Happy Birthday To Me Indeed!

Yesterday was the greatest day of the year, my birthday, but now that it’s over, we can start to look forward to the holidays! Before we move on so abruptly, however, let’s recap my super exciting birthday weekend extravaganza!

I was up very early on Saturday morning to catch my bus to New York City- my favorite place in the entire world! The bus ride wasn’t terrible and I slept for half of it, so I was feeling pretty swell once I arrived. In the city, I met my best friend from college, Stephanie, and we both agreed we were starving.

First on the menu was this delectable burger and fries. We were so hungry once we sat down to eat and I enjoyed this sucker. No roll was needed- I find if it’s nothing impressive, I’m not missing much. But boy, did this hit the spot!

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For most of the day, we walked around the city, just taking in the sights. Both of us share a favorite place in the city, which is the High Line- an elevated outdoor walkway near the river that has amazing views. It was super crowded on Saturday, but we weren’t in a rush.

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This city feeds my soul. Maybe it’s because I’m only a visitor or maybe it’s something more I don’t understand. It just makes me happy and inspired and it was exactly what I needed.

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Our travels took us through Chelsea Market where we stopped for a small treat at Doughnuttery, which has the best little doughnuts I’ve ever tasted. Wow! After, we made our way to Union Square where we walked through a Farmer’s Market and made our way to Barnes and Noble to do some browsing and rest our feet from all that walking!

For dinner, we met up with my friend, Bobby, who lives in the city for a Mexican-inspired dinner. We split an order of nachos to start and then Stephanie and I were still feeling the ramifications of lunch, so we split a chicken quesadilla for our meal, which was just enough. Since it was my birthday weekend, we also split dessert- churros and ice cream with chocolate sauce! It was dark in the restaurant and I felt weird taking a picture with flash, so I apologize for the lack of visuals.

Both Stephanie and I were tired from our early morning wake-up calls and walking around all day, so we headed across the river to stay at her friend’s place for the night, which was so helpful!

The next day, the sun came out and it was the perfect fall day! We had considered seeing a matinee, but with the weather so nice and fresh, neither of us wanted to be inside. Instead, we stopped at a bakery for a doughnut breakfast- I have never had so many doughnuts as I had this weekend and the one before at my friend’s wedding- whew. It was really good quality though, so I won’t complain!

Into the city we went where Stephanie rocked her new Chewie hat.

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We started walking from Wall Street and continued down Broadway until we found ourselves near Washington Square Park. That place is magnificent if only because of their quality public restrooms. Thank you! Since it was so nice out and the park bustling with excellent people watching opportunities, we decided on a picnic lunch. Where might we go? Only the place that makes the greatest invention known to man kind….Peanut Butter and Co! My love of their peanut butters, in particular their chocolate varieties are well known, so I’ve always wanted to stop by the shop for lunch. That we did! I selected the Dark Chocolate Dreams sandwich that included dark chocolate peanut butter, shredded coconut, and cherry preserves. Oh my.

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The sandwich was delicious, filling, and huge! I wanted to eat it all since it was such a novelty, but I had a hard time, especially because I paired it with a peanut butter milkshake. Don’t judge me, it was my birthday weekend! While we ate, we noticed how some people in the park didn’t mind having all of these pigeons hanging out on top of them. I was a little skeezed, but people will do as they do. I was too busy trying to take the perfect selfie to really judge.

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That was until a squirrel climbed onto my lap. No, I’m not joking or exaggerating. I felt something tickle my leg as I was pointing out something to Stephanie, looked down and saw the squirrel, screamed and ran away. Looking back, I’m thankful because it makes for a funny blog story. But still, ew! And as I ran away, I looked back and noticed the stinker staring me down.

After that little adventure, we were women on a mission. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, we knew the sun was going to set around 4:40 PM that day and we wanted to see Central Park, so we got our walking shoes on and stepped up our stride and made it all the way to the park with time to spare. If you’re not familiar with the city, let me tell you, that is a hike. Wall Street, our starting location, is close to Brooklyn and well before the numbered streets begin, as well as Washington Square Park. Central Park is on 59th Street. It was a hike!

