weekend

Velvet Taco and The Chopping Block

As usual, there’s only one excuse for not blogging in three+ days (Saturday and Sunday count as one day, by the way): I was too busy living to write about living.

I feel like I didn’t sit still this entire weekend, which is always a welcome feeling (unless, of course, you’re doing things you don’t want to do. I don’t let this happen too often, however, so usually when I’m “busy,” I’m busy doing fun things. It’s a nice problem to have). Ever since I made a conscious decision to be a “yes” person, my days and nights have become filled with one adventure after the other. So what have you guys been up to these last few days? You all feel like strangers to me. Let’s change that.

On Thursday night I met my mom for dinner at Velvet Taco, a new taco joint located just around the corner from where I work. I’ve been wanting to go for awhile now and luckily she agreed to be my date.

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YOU GUYS.

This place is the BOMB.

I tried two tacos: The WTF Special (lobster salad, avocado, sea salt and arugula) and the Tikka Chicken. The Lobster was pretty freaking delicious but the Tikka Chicken was out of this world. Crispy chicken smothered in spicy pepper sauce, buttered cilantro basmanti rice, raita crema and thai basil. It took me to the moon and back. I’m in love.

Afterwards I met Colleen for drinks at Havana, a Cuban hot spot located downtown. Margaritas ensued – always a great idea.

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Pretty soon we met up with Spencer and a few other friends at the House of Blues to see one of our favorite high school bands. You know the kind. The ones whose songs come on your “Best of the 2000s” Pandora playlist and immediately transport you to that Friday night when you were about to get your first kiss and had a container of Vaseline in your coat pocket (not Chapstick, no, you weren’t cool enough for that) that you kept frantically putting on because you were so nervous (that’s not a true story or anything…..) But yeah. We saw Motion City Soundtrack.

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We also clearly got the most sober person in the room to take our photo:

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Friday was a pretty chill day and night — I went in to the store and then I got to see my college girlfriends who I realized I hadn’t seen in a month (!!!!). Never letting that happen again. Time can slip away from you if you’re not careful.

Saturday I woke up bright and early for a yoga sculpt class at CorePower. I know I’ve said it before but if you’re in the area and can get into Ariel’s class, do yourself a favor and get there. It makes my weekend.

That afternoon my dad came into town and we headed to The Chopping Block for a knife skills class!

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I’ve been trying to go to this class for more than a year. My brother got me tickets for Christmas LAST year and I ended up cancelling at the last minute. Thankfully time flies, and this year I managed to clear my grueling schedule for a few hours to take this fun class with my dad.

It’s no surprise that just being in an ornate kitchen for a few hours was paradise for me. And at the end of the day, even though the class itself wasn’t revolutionary, I learned how to properly chop an onion so I’m calling it a success.

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Sunday I somehow convinced more people to go back to Velvet Taco with me because once I get a restaurant stuck in my brain, I go there waaaaaaaay too many times until I’m sick of it and can never go back. Also, you know you’ve been someplace too many times in one week when the manager comes up to your table and when you introduce yourself, he mentions how he recognizes you from the “many” times you’ve been in. Yiiiikes.

It was a blast of a night. I met and chatted with some of the staff and ended up spending the better part of three hours there. It’s such a warm, welcoming spot that I felt so comfortable just hanging out with my friends there after work. This time around I tried the fish taco and buffalo chicken taco and was once again not disappointed. That Tikka Chicken still holds the #1 spot in my heart, though. And because I couldn’t possibly love them more, the kind managers treated us to two orders of their signature tater tots as well as their homemade red velvet cake. Shoutout to Cory and Rory for making it their personal mission to make sure their local lululemon girls won’t fit into their yoga pants come June.

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I’m really excited for this week! Tomorrow is the first day of the Girls on the Run season so I’ll be meeting my girls. I’m also starting a new fitness challenge for the month of March that I can’t wait to share with you. Let’s just say, good thing I fueled with those tots. It’s gonna be a burner.

