Friday, October 29, 2010

Work Out with a Celebrity Trainer

You don't live in LA.  You can't afford a personal trainer.  You are not Jennifer Aniston.  Me neither, but tonight I had the chance to work out with her yoga instructor Mandy Ingber... in Chicago... for free.  And you can do it too.

I recently discovered the plethora of exercise videos on YouTube, featuring all kinds of trainers from Jillian Michaels to Tracy Anderson (who whipped Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow into shape with multiple repetitions of dance-inspired moves).  Maybe I'm behind the times, but having a variety of workouts literally at my fingertips means I don't really have an excuse not to work up a sweat from time to time.  With work and school and everything else going on, my gym membership has not seen much action.  I'm talking two yoga classes in the last couple months (yikes!).  Thank God for good genetics and a fast metabolism, but even that blessing has not prevented me from becoming a little softer in the stomach area and a lot more lethargic. 

When I don't work out, I have low energy and healthy eating seems to go out the window as well.  But when am I supposed to fit in an hour-long yoga class or a 4-mile walk, when I can barely eat dinner, get my homework done and go to bed before midnight?  (Oh, and I am not a morning person, so that ain't gonna happen.)  Turning to YouTube videos means I don't have to leave the house, I can wear my pajamas, and I can cut my workout time down to as little as three minutes.  Every little bit helps!  And they always say once you get started, it's easier to keep going...

Tonight I was really sleepy and needed a boost before heading out to celebrate a girlfriend's birthday.  I wanted to wind down from the work day and get my blood moving... and maybe feel a little less chubby before squeezing into skinny jeans.  I typed "Mandy Ingber" into the YouTube search bar and chose "Yoga For All - Unwind with Mandy Ingber," a three-minute, 57-second video.  Mandy walks through a few relaxing stretches and recommends holding each pose for about one minute.  I didn't even get into yoga clothes or tie my hair back or roll out my yoga mat.  I just knelt down on the living room rug and did yoga Jennifer-Aniston-style. 

(Thanks to Scott for capturing this experience on film and not even batting an eye... his yoga-loving sister taught him right.  He did say I looked dead in the last pose, but it's called corpse pose so that's fine by me.  I am posting the pictures... please don't laugh too hard.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sick Day

I've been sick over the past week with a cold that morphed into aches and fatigue.  Being home in Kansas this weekend, I had a chance to be taken care of.  I could sleep in, take cold medicine and complain to my parents a little bit (I'm often slightly dramatic).  It made me recall those sick days in the past...

- The bronchitis that cropped up every winter around my birthday with the cough that wouldn't go away (it made for some lovely home videos of me trying to blow out birthday candles without infecting the whole cake). 

- The middle-of-the-night stomach flu that called for an old Cool Whip bowl and towel next to my bed in case I couldn't make it to the bathroom in time. 

- The projectile vomiting episode that resulted in red Kool-Aid all over the cream-colored carpet. 

- The tummy-aches that meant staying home from school and eating toast and drinking 7-Up, and at the end of the day, one of my sisters would come home and deliver the packet of assignments I had missed and homework I was assigned. 

- The chicken pox that made me whine "the lotion is too cold, the medicine is too hot" while my sister was a total trooper.

- The strep throat that required a painful shot in my bottom (my parents told me it can make for a quicker recovery but really, who wants that kind of pain and humiliation when they are sick?). 

- The other case of strep throat during college finals that I didn't realize was strep throat for about three weeks (no, alcohol does not kill germs) until it turned into mono-like symptoms, causing me to sleep 12 hours a night plus take naps all day and wake up feverish and sweaty in the middle of the night (this time, I declared I was 18 and could make my own medical decisions, so I refused the shot).

- The strange rash all over my body after finding out I was allergic to a certain type of medicine (my parents arrived home from a rare vacation to find that everything was great, except that we had broken a lamp while they were gone and I was covered with a million little dots). 

- The awful cough and cold that caused me to spend most of Scott's sister's medical school "match day" in the bathroom and the next three days sleeping off a mysterious fatigue (while giving Scott a heart attack that I wouldn't recover within the week as he was planning to propose the next weekend).

I am sure we can all recall situations similar to these... 

