Take me home country roads…

29 Aug

Well, Brian and I are driving down the highway now on our much anticipated road trip to wild and wonderful West Virginia!

As I’ve been telling my friends and coworkers about this trip, a lot of folks have been asking… why West Virginia?

A lot of my family lives or has lived in the beautiful state, so it holds an extra special place in my heart.  You see, my great great grandfather (I think that’s how it works… my grandpa’s grandfather), Caesar Barbera, immigrated to this wonderful country from Italy and went to work in the Coalfields of West Virginia in 1900.  According to my late grandfather, George Barbera, “When he landed on Ellis Island, he was asked if he wanted a job. He said, ‘yes.’ He hopped a train and came to Thurmond. He had to walk to Glen Jean where the coal company gave him a job loading coal.”

My family has been rooted in West Virgina for a long time and in a way I still feel very rooted there as well.

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I used to visit my family down is southern W.V. at least twice a year.  All of my first cousins, except two, lived there… Here’s us taking a really awesome photo.

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Dorks.  I’m really rocking that sweet vest.

We were/are all a tight knight group.  For almost as long as I can remember my grandpa and grandma were the rock and foundation of our little clan.

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(Here they are centered, holding hands at our Barbera family reunion)

After their passing, it always felt a little strange to be going back without them there.

Now time has gone, and it’s been almost 3 years since I’ve had a proper visit… so I’m incredibly excited to visit the place that has given my so many wonderful memories.  I’ll be staying with my cousin Leah and her family tonight who live on the Ohio/West Virginia border.  Tomorrow, we will be packing up again and making the trip down to gorgeous southern West Virgina to stay with my Aunt Connie and Uncle Ron.

photo 5(1)I’m sure we will be visiting all the old favorites like the restaurant my Uncle used to own, Dirty Ernie’s Rib Pit.

Brian and I are being treated to a white water rafting trip and zip lining in the canopy which will be awesome!  What I’m looking forward to the most, however, is just spending time with the family… reminiscing about the good times and the great times to come :)  Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend, y’all!

Babcock State Park in Fayette County, WV.

Flip Belt Review & Discount Code!

28 Aug

For years I have been that girl running on the trail with my phone in my hand.  I’ve tried the arm band, but in the summer it would give me a bad tan line.  I dug out one of my mom’s fanny packs and it slid around my waist like a hula hoop.  I bought a hydropack, which is great for hydration on the go, but is too difficult to maneuver my phone out of.

It wasn’t until the Rock N’ Roll half marathon expo last year that I first heard about the Flip Belt.  I was pretty content with my normal routine – phone in hand – but when I was given the opportunity to review the Flip Belt by my FitApproach community, I was all in.

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The first thing I noticed about wearing the Flip Belt on my runs was the fact that it DID NOT move. Additionally, I was able to fit everything I need into my belt:

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  • Keys
  • ID
  • Credit Cards
  • Cell Phone

… and there was still room for more.

My favorite feature is the little clip for your keys to attach to in case they have a mind of their own and try to wiggle their way out.

Another thing I loved was that It wasn’t awkward running with the belt and having my headphones in at the same time.  When I run with my phone in my hand, the headphones always get tangled and in my way.

One thing to note is that the belt is NOT waterproof, so if you’ve been hitting the pavement like me in all this summer rain be sure to wrap your phone in a plastic bag.  The Flip Belt is made of quick dry, wicking fabric so it won’t cause any discomfort if it touches your skin.

In the little time I’ve had with my Flip Belt, I’ve worn it running, out on my walks with Bailey, to the gym during my weight workouts and at the grocery store (hands free!).

Being the boring person I am (kidding! Kind of…) I chose their ‘slate’ color as my belt of choice, but there are SO many different fun colors to choose from.

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Below is a picture of my using the belt aka – Flipping it … hence the name.

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Super simple, you just stuff your stuff into the slits and flip the belt when you’re all done.

I highly recommend you all try this and lucky for you I have a great discount code to offer!  Visit the Flip Belt store, shop around and enter sweat33 to receive 10% off your order.

Tweet: Run, play, explore with #FlipBelt! Use the code sweat33 for 10% OFF your entire purchase! http://ctt.ec/9fPaF+ @flipbelt @fitapproach

 

Click to tweet about it when you’re done!

Until tomorrow, friends :)

Good Workouts & Great Customer Service

27 Aug

So… I have a bit of rant I need to get off my chest.

