Colorful Plates

Woohoo sunshine! I just came back from a walk and it is spectacular! To be honest, 52 is a lot colder than I remember, but once I got moving, I warmed up fast.

I realized I haven’t weighed in for a few weeks and the truth was, with everything happening, I hadn’t been paying attention. I did weigh myself yesterday and was pleased to see that I was down another 1.8 pounds, so at least progress is still being made!

To recap the past few days, on Monday, I had another total body workout that was butt kicking, but before that, I ran my fastest two miles on the treadmill! I intended to just hop on for 15 minutes to warm up, but once I got moving, I was feeling real good and decided to go for it. Tuesday was my rest day, as well as my long work day so there was no workout to be had, but I did still make it past 10,000 steps- the perks of being a personal trainer!

I do have some food pictures to share.

We’ll start with this breakfast, an egg and two egg white scramble with cheese, two pieces of whole wheat toast, bacon, and a berry medley.

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Next is a veggie-filled lunch with zucchini noodles, baby spinach, peppers,  cauliflower rice (which is pulsed cauliflower and very delicious), and chicken.

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Another veggieful (autocorrected into vengeful) dish included turkey taco meat over more cauliflower rice and a stir fry of zucchini noodles, spinach, peppers, and carrots, a dollop of sour cream on the side.

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I’ve definitely upped the vegetables in my dishes, which is making me fuller faster. I’m also not opposed to carbs in anyway, but I am trying to keep them at lower portions and only for two meals out of three. Especially when I’m training, I find I have to eat more frequently, so using an app to track has been helpful, but I’ve also come to rely a lot more on my body’s natural signals. For snacks throughout the day, I’ve stuck to hard-boiled eggs, protein bars, almonds, Greek yogurt, fruit, and veggie sticks. Breakfast still remains my largest meal of the day, one because I love it the most and two because I need more energy in the morning.

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Shh! I Might Just Be A Gourmet Chef…

I have a theory that I might secretly be a gourmet chef and I just forgot to tell myself. Knowing full well I’m about to forgo my humility, I have to admit my meals have been on point this week.

We start with Wednesday’s lunch, which was a re-creation of Tuesday’s dinner. Ground turkey is an excellent substitute for ground beef in tacos. I cannot taste a difference. All I can say is I can taste awesomeness on a plate. I spiced these bad boys up with chopped zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, and baby spinach. I think next time, I’ll halve the turkey meat and combine it with some black beans.

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For dinner, my meal wasn’t quite as fancy, but it was still what you might call divine. There is nothing wrong with a classic pb&j on wheat, especially when you are working and pair it with some veggie sticks.

Thursday morning, I was up early for a workout, so I scarfed down a peanut butter wrap. Post-workout, I munched on a hard-boiled egg, a cheesestick, and a banana. Almonds and raisins came a little while later to keep me going until lunch.

Lunch turned into this devastatingly beautiful stir fry. The plate is piled high with fresh vegetables, grilled chicken, and some brown rice. But mostly, veggies. I’ve not been digging salads lately, but thankfully, I’m still all about the grilled vegetables, so I can get my fix that way. I stirred everything with a ginger sesame dressing.

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This was an accidental shot that occurs every time I go to take a picture of my meals. It says a lot about what other types of pictures I am taking throughout the day. Usually, I jump a little in surprise- every single time- but I decided to actually take the picture this time because it looks so funny.

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You’re welcome.

My dinner on Thursday night might beat out all the other meals. I cooked salmon for myself for the first time and thanks to a little online searching and some sage advice from friends, I cooked it to perfection. Earlier that morning, I tossed the salmon in a bag of the same ginger sesame dressing, then tossed it onto a pan for 4 minutes on one side and three on the other. Grilled zucchini was an excellent vegetable choice, but oh my, these baked sweet potato fries were so good! They require a bit more work, but I had chopped them into fries the day before, soaked them in cold water over night, dried them off and tossed them in a recipe mixture I will share soon, and baked them for about 20 minutes. So good (and good for you!) I drizzled a little honey barbecue mustard over my salmon, which turned out to be an excellent life choice.

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And to be completely caught up before my BIRTHDAY WEEKEND, for breakfast this morning, I enjoyed a delightful one egg-two egg white omelet (that was supposed to be scrambled and I forgot to scramble in time) with two waffles and blueberries and raspberries.

