31 January 2013

Challenge Reflections

During the challenge I didn't think I was feeling that much better or different. In fact the first three days I wasn't feeling great at all. However on Monday night after the challenge ended I went a little crazy. I had a few bar nachos with fake cheese and a bar pizza, then a cookie. Soooo lots of dairy and sugar. I didn't feel great at all on Tuesday. I ate better Tuesday but had some more sugar and guess what I don't feel great today. Lesson learned? Don't avoid bad things because it makes it worse when you reintroduce them. haha... maybe the wrong lesson. I've been eating a lot of the same food I prepared during the challenge, but I've also had a few meals out which contained oil, dairy, and sugar. Somewhere I'll find a good balance.

At the end of challenge party we received a raffle ticket for each session we attended. I went to six and guess what? I won a $75 gift card to Whole Foods. There were only three winners ($50, $75, & $100) so I was pretty excited to win.

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30 January 2013

Goal Setting

The last activity for the 14 day challenge was goal setting with Lululemon. On day one they told us it was a special process so I was looking forward to seeing what happened. The first activity was to draw a circle on a piece of paper and write everything we want in the circle and things that we don't want outside of the circle. They talked about letting go of all constraints we put on ourselves and act like a kid and just feel free to write everything in the circle. Then we addressed an envelope to ourselves and they will send us our circles in a few weeks, when we start to forget about our goals.

Next we went over the vision & goal process-

1. Possibility- Clear your space of constrictions and past. Shift from self doubt and fear to hope and love.

2. Vision- What do you see? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

3. Balance- Balancing major categories of life, personal, career, and health.

4. Format- SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely), present tense, affirmative and includes a "by when" date

5. Audacity- If it is easy to do, you don't need to put it out into the UNIVERSE, be AUDACIOUS

6. Integrity- Have integrity with your goal, mean what you write and be authentic to yourself.

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the snowy path to achieving your goals (aka it snowed this week!)

We then closed our eyes and were told to visualize our life in 10 years. Where we lived, who was around us, what we were doing, where we were working, and how we felt. Then we took about ten minutes to write our vision down.

From our written vision we identified key pieces and formed them into goals. Starting with ten year goals and trickling back to five year and one year goals. We grouped our goals into career, health, and personal. I found the five year goals the hardest. 

We concluded the session by sharing some of our goals out loud. With the premise of saying them out loud and sharing you goals makes you more accountable to achieving them. I completely agree with that idea (why do you think I share my goals here?).  However I'm not ready to share my goals yet, still need some refining.

I liked their process I felt like it opened everyone up to remove the fake restrictions we place on ourselves.

Have you ever participated in a goal setting session? Any tips on making dreams come true?

28 January 2013

Mushrooms and Sweet Potatoes

The best part of the 14 day challenge has been trying new recipes and cooking more elaborate meals at home. Also taking my lunch to work has been great (especially since this last week the temperature didn't rise above freezing).

Two of my favorite this week were from a class handout "Meals for Four under $15" from Whole Foods health starts here. I'm not sure these "meals" will fill four bellies, but by combining two of the meals, Rustic Stuffed Mushrooms and Cajun Sweet Potatoes, I did eat for four delicious meals.

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The mushrooms are stuffed with pecans, garlic, parsley, almond butter, green onions, and Tamari (I substituted with soy sauce).

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The sweet potatoes are coated with lime juice, almond butter, cajun spice, and parsley.

27 January 2013

Detox Foods

This week we learned about detox foods. To detox you don't have to go crazy on a juice cleanse, just incorporate some of the G-BOMBS.

GREENS- Nutritional powerhouses full of vitamins A, C, and K, calcium and low in calories. The best are: kale, collards, turnip greens, swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, leaf & romaine lettuce, and cabbage

BEANS- High in fiber they are known to promote gut health and reliable elimination. Easiest to digest and especially good for detox are: adzuki, anasazi, chickpea, lentil, and black eyed peas.

ONIONS- Provide beneficial effects on the cardiovascular and immune systems. Best are: leeks, garlic, shallots, chives and scallions. Leeks are anti-inflammatory.  

MUSHROOMS- Known for their cancer fighting properties. They contain chromium, which regulates blood sugar and promotes healthy weight management. All are great, especially shiitake.

BERRIES AND POMEGRANATE- High in antioxidants that bind to free radicals helping prevent free radical damage. 

SEEDS AND NUTS- Full of healthy fats

Other great spices are cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne.