Last Wednesday I ordered a pair of water shoes on Zappos for our white water rafting excursion in West Virginia.  I don’t have any shoes or sandals that are suitable for this type of ‘sport’, so I figured they were a good investment (plus, I got them on sale).

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Zappos, being the awesome company that they are, had the shoes ‘delivered’ to me last Thursday – the day after!  Since they require an adult signature, the UPS man would not leave the package at my home while I was at work.

Therefore, I paid a whole extra $5.00 (to UPS) to have the package delivered to the UPS store close to my apartment.  On Friday, I received an email that it was delivered and ready for pick up.  Then something that has never happened to me before happened… the package was not there.  The man who ‘signed’ for the package was named Paul and according to the employees at my local UPS store, there are no men employed by the name of Paul.  Weird.  Frustrated and a little annoyed, I asked what I should do.  The UPS employee gave me a generic phone number to call and ask that UPS place a ‘tracker’ on my package.  My first response was… “Is this something you can help me with right now?”  His answer was flat out “no.”  This ‘tracker’ that I myself had to call in would take up to one week according to the customer service representative that I talked to.  ONE WEEK!  Not cool.

I decided to call Zappos directly and let them know what happened. Within 5 minutes of being on the phone, describing what happened and confirming my order, they had a new pair of shoes on their way for me that will be delivered before I leave.

So what’s my point with this mediocre story?  Good customer service is everything.  There are very few places that I frequent often that I would say have ‘extraordinary’ customer services.

  1. Zappos
  2. Nordstrom
  3. Trader Joe’s
  4. Marriott
  5. Amazon

The fact that the Zappos lady said “Have a beautiful night” at the end of our conversation, made me chuckle a little, but really turned my whole experience around.  LOVE IT!

On another random rant…

Chicago’s weather has been weird these past couple of days.  Lately, I feel like we are the new Florida – getting in a good thunderstorm every afternoon only to be rewarded with a gorgeous night.

Yesterday I took my lunch break outside when it was raining…

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And when I left to attend our kFit class it was gorgeous out.

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The class last night was INTENSE – I sweat a lot in general – but man I was dripping.

Our WARM UP was:

  • Stair jumps, lunges and squats
  • Sprinting

The MAIN SET was:

Completing the following in 2 minutes -

  • 5 burpees
  • 10 jumping jacks
  • 15 mountain climbers
  • 20 sit ups

10 sets; two minutes each (you had to complete everything in two minutes) for a total of 20 minutes at high intensity.

Our “COOL DOWN” was:

  • A plank challenge.

After all of the above, I didn’t think I would make it past a minute… kuddos to our personal trainer for really kicking our ass.

I ended the night at home… eating an awesome TBLTA (turkey bacon, lettuce, tomato & avocado sandwich)… and watching the US Open.

TBLTA

And I was in a good mood the whole day because awesome customer service is the best.  The end.

 

My Favorite Protein Pancakes

26 Aug

Howdy!

Well this week started with a bang, I have so much to get done before our road trip to West Virginia it’s unreal.

The good thing is that I had a nice and relaxing weekend to get all geared up for an ultra productive week.

Friday, my coworkers and I enjoyed some adult beverages after work.

This delicious New Glarus Wisconsin Ale brewed with Cherries.  Yum.

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… and the Southern Tier Brewing Pumking at home.

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(no, I didn’t buy the whole case unfortunately).

You might be thinking… Lindsay… it’s just way to early for such fall type drinks.  Well you are wrong, my friend.  This girl right here lives in the Midwest for a reason.

In keeping with the shotgun fall cuisine, I woke up Saturday morning craving my favorite protein pancakes:

The Best Protein Pancakes Ever

Serves: 2

Ingredients: 

  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tbsp. almond milk
  • Chocolate chips
  • Banana slices (garnish)
  • Almond butter (garnish)
  • Pure maple syrup (non of that fake shit)

Directions:

  1. Mash the banana in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk together.
  3. Cook like regular pancakes… add some chocolate chips if your heart so desires
  4. Top pancakes with some fresh banana slices, a dollop of almond butter and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.  bada bing bada boom.

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These pancakes helped fuel our morning workouts at the gym.  I opted to do one of the Spartan WOD’s:

3 vertical jumps (max effort).  Fully recover after each set.  Repeat 3 sets of 3 jumps.

