Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In 2015, I resolve to do the following...

Who's taking the day off work today? ME! That's right, kids. I'm officially out of the office until 2015. I agreed to help some friends prepare for their annual NYE party tonight, so I figured it was a good excuse to burn off my remaining overtime hours.

And what a year it's been. From getting married in New Orleans surrounded by 180 of my closest friends and relatives, to accepting a new job and traveling to new places, it's been an action-packed 2014. Here's hoping 2015 brings even more excitement. But I'm also hoping to turn over a healthier leaf in the new year. I've slacked off the last few months, when it comes to exercise and healthy eating. I haven't been terrible, but there's certainly room for improvement. So the hubs and I are making some resolutions and will hopefully stick to them. Here are a few of my goals...

1) Find excitement in exercise. Since I'm no longer a 20-something spring chicken, those pounds don't shed so easily anymore. And I've often struggled with maintaining a regular routine of exercise. I'll go through months where I work out six times a week, then go through phases where I'm lucky to work out once every other week. That nonsense needs to end. Studies show that regular exercise helps reduce the risk of some cancers, increases longevity, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure and helps with weight loss and maintenance. Although I'm no stranger to the gym, I'm determined to shed a couple more pounds and the best way to do that is to mix up the routine. Bikram yoga one day. Weights and lunges the next. Zumba the following day. I plan to find fun new exercise classes (thank you Groupon!) to keep the interest up, rather than getting bored and lazy.
2) Get out of debt. Well, getting married earlier this year certainly didn't help my wallet. Plus, we're paying off a mortgage and car note. But thanks to my accountant-husband, I've already started working out a budget for next year and will definitely stick to it in order to pay for that honeymoon we so badly want to take in summer 2015.
3) Pick up a hobby. Remember in high school and college when you always learned something new? Yeah, I miss those days. My plan this year is to tackle something new - maybe learn a foreign language or take a jewelry-making class. I need more skillz, yo!
4) Stop procrastinating. Like many, I tend to put things off until the last minute. And then I get stressed out about how little time I have to accomplish what needs to get done. No mas! I will be better about managing my time.
5) Don't sweat the petty things. This one speaks for itself. Life is good, so why worry about insignificant issues? Appreciate what you have, rather than worry about what you don't have.

And there ya have it. Check in with me again in six months to see if I've stuck to this list. What are some of your resolutions this year?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dreaming of Nog

Here's the deal...I love yogurt, cheese and ice cream, but I don't typically like dairy drinks unless they come in malt form. And while I could eat eggs morning, noon and night, I usually avoid any drinks or cocktails that feature eggs or egg whites as ingredients. The one exception, however, is eggnog. I don't know what it is about the frothy concoction, but whenever the holidays roll around, I have to indulge in at least one. I've been craving one of these beverages since Thanksgiving, so you can imagine how thrilled I was this past weekend, when pitchers of eggnog were on the menu at a friend's Ugly Christmas Sweater party. While the nog mix was pre-made, I definitely added an extra splash of bourbon, ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Ermagerd...delicious! 

I'll probably need to buy at least one eggnog-flavored coffee and consume another glass of boozy nog before the season is over. Fortunately, there are lower-cal, sugar-free versions of the drink, such as this Splenda-sweetened one that I plan to make. Either way, I look forward to getting my eggnog on this month. It's just so dang festive and tasty - and makes me want to snuggle up in front of the lit Christmas tree while Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole croon holiday tunes in the background. And for those that don't like eggnog...bah humbug! Clark Griswold is certainly a fan. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gobble, Gobble

Anyone else wondering where this year has gone? Seriously, I feel like only a few weeks ago, Atlanta was trying to thaw out from the January ice storm. Now here we are in November. I'm so not ready for the holiday season.

As in years past, we'll be packing up the car and hitting the road early Thursday morning to spend Turkey Day with my husband's family in Florida. While I know it will be close to impossible to avoid all of the rich food that comes with a Thanksgiving celebration, I will be bringing some lower-calorie fare to offset all of the heavy dishes. For example, I'm making some hummus and light dill dip, cutting up veggies and bringing a fruit platter and some white wine.  

Did you know the average American consumes more than 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat during Thanksgiving? For reals. That's why I plan to load up on as much vegetables and fruit as possible throughout the day, so I'm not stuffing my face come dinner. And you better believe I'll be taking the dog for a long walk on both Thursday and Friday. 

By the way, Calorie Control Council has a number of healthy Thanksgiving recipes online. I strongly encouraging checking it out. Here's a sample: 

Sugar-Free Sweet Potato Pie 
Pear, Prosciutto & Hazelnut Stuffing
Bacon Sweet Potato Spinach Salad
Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie

Healthy Makeover: Green Bean Casserole

On a different but related note, if you're still trying to get into the festive mood, watch Planes, Trains & Automobiles - my favorite movie about Thanksgiving! It was directed by the late, great John Hughes and stars Steve Martin and the late, great John Candy. Love.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

So this will be a first for me...instead of hitting a Halloween party tonight, we'll be heading to a wedding. There's no Halloween theme - I guess they're worried about drunk people showing up, dressed as sexy zombies - but it does save me from having to find a costume this year. Interestingly enough, we had our Halloween costume party at work yesterday and a group of us dressed up as an "awkward family Christmas photo." Since my hubs and I attend an ugly Christmas sweater party every year, I had plenty of costume options already at my fingertips. It was a pretty awesome group effort, considering we pulled the theme together almost overnight, and donned clothes from the closet. The kicker was, one of my colleagues glued together a giant fake picture frame with a backdrop and Olan Mills sign in the corner, so we could pose in the frame, awkwardly smiling into the distance. P.S. If you've never looked at the Awkward Family Photos website, you're missing out on a lot of laughs. 