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Well worth the trip however!

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Once darkness set in, we decided it was time for a drink. We found a place that offered wine and cheese and we were sold. With our glasses of chianti, we split a mozzarella and prosciutto roll over arugula and tomatoes. Divine!

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Then it was time for more walking! We stopped at Bryant Park to browse the shops, where I picked out a birthday present for myself- this hat! I was very excited for my purchase!

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Instead of a full dinner, we agreed to stop at two separate places for drinks and an appetizer. Place two took us to a Chinese restaurant where we split crab rangoon and sesame chicken. Stephanie ordered the Mai Thai, but I stuck with wine.

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By the time we finished our meal and checked to see how far away we were from my friend’s apartment, we decided we were tuckered out from walking and settled on an Uber. I wore my Garmin during the trip and calculated that in two days, we wracked up over 50,000 steps, which totals to about 30 miles (if I’m doing math right). I think it was quite acceptable that we were tired!

The next morning- my birthday!- we had to be up early for me to catch my bus because I had to work that night. It wouldn’t be my birthday if I didn’t stop for breakfast, so we found a diner near my bus stop. The eggs were normal and the waffle okay- honestly, I prefer making my own or Eggos even!

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Then it was time to say goodbye to my city.

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All the birthday love made it okay though! Thanks again to Stephanie for making the trip with me! And to my sister for picking me up back home! We decided to be good and made it to the gym for a workout where I led us through a series of circuits that included strength training, plyometrics, and core work!

My stomach was raging after that weekend of eating, so instead of going out, I was craving something healthy, delicious, and homemade. We threw together these salads with black bean veggie burgers for protein.

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After work, dinner was a veggie and chicken stir fry I topped with sesame ginger dressing.

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I also indulged in a birthday treat of my mom’s apple crisp!

It was a wonderful birthday filled with love and I felt warm and fuzzy! To end the day, Stephanie had tweeted a surprise, which led to this exchange.

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That was Freddie Prinze Jr. using a birthday cake emoji to wish me a happy birthday. Yup. I’m still blushing.

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Confessions of a Chocaholic

I have a problem, two actually, and neither include that supposed apocalypse that was hyped. Well, so far, we’re safe.

First problem, my sweet tooth is out of control. Sugar is addictive and I am not strong against it. We’ve discussed my want for ice cream at length. I don’t just mean during the warm summer months. The need is hard even during the frigid winter. A day without ice cream is a wasted day, not worth living something in which I have to grow accustomed.

When it comes to sweets, I’m not big on the fruity candy or fancy desserts. I love ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate. On occasion, I’ll enjoy some cake so long as there’s ice cream on the side (don’t even think about putting it on top!).

Here’s what I have become.

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Yes, that is a candy wrapper (one of the Hershey miniatures) stuck in my STEERING WHEEL. In my defense, except there is no defense, the wind picked it up from one of my cup dispensers when I was driving with my windows down and it must have lodged into the wheel. I had to snap a pic and share in the embarrassment. If we can’t laugh, then I’m just a little bit pathetic.

I think we’ve all learned to pick up after ourselves and maybe to better combat cravings.

That second problem I mentioned: flies! I am being hunted down by what I’m pretty sure is the same pack of flies, whether I’m at work, running, sitting in my backyard, and even in my bedroom! Okay, that last one was an exaggeration as they were not in my bedroom, but the others were true. Usually it’s mosquitoes that are all up in my business, but they’ve been blessedly absent this summer. Back off, bugs!

Maybe if I stopped eating so much sugar, I wouldn’t seem as sweet…

Let’s move onto food. Last night’s dinner was veggie heavy. I enjoyed a piece of grilled swordfish with brown spinach rice, squash, broccoli, zucchini, and red pepper. Yum!

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This morning’s breakfast included an egg, chicken sausage, and pepper jack cheese sandwich with a banana and scoop of chocolate peanut butter.

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The goodness fueled me through my morning run before work. I ran two miles and ended with a couple of sprints that left me breathless in the best way! I need to be better about including intervals into my training, but they knock you out! I have some Yoga on the menu for later to top things off.

