Sunday, February 19, 2012

Food for Thought

I'm getting worse and worse at this blog thing. I don't know if it's my new job that's keeping me so busy, or the fact that when I do get a chance to play on my Mac, I'm on Pinterest all night (which I'm obsessed with btw). So where have I been the past the month? Branding. My company just went through a large rebrand project and what was formerly called Mondial Assistance, is now Allianz Global Assistance. I worked on the project for 18 months, overseeing the HR division's rebranding efforts. It was a lot of work but a lot of fun. We launched on February 1.

After the brand project, I treated myself to a trip to NYC. John was in Denver for work so he flew into the big city from there. My best friend Brian and I took the train Friday morning and got into town that afternoon. We attended my high school's (Collegiate) alumni reunion at the 21 Club that night and then went to the Hurricane Club for dinner and drinks. Saturday included all day shopping and walking around, but also a trip to the 9/11 Memorial downtown, which was bittersweet. 9/11 was a very influential event for me - I was a senior in high school and while I was already into international history and politics, I ended up majoring in foreign affairs at UVA too.

After the memorial, we went to a place called 10 Degrees for cheese tray and drinks. The cheese was delicious and the sparkling wine I ordered paired perfectly. Then that evening we went to another amazing dinner at Alta. This place had the most amazing Spanish tapas food I've ever had. Fried goat cheese, pork belly, black squid ink paella, and so much more. I got to see my college roommate and close friend Jen, who took us out on the town. It was really a great trip - Can't wait to visit again.

So to continue with the food theme for this post, I'll move on to a few new recipes and restaurants. My next post will be about this spring's race season, but for now, the winter season brings about food for thought:

I found an easy recipe for chicken tacos, and of course changed it up to chicken fajitas instead. The recipe calls for 1 package of chicken breasts (1lb), 1 16-oz jar of salsa and a packet of taco seasoning. My recipe was similar except I used a packet of fajita seasoning instead, and I added chopped onion and red/green peppers plus a can of black beans. Throw it all in a crockpot for 6-8 hours on low or medium, and viola - Chicken Fajitas! It's SO easy, the chicken just shreds apart perfectly after cooking all day, and you just dump the mixture in tortilla shells for an easy meal.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I recently made a steak salad recipe that I have been wanting to try after my trip to Florida last November. At the club restaurant in Gulf Harbour, they have this steak salad with walnuts, gorgonzola, mushrooms, etc that is absolutely to-die for. I order it every time I go. I've been looking for something similar here in RVA, and I've had luck at both Brio and Delux (both have great steak salads), but also decided to re-create it from scratch the other night. I pan-seared a ny strip steak with salt/pepper, and then re-created the salad with spring mix lettuce, chopped asparagus, portobello mushrooms cooked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and of course fresh crumbled gorgonzola. I forgot glazed walnuts, which I will definitely add next time for crunch and sweetness. It was so easy to make and pretty healthy considering I used no dressing other than the olive oil/balsamic vinegar I cooked the mushrooms in. Toss the steak on top and dinner is ready!

And moving on to my last food expedition... I recently went to Peter Chang's new restaurant here in the west end of Richmond. This guy is talked about as a food legend and almost god-like. I felt inclined to go after all the talk. It was excellent Sichuan food too! We had to try the fried pork belly basket to start, which as you can see, presentation was excellent. Everything was tasty and service was super friendly. I'll definitely be back to try the hot pots for dinner.

Now that I've ranted about my last 4 weeks, maybe I'll try to write more often and less content... too much goes on when you are having fun!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adventure Racing 2012

As some of you probably noticed, last year was the year of the "adventure race." This new trend has been around for some time, but it didn't take off until just recently. My first adventure race was only 2 summers ago when my roommates and I signed up for the Filthy 5K Mud Run featured in Dominion's Riverrock weekend here in RVA. Now there are hundreds of adventure races all over the country, and of course one of the most renowned races - Tough Mudder - one of the most challenging.

But this year isn't about conquering the toughest adventure race or surpassing some type of endurance goal. No, my resolution was to try new races and new workouts to keep up with my fitness standards. Which is why I want to share with you a few new adventure races that I will be participating in this year. Time to get down and dirty all over again...

One of the first new races of the year is called Hero Rush. It's a 5k+ firefighter-inspired obstacle course race full of ladders, poles and lots of fire. I'm a little nervous about this one, but I think I can do it. Plus, I get to pretend I'm a firefighter for the day. Event better, the event supports the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, a national charity that supports the families and fire departments of fallen firefighters. I always try to sign up for races that support a good cause and this one is one of my favorites.

Hero Rush is offering a DC-Maryland area race on April 28th this year. To sign up, go to and register. Sign up before February 3rd to beat the price increase!!! I'll be there with my game face on!