Questions:

  • Tacos: what’s your favorite kind?
  • What was your favorite band in high school?
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Saturday night bakery runs = always a good idea

Sorry I checked out for a few days — I made an unexpected trip to the suburbs (the heat in our apartment doesn’t work too well and it’s been freezing in Chicago) and forgot my laptop. I probably could have blogged from another computer but I didn’t really do anything noteworthy anyway so yeah.

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But otherwise my weekend was great–I woke up bright and early Saturday morning for Girls On The Run coaches training!!

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I can’t tell you how excited I am to be involved with this organization! I’m sure many of you have heard about it, but Girls On The Run is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. I’m going to be working as a head coach for a group of 10-20 girls twice a week, where we work through lessons about understanding themselves, valuing relationships and teamwork, and understanding how we connect with and shape the world. We’ll also do running each week, teaching the girls the importance of health and fitness. They’ll work up to a 5K at the end of the season. I’m pumped!

The rest of the day was pretty low-key: I went grocery shopping (a dream, as always) and FaceTimed with Kaitlin, who’s currently living in Mississippi. It was so nice to catch up with her and hear about her Mardi Gras shenanigans. Living so close to New Orleans has been good to her!

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How adorable is she?

I spent the rest of the day just generally being lazy until dinner, when Colleen and I went out for pizza at Homeslice. All that talk about running earlier in the day really worked up my appetite. We sat on the patio, which was covered and heated. I can’t wait until they open it up for the summer but they did a really good job making it cozy for winter too.

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One of the most endearing things about this place is that the owner’s french bulldog, Gary, runs around the patio the whole time. He was not the biggest fan of that giant balloon in the background so there was a pretty scared pup running around our feet the whole time. It was adorable!

We both started with the Pamarita: a pomegranate margarita with lime, soda, and jalapeno.

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I went with the Schulz’s BBQ Bird, because barbeque chicken pizza is one of the most underrated foods on the planet. You can quote me on that.

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After dinner we walked a few blocks to Sweet Mandy B’s, a famous bakery in Lincoln Park that I’ve always heard of, but had never been to. Because I hadn’t been before I went a little nuts, but it was all in the name of sugar. And Saturdays.

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I left with chocolate cheesecake and three cookies: confetti (sugar), ranger (oatmeal with chocolate chips and Special K), and coconut cloud (coconut meringue). Bring on dat diabetes.

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I had the confetti cookie this morning with my coffee and it was perfect. Definitely a new city favorite.

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Sunday was a lazy day until the afternoon when I went to a CorePower sculpt class and finally got the age-old “Why won’t anyone sit by me?” question answered. Just kidding. My adorable personality makes up for the sweat stains.

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If you’re in Chicago and have ever wanted to try CorePower’s Free Week of Yoga but aren’t sure which location/classes are worth your while, I highly recommend the Lakeview location. Ariel’s sculpt classes are the bomb — they’re set to faster-paced music, though, so if you’re looking for calm, relaxing yoga this ain’t your thing. But it does live up to it’s name and it will sculpt. you. up (because you can’t visit a pizza place and a bakery and expect things not to jiggle the next day).

I missed the Oscars because I worked the inventory night shift but I hope you all threw crazy wild viewing parties so I can live vicariously through you! Once again I said I would see all the Oscar-nominated movies and I didn’t see one. Crushing goals one day at a time over here.

Questions:

  • Did you watch the Oscars? What was your favorite movie in the last year?
  • Favorite kind of non-traditional pizza

Whoops I almost missed Monday

So….apparently it’s Monday. I definitely knew that I just couldn’t get it together to write last night. I was up way past my bedtime thanks to the SNL40 Special, which was everything I hoped it would be and more. Did anyone else watch? What’s your favorite SNL skit of all time? I say anything with Kristin Wiig or Stefon. Or whenever Jimmy Fallon was in a sketch and he breaks out laughing (in other words, every skit he’s ever been in). Or when Justin Timberlake, the most talented man on the globe, makes an appearance. Or The Californians. Too many great moments to choose from!