I am so thankful for all the care my parents have given me over the years - whether it was in person while I still lived at home or over the phone when I would call at all hours describing symptoms and asking what I should do (and looking for a dose of sympathy).  There is nothing like a cool hand on your forehead, moving your hair from your face to gauge if you're a little warm and might have a fever... or a kind touch as you feel a blanket draped over you while napping on the couch.

I woke up early on Sunday and shuffled into my parents' room.  My mom was in bed and there was something so comforting in hearing her ask all the usual questions - what's wrong? are you warm? where does your head hurt? do you have sinus pressure? do you want to eat a little something and take some Advil? do you think you can you fall back to sleep for a bit? 

I also realize, I'm an adult now (right?).  When it comes down to it, I have to be responsible, take some medicine and keep moving.  I need to listen to my body and take care of myself.  But it doesn't hurt to consult your parents for a little sympathy and comfort... and to know when to slow down, accept that you need sleep and soup and daytime TV, and let your body recover.

Cozy slippers

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Winter Beauty Secrets

So they aren't secrets... but with the recent weather change, I have been leaning on my moisturizing beauty products more and more.  Without them, my skin is dry, my face is tight, my hair is flying with static.  Here is a peek inside my medicine cabinet (and the other random places I stash this stuff...) for my top 10 winter beauty products in no particular order:

Basic Body Lotion: Eucerin Daily Replenishing Lotion
Can't get anymore basic than this multi-purpose lotion.  Even guys can use the unscented, no-nonsense lotion without feeling girly.  When things get really bad, I use this stuff head-to-toe.

Thick Body Lotion: Bliss Lemon+Sage Body Butter
It smells like a spa and feels like a spa.  I slather this heavenly lotion on my legs almost every fall/winter morning but it's especially awesome post-shave...

Sunscreen: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 30
The bottle says "feels clean and weightless" and that is why I like this product.  The broad-spectrum sunscreen blends into your skin like any regular moisturizer, so it doesn't feel like an extra layer of caked-on gunk.  I'll be honest, I use sunscreen in the summer when I know I will be in the sun, but it would be a wonderful habit to use this year-round.

Hand Cream: Origins Make a Difference Rejuvenating Hand Treatment
My hands are embarrassingly dry... and every morning they beg for this solution.  It is not too thick which is good when you are moving quickly and don't have time to wait for lotion to absorb.  But boy, does it help protect your hands from the elements of winter and daily life!

Conditioner: John Frieda Go Blonder Lightening Conditioner
Okay, this is for the blondes out there who want to hold onto their summer sun-kissed hair.  I use Go Blonder shampoo and conditioner all year long to boost my natural blonde into a more vibrant shade and keep my hair healthy.

Hair Protectant Spray: John Frieda Frizz-Ease Heat Defeat Protective Styling Spray
I swear I am not a John Frieda salesperson, but the collection gets the job done.  After using my hair straightener on a regular basis (yes, I have naturally wavy hair...), I felt like I was frying my strands.  If you regularly straighten or heat-style your hair like I do, spray this product on before blow-drying and/or straightening.  My hair definitely looks healthier now that I use this spray.

Facial Moisturizer: Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture SPF 15
Before I start my make-up routine, I use a pump of this basic go-to face lotion.  It's great for ance-prone skin since it is oil-free and gives a light layer of moisture, plus a nice base of SPF (even in winter, it doesn't hurt to be protected!).

Eye Cream: Benefit Eye-Con
I knew a girl who went out and bought under-eye cream on her 25th birthday as a preventative measure.  I wouldn't go that far, but when I am feeling tired, I like to pretend this eye cream will reduce those pesky undereye circles.  They say the delicate skin around your eyes requires a different product...  I like to think I'm preventing fine lines and wrinkles, but either way, eye cream makes me feel better about not getting enough sleep.

Multi-Purpose: Any brand of good old petroleum jelly
I use Vaseline (or generic brands) to remove my eye makeup, but it can also be put to good use as a lip gloss or on tough skin like elbows and soles of feet.  It even says "skin protectant" on the jar...

Lip Moisturizer: Chapstick/Blistex or Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
Back to basics... I need a basic lip balm within reach at all times.  And I know I'm not the only one.

We don't have to let the wind and cold (and indoor heating) get the best of our skin, but despite my best efforts, I still find it a struggle.  I would love to hear about your favorite moisturizing beauty products, so please share!  Let's all stay warm and cozy and beautiful this winter!