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I needed something to fuel me through a long, grinding workout! Speaking of workouts, let’s recap those next!

We left off again on Wednesday, which was a run that for the first time in weeks didn’t make my feet numb! Yay! I felt strong throughout and happy just to be outside and moving on a beautiful, strangely warm November morning. I’m still not certain what the issue has been with my feet, but I paid special attention to my posture during my stride, keeping my back straight instead of allowing myself to slouch.

Since studying for my personal training cert, I’ve learned just how important posture really is and I tend to be terrible with it, whether I’m exercising, walking around, or sitting at my desk studying. I’m getting better with it during my workouts, which has helped immensely and is making me stronger.

My workout on Thursday consisted of a series of circuits. In my studying, I’ve been delving deeper into the actual exercises rather than just the sciences behind it, so I’ve been experimenting with my own workouts to get a practical angle in there. I’ve been switching up modalities more during each circuit, using kettle bells, dumbbells, medicine balls, barbells, and body strength to do a medley of things. It keeps my body moving and second-guessing, as well as excited to keep getting through my workout. I finished with a couple of Tabata intervals with ropes- I should learn the actual term for it- and treadmill sprints.

This morning, I started off with some strength training, per usual. I guess my new workouts have been, er, working because my body was tired! I actually had to do fewer sets than I intended for a few of my moves because my forearms were tired in the not so great way. I did end the day with a spin class that I felt a little sluggish when I first started, but ended on a strong and supremely sweaty note. I’ve only been doing spin consistently for a few weeks now, but I can already tell a difference from when I started. Cross-training is so important for the body not to plateau during the exercises that you love, but it also opens you up to a whole new world of exercising!

Now I’m just a day away from my birthday weekend and exciting stuff abounds! Part of that includes taking a little more rest from exercising, though I’m hoping to do a ton of walking and perhaps even fit in a class. Tell you more on Monday!

Sometimes, You Smell and Have To Buy New Things

Needed to edit this post to include a happy birthday shout out to my favorite, Amy Poehler! Woot!

In case you hadn’t realized, fall is coming. I wouldn’t keep harping on this except 1. I’m so excited and 2. Halloween is out in full force. We all know that if you buy the Halloween candy at this point, it’s not meant for Halloween. Otherwise you’d be offering stale candy to trick or treaters and that’s just rude. I’m all for eating chocolate, especially specially designed to mimic pumpkins or ghosts though.

We’ll get to how I discovered that Halloween costumes are all over in a second. First, let’s recap some meals.

If you read yesterday morning, you’ll know I had this delicious pumpkin French toast for breakfast.

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Lunch included leftover stuffed peppers with sauteed spinach and jalapeños for a kick. It was just what I needed after a heavy strength training session. I was quite proud of my gains yesterday and left with a sense of accomplishment. I must have been hungry when I got home though because there’s no picture of lunch. Whoops.

Between lunch and dinner, I also got to a kickboxing class. I am loving kickboxing! I think it has to do with the punching and kicking, but it’s a lot of fun and I feel like I’m getting in a real workout. I’m not usually a huge fan of group classes, but this is one I will try to get to on the regular!

Dinner was so good! Grilled swordfish is the new favorite fish in this house. We paired it with fresh broccoli and oh, hmm, what’s that cheesy thing? Mac and cheese? NOPE! Cauliflower au gratin. It has all the cheesy, warm, melt in your mouth goodness of macaroni and cheese but with vegetable instead of noodle. Don’t get me wrong, macaroni and cheese still holds a high up place in my heart, but this cauliflower dish is up there too! I just felt less guilty indulging in seconds.

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Okay so, last week we discovered I should never be let loose in Whole Foods, but yesterday we learned this is true of Target. Maybe I just shouldn’t shop. But I love it! I stopped at Target for trip numero uno after my strength workout because I wanted to pick up Mindy Kaling’s new book Why Not Me? which will soon be reviewed once I make my way through it- hopefully not too fast because I loved her first book and read it in a day and then I was sad it was over.

