Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

1. Fact: when I was younger, I used to see my parents, family and friends with key chains and think, "I can't wait until I'm old enough and cool enough to have a key chain like that." Now? I don't know what the heck I thought was so cool about it but mine is getting a little too clunky for my liking. Oh the random things we wish for as kids.

2. I'm finally trying to add speed and hill training back into my workouts. For awhile when I was just starting to get back into running, I shied away from doing anything but slow and steady paced runs. This week I did a short progression run (WU, mile 1 (10:00), mile 2 (9:41), mile 3 (9:20), CD) followed by a shorter trail run the next day with plenty of hills. My hips/glutes are super tight today, so trying to remember to stretch and foam roll when I can, but so happy to have some variation back.

3.  This:

4. I don't like crunchy cookies. The softer, the better. I prefer dough, actually, but for some reason the directions always say bake. Oreos are my exception. A weakness of mine, if you will. My mom bought me this cookbook for my birthday after we tried out the bakery for lunch earlier this month when she came to visit. Earlier this week my little sister and I tested out the recipe for homemade Oreos. Oh my. They were delightful.

5. It's cool and rainy in the Boston area today. I'm diggin' it. The bf and I are planning to order pizza and (hopefully) watch a movie. I'm thinking of picking up the Great Gatsby without asking his input, since I've been dying to see it since it came out in theaters.

What's on your keychain? Or something you remember wanting as a kid that adults had?

Chewy or crunchy cookies?

Favorite pizza toppings?
I'm totally boring and almost always opt for cheese. If I'm making homemade pizza I'll be a lot more adventurous with toppings - veggie and avocado or BBQ chicken usually.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Tired Birthday Girl

Three days later, I'm finally getting a chance to sit down and scroll through the many Happy Birthday wall posts that so nicely graced my Facebook page on Saturday. Truthfully, as much as I appreciate the social media love, my weekend was as far removed from the wonderful world of the web as it has been in a long time... and I'm OK with that.

In the few seconds that I feel like I have had to myself in the past several days, I wondered how I would write this post. Recapping a weekend packed with 25th birthday celebrations and time spent with family celebrating the life of my Grandmother and Uncle. I can't say that those were two events that I was looking forward to pairing together, but it wasn't about me and I was grateful in the end to be surrounded by the people who mean the most.

So, for now, I'm choosing not to write any lengthy recaps, and leaving you with a simple birthday photo and a promise that I will share more soon. For now, this tired birthday girl is getting some much needed sleep and enjoying time with her family that doesn't involve plans scheduled down to the minute.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday Thoughts & Blueberry Banana Muffins

1. Lately I've been having trouble falling asleep, which seems to have made waking up in the morning that much more painful. No, but really, those first few minutes after my alarm goes off, I kind of feel like the world is ending. I know I don't help my cause by pressing snooze 10,000 times, I just can't help it. I need to fix this, and fix it soon, since it's clearly not going to get any easier in the next few months once it's totally dark outside until at least 7am.

3. I came up with a new business plan idea! Recruit handsome men for runners to hire to help them stretch out after workouts. Anyone want in? Seriously, I think this has potential.

2. It's back to school season. This terrifies me. Not only does it bring back those nostalgic, "I remember when I was packing up to head back to school" feelings, it also brings a nice slap in the face of, "Hey Sarah, you're an adult. Get your butt out of bed and go to work." That abuse I consider tolerable, but chaos throughout my beloved Target? No, thank you. Aisles lined with massive cardboard bins filled with items to be snatched up by desperate college students who don't even realize that no, you don't actually need purple toaster for your dorm room.

4. Today begins a weekend filled with birthday festivities! Yes, it's true, I turn 25 on Saturday. I've been brainstorming ways to get out of it but haven't come up with anything good yet. I'm pretty excited though, since I'll be spending my time celebrating with lots of people that I love - including Kenny Chesney and Eric Church who so nicely agreed that Countryfest should be held on my special day. Aren't they thoughtful? Tonight I kicked things off with a fantastic mani/pedi after work, followed by dinner with a handful of my favorite people. I have the best girlfriends, they seriously make my world go 'round.