Ebeth made us a Kale, Shitake and Leek Saute, Grapefruit Fennel and Avocado with Watercress Salad, and Cinnamon Cashew Milk. The first two dishes were only so-so, but the Cashew Milk was delicious. 

20 January 2013

Not Milk. Not convinced.

Day 7 of my 14 day challenge. I had coffee and I had two vodka/soda waters with lime, but really the only slip up I had was Friday at lunch. We had a training at work on Thursday and Friday which meant group lunches. Thursday we went to Vapiano a pizza/pasta/salad place where they make your order in front of you. I always get the whole wheat pasta there so I knew the only challenge would be oil. Luckily the chef I walked up to was really willing to work with me and made a veggie pasta without oil. It was delicious. However on Friday we went to get Pho-DC. The waiter wasn't knowledgable on what was in the food so I ordered a salad and asked for the dressing on the side. When it arrived the dressing was on the side AND on the salad. I'm not a vocal diner so I just went about eating the salad, trying to avoid the soggy parts. This time I was not satisfied. But overall a good week. I enjoyed taking my lunch to work and found coworkers to join me for lunch in the break room.

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blurry challenge approved taco salad

Saturday I attended a session on why we should exclude diary from our diets and some recipes and ideas for replacements. The main reasons they say we should avoid dairy are:

~ Human's bodies aren't made to process milk/lactose once weaned from breast milk
~ Historically cow's milk was a seasonal treat, not an everyday item
~ Historically cow's milk was unpasteurized and unhomogenized, which made it better for our bodies and recognizable by our bodies

She provided other cites from where diary has been linked to disease and that it may not be the best source of calcium.

Then we tried some recipes. First off was Lime Yogurt made from blended macadamia nuts, cashews, lime, and coconut water. It was delicious and kind of tasted like yogurt. Second was a Macadamia Ricotta made from water, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, onion powder, basil, and salt. We spread it on some whole wheat bread, it was also delicious, but didn't really taste like ricotta. Lastly was Hemp Milk, she blended hemp seeds, water, dates, and vanilla extract, again it was tasty, but has a distinct taste (that I have found out does not go well with coffee). We also tasted some pre-made Soy Milk, which was my least favorite of all of our samples.

Update: Some of the cites provided about dairy- Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right by Joel Fuhrman MD, Food and Our Bones by Annemarie Colbin, Mother Food by Hillary Jacobson, and Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman MD

16 January 2013

Mindful Eating

Last night as part of the 14 - Day Challenge I attended a session on mindful eating. Mindful eating isn't about judging yourself on what you are eating or why you are eating it, but to just acknowledge what is going on. I can get behind that premise. 

We learned to pause before we eat and think about the following-

1. Why we are eating- there are three reasons for eating: Hunger, Emotion, and Environment. Apparently very few people eat because they are hungry. The Nutritionalist had some interesting facts about environment and eating like the fact that the chance you will make increasingly unhealthy eating decisions is directly correlated with the number of people you are eating with (mo' people = mo' problems?).

2. How much we eat- your stomach is the size of your two fists side by side. So you should keep that in mind when deciding how much to eat. We talked about actual serving sizes and how the size of the plate/bowl can be deceiving. 

3. What we are eating- this was more than just knowing what it was and all the ingredients involved. She had us practice by eating a few different things. First we tried blueberries. Instead of popping them in our mouthes one after another we rolled them around in our fingers, smelled them, rolled them in our mouthes, chewed them (acknowledging the flavors and textures all along the way) and then finally swallowing them. The process reminded me a lot of wine tasting. The idea is to savor every part of a meal.

4. How do we feel after we eat- understand that what you eat impacts how you feel and find out what makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad.

She recommended keeping a food diary and writing about all four items.

They also gave us a reusable salad bowl from Sweetgreen with a handy dressing holder so my leaves won't get soggy! 


After a less than stellar day at the office I was feeling up for some emotional eating, I thought Shake Shack sounded good, but all that cheesy goodness in the shroom burger and milk in their milkshake just isn't approved for the challenge. So I came home and had a salad. And was satisfied. haha. Just Kidding, I had the salad and then made a delicious "milk" shake of my own. One frozen banana (peeled with a veggie peeler) and a cup of almond milk blended together tastes amazing. I appreciated and acknowledged every sip.


14 January 2013

14 - Day Healthy Eating & Moving Challenge

Whole Foods P Street tweeted the other day about a 14 Day Challenge that included free Yoga classes, discounts to a local restaurant, and some classes on healthy eating. So I signed up right away. Then I got an email saying the Challenge included a special diet based on 4 areas:

~ Focus on Whole Foods
Unprocessed whole foods retain all of the nutrients that can be lost during processing and packaging. When you create meals from unrefined ingredients you boost the amount of nutrients you're getting in every bite.