I was also on a quest for Peanut Butter and Co’s specialty PUMPKIN SPICE peanut butter. So far, I’ve struck out at Stop & Shop, Whole Foods, and now Target. Bummer, I’ll have to order it online unless Christmas Tree Shoppe can represent. As you well know, Peanut Butter and Co is my favorite company thanks to their Dark and White Chocolate Peanut Butter goodness (that is nutritionally sound too!). Though there was no pumpkin spice to be found, I did walk away with a dark chocolate bottle and two pumpkin spice yogurts.

Also in the cart were dog treats because Mac needs his favorite things too. I needed new strength training gloves because mine STINK to high heaven and can no longer be cleansed through washing. I know, I’m disgusting, but I’m not even sorry. It’s a mark of a job well done. However, they needed to go because I couldn’t stand getting a whiff every rep.

Then I happened to cart by the electronics section, which in my defense, is near the book section! I’ve been contemplating getting a running watch because I no longer track with my phone as it is too rough! My brother’s girlfriend, Cait, recommended the Garmin Forerunner 15 to me because it also works in water- though I’m not sure if it tracks swims yet (TBD tomorrow!). That’s the one I asked for when I checked out and I realized it wasn’t the right one when I got home. They gave me the 10 by accident, which is cheaper, but also does nothing. I wanted a running GPS and step tracker so that I didn’t have to also use a Fitbit. Rude!

After kickboxing and dinner, I set out for Target trip numero dos and this time I was accompanied by my friend Rachel. After I made my exchange, it was time to browse. I got two new workout shirts, one of which is this super cool Star Wars tee with the only characters who matter best characters: the originals!

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I also got another one I’ll debut a little later on this week. Also in my basket was a pair of super comfy pajamas that got me even more excited for fall.

That’s when we discovered the Halloween costumes. Had I not already had one in mind, I might have gotten lost. I can’t reveal my Halloween costume to you yet, but here are a few of the options we perused last night.

Rachel wearing a terrifying Teddy Bear mask. I hate masks!

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This weird, but far less frightening “Captain Cool” mask.

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Me as a piece of pizza, which we know is one of my favorite things!

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Also as a hot dog.

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And this flamingo hat that I’m fairly certain is taller than I am. It was heavy on my head, but if I bought it, it would have required I bend through a doorway for the first time in my life! I didn’t buy it for the record.

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Much silliness ensued, but it was all fun!

This morning, I woke up raring to try my new watch! First, I had a quick breakfast. An egg, cheese, and chicken sausage sandwich on an english muffin. It also had jalapeños. I had a berry bowl as well.

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Even though it was still warm and the sun was out in full force, the air is no longer dripping with humidity. I had an excellent 3.1 mile run and another .5 walk before I hopped in the shower and ran some errands. Now I’ve got in two loads of laundry (one for gross workout clothes and the other for sheets) and an afternoon of studying in which to look forward.

Happy Wednesday to you!

Caitlin Walked Into Whole Foods and Sampled ALL the Cheese

The heat wave has broken for the time being, but yesterday was HOT. I spent most of the morning studying, locked away in my air conditioned room. I was all about learning about the heart, which by the way, so less complicated than the muscular system, when I heard a strange noise ring out. I looked around and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but upon further instruction, found that Bandit was lying under my bed, snoring. In case you didn’t know, Bandit is a cat.

Other than studying, it was a slow moving day due in part to the heat but also my laziness. I did hop into the pool for a few minutes. At 84 degrees, it felt cold! This is a testament to how hot it was. I fully appreciate that in just a few months, I will be complaining about how cold it is and the snow. There’s never a happy medium anymore.

Once I cooled down my body and the day started to turn into night, there was a breeze blowing around in my backyard, so I took off for a run. Yes, when the breeze was blowing, it felt spectacular. When the breeze was not blowing there seemed to be barely any air at all. By the time I got home, I was in need of some water and lying down time to recuperate. My body was slick with sweat, which is a wonderful feeling (except for the whole no breathing thing). Suffice to say, I drank about a gallon of water after.

Going back to breakfast, I woke up with a craving for waffles. I seriously don’t know where this comes from as I’ve never been a huge maple syrup fan before. Maybe I’m preparing for fall. I scrambled some eggs and made a big bowl of fruit to go with it.