5. I made you guys muffins! Well, kind of. I made muffins and am sharing the recipe with you so that you can return the favor. This recipe is based on one my Dad has used for years and is one of my favorites. Simple and yummy. Enjoy!

Blueberry Banana Muffins
yields ~18 muffins
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
1 egg
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 medium ripe banana (mashed)
1 cup+ blueberries (+ if you're ambitious, or like me and just love blueberries)

Combine flour, sugar, milk, oil, yogurt, egg, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl with a whisk until incorporated. Add banana and blueberries, mix well with a rubber spatula.

Spoon batter into lined muffin pan until cups are ~3/4 full. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Are you a morning person? Any brilliant tips/tricks to get out of bed?

Something you brought to college with you but never actually needed?
I remember convincing my step dad that I needed a tool kit (like, hammer, nails, screwdriver, bolts, etc.) going into each school year. I might have used the screwdriver once, which is debatable. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Easy Snack Ideas

In case you haven't figured it out already, I'm a planner. I don't do surprises well, and my day is just peachy when everything goes according to plan. I'm also a snacker. I'm hungry ALL. THE. TIME. Especially when I'm running a lot. Or even when I'm not. What can I say, I love food. 

I'm not a big fan of running around in the morning trying to piece together breakfast, snack and/or lunch options. Rushing usually leads me toward poor decisions. Sure, that roll of thin mints counts as breakfast, why not? As a result, I try to plan ahead and make it easy to make the healthiest choices possible when it comes to things to munch on during the work day. 

We all know that convenience is huge when it comes to snacking (and meal planning/eating in general). Pre-made munchies are easier to grab-and-go, and if those pre-made munchies are healthy? Winning all around.

1. Snack size baggies - great for portion control!
2. Restaurant cups and covers. I buy these in bulk at iParty and use them for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Dips, salad dressing, you name it. So convenient.

3. Trail mix with chocolate, nuts, and dried fruit. Make your own or buy in bulk.
4. Grapes
5. Strawberries (with fruit you can even use your little cups for some Greek yogurt for dipping!)
6. Kettlecorn
7. Cookies. There's nothing wrong with a little indulgence, but pre-portion them and leave the sleeve at home!

8. Crackers and cheese
9. Baby carrots and hummus
10. Celery sticks and ranch
11. Smartfood or lightly salted popcorn
12. Almonds or other nuts

Set aside some time on Sunday evenings and prep several snack bags for the week - you'll thank yourself later.

Happy snacking!

What are your favorite go-to snacks during the week?

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Weekend Collage

Similar to last weekend's festivities, it's safe to say I may need a second cup of coffee today. I swear I'm not complaining, since it was all good stuff, but I'm opting to keep this recap short and sweet with a collage of pictures.

Longest run (and pain-free) since March? Check.

Four concerts in five days? Check.

Sarah is totally spoiled? Double check. Trust me, I know... and am so grateful.

Country concert or rock concert?
Love both, couldn't pick one or the other. Love me some hip-hop on my iPod but no desire to see it live.

How do you drink your coffee?
Iced (always), a little extra milk and no sugar.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Yes, guilty. Published Friday AM again.
It feels like another gorgeous fall-like day in Boston and even though it's still August, I'm totally OK with it. If you could combine the long days of summer with the crisper temperatures of fall, I'd be one happy camper.

1. I'm thankful for: spending time with girlfriends. Between birthdays, concerts, dinner and froyo dates, and even early morning workouts, I've spent a lot of time with my girlfriends in the past week or two. Things have been busy lately, and though plans with them are still plans, I've really enjoyed them.

2. I'm frustrated with: running. This is not a new one. Coming back from an injury after having taken several months off of running is... surprise... not fun. Trying to come back in the middle of the busiest part of summer? Crazy. My mileage has plateaued around 3.5 mile runs, and though I have had a couple of strong ones, for the most part my workouts have left me tired and feeling really out of shape. I'm focusing on keeping things in perspective (I really have only been easing back to running for a few weeks), staying positive and continuing to make it a priority.