[Apologies for some of the not-so-hot pictures tonight... need to steal Scott's camera for these types of up-close shots!]

Sunday, October 17, 2010

29, 39, 54 Years of Marriage

It is always touching to see happy couples who are still so in love after many years of marriage.  To see how much love two people can have for one another, through all the ups and downs of life, is truly an inspiration... especially to a newlywed like myself!

My grandparents celebrated 54 years of marriage a couple weeks ago.  Last weekend, I was honored to be a bridesmaid in my friends' wedding.  Witnessing (and experiencing) the beginning of marriage made me think about what the future holds and how to maintain a strong relationship, one that grows over the years.  I decided to solicit some insight and advice from a few couples who have plenty of experience in marriage...

Our parents and grandparents on their wedding days
My grandparents, Bob and Ruth
Married September 29, 1956

Marriage is... a commitment before God, made by two people to love and honor each other. It says we are one regardless of what trial we may have in the future. 

What I love about our marriage...  We are still in love after 54 years. Our commitment has not changed over those many years.

A challenging part of marriage...  In ours it was the demands of business that required a great deal of travel and left the major responsibility of managing five children to the woman of the house. She did a great job. Just ask our children!

What I look forward to in the future of our marriage...  At our age to look forward is a much shorter view than looking back. We have been blessed with 5 great children who have partnered with 5 great spouses to produce 17 grandchildren. We look forward to many years of enjoying our family grow as our grandchildren embark on their journey.

A piece of marriage advice...  Remember it is a 50/50 proposition. 100% her way sometimes and 100% his way sometimes. It may never end up equal but it will certainly save a lot of discomfort.

Scott's parents, Arnold and Patricia
Married June 26, 1971

Marriage is...  fun, disappointing, challenging.  I had no preconceived ideas going into marriage, but got one piece of advice from my mother - don't think that you are going to change someone because you are married.  People do change over the years, but that's their own doing.

What I love about marriage...  Being able to still do things together and enjoy each other after all these years.

A challenging part of marriage...  hmmm... For us it was finances.  He's a spender, I'm a saver.  And the setting on the thermostat (stupid I know).  He likes the house cold, I like it hot.  Many arguments over those two issues.  Kids, religion, family - we were always on the same page with these.

What I look forward to...  We will be married 40 years in June 2011.  We are in our sixties.  We have raised our children and are thrilled and proud of what they have become.  Our jobs/careers are on the back side of the mountain.  They are not important to us anymore.  Our family is everything.  One sad thing - we are going to bury a lot of family in the next couple of years.  One VERY happy thing - we look forward to grandchildren!!

A piece of marriage advice...  I have no advice for anyone.  Marriage is a very personal journey.  It is shaped by the times one lives in.  It is rocky and smooth, good and bad, up and down.  I am grateful that I found someone who has the one trait/characteristic I value most - he's the only person in the whole world that can make me laugh, sometimes to the point of not being able to breathe.  Whatever that one thing is for you - may you have found it.

My parents, John and Susan
Married May 23, 1981


Marriage is... committing my life to the most caring, selfless, loving person that I know and being truly blessed each day to be his wife. It is having a hand to hold, arms to hug you, an ear to listen to your hopes, dreams, and fears, a shoulder to cry on, eyes to see your beauty even when you cannot, a mind to challenge you to always be your best, a heart to share your joys and sorrows, a voice to exchange an I Love You each day with, and a soul that you know knows you better than anyone on earth and that you will spend all of eternity with.

What I love about marriage...  I love that no matter how terrible a day I have had that I can always find comfort and strength in the arms of my best friend. I love that just the sight of him across a room or the touch of his hand on mine, still makes my heart race after almost 30 years.

A challenging part of marriage...  With our extremely busy lives, it has always been a challenge to carve out special time for just the two of us,  For this reason, we try to schedule dates periodically so that we can look forward to "us" time. Also Dad is great in that he always called me during his lunch break when I stayed at home with you girls and now comes by my office just to say hi or eat lunch while I work. Just that small gesture meant so much to me to know that he was thinking of me.

What I look forward to...  Next fall when Jen goes away to college, we will be alone for the first time in 26 years. I look forward to spoiling Dad with my attention. Ha. I also look forward to doing fun things together like taking dance lessons, going to concerts and art fairs, playing golf, cooking romantic meals together and just enjoying our time together. Oh and traveling together instead of separately to visit our girls.