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I had to stop at Whole Foods to pick up a few items for dinner. I should never be allowed to roam free at Whole Foods. I ended up wandering the cheese aisle which offers a TON of samples and coming home with a slice of pizza to go with lunch. This is low on the scale of what could have happened. I was disappointed there was no offering of chocolate samples. The rest of lunch was leftover swordfish, veggies, and rice.

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My sister and brother-in-law came over for dinner. The antipasto pepper salad is the reason I went to Whole Foods in the first place. We discovered such a thing over the weekend. It includes multi-colored peppers, provolone cheese, an assortment of  meats (in this case pepperoni and prosciutto), marinated in Italian dressing. Delectable! The rest of the meal included a giant salad, steak tips, and roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

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We had cookies I picked up from, yep, Whole Foods, for dessert. Conversation centered on Harry Potter and which houses our family would be sorted into. Both my parents are Hufflepuffs (or as Nick brands them, Hufflepuffles); Lauren, Nick, and I are Ravenclaws; and my brother Jimmy is a Gryffindor. My mom also wants it noted that Mac, the dog, is a Hufflepuff by default and Bandit is a Slytherin because he is definitely cunning, which is a nice way of saying evil. Of course this conversation was started when I mentioned that JK Rowling declared us to be in the Age of the Hufflepuff.

Now time to study the Respiratory System! Lungs are important, ya’ll!

Food Good, Good Food: I’ve Got It All

Stir fry is a great, healthy dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s a one pan dish that can be so versatile! It’s easy to make it for one or for a family. Here are some of my tips to make any meal stellar!

To break it down, a stir fry incorporates every single food group into one meal, if you know how to do it right. We can start with the protein. This is the one-two ingredients that will provide staying power.

For breakfast, eggs are the obvious go-to protein. Bacon, ham, sausage, or tofu would work just as well, either as the main or assistant protein. Beans are also really easy and nutrient dense, you can make them fancy or just drop them into the pan out of the can. My favorite combination for breakfast protein would either be eggs with chicken sausage or black beans.

Lunch and dinner follow similar patterns. Chicken is a staple in my diet, as it is for so many others. I eat chicken more than any other protein and you can never go wrong with simply grilled, spiced, or marinated depending on your mood. Steak is another great option as it can offer protein and fat. Steak is one of my favorites, but I tend to eat it less because 1. I try not to eat too much red meat and 2. I am not an expert at cooking it, yet. The most versatile protein for stir fry would be fish, particularly salmon because it is full of omega 3’s and good-for-you fat. I also enjoy tilapia as it is so similar to chicken. Swordfish and tuna are good too. Stir fry is so fun because you have so many different options! Any protein you might use in breakfast can also be used for lunch or dinner: eggs (not just for breakfast/brunch!), beans, or tofu- all excellent choices!

Next up, we need the veggies. Veggies provide the bulk of the dish- or at least they should! Vegetables add heft, filling you with nutrients and vitamins. Not to mention that they allow you to eat more food! Here’s where you can get really fancy. For my stir fry, I usually chop up and toss in any assortment of vegetable I have in the fridge. My staples are red bell peppers (my favorite vegetable), spinach, carrots, broccoli, and zucchini. To keep things fancy, I sometimes add in bok choy, sugar snap peas, sweet potato, squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or corn. For my meals, I add in a ton of vegetables so I never worry about meeting my daily requirement. They are like salads in this way. I recommend choosing at least two-three vegetables to add to your stir fry and be as fancy or simple as you want! Goal: make it colorful!

Carbohydrates tend to scare people. I get it. Carbs and sugar make up a lot of the tasty treats we hate to love (or love to hate) and we’re told not to eat too many.

Side note: don’t ever feel bad about indulging. If you are truly indulging, it means you are enjoying what you love and incorporating it as an important part of your healthy lifestyle. Gulping down spoonfuls of ice cream is a lot different than savoring every bite. Your relationship to food is all in your perspective. I’m still learning more about this, but it’s so important to developing and maintaining healthy habits.

But carbs are good for you and you need them. Yes, you! The easiest grain to use in my stir fry is brown rice. Brown rice is good because it adds a wonderful, chewy texture to the dish without taking away from the flavor. I’m also a fan of whole grain pasta, buckwheat noodles, or quinoa. Sweet potato and regular potato are also yummy carb choices, but they can also still be considered veggies, so double yay! White rice and pasta are fine too on occasion, but the whole grain versions offer more protein, which means it will fuel your body for longer. Let’s vow to stop making carbs, in their simplest form, the enemy. It’s what the carbs make up that matter (which is still quite alright every so often).