3. I'm loving: This perspective...

4. I'm listening to: Parachute. All day, every day. They're a band I fell in love with awhile back when they popped up on my Matt Nathanson Pandora station. Since then, I've downloaded a few songs here and there. When I discovered they'd be playing in Boston at a small venue in Cambridge, I jumped at the opportunity to grab my girlfriends, some tickets and go. The concert was Wednesday night and it was one of the best I've been to. Seeing them, and seeing them in a smaller, much more intimate venue was just awesome. If you like Maroon 5, Matt Nathanson, Mat Kearney, John Mayer or any similar sounding alternative-meets-rock-meets-pop-meets-R&B type music, check them out. Or just do it because I told you to.

5. I'm craving: All things fall. This weather has me all kinds of confused. I see pumpkin spice lattes, baked apples with cinnamon, crockpot meals and casseroles, and I can almost taste them. In my defense my Twitter and Pinterest feeds seem to be confirming that I'm not alone in these cravings. I won't wish away the freshness and simplicity of summer veggies and meals on the grill or tossed together in a salad, but sometimes a girl just needs gourds and comfort food in her life.

Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

I love water.

No, but really, I do. I'm that person who probably annoys wait staff at restaurants because they have to refill my glass ~123456 times during meals. And I'm OK with it.

I have friends who rarely drink water, even dislike it, and primarily drink soda water, diet sodas, juice, coffee, etc. instead. Me? Good ole' plain H2O, please. Aside from an iced coffee on the daily and whatever I might choose for a cocktail, I don't need bubbles, sugar or flavor.

The amount of water your body needs per day can depend on a number of factors. Are you male or female? Active or inactive? What's your diet like? According to this article by Active, women should consume 91 oz. of water per day, vs. 125 oz. for men - but only 45-50% of that consumption actually comes from fluids, with 35% coming from what we eat and the rest from metabolism.

Regardless, I know I feel better when I'm well hydrated, but it's easy to "forget" to drink water. For me, it's easiest to forget during the summer. Plans get crazy, it's hot, and I tend to dehydrate that much more easily. So I tossed together 5 simple tips to help boost your hydration habits...

1. Jump start your day.
Multiple articles cite that drinking more water jump starts your metabolism. Chug a nice cold glass of H2O first thing in the morning to refresh you and wake you up. Just do it before your body has a chance to realize what's going on.

2. Set benchmarks.
An old co-worker of mine set a resolution once to drink more water. To help motivate her, she used stickers and dry erase markers on her water bottle to set time benchmarks for how much she wanted to drink by a given time of day. It gave her goals, helped her hold herself accountable and form a healthy habit.

 3. Use a fun water bottle.
Yes, I know, I sound like a 5 year old, but seriously - aren't you more likely to use something you like? Walk into any sporting goods store, even Target, and you'll find 20+ options for water bottles. Plus - using a bottle you can reuse is good for the environment! Personally? I love my Nalgene (same as the one picture above). It comes almost everywhere with me. It holds 32 oz. of H2O, so I'm not constantly getting up to refill it, it's my favorite color, and it has a smaller mouth so I'm not spilling all over my graceful self. Just remember - BPA free, please.

4. Add flavor.
If you're not a big plain H2O fan, that's fine. There are so many ways to add flavor to your water to make it more enticing. I'm not a big crystal light fan, but some people love it. I would, however, suggest trying natural flavor enhancers like lemon or lime - even raspberries or cucumber. Or you can join the Nuun club and boost your electrolyte intake without the added sugar or carbs - try the tropical, it's my favorite (thus far).

Nuun, Cube1, Cube 2

5. Use a straw.
We're getting down to basics here, and I know straws are considered kind of a "girl thing", but seriously. Love them. I tend to drink more, faster when using a straw. Plus, they're fun.

