January 29, 2013

Norman Rockwell

This weekend Adam and I decided to head over to Stockbridge, Massachusetts to check out the Norman Rockwell Museum. The main reason for going to the museum was that the end of exhibit entitled 'Heroes and Villains - the Comic Book Art of Alex Ross' was fast approaching.  It was a pretty big exhibit full of paintings, drawings, computer graphics and actual costumes of various superheros (pretty much every superhero ever created was represented in some form or fashion).  But of course being the Norman Rockwell Museum also meant that many of Rockwell's works were on display - apparently the museum houses so many that the galleries are turned over every couple of months. 
The iconic Thanksgiving day painting!
This painting is apart of a larger exhibit on civil rights.
Norman Rockwell's bicycle!
One of my favorite paintings in the museum - downtown Stockbridge at Christmas time!

Me and Superman!
After touring the museum we decided to head over to Great Barrington.  This is the second time we've gone to Great Barrington - in the fall we hiked Monument Mountain and then headed into town for lunch.  This go round it was MUCH colder, but still just as much fun!  We walked around for a while and then decided to eat at Gypsy Joynts again - this place is AWESOME!  Everything is local, made from scratch, the inside has the great decor and and the food is downright delicious!
Cute street in Great Barrington, MA.
Cool decor in Gypsy Joynts!
Yum!  Burger on focaccia bread with sweet potato rounds!
I'm looking forward to our next day trip/adventure, but in the meantime its back to grind of work, snow, ice and freezing temperatures!

January 28, 2013

Workout Review (January 21 - 27, 2013)

I think I was a little too ambitious with my first week of scheduled workouts so I wasn't able to complete everyday as assigned but that's okay because I learned a lot this week and did well in other areas, here's the run down ...
  • I realized I can't be too harsh on myself if I don't do every workout on my agenda - I need to go with the flow!  Last time I trained on a plan I was so strict with myself that I got burned out, so this time I am going to listen to my body and rest or back off the plan when needed.
  • Last week I really focused on eating slowly and controlling my portions - what a difference they make!  I have also been focusing on making better choices with sweets; Adam and I went to TCBY the other night and instead of getting chocolate and candy on top of my fo yo I stuck to fruit and just a few mini-M&Ms.  This is progress!
  • Along with portion control, making better choices and eating more slowly I have been working to find alternatives to my favorite calorie laden meals.  Example - instead of making mac and cheese last week I made a mac and cheese with broccoli soup; it was a Weight Watchers recipe that I found the recipe on Skinnytaste - it wasn't quite the same but it cured my craving for mac and cheese!
  • Work has been really busy lately, I feel like I am 'go go go' all day which is awesome but at the end of the day I am TIRED and that can effect the intensity of my 'after work' workouts.
  • Lastly, it has been COLD here!  Like - doesn't get above 15 degrees during the day COLD and you better believe that this type of cold will affect my desire to get up at 5 AM to log the miles.

Workout Schedule for January 21 - 27, 2013
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 3 mile run (COMPLETE)
Wednesday - Spin class (COMPLETE)
Thursday - 3 mile run and 'Total Ryder in Motion' spin class (ACTUAL - Total Ryder in Motion Spin class)
Friday - Insanity or yoga (ACTUAL - Rest)
Saturday - 3 mile run (ACTUAL - 4.5 miles)
Sunday - 5 mile run (ACTUAL - Day trip to Stockbridge and Great Barrington, MA - not actual mileage but lots of walking!)
Workout Review:  On Tuesday I was still really sore from my run the previous Sunday so those three miles were painful and felt like they took forever.  After Tuesday I took a break from running for a couple of days to focus on spinning - Wednesday's spin class was great as was Thursday's albeit a lot more challenging because the bikes move!  Saturday's miles felt great!  It was the first time in a long time that running didn't completely bite - the pace was slow but steady - it took a while but I ran almost all of it!  
So for this coming week!
Workout Schedule for January 28 - February 3, 2013
Monday - Spin class (VENT Fitness)
Tuesday - Spin class (Total Ryder in Motion)
Wednesday - Spin class (VENT Fitness)
Thursday - 3 miles
Friday - Rest
Saturday - 3 miles
Sunday - 5 miles