Let’s talk about another friend that gets a lot of grief. I don’t get why people are so against fat. I think it’s because it shares a name with an adjective that no one wants to be called. Healthy fats need to be distinguished. Yes, we should use them in smaller portions, but we should still use them.

Uh oh, another side rant! When I was on Weight Watchers I remember thinking how silly it is that the plan would rather me eat a wayward, processed, low-nutrient, but low-calorie and low-fat granola bar than a serving of almonds or peanut butter. First, peanut butter is my favorite food ever. Also, nuts are so good for you. They offer a ton of protein and healthy fats and are incredibly versatile for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks! Nuts can be dressed up and dressed down. They come from the earth. Eat the right kind, the right amount, and you can’t go wrong!

And we’re back- I like to toss in a few nuts, either cashew, peanut, or pine for a bit of fat, when I use grilled chicken as my protein because there is no fat there. Cheese or olive oil also contribute to the healthy fat content and provide the dish with a little heft. It’s in a good way though because you need fat to help keep you full!

We’ve discussed protein, vegetables, carbohydrates, and fat and we’ve created exciting meal options. Last thing we need is a little marinade. It might be a stretch, but we can consider this the sweetness that we all need in our diet. My favorite sauces for stir fry include anything peanutty, sesame, or teriyaki-based. When I buy them, I make sure to first check the ingredients- many store-bought brands have so many ingredients, it’s crazy- and the calories to see if it’s even worth it. Sauces, and dressing for that matter, are things I need to start making home-made. I enjoyed the recipe I did make, which included some spicy mustard, soy sauce, and garlic. Simple, yet delicious! *And I can name the ingredients. A little sauce can go along way if you know how to mix things right.

I don’t know whether to be impressed or embarrassed that my little post on stir fry went on for so long. Let’s blame it on the little rants spread throughout. There are so many dishes that follow the rules of stir fry- oatmeal and yogurt parfaits for example. Yes, these meals can go from good to uh-oh very quickly, but if you pay attention, stir fry is more likely to stay on the side of good.

I followed my own rules this afternoon for lunch. I’ll break it down.

My protein of choice was salmon, which thanks to last night’s leftovers, made things very easy for me. Next, I chopped up and tossed in my veggies. More leftovers included Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I added bok choy, red pepper, shredded carrots, and zucchini. My grain was a simple brown rice that was seeped in flavor after I poured the medley over it. To top things off (more like swirl around), I drizzled a teriyaki marinade/soy sauce combination throughout.

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The end result was delicious, leaving me fueled, healthy, happy, but not overly stuffed. The meal was a great recovery from my strength workout this afternoon, got me through this post, and will lead me through an afternoon of studying.

What’s your go-to stir fry?

Strength in Nature

Yesterday’s workout consisted of a strength training circuit that focused on moves meant to support the big six I did the day before. I focused on higher reps and lower weights, running through the circuit four times with twelve reps each. I did bicep curls, shoulder raises, tricep extensions, front raises, weighted lunges, and deadlift squats to high raises. After, I ran through a core circuit, same amount of sets and reps- kneeling kickbacks, mermaid raises, v push ups, hundreds to v ups, hip lifts, and bicycle crunches. For cardio, I hopped in the pool for a 40 minute lap swim.

At home, I was glad to have leftovers for lunch so that I wasn’t in a rush to get off to work. This chickpea dish is delicious, though next time, I think I’ll be more contemplative when it comes to spices. I like spices, but I don’t know how to utilize them in my recipes, so more research must be done! A piece of buttered raisin toast and a cup of plain Greek yogurt with a spoonful of peanut butter and a handful of grapes completed my meal.

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I’m loving all the standing work entails! My hips and butt don’t feel as sore from sitting all day and I can already feel my legs grow stronger as they get accustomed to standing so much again. Nothing was quite like teaching when it came to standing/running around all day!

Dinner was a plate with crockpot buffalo chicken, broccoli, asparagus, and red peppers with a drizzle of ranch over everything. I had a separate bowl for some macaroni and cheese. After a long day, it was a great way to end things.