The next adventure race I signed up for is the Mud Warrior. Thanks to Livingsocial, I was able to snag a pretty cheap race ticket to this 8k military-style obstacle course race. Supposedly this one is like a "mini Tough Mudder," plus it's in mid-April near Charlottesville, VA, so I imagine it will be quite chilly. Again, this is another race that supports a good cause - the HOPE Foundation, that helps to fight poverty and reduce homelessness by building stronger and better communities. It's also local - based out of Charlottesville, VA, my old college stomping grounds (wahoo-wah!!!). Check it out... and sign up for the race while you are at it.

I look forward to participating in these events. Any new adventure is worth it to me and I can't wait to conquer two new adventure races this year. I also plan to race the Merrell Down and Dirty 10K mud run since I signed up for it last year and then skipped it due to a back injury. So technically it's a "new" race for me. Fingers crossed I don't miss out again this year!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year, New Resolutions

Finally, the holidays are over and I'm back to a normal schedule. No more holiday parties and baking loaves of pumpkin bread. I just got back down to my normal weight that I've maintained for the past 2 or 3 years, thankfully. All is right with the world. 

So what's next? I conquered Tough Mudder, passed my PMP exam, completed 14 races in 2011 (2 more than my original goal) and migrated to a full-time apple user with my new mac book air and iphone 4s (thank you John!). It was a good year and I'm very pleased with my accomplishments. What made the end of 2011 even better is my new years promotion at work! I'm now a Project Manager / Process Engineer in Human Resources at my company.

So now that it's 2012, I need to set a few more goals. When I list resolutions, I really means goals. I think that word sends a better message. Goals are more motivating to me and I tend to stick with them, plus they can be super small and repeated. So below I've listed my goals for 2012. Hooyah!

1. Become proficient in my new role. While I have managed many projects in my career, leading projects that really make a business impact is what I want to achieve. I want to be comfortable with PM terminology like it's the back of my hand, and become meticulous with my documentation by using the right tools. I am nervous of the unknown, but excited to take on the challenge.

2. Try new workouts and races. I've already signed up for a "barre" class and I bought the living social deal to Crossfit here in RVA. Two new things already on the list for 2012! I want to continue trying new things when it comes to physical activity. For the past several years I've been a consistent run/bike/swim and weight trainer. I threw in a few Bikram Yoga classes here and there, plus a SEAL team course, but that's about it. I also want to sign up for new races. I didn't get into the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler unfortunately, but I signed up for a "mini Tough Mudder" race in Cville for April, plus I plan on racing Cville's 10 miler too.

3. Discover new recipes and restaurants. I'm the type of cook that throws everything into a pot and hopes for the best. I love discovering a new meal just by mistake. But I also need to try a few new recipes too. Everyone knows I LOVE to go out to eat but this year I want to try new places. I went to Roosevelt down in Church Hill before the new year, so that doesn't count. I want to try Pasture, Kenn Tico, Stella's, and Ironfish for sure. There are so many more - thank god there's plenty of days in the year!

I'll leave my goals at that for now. I noticed my "new things" theme when writing this post, hence the title. There will be plenty more I'm sure. So with that, I wish you all a Happy New Year and good luck in your goals as well!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Winter Wrap Up

It's a shame I don't discipline myself to update my blog more, I just don't have time. That's a lie really - I find time to read my InStyle magazine and watch Battlestar Galactica episodes on Netflix with John every night, so I can obviously find the time to chat about my food and health adventures.

To start, I wrapped up my 2011 race season with 2 more races in November. I ran the HCA 8k instead of the half marathon this year since I didn't feel like doing anything too challenging after Tough Mudder. The 8k was so much fun - it's the perfect race distance ever. Just short enough to not hurt, but long enough to feel like a decent workout. Kali and I ran in our Tough Mudder orange sweat bands just to show off a bit. Only one guy called us out and that was it. So much for being a badass.

The last race was the Turkey Trot 10K on the University of Richmond's campus. It's quite the hilly course. Lots of ups and downs, but it was an absolutely beautiful day - cool, crisp, sunny and a slight breeze. Kali and I didn't train at all for this race but we finished in 56 minutes - 9 minute miles, so I'm pretty satisfied. Ironically, this race was on the 1-year anniversary of my broken arm (during a trail run on Thanksgiving with John), AND it was my 13th race of the year. No injuries this year, thank god!

I'll probably run in the Toys for Tots this Sunday just to even out my race count to 14 total (16 that I signed up for but did not race in 2 of them). Plus it's for a good cause and something to do.

So to continue my race mode, I just signed up for my first race in 2012! The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in DC. My friend Liz and I put our names in the lottery to see if we'll get in. I certainly hope so. 10 Milers are very challenging but not as painful as a half marathon. And since I really don't do long distance running races anymore, 10 miles is perfect. I'd rather do triathlons after that!