Split Squat Iso Hold.  Accumulate 60 seconds per leg.  Fully recover.  Repeat 3 sets

Accumulate 60 seconds in High Pull-Up Hold then accumulate 20 push-ups.  Fully recover.  Repeat 3 times.

Run 30 minutes – zone 1.  (aka – slower pace)

I was super sweaty after this one.  I typically sweat a lot, but the gym was humid and hot from the weather outside so it just tripled everything.  My running partner, Lindsay, probably would have been embarrassed if she was with me :)

Saturday evening, Brian and I attended the 40th birthday of one of our good friends.  I was so busy eating the delicious appetizers and tasting the signature cocktails that I forgot to take pictures of this wonderful event.  After 5 or 6 cocktails… it was a Liiitttllee hard to get up in the morning.

We had big plans to visit the suburbs, however, so there was no time to waste.  It was the PERFECT day to spend outside by the pool.  Bailey thoroughly enjoyed rolling around in the mud pits that have accumulated from all of the rain we have been getting.

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She was pissed when we had to give her a cold hose bath.  Basically, she participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

P.s. I saw this on insta this weekend and couldn’t stop laughing…

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I can’t even.

 

Strength Moves I’m Loving Lately

21 Aug

Lately, I have really been loving the workouts the Spartan Race series sends it’s participants every morning.  They are always a combination of strength and cardio and a lot of the moves are ones that I would never have incorporated into my regular routine.  These same moves have also been introduced to me through my work’s kFit wellness program.  Our trainer, Sam, gives us personal attention to make sure we are performing at our best and to make sure our technique is correct.  The great news for people like you who might not get daily emails or daily training is that a lot of the moves they use can be found online! (slash, you should totally sign up for a spartan sprint.  It will challenge you in a new way and your body will thank you for it).

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Here are some workout moves I have been LOVING lately:

Split Squat ISO Holds

This is a great move for beginners in strength training… don’t be timid if you find yourself having a hard time balancing at first.  Start on the ground and elevate yourself a couple inches until you can get to the full position.  This move workouts your glutes, hamstrings, quads and engages your core.  A full body win.

Hindu Squats

Another great squat variation that helps build lower back strength, endurance and speed.

Hindu Push-Ups

These push ups are so much more than a shoulder workout.  They increase mobility and work on your arms, back, chest and legs.

Bird Dog

This stability exercise engages your glutes and entire core.

Burpees

I love to hate them, but notice a major difference in my body when I incorporate these daily.  I feel stronger on my runs and actually feel like I could go for longer.

You can use these workouts to build your own circuit at the gym, outside or in your home!

Yesterday morning I was up bright and early to catch the bus and make it downtown to our 6AM kFit Bootcamp class.  It’s been a little stormy here lately, but we were fortunate enough to be able to attend the class outside!

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I always initially come to this class tired and crabby.  It takes everything in my power to get me out of bed at 4:45 a.m. and I have never been a ‘natural’ morning person.  Within 10 minutes of our workout, I was feeling great and in the zone.  Funny how that happens, right?  Yesterday’s circuit focused a lot on Push-Ups – killer – and Squat Cleans with medicine balls.  By the end of the workout we had done close to 100 pushups and 80 squat cleans and I was feeeellinng it.  In a good way!  After the class, my coworker and I DIVVY over to our local gym a couple blocks away so we can shower and get ready for work.  I could barely lift my arms to shampoo my hair I was so tired, haha.

Work went by quickly which was great and even more great because I knew my workout for the day was over and I could do WHATEVER I wanted when I got home.  My extra time was spent taking Bailey on a nice long walk around the neighborhood and stopping to smell the flowers.

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True story: she ate a flower just before I took this picture.  Silly.

Our dinners have been spot on lately.  Fully embracing the summer produce.  My favorite thus far has been the local pan seared trout:

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We picked up these beauties from Whole Foods on Monday and boy were they delicious.

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Nothing better.

Ta Ta for now!

 

Zucchini Noodle Lasanga

19 Aug

Good morning!

There are a couple things that made me really happy this morning:

1. Blooming flowers in my apartment.

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1. My upcoming trip to West Virginia over Labor Day weekend.  I will be visiting/staying with my relatives and they are treating Brian and I to a white water rafting trip on the New River Gorge and zip lining through the canopy.  Needless to say, B and I are super pumped.  I need to figure out what I will be wearing on all these outdoor adventures… ie: I should probably buy some shoes that are suitable for rafting.  Hopefully I can find something inexpensive and not have to splurge on a pair of Chaco’s.