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I curled up to read for awhile after before drifting off to sleep.

This morning, I took the time to whip up my favorite peanut butter pancakes. They were delightful topped with more peanut butter, jelly, and shredded coconut and paired with a side of bananas and blueberries. I’m still full with these protein and nutrient dense cakes! They’re quite pretty too!

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Now’s time to talk about what gave me strength yesterday, something I promised in another post, but didn’t get to it last night. After work, I was walking outside with my friend when we saw lightning a way’s away from us. It was strange because there was no thunder and it wasn’t raining, so it was just one of those heat things. I tried to get a picture that captured the beauty of the illuminated night sky, but I don’t think I did it justice.

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Standing in a field, surrounded by nature, filled me with the realization of how insignificant the small and petty things in life are. We always need reminders of this. The gift of having seen this lightning show for just a few minutes helped me to see that strength is not always something we seek. Sometimes it entails going out into the world and living in it. These small blessings surround us every day.

*A brief aside: There may be good in this world, but terrible things do still happen, like earlier this morning during the news broadcast. I don’t know why we keep hurting each other and why we remain immobilized from making changes. Living in a world where we’re afraid to live in it (and validated in that fear), is not much of a life at all. For now, we can focus on the victims. Be kinder, love harder, do good.

It’s A Cucumber! It’s A Zucchini! It’s a Cucchini!

I could just be the greatest gardener of them all and that’s without even trying all that hard. To say that I am an attentive gardener would be a far reach, but I’ve had some success that I will share some of with my mom.

My tomato plants are flourishing, I have a pepper growing bigger each day- it’s brother fell off and died- and today, I realized there’s even a strawberry growing! One thing that’s been different this year is the slowness of my cucumbers and zucchinis.

While I was away, my brother sent me a picture of what could have been either a cucumber or zucchini that was the size of his arm. When we cut into it, it still wasn’t clear exactly what it was. It looked like a zucchini with seeds inside and when we tasted it, it had a weird flavor and texture.

During my study time, I ventured out into the garden for a little procrastination and wanted to inspect the plants further. Turns out, my cucumber and zucchini plants have grown very close together, which leads me to believe that they have mated. We could possibly have a cucchini or zucumber on our hands! I can’t claim that it tasted all that great or that I had anything to do with it other than planting them close together, but you all should still be just a little bit impressed.

I have yet to enjoy anything from my garden this year, but for lunch , I cut up some store bought zucchini, summer squash, and carrots and tossed them together in a stir fry with shrimp. For a marinade, I swirled a swig of soy sauce, a squirt of mustard, and a dash of garlic. Mixed altogether, it creates a delicious flavoring to vegetables, chicken, or fish and the best part is, I know exactly what’s inside the condiment! To accompany the stir fry, I heated up the rest of the leftover macaroni and cheese.

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For dinner, I put together a quick salad with baby spinach as the base. I added carrots, tomato, and peppers for veggies, walnuts for some fat, craisins for sweetness, and topped it with chopped grilled chicken and a drizzle of poppyseed dressing. I had a slice of toast for an extra hit of carbs as well as some popcorn a little later on in the evening.

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My workout for today started off with a swim. I was nervous hopping into the pool because I was afraid my newly dyed blonde hair would turn green. That did not seem to be the case and I swam my way through a mile+. I had missed swimming after having been on vacation and it felt good to be back in the water!

After I dried off and realized that I did not have green hair, I worked my way through a dumbbell circuit, performing each move in 4 sets of 12 reps at lower weights. The circuit included bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder raises, clean and presses, front raises, and lunges with monkey arms. I ran through another circuit, this time with medicine balls. I started with side lunges with a chop, wall rotations, squat tosses, kneeling kickbacks, mermaid raises, and a combination of hundreds to sit ups to Russian twists that was a killer move that I love to hate already! To end things off on a sweet note, I did a series of planks that left my core feeling the burn.

You better believe that I showered right away after my workout so as not to test the chlorine on my hair. I endured many hours of studying after and all I can tell you is that no matter how icky, blood is important. Also! Apparently, the calorie burn begins even when you are anticipating exercising. You still have to go through with the actual exercising though. Get moving!