January 23, 2013


I noticed that a couple of local bloggers (mainly Jen is Green & the Windshield Diaries) as well as a few other blogs I follow have been writing 'Currently' posts.  These posts are mainly designed to share what's been going on in their lives that wouldn't otherwise make the blog.  It seemed like a fun idea so I figured I would give it a shot as well.
Loving: My job!  I am truely grateful to be working for PRA.  I feel challenged everyday, have great coworkers, I'm given the opportunity to travel but above all I truely love the work I am doing and the company I work for!
Listening: There seems to be no good new music out there right now so I have been listening to a bunch of 'old' stuff including albums by NEEDTOBREATHE, Green River Ordinance and Yeasayer which a bunch of other songs mixed in.  I also listen to a lot of podcasts during the day - mainly NPR and NBC/MSNBC news. 
Reading: I just finished reading 'Under The Banner of Heaven' by John Krakauer which was GREAT book!  I hope to blog about it soon.  Next up will probably be the latest John Grisham novel, 'The Racketeer'.  My sister gave it to me for Christmas and I have read all of his other books - hopefully it'll be good!
Watching: There seem to be a number of shows that I've been watching!  Aside from my constant viewing of the current season of Real Housewives of (whatever city happens to be on), I have also been watching Justified on FX.  The show is in it's 4th season and I abolsutely LOVE it!  It is the only show I have ever purchased from iTunes (mainly because I don't want to miss it and I don't normally stay up until 11 PM on Tuesdays) - it's a great show and definitely worth watching!  Other shows Adam and I have been watching include - Homeland (just finished season 2), American Horror Story (season 2's finale is tonight), Downton Abbey (we just finished the 1st season and it has proven quite addicting so far) and GIRLS.  GIRLS is an AWESOME show - watch it! 
Thinking about: What am I NOT thinking about - that should be the question!  Work, fitness, weekend plans, what I'm going to cook for dinner, etc ...
Stressing about: My level of fitness and why all of the sudden I feel so out of shape.  I am definitely taking steps to remedy the situation but it still causes a decent amount of stress.  There is also one aspect of work that has been causing me stress.  My supervisor would like to me to perform SSI/SSDI outreach at a local homeless shelter/drop in center.  Returning to client service can be stressful in an of itself but I am also worried about doing this in addition to my current workload - but I know I'll be able to make it work.
Looking forward to: Warmer weather!  It is cold here y'all!  I'm also looking forward to upcoming work travel - Orlando, FL, Western NY, Iowa, Connecticut and Washington, D.C.  But above all I am looking forward to the prospect of a week at the beach in August!
Making me happy: Work makes me pretty happy, as does a certain someone and of course cooking and trying new recipes always makes me happy!

January 21, 2013

Fitness 2K13

Anyone who knows me knows that I am big into fitness, but that my weight has also been a constant struggle.  It’s not something that I talk about very often and for the most part I am okay with my body, but there is always see room for a improvement.  In college I was a thrower and a power lifter, I ate practically anything I wanted and did very little cardio; I was super strong but not necessarily in shape.  After college I took a break from working out and then progressively started getting back into it.  Over the past couple of years I took up spinning, running and really focused on cardio.  I even made it halfway through a half-marathon training program but I wasn't able to complete it.  More recently though I have noticed that both my weight and motivation has fluctuated – some months I’ll be into running, other month’s it’ll be spinning and then others I’ll have little motivation.  With this my weight tends to fluctuate between 5 – 10 lb but trusting the scale is often very difficult.  I went to the doctor last week and she told me that I looked at least 40 LB less than the number of the scale – so all in all – the doesn’t tell the full story.
Usually I focus on how my clothes fit and lately I've noticed that my body is changing – not sure if my metabolism is slowing down or if I need to change up my workouts, but my body seems to be carrying my weight differently – not necessarily in a bad way, just different.  So I’ve decided I need to shake up my workouts!  Furthermore, one of my goals for 2013 is to run a longer race (10K, 15K or half marathon) and while I know I am in no way ready to run one of those right now, I want to try and at least get started on a training plan so I can be more ready/in shape for the spring.
While contemplating all of this the other day I realized that everytime I have been in ‘good shape’ and working toward 'great shape' has been when I've been running.  Now I hate running, I am not a natural runner and god knows nothing is worse than starting to run again (or for the first time) when you have not run in a while.  So all in all I decided that I needed to start running again BUT be conscious that I also need good cross training (spinning, Insanity, hot yoga, etc … ).  To get the process started I was looking through the fitness apps on my new iPhone 5 and found ‘RunKeeper’ it looked pretty cool and was free so I installed it.  Turns out the app has training plans for everything from intermediate marathoners to beginner half marathoners!  So I deiced I want to try and follow a plan - specifically the beginner half marathon plan.  The plan is essentially 3 - 4 runs a week with cross training incorpoarted on your own time.  Now I haven't signed up for a race yet because honestly I'm not sure I can make it through the program - I hope so - but at the very least I want to get in better shape for the spring/summer.  I don't want to over promise and under deliver but I do want to increase my fitness with the goal being to run a longer race in (later) 2013.
My fitness goal is also two fold - I need to start eating better.  I will be the first to admit that I eat better and more healthy when I am single - but now that I am not and haven't been for a while I really need to get a better handle on my eating.  Traveling as much as I do also presents its own unique challenges -  gym access is often limited, I am out of my comfort zone and of course I want to sample the local fare; but I feel as my workouts become more regular to will my eating.  Another issue is that I love to cook and I love to impress with my cooking and try new recipes - I also have a pretty unhealthy obsession (as you know) with mac and cheese.  For me though I think it is much more about controlling my portions and reducing/eliminating sweets.  To help with this and in turn challenge myself I am planning on participating in lent (which begins February 13th) - last year I gave up soda which was a moderate challenge but this year I am considering giving up cheese.  This will be super hard for me but I think I can do it!
Another way I would like to challenge myself along this journey is to document my process through this blog.  I really admire Jen over at Jen is Green for her commitment to fitness and documenting her progress.  I want to model her approach and document the upcoming week's workouts as well as review the previous week's process.  So here we go!
Workout Schedule for January 21 - 27, 2013
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 3 mile run
Wednesday - Spin class
Thursday - 3 mile run and 'Total Ryder in Motion' spin class
Friday - Insanity or yoga
Saturday - 3 mile run
Sunday - 5 mile run
So there it is!  Week one starts today!  Wish me luck!