It was such a full weekend — I spent almost every minute with friends.

Friday night I went home for my high school’s annual fundraiser. Every year they shut down for about a week and turn the place into a “town.” The hallways are completely decorated, the gym is turned into a casino, and each classroom is booked by local bands or comedy groups (usually parents and alumni).  I’d been in the past when I was in high school (the under 21 crowd goes on Thursday nights every year) but this was my first year going on the weekend. Nothing like seeing your Catholic high school dean drunk in the hallways where she once yelled at you for not having your shirt tucked in. Good times.


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You can’t tell but this picture was taken in front of my Freshman/Senior year locker. It was so funny to be there with a drink in my hand (let’s not even get started on the fact that there was a margarita machine in my old AP Government classroom).

Saturday was about as stereotypical as it gets — no shame.

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Red Robin lunch date with Kari + the above movie. If you need me to explain then you’ve obviously been living on a rock so we can just move past that. All I’ll say is, if you read the books, it was a really good adaptation to the big screen. If you didn’t read them, you probably thought the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

I rushed back home to the city that night just in time for a romantic roommate dinner at Portillo’s, aka the one place that didn’t require a reservation.

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I dove headfirst into the chopped salad because I truly believe it is made of sparkles and rainbows. I almost went for the famous cheese fries but knew I needed room for the real star of the show:

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Love Is: CAKE SHAKE. For any non-Chicagoans out there, it is a chocolate shake with a piece of chocolate cake blended into it. And it is fabulous.

I made grand plans to go out on Saturday night but the windchill was below zero so I spent the night in front of a space heater, eating chocolate from my freezer and watching shitty Netflix movies.

I had to work on Sunday but once I was off I stopped by Trader Joe’s, got the fixins for make-your-own pizzas and headed to Spencer’s for the SNL special. It was a fun group of people and I ate my body weight in pizza, Ranch Wheat Thins (revolutionary!) and red velvet bundt cake.

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My face hurt from laughing so hard during the three and a half hour-long show. I was a little sad that the “confirmed” N*SYNC reunion didn’t happen haha but there was way too much good stuff to even notice.

So all in all, it was the best kind of weekend. Minus the fact that I didn’t work out once…yikes. Back on that train today, I guess!

Other highlights from the weekend:

  • I tried Jimmy John’s for the first time and didn’t hate it
  • Taylor Swift finally put out the “Style” music video
  • I helped Whitney from this season of “The Bachelor” pick out yoga pants at lululemon. Don’t say I never did my part to change the world.

Questions:

  • Pizza: homemade or delivery?
  • Did you watch the SNL special? What’s your favorite sketch of all time?
  • How was your Valentine’s Day?

Weekend Happenings: #diningin update, Swift-level 10, and Sweat Chicago

Well I officially went a full week without going out to eat! I technically did pay for a slice of pizza in the wee hours of the morning after last night, but that doesn’t really count, right? Because of this challenge I was able to force myself to be more creative in the kitchen and be better about prepping food the night before. When your veggies are chopped and your snacks are all in Ziploc bags in your purse, it makes #diningin so much easier. It didn’t even feel like a challenge, to be honest. That being said, OF COURSE I decided to do this challenge during RESTAURANT WEEK in Chicago haha. OF COURSE I did.

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The best thing I ate all week (3 times, actually)?

Sweet Potato Nachos. Susie, I will forever be indebted to you for this inspiration.

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I’m also back on a Vitatop craze. Have you ever had them? They’re 100 calories (chocolate chips not included haha) and they taste like a piece of chocolate cake. They aren’t the cheapest things in the world but they were on sale at Jewel so I stocked up on a few boxes to satisfy my ever-present chocolate cravings.

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And instead of going out to brunch on Sunday, Megan and I had  the brilliant idea of inviting friends over and making our own. It was the best idea we’ve had in awhile and for approximately $0 we had an incredible two hour meal full of eggs, potatoes, banana muffins, mimosas, and country music.