~ Eat Plant-Strong
The more plant-based foods you eat the more nutrients and fiber you'll get. Phytonutrients and fiver are only found in plants and are vital for good health.

~ Choose Healthy Fats
Whole plant foods contain healthy fat and have more nutrients than oils nad other concentrated fats. Try to get your healthy fats from whole food sources -- for richer options choose nuts, seeds, and avocados.

~ Consider Nutrient Density
Micronutrients -- such as vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients -- are essential for good health. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables along with a variety of whole grains, beans and other unrefined whole plant foods.

This is their Health Starts Here program. And I realized I was getting more than I thought I signed up for. Plus it turns out the yoga classes are only being offered 12:30-1:30 during the work week. So no yoga for me. Oh and the discount was incorrect too... but they are giving us a free bowl instead.

But what does it really mean for me? Here are the rules:

~ Focus on Whole Foods
That means refined foods like white bread, white pastas, white rice and highly refined breakfast cereals are red light foods not part of your challenge diet.  This goes for sweeteners too!  Did you know that raw honey is the ONLY unrefined sweetener available for sale in stores?  So honey is a green light food.  But maple syrup, agave, white sugar and brown sugar are not.

~ Eat Plant-Strong
During the challenge we want you to get the majority of your calories from plant sources like grains, beans, fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables.  Though this challenge IS dairy free (no cheese, milk, yogurt, butter, dairy based ice cream etc) it is NOT vegan.  A 3 ounce serving of meat is allowed up to 2 times per week.

~ Choose Healthy Fats
We want you to make the most of your fats!  This means choosing fats as nature packaged them withinwhole foods.  Instead of choosing olive or coconut oil, for example, during the challenge you will get your fat from whole foods like olives, coconut, nuts, seeds and avocado. I’ll show you how to cook without oil on orientation day as well as share with you why whole food fats are the only ones permitted during the challenge.

~ Consider Nutrient Density
We want you to get the most out of every bite.  This means choosing foods that feature lots of nutrition per calorie.  The good news is that whole food plants are the most nutrient dense foods you can eat!

We had our orientation on Saturday. We got a few food samples, learned how to cook without oil, met the "partners", received some recipes and guidelines, received a reusable shopping bag, and had a chance to ask some questions.

Cooking without oil was simple, she just heated the pan until a sprinkle of water scattered when sprinkled. I tried this today with onions, celery, and carrots when making butternut squash soup. Nothing stuck to the pan and the soup was delicious.

The questions people had were similar to mine. 
Why no dairy? this includes greek yogurt? Her response was a bit vague and said dairy is linked to cancer. Well I am not convinced, but I'm going to try to go dairy-free for 14 days. I bought some Hemp milk and Almond milk. I don't really drink a lot of milk, but I do use it in my cooking and coffee. I do eat a lot of greek yogurt and cheese, so that will be the more difficult part of the challenge.

I understand the no oil more, but it will be difficult to follow unless I make all of my own food.

And finally... no sugar! Only honey or date paste... again, this will be difficult if I plan to eat out at all. 

Ebeth, the organizer
After the orientation I purchased a few items she talked about. Then after my run I did some meal planning and made a grocery list (something I'm usually terrible about). I decided on four recipes that will hopefully last me the week. My breakfast will remain pretty much the same. I will eat my oatmeal and blueberries, but will swap my sunbutter (which is sweetened) for almond butter (which is just almonds smashed).

For lunch and dinner I made butternut squash soup, quinoa with balsamic roasted mushrooms, and a mexican inspired bean salad to eat with salad or rice.

quinoa-balsamic shrooms
For snacks I made Apple-Cinnamon Oat squares.



In conclusion (if you are still with me) I'm going to try this 14 day challenge and attend a few of the classes they are providing along the way. I'll let you know how it goes and what I learn. At least this will definitely help with my resolution to take my lunch to work more often. 

13 January 2013

Brownies that you shouldn't make

I started a little lunchtime book club at work, so that we could discuss the technical literature... basically just to make me stay up to date. Part of the idea was the Month's leader to bring a snack. Since it was my idea I was in charge for month one.