January 20, 2013


This past week I traveled to Brooklyn, New York to teach my first SOAR training.  Back in October we held a SOAR training in the financial district of NYC and stayed (literally) in Time Square so this trip was different for two reasons - first I was actually facilitating this training and second we were in Brooklyn, which made the experience ten times better!  This time I feelt like I got to explore some 'non-touristy' parts of NYC and had a couple of hours to walk around after the training and before I caught the train back to Albany. 

We arrived Wednesday night and immediately grabbed some NYC pizza and headed to our hotel which I must admit was in the more 'sketchy' part of Brooklyn, but the hotel (Sheraton Brooklyn) was really nice and the bed was amazingly comfortable.  Our hotel was about a half mile from the training site so we were able to walk both days.  My first training was awesome - I felt like I knew the material and the trainees were really responsive - I am excited to see some great SOAR applications come out of this group.  And did I mention that we ate at Hale and Hearthy everyday for lunch?  Oh man - they need to come to Albany because this place is amazing!

After the training concluded Friday afternoon I had a couple of hours before I had to hop a cab back to Penn Station so I decided to explore Brooklyn - Brooklyn Heights to be specific.  I am in LOVE with Brooklyn Heights!  Who knew such a cute place exsisted in Brooklyn (and only about a mile/mile and a half from a pretty sketchy area)!  I ended up walking down Montague Street which is an awesome street with a ton of shops and great little places to eat, the street also has great architure and a real 'neighborhood' feel.  I picked up some cupcakes from Crumbs Bake Shop to take back to Albany (I happen to know a guy and his daughter who are pretty obsessed with these cupcakes and I thought it would be a nice surprise to bring some back). 

I was about to head back to the hotel to grab my luggage and hail a cab when I spotted it - the water!  About three or four blocks from Montague Street was the Brooklyn Heights Waterfront Park.  I made my way there and was greeted by an awesome view - you would have never known you were in Brooklyn - let alone a big city.  The view looked toward Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty and I was able to take some great pictures with my new iPhone 5's panorama setting!

Here are some more pictures of my time in the city!

Authentic New York cheesecake - while I study the next day's modules.
Seen while walking to the training in 'Brooklyn Center'
Montague Street in Brooklyn

January 16, 2013

Reduced-Fat Macaroni & Cheese

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE macaroni and cheese - sometimes I think it may be boarding on an unhealthy addiction. I love to try new recipes, experiment and of course eat it! (And share the leftovers with my office-mates.) I try to make my macaroni and cheese as "healthy" as possible; no heavy cream or half and half - I usually use skim milk and/or chicken broth and thicken the sauce with a flour and magarine roux. So when I found a recipe that claimed to reduce the fat but kept the creaminess I had to give it a try. The recipe also uses ricotta and parmesan cheese which is new to me (I usually use sharp cheddar).  So here we go!
Reduced-Fat Macaroni and Cheese
(Adapted from Cook's Country)