A piece of marriage advice...  Pray together - it is our job to lead our spouses to heaven and there are times in a marriage when your faith will sustain you. Each day do something special for your spouse even if it is as simple as a random kiss, little note, or a compliment to let them know that they rock your world and that you would say yes all over again. During different times in a marriage, one spouse may be more needy than the other - do not keep score. Always be there for each other to build them up as they should always know that you have their back. It always bothers me when people complain about their spouses constantly. Instead find the good in what they do and reinforce that behavior. Nothing makes a person feel better than to be appreciated and who doesn't love hearing your spouse "brag" about you to someone else.


As I said at your wedding reception: three tips: Keep the Lord in your Marriage; the greatest gift one can give to their children is to Love their spouse; love = Time, make time for the other it helps to Show (actions speak louder than words) the other what is your priority in life.

Marriage is... a total, always striving to improve upon, deepest relationship one can have on this earth with the goal of eternity with this person.

What I love about marriage... It helps me become a better person.  I get more satisfaction from doing something to make someone else happy than anything I could do for my own "happiness" which is counter to this world's ideas.

A challenging part of marriage... Making time or giving when you have no energy for anything in this consuming world.  An observant spouse sees and understands that you are giving all that you have and appreciates even that.

What I look forward to... To continuing to work on building - and even improving on - the most wonderful thing in my life.  Empty nest will be missing my girls, but I look forward to less distractions in my time with your Mom.

A piece of marriage advice... Keep things exciting.  Plan!  Keep looking for ways to make yourself a better spouse and think of ways to serve your spouse.  Appreciate them.  Deepen your relationship.  Give all you have, it will come back to you more than you can imagine.

Thank you for being strong examples of a loving marriage!

And when all else fails, there is one last piece of marriage advice from an anonymous source: A gin and tonic makes everything better.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Healthy Muffins vs. Sinful Cupcakes

Tonight I want to pose a "choose your own adventure" of sorts.  In the past couple weeks, I have tried out two recipes (and realized I have baked a lot of things in my muffin pans lately).  One recipe is healthy and suggested as a breakfast food... Apple-Streusel Muffins from the October issue of Fitness magazine.  The other is a splurge of sugary goodness... made-from-scratch Chocolate Cupcakes, taken from the Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes post at greens and chocolate.

If you want a healthy breakfast suggestion, try the Apple-Streusel Muffins.  Personally, I found them a little bland and "wheaty" for my taste... but then again, I once actually googled "sugar addiction" so I may just have a really bad sweet tooth.

If you want a melt-in-your-mouth cupcake, try the Chocolate Cupcakes with my mom's buttercream icing.  I happened to have all the ingredients from my recent recipe-trying, so it worked well.  I do want to try the salted caramel part at some point (reminds me of this awesome salted caramel gelato I had at Paciugo), but I was missing heavy cream.

And if you are a person of moderation, try both!  We all need a little balance in our lives...

Happy 4 months of marriage!
Apple-Streusel Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 18 minutes

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon apple pie spice (which apparently is not carried in Chicago, tried two grocery stores and ended up settling for Cinnamon + Sugar, found on the spice shelf)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup shredded apple with skin (I used one honeycrisp apple, but feel free to try other types!  And we still need a grater so a vegetable peeler was the next best tool...)
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds (um, I left those out)
1 tablespoon butter

Missing from photo: brown sugar
1) Preheat the over to 375 degrees F.  Lightly coat twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with cooking spray; set aside.  In a large bowl, stir together all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, baking powder, apple pie spice and salt.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs with a fork; stir in buttermilk and oil.  Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture; stir until moistened (batter should be lumpy). [Moistened and lumpy... interesting word choice there.]  Fold in apple.  Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters of the way.

3) In a small bowl, combine pecans, flaxseeds and remaining brown sugar.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  [Or do like I did and soften the butter a bit in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.]  Spoon the pecan mixture on top of muffin batter.  [I found this did not make much topping, so feel free to make more than the recipe calls for.]

4) Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack 5 minutes; remove from cups.

Nutrition facts per muffin: 163 calories, 4 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (1 g saturated), 2 g fiber

Fitness also offers suggestions of breakfast pairings.  I felt good about myself when I saw that I had many of the options on hand - bananas, berries, low-fat yogurt, string cheese.