I didn't know what to make and was dreading baking on a Thursday night. I mentioned my baking task to a random guy he suggested brownies. Brilliant. Only instead of using my Mom's amazing Mississippi Mud recipe or one from Betty Crocker, I found a "healthy" recipe on the Whole Foods website. Then I decided to toss in some dark chocolate mini chunks.

the supplies
ready for the oven

I forgot to take a photo of them after baking, but just imagine dark and crumbly. I almost didn't take them in, but when I retried them in the morning, I thought they were passable (and I was running late for work). My coworkers said they liked them and a few of them took seconds, so they must not of been too terrible, but either way I'm not sharing the recipe. 

12 January 2013

Coffeehouse part 2 & SPAIN

My final stop when I was home was back at Old Drum for some SPAINBIRTHDAYPALOOZA planning (I hope that name is ok with Kendra, my travel mate). I'm having what I'm calling a "momentous" birthday this spring so I decided to spend it in Spain.

We spent several hours (and several baked goods) planning our trek and figuring out where we would stay, we are still working on what we will be doing, but the bones of the trip are in place. We will be going to Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, and Seville. If you have any great tips about any of those places please let me know!

the wrekage
I also spent time trying out my new camera... notice how the cini-mini is blurry and the latte is in focus? That is on purpose! Ok and lets also take a second to appreciate the latte art, I think its a baseball bat.


Gretchen came in to say goodbye while I was at the shop.

cupcake girl

Also of note:
This is my 600th blogpost! The blog is now in its sixth year. Meaning I spend about 2 days a year blogging! EEEK So I hope you enjoy some of my ramblings and thank you for reading!

07 January 2013

Christmas camera

I know what you guys have been thinking... What did Courtney do for Christmas? Why won't she update us. Well the main reason is I got a new camera for Christmas! Then I proceeded to take the rest of Christmas day photos on my new DSLR, but I didn't know how to take them off the camera...

Most of it was just nerves that my computer wasn't going to have enough memory, but when I started loading the software it turns out my operating system is too new, but then five hours later, tada! Photos on computer. Another hour and I figured out some simple editing and another hour and I have them here for your enjoyment.

Since its now been a few weeks and I don't remember what happened, I will let the pictures tell the story. These were all taken with the automatic settings, but I've been dabbling in manual and cool things are to come...

auditioning for TLC's new show "Toddlers and Tractors"

Aunts, niece, and nephew ready to eat

yummm... asparagus casserole 

the table set with Christmas plates

practicing my food photography

close ups with the family "grapes"

stocking stuffer classy cup

06 January 2013

Independence Holiday Mansion & Jail tour

The day after Christmas the ladies of the family headed to Independence, MO for a holiday tour of three historic buildings. For those of you not from Missouri, a little background. Independence was quite the hub of activity in the 1800s. The Santa Fe, Oregon, and California trails all left from Independence, and Jesse and Frank James frequented the area.

Our first stop was the Vaile Mansion. The Vaile was the fanciest. It was built as a show mansion and was very showy. On top of that they had decorated the house in an over the top Victorian style. We had a tour through this house, which was interesting, but long...  

An upside down Christmas tree, apparently a Victorian tradition

lamp ladies on another upside down pink tree
master suite, the painting on the ceiling ruined Mrs. Vaile's social status
Next we stopped by the Bingham-Waggoner Estate. The Binghams and Waggoners have no relations, just two of the more famous families that lived in this estate. The Waggoners had no direct heirs and the house was ultimately left to the housekeeper's children who were in College at Mizzou at the time. They sold the house to the city of Independence.

It was less fancy, but as Beth said, more livable. Both houses had modern conveniences such as hot and cold running water and indoor toilets. The B-W also had a huge walk in refrigerator of sorts.

The house sits at the end of a road, apparently wagons heading to the Santa Fe trail would just cut across their property until they put up a fence. Then the would still cut across the back of the property, where you can still see wagon ruts today (it was too cold and snowy for us to check them out ourselves).

one of the maid's rooms
the approach
Our last stop was the 1859 Jail, Marshall House, and Museum. The Jail was about as cold as it was outside so we moved through pretty quickly, but it was well done. Frank James was the most infamous inmate. Apparently he was treated like royalty. They put a rug on his floor, paintings on his cell wall and allowed visitors. He had retired from his life of crime at this point and people thought he should be left alone.

You can walk through the Marshall's House, and through most of the jail cells. There is a little museum as well that has some history on the jail as well as Independence in general. 

Gretchen making a break for it
After our morning of touring we had a delicious lunch at Ophelia's on the Independence Square. Apparently I wasn't the first person from DC checking out Ophelia's, they had photos displayed of Obama and Clinton at the restaurant as well.

