky mountains

So much to see — waterfalls, bridges, rocks, views – this trail has it all.

bridge smoky mountains

About a mile into the trail, you reach Arch Rock.  The stairs have been cut so you can walk through.

arch rock smoky mountains

alum cave smoky mountains

Then, 2.2 miles into the trail, you come to Alum Cave.  I wouldn’t really call this a cave, more like a really big rock.  But whatever.

overlook view alum cave trail smoky mountains

A lot of people turn around at Alum Cave.  Roundtrip for that hike would be 4.4 miles.  Decent hike.  But in my opinion, why would you want to stop now when you haven’t even seen the top of the mountain??

alum cave trail to mt leconte

Of course, the next 2.8 miles do start to get strenuous.  Take water with you!

stairs smoky mountains

alum cave trail to mt leconte

overlook smoky mountains

And we’re not even to the top yet.  The clouds are starting to break up.  I’m getting excited.

top of mt leconte, leconte lodge

And here we are at the top.  It’s actually clear!!  Every time I’ve ever stayed at the Leconte Lodge overnight, it was so foggy you couldn’t see anything.  But today- today it was perfect!

leconte lodge

Such a great hike!!  I highly recommend it.  We were kinda booking it to the top, not because we wanted it over with, we just wanted to keep our heart rate up.  It took 2.5 hours to climb the mountain.  We spent about 45 minutes on the top snapping pictures and eating our lunch.  The descent took only 1.5 hours.  Much easier getting down a mountain than getting up it!!

Here are a few more pictures from the hike:

butterfly smoky mountains

purple flowers smoky mountains

rhododendron smoky mountains

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WIAW – 7/16/12

I’m a day late posting What I Ate Wednesday.

image

Had the usual shake on my way work.  You probably get bored with me talking about kale shakes, but I certainly don’t get bored drinking them. They are sooo yummy!

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I started getting hungry around 11:30 so I grabbed a handful of almonds.

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Salad from home.  Ate at my desk. Shh… don’t tell – that’s a big no-no at work. Silly, I know. 🙂

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About 4pm, I had a sweet craving. After decidedly avoiding the usual Atomic Fireball, I reached for a piece of sugar-free gum. Have you tried this flavor?? Oh. My. Word. It really does taste just like apple pie. How do they do that??
image

That’s my dinner. The usual wrap. Boring, I know. I’ll try to get more creative next week.
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And half a peach for dessert. Yum!!

I was able to stay under my calorie goal and my carb limit for the day!! Yay.

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