So what else have I been up to now that winter is here? Cooking of course! It's crockpot season! Naturally I turn to my favorite blogger of all time, Jenna of Eat Live Run. She literally has the best recipes and photos I've ever seen and tasted. Her writing is excellent and her lifestyle is exactly how I want mine (if only I could afford those Frye boots she wears!). I just tried her sweet potato lentil soup in the crockpot because it was completely effortless. If you love Trader Joes as much as I do, then you would understand how easy they make it to be a good cook. I got almost all the ingredients I needed for this one recipe on the first isle of the store - lentils, cubed sweet potatoes, fresh rosemary, chopped onions, celery, carrots and garlic - and I added chicken sausage to my soup for some added protein. Throw it all in the crock pot with 64 oz of chicken broth and voila - I'd say a pretty healthy and hearty soup ready for dinner!

Then there's the not-so-healthy pizza, but fun to make with Brett! We roll out the dough and I let him go to town with the pizza sauce all over the dough. Then the toppings. This time we tried prosciutto, spinach and arugula topped with 5-italian cheese and goat cheese. Brett actually enjoyed the prosciutto so he put some on his "side." YUM.

Tomorrow I'm going to make another Eat Live Run recipe with cubed butternut squash and quinoa. I'll probably add yet another protein to the dish - most likely baked wild alaskan salmon filets. John's favorite.

More to come - hopefully sooner rather than later! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Vacation like a boss

Ah, vacation. Glorious vacation. I must say, since the stress and hard work of training for TM and studying for the PMP exam, this vacation is highly anticipated and very much welcomed. Down here in Florida, it's sunny blue skies with the high temp of 80 degrees at the peak hours of the day. It feels absolutely wonderful, not humid nor too hot. Since we've been down here, I've laid by the pool, done a little work, light reading and of course an afternoon run before dinner. I've never felt so relaxed. 

Before this trip, I tacked on a quick trip to Disney World to once again attend Epcot's 16th annual International Wine and Food Festival with my former roommates, Talley and Christine. I arrived in Orlando mid-day Sunday, made it to the hotel, and since Talley and Christine were out at the parks (they went down a day ahead of me), I decided to relax by the hotel pool and take my time getting ready before our amazing dinner at Ohana at the Polynesian Resort. This is our second year taking this trip and I hope to make it a tradition from now on. Just the 2 short days is all I need, and it's a total blast. 

Ohana serves amazing selections of meats similar to Texas de Brazil but definitely fancier. The steak and shrimp are my favorite, followed by the wings and their amazing dipping sauces to go with them. Since we had collected a bit of money from our old apartment's security deposit, we used the money for our trip to Disney World, so basically the meal was free (okay, not really but at least it felt like it!).
Then there's the festival. This year had some of the same items as last year's menu but thank god because many of them were absolutely amazing, like the lamb sliders with tomato chutney from New Zealand, the escargot wrapped in filo dough from France, and of course the sushi-grade salmon and tuna sensation with chunks of fresh avocado drizzled in soy sauce from Japan. To-die for, let me tell you. Then there were a few new treats such as the lamb chop with goat cheese potato salad from Australia, the seared filet of beef with sweet potato puree from South Africa, spicy shrimp taco from Mexico, and the Kefta (beef stuffed pita) from Morocco. All were absolutely incredible. It's the best food festival I've ever been to. Then there's the Eat to the Beat concert series and every year our favorite band Hanson performs during the festival. We basically revolve our trip around this concert and the festival, lets be honest. We've loved Hanson since the days of MMMBop and I can't believe 14 years later, we're still attending their shows. This year, they performed on Halloween, so what did they come out on stage dressed as? STORM TROOPERS! I LOVE Star Wars so this completely made my day. See a shot of Taylor Hanson below for a lovely visual. So much fun!

So, once I got back from Disney World, I turned around and headed right back to Ft. Myers, Florida with John the very next morning (I did not plan this, it was truly an accident that I booked these flights back-to-back, I swear). We enjoyed lunch at the club, pool time and relaxation. I decided to cook a nice meal for our first night at the condo instead of going out to dinner. My friend Liz brought me squid ink black linguine from Italy when she was traveling with her family on vacation. I saved the linguine and decided to take it with me to Florida so I could make a dish called "Love Mussels" that Liz recommended from The recipe was super simple - shallots, green onion, garlic, capers and Italian seasoning to eventually make an incredible marina sauce. Throw in fresh mussels (and I added shrimp), let it simmer; the mussels open up in the sauce and then pour over the black linguine. Voila! Or should I say, "Mangia!"