Moving on, though...seeing as how we won't be home to hand out goodies to trick-or-treaters, I've been able to escape the temptation of all those cheap bags of candy at the grocery store this year. I'm sure we'll have our share of wedding cake (and, ahem, liquor) tonight, but at least I won't have mini-Snickers sitting around the house for the days to come. 

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent packing on the pounds while still participating in spooky festivities. According to the Calorie Control Council, foods and beverages containing low-calorie sweeteners provide a simple way to enjoy your favorite treats without the additional calories. For example, choosing sugar-free chocolate will save 50 calories a day.  Drinking a diet soda can shave off 150 calories a day - or 15 pounds - by year's end. Here are a few more tips to surviving Halloween without gaining weight:
  • If you are throwing a party, serve reduced-fat popcorn or fat-free pretzel twists or sticks. Toss in some chocolate candies, as an added treat, but watch portion sizes.
  • Instead of caramel apples, try serving whole or sliced apples with fat-free caramel sauce.
  • Cut out bread (try a reduced-fat or light version) with a Halloween cookie cutter. Serve with smoked turkey, reduced-fat cheese, tomato, lettuce and other sandwich "fixings."
  • After trick or treating, allow your children to choose a designated amount of candy (such as five pieces) to eat that night.
  • Use sugar substitutes and applesauce to replace oil and sugar when baking treats for Halloween. Explain that you are using these substitutions to make these treats more healthy.
  • After Halloween is over, let your child pick one treat to eat each day. 
  • Choose candy that is sugar-free or is made with a sugar substitute, or is reduced-fat.
And for all you trick-or-treaters tonight, here's hoping you don't wind up with any rocks in your candy bag, like poor Charlie Brown. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

College Game Day Rules!

It's been an action-packed few months, folks. Let's see - in the past month alone, my husband and I have been out of town three out of four weekends, attended two weddings, went to a college football game, attended a pro football game and lodged and entertained a large and boisterous group of friends visiting from Chicago. And that's not all...tomorrow we're hitting the road after work to drive up to Knoxville to attend the Tennessee-Bama football game. No, we don't have a particular dog in this fight. But my uncle lives there, bleeds orange and white and hosts a helluva tailgate. Exhibit A: check out the artist rendering below of my uncle's tailgate this weekend. And the hubs and I are not the types to turn down a good party.

Plus, my fabulous uncle offered to make us spicy white chicken chili tomorrow night when we arrive. And I HEART chili. Seriously, it's one of my favorite food groups. But back to the tailgate. Any recommendations from the peanut gallery on what I should bring to the spread? I'm planning a Trader Joe's run during lunch tomorrow and, of course, I'll pop by the liquor store for supplies. I thought I'd pick up some cheese and meat (standard game day fare) but also want some healthy options, so possibly a bag of celery sticks, carrots, a fruit bowl and hummus. Another option - I could actually bring some ingredients and make one of these healthy, low-call Hungry Girl recipes for the tailgating gang to enjoy on Saturday. Hmmmm...what to do? Decisions are the worst!

Exploding Chicken Taquitos 
Sweet Caramelized Onion Dip
De-Pudged Pigs in a Blanket
Rockin' Restaurant Spinach Dip

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fall into Fall Season

Can y'all believe summer is over? Seriously - where has this year gone? Seems like only yesterday, I was trying to get ready for swimsuit season and now...there are Halloween decorations on all of my neighbors' houses. Yikes! Time flies when you're busy. Speaking of all things fall, we're actually flying to Philly this weekend for my husband's cousin's wedding. It should be a great time, but I checked the weather and....brrrrrrrrr. It will be a tad chilly at night.
Honestly, I don't mind fall nearly as much now that I live in the South. Back when I was a Chicago resident, I hated it because it meant the beginning of the end - and a return to months of bitterly cold, often snowy, gray days. Here, not so much the case. But if there is one good thing about fall (other than the cute sweaters and boots you get to bust out of the closet again!), it's all the wonderful warm beverages that you can indulge in. I do love a mug of hot apple cider or hot chocolate on a cool day! On that note, here are a few of my fave, Splenda-sweetened drink recipes to help get you through any chilly nights. Enjoy!

Homemade Chai
Sweet Hot Chocolate 
Spiced Apple Mulled Cider
Hot Tea Punch
Spiced Hot Cranberry Cider

Friday, September 26, 2014

Birthdays and Tailgates

So, I celebrated my birthday earlier this week. Another year older, not necessarily wiser. But it's been an action-packed year. Since my last birthday, I've started a new job, got married in New Orleans with more than 175 of my closest friends and relatives in attendance, celebrated Oktoberfest in Germany, visited Austria, partied in Jamaica and attended numerous weddings, baby showers, housewarming and going away parties. Good times. Hoping this next year of my life brings more of the same shenanigans.

This birthday was particularly special. For the first time in a decade, I was able to spend it with immediate family. My brother and sister-in-law flew in from California for a visit and we had a fabulous dinner in Atlanta, followed by drinks with friends. Later today, we're packing up the car and heading to Athens for the Georgia-Tennessee football game. There will be tailgating-a-plenty this weekend! Granted, it won't be great for the waistline but I'll make up for it with extra workouts and lean eating next week. Huzzah!

Speaking of birthdays, my hubby actually made a delicious, sugar-free cake for my big day. The double layer chocoholic cake was the perfect treat and one I'm hoping he makes again next year. So cheers to all you September babies - and let's celebrate another year of life on planet Earth.