2. FOOTBALL SEASON!  I just marked all the Bears games down in my calendar last night and got super nerdy excited about it.  Football season means chili and cornbread season which is one of the best seasons of all!

Last night after work, I met Brian at Whole Foods so we could do our grocery shopping/meal planning for the week.  Here’s what’s on deck:

Monday: Zucchini Noodle Lasagna

Tuesday: Local Trout & Salad

Wednesday: Chicken Fajitas

Thursday: LH dinner with a friend; BS leftovers

Friday: Garlic Mustard Drumettes with Quinoa

Saturday: Takeout

Sunday: Dinner at my parents house

Produce

  • 3 medium zucchini
  • garlic
  • cucumber
  • bell peppers (2)
  • broccoli
  • avocado
  • jalapeno (3)
  • Lemons (2)
  • Blueberries

Meat

  • trout (2 portions about .8 or .9 lb)
  • ground turkey
  • chicken drumettes

Dairy

  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 small container of ricotta (15 oz)
  • Greek yogurt (4)

We had a lot of staples in our freezer/pantry for our meal plan this week, so our overall price was under $70.  Win!

Once we got home and unloaded everything, I got straight to work on making the lasagna.  There is something so comforting to me about lasagna, but I always feel a little too full when I order it at restaurants.  I stumbled across Skinnytaste’s Zucchini Lasagna and knew it would be a crowd pleaser in my house.  Plus, this is a wonderful recipe for the summer when everyone’s gardens are bursting with fresh zucchini!

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The only real modification we made to her recipe was that we used ground turkey instead of ground beef and we used my mother’s homemade family marinara sauce instead of canned tomatoes.

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Although the recipe is a little labor intensive…

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The end result is SO worth it.

Oh and don’t be like me and forget to take a picture of the lasagna and gooey, hot and delicious… right out of the oven.  Fail.  Use your imagination, people :)

Be sure to check out her recipe here and give it a try!

Cooking, Cleaning & Running Fools

18 Aug

Hello, hello!

I hope you all had a fabulous weekend.

My weekend kicked off right after work on Friday with my birthday present from Brian… a cooking class!  I’ve been talking about us going for a while now and was thrilled when I saw what he got me!

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The class we took was called ‘Street Food’ and was themed around various snacks and bites that you may find sold on the street in different countries.

Here was our menu:

Beer battered fish tacos

Beef kefta kabobs

Lemongrass chicken banh mi

Cheese and bean pupusas

The class was held at the Merchandise Mart Chopping Block location, so it was super simple to get there directly after work.  Brian brought a bottle of pinot noir, we tied on our aprons and got to work.  In most classes, you work with another couple or group to prepare your various dishes.  Our class was completely full, so we were able to partner up with two other people and boy did we have so much fun!

I love cooking, I cook almost every night, but all of these items are ones I never would have just come up with on my own.

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Our favorites were definitely the Beer battered fish tacos which we made with Two Brother’s Cane and Abel.  The second runner up was the Lemongrass chicken banh mi’s.  So juicy and tender, plus the crusty french bread really makes the entire sandwich.  We left completely full and happy!

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I was up bright and early Saturday morning to meet my workout buddy, Lindsay at our gym.  We warmed up on the treadmill for 25 minutes alternating between a steady jog, uphill walk and sprinting.  Once we were nice in warm we completed the following workout:

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Loved it!  It was so nice being at the gym so early because we didn’t have to fight for space to complete this circuit.

Saturday was such a busy day.  Immediately after our workout, I showered, grabbed a few things from Whole Foods across the street, my two of my best friends for brunch at Toast, came home and cleaned for 4 hours and then hosted a group of my closest friends for cocktails and appetizers!

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Phew.  The whole day was awesome.  Even though it was jam packed, I had so much fun seeing all my different groups of friends and my workout really carried my energy level throughout the entire day.  Win!

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Sunday was no less chaotic.  My parents and our family friends were over at my apartment at 10:00 a.m. ready to watch the Air and Water show (thank god my apartment was already clean).

We grabbed some sandwiches and salads from Pastoral and headed over to the lake around noon.  Unfortunately, Chicago decided to be cool and cloudy yesterday so the Air and Water show didn’t really happen, but our fun little picnic did!

I was a great way to round out the weekend… and let me tell you I slept like a BABY last night.  Fun times.

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