Chocolate Cupcakes
(I halved this recipe to make 12 cupcakes.  It took some interesting math, but think about your grade school fractions...  3/4 cups is 6/8 cups, half of which is 3/8 cups.  3/8 cups is between 2/8 (or 1/4) and 4/8 (or 1/2) cups.  It helps to write out all fractions and calculations for the whole recipe upfront.)

I found the full recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes on greens and chocolate, but it was originally from Grin and Bake It.

Yields about 30 cupcakes

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I used regular Morton's)
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup freshly brewed coffee (I ran over to Caribou Coffee since we were out of liners for the coffeemaker)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place cupcake liners in muffin pan (or spray with nonstick cooking spray).

2) In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

3) In large bowl with electric mixer, combine the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Scrape down the bowl as needed.

4) Last, add the coffee and stir just to combine, once again scraping the edges to make sure it is evenly combined.

5) Pour the batter into prepared cupcake liners a little less than 2/3 full.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool.

Ready for the oven
If you want to make the salted caramel icing, check out greens and chocolate.  I whipped up my mom's buttercream icing.  All you need is butter, powdered sugar and a splash of milk.  There are no real measurements, but I used a hand-held mixer to beat about half a stick of butter and kept adding sugar and milk until I got the right consistency.  (Feel free to add food coloring!)  These cupcakes don't need much icing to enhance the taste.  I did end up covered in powdered sugar, but the sweet and delicious end result was worth it!

Done!  Allow to cool completely before icing...
(Don't mind the paint sample on the wall in the background...)
Whichever "adventure" you choose... enjoy!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Our Vintage Purchase

Lately, I have been doing some research for a magazine article I am writing for one of my classes.  The article is all about incorporating antique and vintage furniture into one's home, as well as affordable places around Chicago to find pieces.  It needs to be in rough-draft stage by Wednesday, but yesterday, in the name of research, Scott and I stumbled upon Andersonville Arts Weekend. 

We drove up north to the area with the purpose of checking out a store called Room Service.  Can I just say it was a gorgeous fall day?  It looked like fall with the beautiful changing leaves, reds and golds, but felt like the end of summer with temps in the 80s.  I was thankful that Scott was up for helping with my research but it actually turned into more of a fun weekend activity, almost a date of sorts.  We soon spotted signs with the orange Arts Weekend logo on many of the locally-owned businesses and realized we had accidentally found a great reason to be in Andersonville.

Scott browsed some nearby stores as I checked out Room Service's mid-century modern furniture and decor and asked Lindsay, the shop manager, a few questions.  Then we stopped by Starbucks before we popped into an artist's gallery, a packed-to-the-brim antique shop, and a two-floor shop with antiques on the basement level.  (Two large trunks displayed outside one of the shops = $95 each; the antique trunk inside that could have been destined to become our coffee table = $550... ouch, not going home with us after all.)  Passing by restaurants along the way, we saw people sitting outside in the sun and shared the sidewalk with some cute furry friends too.

The weekend before, I had stopped into Chic Antique, a store near our Lakeview condo, and found a light brown leather armchair from the 1960s (among the many other things I wanted immediately).  It had a tall tufted leather back, curved wood frame, nailhead trim, fabulous wooden carved legs, and a $275 price tag.  Not bad for a vintage leather chair in perfect condition!  The shop also had cute refinished dressers and tables that the owner Crystal had painted in hot pink, turquoise, and cream.  I dragged Scott into the shop to see the chair and convinced him it would look great in the corner of our bedroom (okay, we made a deal I would clean up all my piles of stuff from the dining room table by the end of the month).  Then I allowed myself to contemplate the decision all week long. 

So yesterday, after a quick drive and a visit to Praha (which falls in the North Center area according to Yelp and is stocked with antique items found on the owners' European trips), we decided the chair at Chic Antique had to be ours.  It now sits in all its glory in the corner of our bedroom between my side of the bed and the big window - an inviting spot, a relaxing perch, not a place for my discarded clothes (ha!).  I am currently on the hunt for a little "modern" pillow for it.  After all, mixing vintage pieces with modern items keeps your house from turning into your grandmother's!

Our vintage purchase

From the side

A close-up

The gorgeous back - wish it wasn't facing the corner!

Fabulous and unique legs


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