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Don’t look at me like that. I worked up quite the appetite the night before dancing until dawn. My friend Kelsey was housesitting for a verrrrry wealthy family in Lincoln Park so we had a few drinks there before going out. We spent a few hours drinking nice wine, eating nice cheese, and taking “fancy lady” photos in their living room. And next to their elevator (that was IN the house). I honestly didn’t know places like this existed in Chicago.

unnamed (15)Afterwards we met up with some friends for a girls night out in the River North neighborhood. We danced until the wee hours of the morning. Those are the best kind of nights — you start off at a Swift-level 2, just bopping around in a general fashion.

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By midnight you start throwing some random arm motions in there, taking it to a Swift-level 5…

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And then by 2am it’s a full-blown Swift-level 10, and you think you’re the hottest thing in the fifteen-mile radius.

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So true.

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On the workout front it was a pretty successful week. I’ve stuck to my goal of working out 5x/week in 2015, but haven’t been able to make it 6x, like I said I was trying to do lately. Oh well — 5 feels like a great balance, where I can still manage to work, write, have a social life, and workout consistently. I’m just going to go with it.

Weekly Workouts

  • Monday: Sweat Chicago (bootcamp #1)
  • Tuesday: 25 min HIIT
  • Wednesday: 5 mile run
  • Thursday: Yoga Sculpt (60 min)
  • Friday: Sweat Chicago (bootcamp #2)
  • Saturday: REST
  • Sunday: REST

Bootcamp #1

6 Rounds of :45 Work/:15 Rest at Each Station of:

  • Rowing
  • Box Jumps
  • 5% Incline Walk (4.5 Speed) w/ DB Presses
  • Double Crunches
  • KB Goblet Squats
  • Plank Row to T Rotation w/ DB

Bootcamp #2

3 Rounds w/ 1min Rest Between of:

  • 4min Incline Run (Increase Incline 1% EMOTM)
  • 1min Rest
  • 4min AMRAP of:
  • 8 Push Ups
  • 8 Tricep Box Dips
  • 8 DB Bent Over Tricep Ext (Together)
  • 8 DB Curl & Presses
  • 1min Rest
  • 4min AMRAP of:
  • 8 Russian Twists (Per Side)
  • 8 Sit Ups
  • 8 DB Toe Touches

I’ve been attending Sweat a lot more lately, as I’ve grown close to the owner and a lot of the people who workout there. I love that it’s always a variety of high intensity exercises that last approximately an hour, but it doesn’t include Olympic-size weights. Now that I’ve officially lived in the city for just over two months, I’m going to calm down on the “try all the workouts in Chicago” approach and start being more consistent at Sweat. I’ve settled on what I love and what I don’t care for, and I know that at the end of the day, consistency is key to me being in the best shape. So Sweat it is!

Phew. Is it Friday yet? I want to do it all over again.

Questions:

  • What was the best thing you ate all weekend?
  • Vitatops: yay or nay?
  • Dancing: do you follow my Swift-levels theory or are you just an all-out amazing/terrible dancer?

Friday Favorites: Saved By the XXL

I’m actually cracking up at this creative title I came up with. You’ll see how it all ties together below but just know in the mean time that I’m super proud of myself.

It’s been a good week. So that calls for some Friday Favorites, aka the best things I’ve come across the past few days. I’m still 5/5 with my #diningin challenge so that’s reason enough to celebrate. Seeing my bank account stay relatively the same for a full five days is pretty inspiring and it makes me excited to take control of my spending habits in the future.

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Jimmy Fallon Saved By The Bell

Did you guys see this? How great is Jimmy Fallon??

This is the greatest thing to happen on TV since, well, ever. I may have teared up a little. Sidenote: it’s scary how people these days look the same, if not better, than they did 20 years ago. I see it all the time and it just freaks me out!

Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip

I mentioned on Monday that my favorite part about the Super Bowl (besides Katy Perry and the avocado commercial) was all the buffalo chicken dip I got to eat. Now, this isn’t even the worst in the world of dips. After all, it’s chicken-based, right? But I wondered, why can’t I eat this more often than once a year? I love it so much! My coworker and I were talking about it the next day and she shared this recipe with me, so I’m really excited to give it a try! Maybe buffalo chicken dip will become a new weekend staple? 😀

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The Definitive Guide to Healthy Eating

I was dying reading this. It pretty much encompasses everything that’s frustrating about mainstream “dieting” knowledge. Read it and weep, ya know-it-alls!

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A snippet from the post:

  • Gluten is the devil.  The actual devil.  Unless you test negative for gluten sensitivity in which case it’s perfectly healthy and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and eaten on the reg.

    If you test negative for gluten sensitivity IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT GLUTEN IS NOT DESTROYING YOUR GUT AT THIS VERY MOMENT, IT’S MOST LIKELY CAUSING IRREPARABLE DAMAGE THAT WILL EVENTUALLY KILL YOU.

    Grains are the true devil and should be avoided at all costs, they will cause your gut to leak, destroy your relationships and they will make you fat and quite probably cause diabetes.  Unless you soak them overnight before cooking in which case they are slightly less toxic.

    Grains are the best and only way to receive enough carbohydrates for your body to function properly, one should make whole grains a regular part of one’s diet without fail.  Without them you will become a shadow of yourself and die.

Free Massages

We had the folks from Exhale Spa come in the store yesterday and give complimentary chair massages. I took a bullet for the team and went first so that the guests would be intrigued and hopefully want to do it too. I’m selfless.

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Holy crap mother of god. I always forget how amazing massages are. It was less than ten minutes but I felt like a new woman (not to mention the masseuse said she was surprised I was functioning with how tight my shoulders were — apparently there was a “boulder” in my shoulder. — so I’m extra glad I got some work done on it). But what kind of person could possibly have a bad week when it included a free massage?

And last, but certainly not least:

Magic Mike XXL Trailer

No explanation necessary. I only love this movie for my all-time celebrity crush Channing Tatum. So the first 50 seconds of this had me giggling at my computer, alone, like I was 15 and just got my first kiss. Straight up giggling.

He is such an incredible dancer. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Questions:

  • Any fun plans this weekend? Share!
  • Who is your celebrity crush?
  • Did you watch Saved By The Bell?

Weekend Writer’s Block — Adventures in Chiberia

**Disclaimer: massive amounts of writer’s block going on over here. Please excuse what can only be described as a random explosion of my thoughts**

Don’t you hate days when you want to write, but you just can’t come up with the right words? I guess we’ll just have to do what anyone would do in an awkward situation: talk about the weather.

I have never seen such a drastic change in weather conditions.

24 hours ago I was casually running along the Lake Shore path in crops and a vest. And today? This is what we woke up to:

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Over a foot of snow. And the one thing I learned about living in the neighborhoods now instead of directly downtown? No one shovels anything. The sidewalks were a disaster. But let’s backtrack…

Friday night I went bowling with my college friends. I always go into bowling thinking I’m really good and then I’m lucky if I break 100. It’s that lefty curse, I’ll tell ya.

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Saturday was “date day” with my mom to round out her birthday week. We spent the afternoon baking cookies and went to our favorite suburban sandwich shop for the best tuna melt in the continental US. This will always be “our spot.”

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I got back to the city around 5pm, but since it was almost spring-like on Saturday and I knew a blizzard was coming, I threw on my running shoes the second I walked into my apartment, turned right around, and knocked out a beautiful 6 miler along the lake.

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I really went for it, outfit-wise: camo running pants, purple shoes, black vest, orange top. Ridiculous.

Saturday night was spent celebrating Spencer’s birthday. I’m so lucky to have that guy in my life. We’ve been friends since we met on the first day of high school and it really is awesome that we’ve managed to stay close ever since. We went to Headquarters in Lincoln Park, a bar completely dedicated to arcade games, so it was a fun night filled with singing Blink182 in cabs and playing pinball.unnamed (25)

Aaaaand then the Great Blizzard of 2015 hit. Okay, New York, you’ve got nothing on us. It started snowing last night around 8pm and hasn’t stopped since. We were able to catch a cab to our Superbowl shindig but ended up having to walk home afterwards…a not so pleasant experience. It took us an hour to go one mile, most of it spent walking in the street because at least those were semi-plowed. Luckily we were able to laugh about it so we stopped a lot to take silly photos and eat the leftover cookies I brought to the party.