02 January 2013

Christmas number 1

The Sunday before Christmas we headed up the road/highway/Sonic drive thru to my Aunt Betty's for our first Christmas celebration. After a delicious meal of soups and sides we stayed around the table for a few rounds of Minute to Win It Holiday Family edition.

Round 1: Hang as many ornaments on a balanced ruler as fast as you can. My sister Kristen and I were up last and the score to beat was 17 in a minute. We had all 18 on with 20 seconds to spare!

Kristen with our winning apparatus 
Round two was staking nuts on top of each other with a candy cane. This time I went first and did a horrible job, I blame it on a faulty candy cane. My cousins Whitney and Travis however had pretty good hands (they should they stick people with needles all day).

5 seconds later it all came tumbling down
Round 3: Move an oreo from your forehead to your mouth, by only moving face muscles. I think I could have gotten this in another minute or two. My brother, Travis (below), had success!


After games we opened our exchange gifts and had a lovely afternoon.

The other excitement of the day was meeting my new first cousins once removed, Maverick and Tyson. They were born two months ago, but this was the first time I was home. Gretchen enjoyed "holding" Tyson (I did too!).


01 January 2013


I pretty much knocked last years resolutions out of the park. Lets do a quick review for fun.

1. Refrain from using the snooze button- I had a little late December relapse, but I'm recovered, I swear.
2. Run at least 6 races- I got a little race registration happy and ended up with 12 road races and 2 obstacle course races.
3. Track what I eat and when I work out- I was diligent with this for the first half of the year and saw the results I wanted. I haven't been tracking as closely, but am thinking of doing a month redo just to refresh what I learned.
4. Knit something new- It took till November but success! I knitted my first ever dog bow tie!
5. Travel somewhere new- Lots of domestic travel to visit lots of friends, a good year.
6. Be friendlier to strangers- I struck up several New Year's related conversations today.

Ok, out with the old, in with the new! 

Honestly I'm struggling with resolutions this year. I'm pretty happy with where I am and am not sure if my resolutions are more just goals or plans, but anyway here are some things I can work on in 2013.

1. Run a marathon, specifically Marine Corps Marathon with (or a half hour behind) my oldest sister Kristen. 

only 23.1 additional miles necessary

2. Volunteer, somewhere. anywhere. Since moving to DC I haven't done anything (I know shameful). I'm thinking of seeing if I could help out the DC State Fair. I would also like to volunteer at a running race.

3. Get outside more. Including hiking/biking/and just walking around during daylight ours. I don't think I've been getting enough vitamin D the last few months, which makes me more tired and lazy and its no good.

maybe not ALL day hikes

4. Continue to make an effort to see my scattered friends in scattered places. I already have a friend's wedding on the calendar in February.

photo booths were the rage of 2012, I wonder what 2013 will bring?

5. Take my lunch to work once a week. Its not about money, its not about health, it may be a little about time, and its all about pushing myself to be creative and resourceful.

this dish was delicious, why haven't I made it again?
6. See a play at Studio Theater and or the Kennedy Center. The Kennedy Center is Iconic, the Studio Theater is around the block from my apartment. I was pretty good about seeing musicals and plays in NYC, I need to revive my habit in DC.

not the best show, but delightful
7. Spend a lot of time with this little kid. I'm not sure when I'm going back to Missouri this year, but I need to make sure it happens. (Apparently today she was looking for me in the bedroom I stayed in last week, I wasn't hiding from you! I'm back in DC!)


Happy New Year!


showing off my curls
I had a low key night at the home of one of my graduate school friend's. We played games, we laughed, we crawled out on the roof to watch the fireworks. Apparently I was having too much fun because next thing I knew it was ten till 2 am. I summarized what happened next on Facebook:


So all is well that ends well and I wound up at home before 3, but had tons of energy and stayed up a bit longer, which led to me crawling out of bed at 10:30 am.

After lazying around a bit I went for a run, with the idea of replicating last year's run with a 2+0+1+3 = 6 mile run, but ended up with seven miles (poor route calculating). We had an overcast sky and high of 45 degrees this year. Last year it was sunny and 60... I guess I am glad to have a real winter...

Then I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up pork and sauerkraut for my New Year's Day meal, only they were out of regular sauerkraut! Next to the empty shelve was red cabbage. I was intrigued and desperate and I picked up a jar.

with a name like Gundelsheim...
Turns out barrel red cabbage tastes a lot like sauerkraut, but was a bit messier. I hope it brings me as much (or more) wealth as white cabbage.

Did anyone else eat pork and sauerkraut today? Judging by the grocery store the sauerkraut was more popular than the pork.