After work, I had lunch with a friend at Whole Foods. I was good and stacked my plate with lots of yummy vegetables, like fresh bell peppers, grilled artichokes and zucchini, and marinated mushrooms. I then added a scoop of macaroni and cheese and a chicken finger, but we all need our indulgences once in awhile.

Now’s the time for studying in my backyard with the beautiful breeze and warm sun shining down. God, do I love fall!

May the Fourth Be With You

Time to do a little recap of the weekend. Friday night, my friend Stephanie came to town for a little roomie reunion. First stop was pizza and salad for dinner. The pizza was hot and I was hungry, so I ended up burning the roof of my mouth that is still tender. Not fun, but still tasty.

After dinner was time to go see the new Avengers movie. I like action films and I love Chris Evans, but this one was not as good as the original and nowhere near as good as the recent Captain America Winter Soldier. I think there were so many characters and too long action sequences that quality dialogue and character development got lost. I think I would have feared for the end of the world a little more if there was more sentimentality involved. Still a quality movie, but not as good as their usual.

Saturday was Red Sox day! Stephanie and I headed into Boston during the late morning and had lunch at our favorite old haunt, UBurger. It’s seriously the best burger in town. The fries and onion rings aren’t so bad either.

  
After lunch, we headed into the game. We had pretty good seats and the sun was shining, but the game was a little blah. When I, at the game, I like to see a ton of runs scored to keep the momentum going. I hate when pitchers move so slowly because it prevents a natural rhythm flowing on either side. I would like to remind you of when I posted right before the season starting that Blake Swihart would be our starting catcher come May. I went to the game on May 2nd and saw his debut. I’m a little psychic, but hella baseball savvy. Just don’t let me buy his jersey.

 The afternoon was still pleasant, even after a disappointing loss, so we took advantage of walking around the city. There were definitely a lot of people out, but I think everyone was just in a good mood because of the long winter we had. We walked up Newbury Street, around the Common, and back down Boylston where we stopped at another old college favorite for dinner.

  
This place has the best Chinese food. Often times when I eat Chinese, it’s too oily and doesn’t sit right in my stomach. This was not the case. We split an order of crab Rangoon, spring rolls, and sesame chicken with brown rice. Perfect size for sharing! To walk off dinner, we took the train stop farthest away from where we were. Throughout the day, I racked up 16,500 steps!

  
That night, we had a bit of a movie marathon. I can’t remember the name but the first movie we watched starred Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, two of my favorites, but it was a little strange. Amy was flawless as usual and it was meant to make a mockery of romantic comedies, but it was a tad too silly for my tastes. Next, we watched a strange little thriller called The Babadook that was just weird and not as scary as our typical standards.

Sunday morning brought my peanut butter pancakes. It was seriously so nice out and I couldn’t wait to get outside! After Stephanie headed home in the early afternoon, I laced up my sneakers and took off for a run. I did 3.1 miles but was feeling tightness in my calves. I topped it off with a 3 mile walk and a few sprints once my legs loosened up. After getting some chores done, I headed out for a 2 mile walk with my mom. Overall, I set a new record for steps- 20,000. Every single one was worth it out there in the he sun and warmth. It was such a perfect day.

   
I finished off my day with a quality writing session. I’ve been staying up about an hour later than usual to write and so far it hasn’t effected my morning workouts or made me too tired. If anything, I, feeling even better knowing I’m making time for my passion. It fills the soul in other ways.

I got up this morning and took myself to the gym for a strength workout. It was an intense one with a to of heavy weights using the barbell. Performing each move in reps of 10x10x8x8x6x6x4x4, I kept raising the weight. My routine included dead lifts, bicep curls, rows, high pulls, shoulder presses, squat presses, leg presses, bench presses, shoulder raises, and tricep extensions. It took so long, I didn’t have time for cardio, but that’s quite alright because I went for a nice walk with my mom in the afternoon.

Breakfast was a quick egg sandwich made on an English muffin with pepperjack cheese, ham, and an egg. It actually kept me full until lunch, later in the day than usual. I enjoyed a stir fry made with chicken, black beans, veggies, and cilantro lime brown rice I made based off of Chipotle. All I did was toss cilantro, lime juice, and olive lil into the rice pan. It was quite good and something a little different! I had an orange for dessert.