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
(optional - use reduced fat cheese)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 lb pasta
(the originial recipe called for 1/2 lb of pasta but in my option the sauce to pasta ratio would have been way off)
3 tablespoons margarine
4.5 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
(I also added a couple tablespoons of spicy mustard to amp up the tanginess)
2.5 cups skim milk
Cook the pasta and set aside - preheat oven to 400 degrees - in a large sauce pan melt the margarine - once melted add the mustard powder and flour - whisk until combined and bubbly - add the milk and turn up the heat until the sauce begins to slightly boil - thicken until it is about the consistency of heavy cream - reduce heat and add the cheddar, parmesan and ricotta cheeses, mix until smooth - combine the pasta and cheese sauce - place in a greased 8 x 8 or 9 x 13 pan - bake at 400 degrees for approximately 25 - 30 minutes.

This recipe definitely produced some creamy macaroni and cheese!  The ricotta was a big hit with my coworkers but to me the dish lacked some of the spicy and tanginess that I have grown accustomed to with my 'go to' mac and cheese recipe.  Using shredded parmesan was also a good choice - I could definitely taste it and it lent a unique flavor to the dish.  Regardless - it's mac and cheese and who doesn't love pasta smoothered in a cheese sauce?!  I give this recipe a solid 6 out of 10, it didn't blow me away but is definitely something I would make again!

January 15, 2013

Revisiting Vegetarian Three Bean Chili

I love using my crock pot, especially in the winter when one of the best ways to end a lazy Sunday is with a bowl of soup or chili.  In the past I have been notorious for eating too much vegetarian chili - but I love it, it freezes well, is healthy and will really fill you up!  So I decided that this past Sunday would be perfect for day for veggie chili!  A couple people have asked for my recipe so here it is!

Vegetarian Three Bean Chili
3 cups dried beans (approximately) - 1 cup kidney, 1 cup black and 1 cup
1 large zucchini
1 large onion
2 large peppers (1 red and 1 green)
2 cans (1 - 30 oz and 1 - 10 oz) of petite diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz) can tomato sauce
1/4 - 1/3 dark chili powder (approximately - or less if desired)
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
Combine the beans and place them in a large bowl - cover with water and let them soak over night - in the morning drain and place in a crock pot - chop the zucchini, peppers and onion and add to crock pot as well - add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder and crushed red pepper and mix well.
Cook on low for approximately 10 hours or high for approximately 6 hours.
Stir occasionally.
Serve with Saltines or corn bread - top with cheese, sour cream or whatever you like!

Soaked beans ready for the crock pot!
Peppers, onion and zucchini! 
(Using frozen peppers - when peppers are in season I buy a ton and then slice and freeze them for later use)
Chopping the zucchini!
PS - Doesn't my new iPhone 5 take awesome pictures?!  Such a step up from the 3G!
 Of course I was too busy eating the final product to remember to take a picture - but I promise it was super delicious!

January 14, 2013


I am also blogging for my company - Policy Research Associates - in a series called 'Confessions of a PRA Newbie'!  My first blog was just posted the other day and I plan on continuing the series throughout 2013!
Check it out HERE

January 7, 2013

I'm Obsessed

With my new spin shoes!!  I have been spinning for years and fell in love with it the summer after I graduated college.  I was done with throwing and weight lifting and was looking for a great cardio workout that wasn't always running.  So one day I tried a spin class on a whim and was absolutely HOOKED! 

I typically take one to two spin classes a week at Gold's Gym and then probably another one to two times a week I workout on the spin bikes at the YMCA (they have spin bikes on the cardio floor - which is pretty rare).  I have also spun for charity in the past and plan on doing the 'Pedaling Toward a Pink Cure' event again in March.  So all in all I LOVE spinning! 

Over the years I started to notice that everyone who was a pretty serious spinner or spun multiple times a week used cycling shoes, but I never thought to buy a pair because you can spin in regular running shoes and they just seemed somewhat uneccessary.  As I started to sping more and more and become more serious about it I began to really want a pair, but again I didn't buy them - they were just the type of thing that I wanted but  would never buy for myself.