Be smart, healthy and safe. Be knowledgeable about how much you're drinking and how hydrated (or dehydrated) you are at any given time. This recent article from Runner's World busts 8 common hydration myths and clarifies some common misconceptions.

Some more resources on hydration below:
Runner's Ultimate Guide to Hydration - Active
Running in Hot Weather - Women's Running
Tips for Running in Humidity  - Runner's World

Water? Soda water? Nuun? Milkshakes?

How do you remind yourself to stay hydrated? 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Birthdays, Concerts and Cupcakes... Oh my!

What a weekend.

As I bleerily type this, I've basically just woken up from a much-needed, two hour nap. Between Friday and Saturday night I'm running on limited sleep and it has definitely caught up to me. I'm not complaining, though, since this weekend was jam-packed with some awesome memories with some awesome people.

Friday happened to be the birthday of one of my fabulous girlfriends and also happened to be the night of the Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson concert. We tied both of those events up with a cute little bow and ventured down to Mansfield for the first show of the weekend.

Two and a half hours of traffic later (ew, it should take about 45 minutes), we made it in to see the tail-end of Kelly's set, but thankfully caught Since You've Been Gone which, clearly, was all I really cared about. She is seriously such a bombshell. I adore her cute and bubbly personality and think she's such a badass.

Finally, Maroon 5 rocked the house, per usual. I fell in love with this band when I was fourteen years old and never looked back. They're one of my favorites to see live, probably because I know the lyrics to every song and, let's face it, it doesn't suck to stare at Adam Levine for a couple of hours.

We had a blast and ended the night with birthday cupcakes from Treat Cupcake Bar and possibly me downloading and using the Dominos app for the first time when we got home. Oops? Not ashamed.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early to welcome my Mom to Boston for her belated 50th birthday celebration. We ventured into the city and spent the morning walking around and taking a Duck Tour. I've lived in Massachusetts my whole life, been to Boston countless times, and called this city home for the past eight years (if we're technical and counting college) and yet have never taken a Duck Tour. It was an awesome experience and I'd recommend it to anyone - resident or visiting for the weekend.

We followed up our tour with lunch at Flour Bakery, which came highly recommended by multiple friends of mine. I completely devoured my grilled chicken panini with brie, caramelized onion, and roasted red pepper as well as a homemade raspberry seltzer. So delicious. We then walked around a bit more and picked up cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake on Newbury street to bring with us for the night. I can't say no to cupcakes.

We headed back to my apartment to relax for a bit before heading down to the Comcast Center for the second night in a row to to tailgate and see my main man, Keith Urban.

My Mom got me hooked on Keith a few years back and since I first saw him during the summer of 2010, I fell in love. Not only am I a huge fan of his music but I could gush about his concerts all day long. He is, by far, the best concert I have ever been to and I have seen my fair share of shows. He is such a talented vocalist and guitarist and has this incredible stage presence and energy that you can't get enough of. You can that tell he genuinely loves his fans and performing and has so much fun with it. OK, I'm done gushing.

We had a blast with my best and her Mom and capped off our second night of festivities with another round of birthday cupcakes!

This morning my Mom and I ventured to my favorite breakfast spot (I've mentioned In a Pickle before) to spend a bit more time together before she left to head back home. We had a great time this weekend and I loved having her here.

Now that I'm finally feeling a bit more awake, I'm going to grab an iced coffee and venture over to see the boy and relax, grill and enjoy what's left of my weekend. I hope you all had wonderful weekends!

Do you feel like you've thoroughly explored the city where you live (or closest to you)?
I feel like there's so much about Boston I don't know or haven't seen, and I always enjoy when I get the chance to explore it further.

Cake or frosting?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Yes, yes, I know. It's Friday morning. Work with me here, people.