So, what's next? Well, we are heading to Miami tomorrow for a weekend getaway and wedding of a friend of John's. We are staying a swank hotel we booked using a Groupon deal, pretty pleased about that. Should be a lot of fun! How am I ever going to get back into the swing of things back in RVA after this wonderful vacation? I'll tell you how... by signing up for 2 more races this month. To motivate me during vacation and the upcoming holidays, I signed up for both the HCA 8K that occurs during the Richmond Marathon weekend and the RRRC Turkey Trot 10K on Thanksgiving Day. It'll be a great workout before I down a huge feast at my parent's house. Gotta keep up the races to stay motivated... it really works!

So that's all for now... glad I can finally find the time to update my blog. Although I'm pretty sure no one reads it, at least I can record my food and fitness experiences somewhere special to me... And if you do read this - hope you enjoy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I'm a Tough Mudder and a PMP!

I did it. I made it through the toughest week of this year, and I rocked it!!! Not only did I survive Tough Mudder, I passed my PMP exam too! It has been such an overwhelming past few months, and now I feel like I can finally slow down and enjoy life. I have spent the last 4 months studying for this exam and focusing on work and races. It's been completely worth it. Setting goals for my health, career and mind have always been what motivates me in life and keeps me moving forward. Plus I'm off on a week and a half-long vacation to Florida as my reward!

I'm going to Disney World tomorrow for the Int'l Food and Wine festival in Epcot. My old roommates and I went last year and had so much fun, we had to do it again. I can't wait to see what's on the menus this year! I fly back Tuesday and turn right around Wednesday back to Florida, except we are going to Ft Myers for vacation. THEN we are heading down to Miami for the weekend to a wedding. I got this great Groupon deal for a 2-night stay at a fancy hotel and spa credits. It's going to be fabulous and I can't wait to enjoy every bit of it. Speaking of which... I think I will go get a pedicure today to continue my celebrations of passing the PMP exam and finishing the TM. My toes need some love!!!

After vacation I'll be finally back to normal. Since race season is over (other than an upcoming 8k and perhaps a holiday 5k here and there), I have no I idea what I'll do to focus my exercise. I guess I will go back to normal cross-training, maybe take a few Bikram Yoga classes or try something new. I've been hearing so much about Pure Yoga, I wish there was a studio here in Richmond to see what it's all about. I also want to consider Cross Fit. I keep hearing amazing things about this style of workouts too - an old high school friend of mine who does Cross Fit looks absolutely incredible, which motivates me too. So many decisions - I've got all winter to try a few things out!

Winter also means lots of cooking and baking! I've already made my pumpkin muffins but I'm sure I'll be making a few more loaves of pumpkin bread in the near future. I recently made a white chicken chili that was amazing - and the seasoning came from a Sauer's seasoning pack so I was surprised it tasted so good! I'll have to look up a few new things to try this winter too, particularly crockpot recipes that I want to throw together in the morning before work and then come home to. Of course my usual crockpot chili and  blondie soup recipes will be used regularly this season too.

Anyway - more to come later, but just wanted to share my accomplishments with anyone who cares. It's been one hell of a ride but I'm so glad I did it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tough Mudder Jitters

I can't believe it's upon us. Tough Mudder is the day after tomorrow and I'm so not prepared. When I first signed up, I was so into the training and mentally preparing myself for this race. Now that it's here, I'm not at all in the mental or physical shape I had imaged. First of all, I didn't train for the distance AT ALL. The longest distance I ran was 8 miles about 2 weeks ago. I've hit a few 5 or 6 milers here and there but that's about it. Then, last weekend I did a few hill repeats and injured my back pretty bad. I've been having back issues all year, and this one of course happened a week before the race. I haven't done a lick of exercise since last Saturday in an effort to heal, and I'd say today is the first day my back has felt better. I can still feel a small bit of soreness in the spinal muscles, but nothing that will stop me from attempting to finish Tough Mudder.

So, in an effort to mentally prep myself, I decided to go out and buy a really cool outfit. For the legs, Reebok cold compression full length leggings. For the top, O'Neill surf shirt - mock turtle neck with insulated panels in the front and back to help keep water off my skin and dry super fast. Not to mention I'm hoping it will be a bit of a barrier for the ice water we have to jump into (FML). Gloves, I decided to go with kayaking gripper hydro-gloves, seems are not sealed off, but when I ran them under the faucet, barely any water came through the seams, and they feel great on my hands (like they are my own hands but with more grip and protection). Let's hope they stay on until the greased-up monkey bar obstacle.

I plan on wearing old running shoes and probably bringing my goggles too just in case. There's a LOT of water and since I wear contacts, I figure it's safer to keep them around my neck. If I don't use them, who cares. Honestly, I'm dreading this race, but if I complete it, I'll have conquered a huge race and epic win for me personally. Yet another item to check off the bucket list, if I survive that is... Wish me luck!!!