Then came Christmas!  I had mentioned to Adam (probably multiple times) that I wanted spinning shoes and one day I even showed him a pair at EMS.  Well, all my mentioning paid off and when we celebrated our Christmas I was given a brand new shiney pair of spinning shoes!  They are Pearl Izumi Cycling shoes and they are absoluetly fabulous!  We got universal clips put on them two weekends ago and I have been spinning ever since!  I never thought cycling shoes would make much of a different but I was totally wrong - they make all the difference in the world!  With spinning shoes you can more easily pull up on the bike and make fuller rotations, your legs work harder because less of your foot is 'on' the pedal, they make the overall ride ten times smoother and it may sound corny but you just become one with the bike!  Either way - I am totally hooked and will never go back to spinning without them.

Awesome new spinning shoes!

January 6, 2013

Creamy Crock Pot Potato Soup

The other night I made a dinner that was so simple I am convinced that even a monkey could have pulled it off!  It literally took me five minutes to put together and it was delicious!  This is also a great weeknight meal because you put everything in the crock pot and then leave it to cook all day.  And thanks to my amazing new crock pot everything cooked evenly and was super delicious!  Here's the recipe.
Creamy Potato Soup
(adapted from Plain Chicken)
30 oz bag of frozen shredded hash browns
6 cups chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 tablespoons onion flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 block (8 oz) light cream cheese
Mix together everything except the cream cheese ~ cook in the crock pot on low for 8 - 10 hours ~ about 20 minutes before serving add the cream cheese, mix and allow to melt ~ top with shredded cheese, bacon or sour cream (optional - I ate it plain and it was delicious)
My awesome new crock pot!  Love the countdown timer - I don't think I'll ever get one without the timer again!

January 3, 2013

Goals for 2013

This year I thought I would write down my New Year's Resolutions 'Goals for 2013'.  I don't really do 'resolutions' but I like the idea of setting goals, so last night I sat down and thought - what would I like to accomplish in the upcoming year and I was able to come up with a few.  So here they are!
Be healthy - good food and good workouts
Be a great girlfriend and friend
Read more books
Blog more
Try more new recipes
Run a 10K, 15K or half marathon
Being more healthy always seems to be on the 'goal' list but it's an ongoing process.  I try to be as healthy as I can but it can be difficult.  For 2013 I want to keep up with my workouts, eat better and hopefully run a longer race. 
Ever since graduating from my Master's program I have been trying to read more books - it can be a challenge with the iPad, TV and all the other (wonderful) distractions but I want to maintain, if not increase my reading. 
Blog more!  I feel like I have been doing a good job of keeping up with my blog in the past six months and I want to keep that going! 
I am always looking to try new recipes and over the past couple of months I have definitely been experimenting more in the kitchen and I want to keep that up as well. 
Lastly, I would really like to run a longer race.  So far my longest race has been a 4 miler, along with a bunch of 5Ks and 3.5 milers but I would really like to challenge myself to run a 10K, 15K or half marathon.  I know there is a big difference between a 10K and a half marathon but given that I am really into spinning right now (and not logging the miles on the payment/treadmill) I am going to leave race goal open, for now - all I know is that I would like to train for and run a longer race.
So here's to a fabulous 2013!

January 2, 2013

Creamy Jambalaya Pasta

The other night I decided to give creamy jambalaya pasta a whirl.  I don't normally cook with shrimp, even though I wish I did more.  (I'm always afraid I'm going to over or under cook it.)  I used a cross between the recipes posted by Plain Chicken and Steamy Kitchen but in the end it turned out really well!  A little spicy, a little sweet and tons of creaminess! 
Creamy Jambalaya Pasta
1 lb pasta (I used bow ties)
1 lb smoked turkey sausage
1 lb shrimp (I used fully cooked)
 1 pint heavy cream
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs minced garlic
½ cup chopped onion
1 tbs cajun seasoning (plus extra for seasoning)
1 tbs smoked paprika seasoning
 1 tsp salt
1 cup white wine
 6 tbs tomato sauce
2 tbs chicken stock
  Parmesan cheese
Season the turkey sausage and shrimp with cajun seasoning ~ cook the pasta and set aside ~ in a stock pot or dutch oven heat the olive oil and cook the turkey sausage ~ once cooked at the onions and cook until translucent ~ add the garlic and cook until fragrant ~ add white wine and allow to reduce by half ~ once reduced add the heavy cream, cajun seasoning, smoked paprika, salt, tomato sauce, chicken broth and shrimp ~ heat and allow to thicken and reduce by a third ~ once the sauce is ready add the pasta and mix well ~ serve and top with a little grated parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!
Creamy Jambalaya Pasta
(This picture is not mine - it came from Plain Chicken - but mine looked very similar!)
This dish was delicious and got thumbs up all around!

Oh and since THIS was such a hit the first time around - I ended up making it again the other night!