  
For an afternoon snack, I enjoyed some Trader Joe’s peanut butter cup trail mix that has little peanut butter cups, dried cherries, almonds, and cashews. It’s my favorite- the right combination of nutritious and indulgent!

On the even more beautiful Monday- 80 degrees!- dinner was a fresh piece of swordfish grilled with some peppers and zucchini. I had a little brown spinach rice to go with it, along with some of these crunchy green bean fries and leftover cauliflower.

And finally, May the Fourth Be With You! Happy Star Wars day!

  

  Just ignore the fact that this posted a day after…

No April Fool’s Here! It’s A Review!

I’ve retired from April Fool’s Day because I know how to learn my lesson. A few year’s ago when my sister was living in Argentina, I decided it would be funny to email her that I was feeling too overwhelmed and would be dropping out of school. This would be ridiculous on many levels, but primarily because my parents never would have allowed it unless something was seriously wrong. Now, at the bottom of the post, I wrote APRIL FOOLS in huge font, and she should have been suspicious given my propensity for humor and past reputation, but she was thrown off I guess with the time change. Anyways, it happened to be a day she was traveling so I couldn’t even reach her to explain it was all a joke, she only realized when she looked down at her ticket and saw what the date was. I’m no longer allowed to prank…her at least.

As promised, I have a book review to share with you all. I took out Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker from the library and quickly became entranced by the topic. It’s a short book from the perspective of a pubescent teem girl who is battling the repercussions of growing older and the changes that come with it, along with a massive alternation in the way the world works.

It’s never explicitly explained exactly what has happened, how, and why, but time has slowed. Days grow longer, as do nights. Among the chaos, fear, and danger of this realization, species die, illnesses arise, and crops can no longer be grown naturally. Tensions rise between those who remain on “clock time” and the few, now ostracized, who prefer to live by the sun.

It’s interesting to read how people acclimate to even the most extreme changes. What once seems normal, is foreign. Things like pineapple-gasp!- are no longer. Grapes cost over 100/pound. The sun is to fierce to be outside and people work, go to school, and live their daily lives in the darkness. Personalities shift as well as some relationships crumble and others grow stronger. Despite this, many people adjust, though there are always those who don’t.

Among the changes to the earth’s rotation, life still progresses for this little girl. She still has those awkward moments puberty and being a middle schooler provide. She still has crushes on boys and complicated friendships. She comes to realize that her parents are human, susceptible to weaknesses and changes like everyone else. Loss and happiness are ever present and the daily ministrations of life still seem like the biggest things in the world, even with the larger things happening in the world that have nothing to do with her, because it’s her life and aren’t we all like this?

The perspective of the book seems old and wise, which makes sense because it’s the little girl looking back at this time of her life. Much of what she discusses is seeped in observations influenced by hindsight. Her reflections are beautiful and thoughtful. With the threat of Global Warming growing ever present and the changes in the atmosphere and weather far more severe, this topic is definitely something to consider. 

This weekend, I also finished watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The show is a Netflix original comedy created and produced by Tina Fey. The premise is about a young woman, played by Ellie Kemper who was Erin in The Office and was also in Bridesmaids, who was kidnapped as a young girl by a cult leader who tells four women that there has been an apocalypse and the bomb shelter he has them locked in is the only source protecting them. The first moments of the show reveals the “mole women” being rescued and then becoming viral sensations. On a publicity tour in New York, Kimmy Schmidt decides she wants to lead an adventurous life and chooses to stay in my New York rather than go back to Indiana. Now she is an almost thirty year old woman who has the cultural knowledge of a fifteen year old girl, who has been damaged by this heartbreaking incident, yet remains optimistic.

The show is quirky and weird. The premise alone as a comedy seems outrageous. My favorite part are the supporting characters, The sassy roommate, the jaded landlord, the wealthy and shallow boss, and so on. I also think Ellie Kemper does an excellent job, but it’s the cast of characters that make the show worthwhile. The episodes are about twenty minutes long, very weird, but full of smart jokes, and genius guest star appearances. I cannot ruin this because the shock value alone is so clever.