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Oh, and just because it wouldn’t be Superbowl Weekend without some commercial-talk, here is my favorite ad of the night. I lose it every time the polar bear pops up.

Thank goodness there were still some funny ads  — too many of them made me want to either a) call my dad and tell him I love him or b) never have kids because apparently he or she might get into the chemicals under the sink. I’m all for the emotional but I’m not looking to cry when I’m elbows-deep in some buffalo chicken dip.

Sometimes weekends are a blur, and this was the case the past two days. But one thing I do know is I laughed non-stop. As I’m writing this up my cheeks hurt from all the laughter and smiling the past two days have brought me. I got to do all the things I love: run, eat buffalo chicken dip, watch football AND Katy Perry, celebrate a friend’s birthday, spend time with my family, and bake. Perfect.

And just because this is the funniest thing I’ve seen in awhile:

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Questions:

  • When you have writer’s block, what do you do? Write, or skip a day?
  • Favorite kind of cookie? I made monster cookies for the Superbowl: m&ms, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, oatmeal and rice krispies! They were killer.
  • Best thing you ate at your Superbowl Party? BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP

balancing the weekend: jumping jacks and jello shots

I don’t even know where to begin describing the shenanigans that went down this weekend.

Friday night we celebrated my Dad’s birthday with our annual trip to a German restaurant. We eat German food once a year because it’s my Dad’s favorite — that shows how much we love him because I don’t think anyone in the world besides Germans love German food. I was lucky because my mom brought me a piece of his German chocolate cake that they had the night before — sensing a theme here?

1476089_1007196122640516_3360148816688752952_nWe went to Mirabell and it ended up being FANTASTIC. I never love German food but this was actually delicious! They took their time with the dishes but it was worth it — everything came out piping hot and flavorful.

unnamedI had salmon with garlic-cream sauce and fried potatoes with a salad to start. My brother got the famous Wiener Schnitzel and we all sampled some potato pancakes — everything was great. Plus I got to eat cake in bed later that night and I’m not sure what’s better than eating cake in bed…

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Saturday was when most of the shenanigans ensued. It was Chicago’s annual “12 Bars of Christmas” Event, otherwise known as TBOX. We started the day at 7am with coffee/Bailey’s, mimosas, egg sandwiches and cinnamon rolls.

IMG_2043 IMG_2040 IMG_2046IMG_2049 IMG_2051Oh and did I mention the jello shot tower? Yeah, there was a jello shot tower.

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Needless to say it was a fun morning.

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Now, in the name of balance let’s talk weekly workouts.

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 4 mile run
  • Wednesday: Sweat on State (400m warmup run + main workout shared below)
  • Thursday: Kick-ass spin class at Flywheel
  • Friday: 60 minute Sculpt class at CorePower Yoga
  • Saturday: Jello shots burn calories right?
  • Sunday: Rest

Even though I only worked out four days last week, I feel like I pushed myself 100% for those four workouts so I don’t feel like I skimped on the sweat at all. Plus I’m finally starting to notice a significant difference in my upper body strength which is so exciting! I love that I now measure my success on what I can accomplish with my body, not on how it looks or how “skinny” I can get.

A workout that centers on running - my kinda day!

A workout that centers on running – my kinda day!

The blue pants always make an appearance at sculpt

The blue pants always make an appearance at sculpt

unnamed (7)Moral of the story? With great food/drinks comes great responsibility…to sweat! And when you make working out as much fun as I do, it all balances out. The jumping jacks AND the jello shots 😀

Questions:

  • Any fun holiday parties this past weekend?
  • Is there a type of food you aren’t fond of, like I am with German food?
  • How do you keep a balance between food/drinks and fitness?