1. Yesterday morning I dragged my bum out of bed to meet up with Molly, the usual running buddy suspect, for an "easy" warm up run and circuit workout in the park. Turns out, the 1.5 mile warm up didn't feel so easy after having run hard on Wednesday morning and my legs were questioning why it was necessary for me to use them so early for the second day in a row. Sorry guys, I'm the boss here. Per usual, I was reminded just how weak I am when it comes to strength training and the workout was quite literally a pain in my butt. I've been gingerly sitting and walking since yesterday afternoon.

  2.  I'm excited for this weekend for a few wonderful reasons:

Birthdays! Maroon 5! Kelly Clarkson! 
Duck Boats! Mom! Flour Bakery! 
Little Big Town! Keith Urban!

...was that more than a few? Oops. More details on these fun things later.

3. I read this article yesterday on George Saunders' speech from Syracuse University's graduation this year. If you haven't taken the time to read it, please do. It's a beautiful reminder to all of us that kindness goes a long way when it comes to living a fulfilled life and one without regrets.

4. It's currently 7:02AM and I'm baking. That's normal... right? No?

5. Did you know that Pinkberry can make absolutely any day a million times better? It's true. I've thoroughly tested this idea.

Feelings on running/working out in the rain?
Molly and I got soaked during our workout yesterday morning - total downpour. I lean toward loving it. There's something so refreshing about it... so long as it's warm(ish) outside.

Favorite fro-yo toppings?
It varies for me depending on flavor, but usually involves chocolate (shocking) and I always get a waffle cookie if it's Pinkberry!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BBQ Veggie & Kielbasa Skewers

Has anyone else noticed that food tends to be that much more popular when presented on a stick? I'm not entirely sure if it's because it's easier to eat, it makes food cute, or what. Regardless, I've been on this bandwagon since I was little. Flinstones push-up pops, anyone?

To give our gluten-free tailgate (yes, that one, from June) a little oomph we decided on some kielbasa and veggie skewers. Since we weren't bringing a grill with us this time we decided these would be good even when prepped ahead of time and still give us a little BBQ feel.

One of my favorite things about skewers, or kebabs as you may call them, is that you can pretty much use whatever you want in assembly. I've used chicken, steak, pineapple, brussels sprouts... you name it. For these, we kept to the basics.

Buckle up folks, I'm about to tell you how to assemble food on a stick. Take notes.

Gluten-Free Tailgating Recipe (3/6)

BBQ Veggie & Kielbasa Skewers
1 red bell pepper 
1 green bell pepper
1/2 yellow onion
1 small zucchini
1 package kielbasa
1/2 C BBQ sauce (personal preference: Sweet Baby Rays)
Wood or metal skewers

Cube bell peppers, onion and zucchini into about 1" x 1" pieces. Cut kielbasa into 1" slices.

Assemble onto skewers. I cut our wood skewers in half to make them a bit more manageable and snack-like. Place 1-2 cooling racks on a baking sheet and spray with non-stick spray before placing assembled skewers side by side.

Brush skewers with BBQ sauce until thoroughly coated. 

Bake at 350* for 15 minutes. Brush with additional BBQ sauce if desired and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until veggies and kielbasa have cooked through.

You could also pop these babies on a grill and they'd taste just as yummy, if not more so.

Favorite skewer ingredients?
I'm asking you because I need new ideas, duh.

Do you call them kebabs or skewers?
I've used both and tend to mix and match. Major points for consistency, Sarah. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

New Hampshire Lovin'

After a long, emotional week, Friday was a welcome break. Since my family ultimately decided to wait on holding any services for my grandmother until our family from out of town can join us, my weekend was free and my original plans of escaping to NH held up.

It was a wonderful weekend with friends and a much-needed break to relax and get away from it all. We arrived late Friday night and relaxed in yoga pants with wine and yummy homemade brownies. As I'm sure some of you may have seen via my Twitter account, I adopted a new friend on Friday afternoon. Meet Stuart the minion. While I may be almost 25, this thoughtful little gift has made us laugh all weekend long!

Stuart enjoys wine almost as much as I do... almost.