I’m sad that I’ve already finished the season, but it left off at a satisfying point. I’m still intrigued and want to know what happens next and I think that is a mark of any quality show. Thus far, the jokes are funny. The characters endearing, and the writing clever. For me, it’s not quite at the level of Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, or The Mindy Project, but it certainly has the makings and the potential to get there. But honestly, it’s not like Tina Fey can do bring anyways. Watch!

Breakfast was a little weird this morning. After the gym, I ate a hard-boiled egg, but we were having a bagel morning at work and so I figured one in like three years would not do harm. I chose a sesame one with a smear of cream cheese and it was quite good. No time for pictures though.

Lunch was a simple salad with some grilled salmon on top. Since I had a carb-heavy breakfast and ice cream cake to celebrate a birthday, I felt satisfied by just the salad until I got home from work and ate a pear. Thankfully, I still seem fine to eat them. Last week my eyes were red, raw, and sensitive, but I started to take an allergy pill before night and it cleared right up. I might even be brave and try an apple, but only when I’m home and Benadryl is accessible.

  

Dinner was simple and tasty. Grilled chicken paired with leftover brown rice, roasted brussel sprouts, and a dollop of leftover cauliflower gratin. Delicious! The trick to these sprouts are salt, pepper, and a mixture of olive oil and maple syrup.

 

 My workout this morning began with a body strength workout. I performed four sets of ten moves with step ups, squats, lunges, kickbacks, burpees, push ups, mountain climbers, mermaid raises, hip lifts, ankle grabs, v ups, and Russian twists. I did a few planks before jumping into the pool for my cardio. I switched things up just a little by doing three sets of sprints. Very tiring, but very refreshing. I’m just loving the effects of hemming on my body when mixed with running and strength training. I also went for a brisk walk when I got home from work because at 40*, it felt spectacularly warm!

Alarm Clock Blues

What’s better or I suppose, worse? Waking up from a deep sleep at the alarm clock or waking up on your own, seeing you still have an hour or so, then waking up to your alarm a little drowsy? I’ve been living the latter lately I guess because when my alarm went off this morning, it took me a long time to realize what it was. I was actually wondering why someone was calling me. When I realized it was time to wake up, it was a little harsh.

I’ve heard that some people like to set multiple alarms every few minutes until they finally wake up, but I tend to be a one-and-done type of a gal. On the rare occasion, this can backfire as I think I’m just resting my eyes for a moment and I wake up twenty minutes in a panic. It’s best for me just to jump up and get going before I process what’s happening.

No matter how long you’ve slept or how well, if you wake up from an alarm or anything unnatural, it is painful! But usually only for the first few minutes- just like running!

I woke up to another hard-boiled egg and cheesestick combination, along with a tall glass of water and a small cup of coffee. I bundled up nice and warm to step out into the freezing cold!

At the gym, I ran through two quick strength circuits using medicine and stability balls. The first circuit included twists, overhead squats, lunges with arrows, kickbacks, and mermaid raises. The second was rollouts, hip lifts on the stability ball, hundreds, Russian twists, sit ups, and push ups. I had one of those fitness pride moments because for the first time, I did a big girl push up all the way to the ground! I went through three sets of twelve reps and every push up was perfect. I’m not certain how I got there, other than determination and practice. Set fitness goals to keep you motivated! They’re a hell of a lot of fun once you accomplish them!

Today’s workout included a longer bout of cardio as I hopped on the treadmill for a longer run. I fit in 37 minutes- an odd number- and felt invigorated after. Running can sometimes be a hassle to get through, but I always feel great after. I also really like that I reach my steps quota before 7:00 AM!

My tasty breakfast reward was a pre-baked oatmeal I heated up in the microwave. Stuffed with oats, dark chocolate peanut butter, mashed banana, raspberries, and blueberries, it was a healthy indulgence! I topped it with even more peanut butter and a smear of jelly.