Saturday we slept in a bit and lounged around before heading down to the lake for the afternoon. I had them drop me at the bottom of the hill (really, it's a mountain) and I ran the rest of the way to the beach. I'm loving being back to a point where I can run miles consecutively again but at the moment am reminded each time how out of shape I feel. I haven't lost all of my endurance, which I'm thankful for, but I'm definitely not where I was four months ago. Baby steps I guess.

We lounged on the beach, swam in the lake, and eventually took the boat out for a nice little sunset cruise. I started reading Born to Run this weekend and am liking it so far. I've heard good things so I decided to take the plunge, hoping for some motivation as I start back up again!

View from the boat as we cruised around Saturday evening. Gorgeous!

Each time we escape up north I'm amazed at how beautiful it is. The lake, the view of the mountains from the deck, and pretty much wherever you look. I woke up at 5am both mornings and just stared at the sunrise until eventually falling back asleep, which was pretty easy considering how tired I was.

View from the deck as the sun was setting. Please don't make me go home... ever.

Saturday night consisted of relaxing, snacking on fresh guacamole and crackers and cheese and watching some fabulous ladies cook me dinner. I stirred the risotto a couple of times but ultimately sat back and ate almost an entire wheel of brie by myself. Oops.

Chef Allie starting the risotto and popping some pineapple champagne - YUM.

Sunday we ventured into some local shops but ultimately ended up back at the beach before taking our time heading back down toward Boston.

We're completely ridiculous most of the time, but that's the way I like it.

Overall it was a great weekend and just what I wanted and needed after a long and exhausting week. It stinks that it often takes not-so-fun situations to remind you to be appreciative, but I'm so thankful to have the most amazing friends and family, and the best support system around.

Reading any good books right now?

Favorite place to get away?
My best's family's NH house is definitely up at the top of that list, but sometimes it's as simple as going home to western MA for a weekend - though those weekends aren't quite so relaxing most of the time!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

I'm an introverted person. I don't like being the center of attention, I don't like confrontation and I'm probably as change and risk-averse as they get.

That's not to say that I can't handle these things, I simply don't like them.

Then why the hell did you start a blog, Sarah?

I deal with my feelings internally, reflecting on things until I've come to terms with them and feel like I can move on.

This is not always a strength of mine, which is somewhat ironic since I often see it as being strong so that I don't need the support of someone else. It can (and has) gotten me into trouble when feelings have just built up until they finally bubble over into an often overly emotional, ugly meltdown complete with the heaving-I-can't-breathe shakes, snot and blotchy skin. TMI? Seriously, it's true.

This past weekend was a bittersweet one. I celebrated a friend's beautiful wedding and the beginning of her life with a wonderful man who is beyond perfect for her. I cried, sniffles included, but very happy tears.

The following day, I sat in a hospital room and watched my grandmother pass away in front of my eyes.

In the past few days, I've had several ugly, emotional meltdowns. My feelings have bounced all over the place. Thankfulness for being able to say goodbye. Relief that she's no longer struggling. Overwhelming sadness. Anger with myself for reacting so emotionally instead of staying strong for my mom and my family. Guilt for not going to see her sooner.

And then there's that elephant in the room feeling. The divide between those people who know and those that don't. Those that tip toe around your feelings and offer their sympathy and support, and those that without realizing it only remind you that regardless of how you feel - life goes on.

Is there really an appropriate or right way to acknowledge a loss, especially when many people now learn things through social media vs. the local newspaper? I've never been an advocate for posting things like this on Facebook or Twitter. While I understand the effectiveness of the avenues in regards to sharing information, it's always seemed a little disrespectful and attention-seeking to me, at least when those feelings of loss and grief are still so raw. And yet here I am posting it on my blog, so maybe I'm wrong.

I think in this case, I simply needed to acknowledge it. Not because I want the attention, but because it would have felt wrong (and still does to some extent) to move on without saying something. Then again, I could write for days and probably still feel as though I didn't accurately capture my feelings or her life.

So instead, just know that right now, I'm sad. I love my Grandma, and I'll miss her for a very long time to come.