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Lunch was an odd assortment of delicacies, each delicious but enjoyed individually. I started with a bowl of wonton soup I picked up from Trader Joes. Very tasty, especially the dumplings and broth, but I definitely think I can make this on my own with a ton more veggies! Knowing the veggie levels in the soup would not meet my standards, I had chopped up some veggie sticks. To top it all off, I toasted a corn English muffin with a tablespoon of peanut butter.

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There was a misdemeanor with the crockpot not being turned on to brew the barbecue pulled chicken that was planned, so we turned to leftovers. I ate the rest of my quesadilla with a small salad, asparagus and peppers, and these green bean fries we found at the supermarket. Not too shabby!

photo 3I’m definitely feeling the end-of-the-week exhaustion. The excess of snow and dreary weather must be getting to me. With the Red Sox truck on its way down to Florida for Spring Training and the day’s growing longer in what sort of looks like sunshine, I’ll just keep dreaming of nicer weather.

The Ab Roller Is Actually Evil

This weekend, I was nursing sore calves and painful abs. I had the brilliant idea of ending my Friday workout with the ab roller, which I’ve never done before and in the moment, it was too bad. It wasn’t until I woke up on Saturday that I realized how much it hurt. I must have been doing it wrong and it will be quite awhile until I try it again.

Look at it lying there innocently.

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Last Thursday, which is where we begin our new week of workouts for blog purposes, I actually enjoyed my rest day. I have mixed feelings about taking a week day for rest because I’ve noticed I start off on a better note when I wake up and fit in my workout, but I also like working out on the weekends when I have more time. I’ll see how it goes as I progress.

I was feeling rejuvenated on Friday and started things off with a kettlebell sequence. I went through two circuits, one with swings, goblet squat dead lifts, elbow to knee shoulder presses, high lifts, and lunging arrow twists, and the other with kickback rows, tricep pullovers on the stability ball, mermaid raises, hundred leg lifts, and Russian twists. After, I moved onto an assortment of moves, starting with box jumps, wall throws, push ups, mountain climbers, and hip lifts on the ball. I finished with six minutes of jump roping and sprints on the treadmill, which left my calves sore.

I realized the affects of the previous workout the next day. I think I might have been fighting something because I woke up tired and disoriented and never really settled into things. I did attempt a run on the treadmill when I got to the gym, but I found I had to go between running and walking, and after forty minutes, I felt blah. I was considering doing an ab or Yoga workout to accompany it, but my calves and abs were still sore, so I listened to my body and just relaxed.

After shopping and eating lunch on Sunday, I dragged my tired butt to the gym. I wasn’t excited about the workout, but once I got going, I woke up and felt so much better! I love what that happens. I went through my favorite barbell strength routine before finishing off with some box jumps and jump roping. My calves were feeling much better and though I still felt a bit of a twinge in my abs when I laid down or sat up for my bench presses, I got through my four minutes of planking without pain. And no, it wasn’t four minutes at once, for the record.

Monday, excited that it’s Christmas week, I got up easily. I met Nouha and started off with a body strength workout complete with step ups, tricep dips, plié squats, lunges, kickbacks, push ups, mountain climbers, mermaid raises, hip lifts, hundreds to v ups, bicycle crunches, and Russian twists. We moved onto a short, but refreshing Yoga sequence with planks, side planks, a reverse plank, full bridge, and shoulder stand. Now stretched and warmed up, we moved to the treadmill where I squeezed in a half an hour run that was much better than the one I forced myself through on Saturday.

I wanted to mix things up a bit, now that I admit that trying to swim on weekday mornings is stressful. Nouha and I went to an early morning cycling class that was good because I can never rev myself up like that on the bike on my own. I actually really loved Soul Cycle the time I went in New York, but it’s far too expensive for me to go on the regular. This was a fine substitute and I had enough time leftover to go upstairs and fit in a dumbbell strength routine before starting my day.

Even though it’s Christmas Eve, expecting and completely accepting the food and wine intake later on, I got myself to the gym for a quick run on the treadmill since it’s pouring outside. My sister met up with me to try the barre class my gym offers and we had fun working out together, earning our indulgences!