Thursday, December 22, 2016

Product Review: Kora Organics

I have been really trying to clean up my skincare: makeup, cleansing, body. As most of you have probably seen, Kora Organics is a fairly new line to the market. Created by Victoria's Secret Supermodel Miranda Kerr, the line was created out of the supermodel's frustration of not being able to find good organic skincare in the market. As someone who has also been searching for a great organic skincare line, I was in luck to find her brand and was anxious to try it. So, I went online and ordered the 3-Step System for my skin type (Dry/Normal Skin: honestly I was going back and forth between the Dry/Normal and the Sensitive/Normal lines).

All of her lines have 10 key organic ingredients: Noni, Rosehip Oil, Roman Chamomile, Lavender, Aloe Vera, Green Tea, Jojoba Oil, Sea Buckthorn, and Vitamins A, C, & E. And, all of the filtered water used has been infused with rose quartz. For $160, under the 3-Step System, you get a cream cleanser ($52), balancing rose mist ($44), and a hydrating day/night cream ($65). This can be used day or night in order to achieve healthy skin: and in most cases, according to the website, can calm the effects of skin conditions such as Dermatitis, Rosacea, and Eczema. I have had my issues with skincare in the past giving me worse breakouts or adverse affects so I was optimistic about trying a complete organic skincare system to see if it would help me.

Pros: I am in love with the Facial mist and the rose scent is so refreshing. It is a pick-me-up. I love it as a replacement for my facial mists I currently have in my arsenal. I keep it in my purse for a quick spritz on the go. It is the perfect travel size. The cleanser and the moisturizer is perfect for dry skin; they are both heavy creams that provide a lot of oils to moisturize the skin.

Cons: The scent of the cleanser and hydrating day/night cream were not as great as the facial mist. They smelled like vegetable or olive oil. I felt they were too heavy for my skin. While I do have dry skin, I found them to be more like spreading a mayonnaise on my skin over a hydrating cream. I would never recommend this to someone who has even slightly combination skin; stick with the sensitive skin or combo skin systems instead. It felt too heavy. If you have extremely dry skin and do not mind the scent of products, I say give them a try. I feel I should have ordered the sensitive skin only system instead.

Overall, not a bad line. I would stick with the facial mists if you are looking to try the line and then move onto other products from there. At the price tag it is at currently, I would wait until there is a sale before investing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Part 2: What to Do & See In Paris! Days 5-8 & My Worst Meal in Paris.

Hey All! It is Part 2 of my Paris Trip! (To see my Paris trip Days 1-4, go here!) The latter part of the trip was quite a whirlwind. As my time in Paris came to a close, my days there seemed to fly by. It made me quite somber to think I would have to return home. Paris is quite a different way of life and it had become such a culturally driven city that I fell for it more with each piece of it revealed itself to me.

Breakfast at Cafe Panis was just as wonderful as the prior visits. People watching is one of my favorite things to do while enjoying my meals, especially in the morning. My corner booth ended up being an ideal location to view people in their chic outfits. Everyone seemed "casually cool" while they were en route to work or breakfast. It was like a better version of a movie. It was truly picturesque.
After breakfast, it was time to hit the Metro and onto Montmartre. Montmartre is in the 18th arrondissement, but thankfully is still in Zones 1-3, so there was no paying for an additional ticket to go. This little gem of a mini-city is truly a city build on a hill, so each walkway is like hiking up a steep hill. However, it is very easily to get around on foot. First stop on the itinerary for the day is La Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. It was so beautiful. There was a musician on the steps playing the piano and plenty of vendor which allowed visitors to enjoy a quick bite on the main steps. They do have the elevator (Funicular - the stairs beside this has been found in many movies) and I recommend taking it. While the climb up the main steps are lovely, we found con artists to be there pestering tourists most in the lower main staircase climb (I warn -do not allow them to stop you. Tell them No Thank You firmly and move onward). This is the only place we found them to be in Paris and therefore wish to share.
Continuing on through Montmartre, passing the Church of St Pierre (some say Dante prayed at this very church), I ended up at Musee de Montmartre. It is a really wonderful museum dedicated to the artists that lived in Montmartre. It has priceless works of art from Le Chat Noir, Picasso doodles, and any piece of art from those who lived in the area. They have a very impressive collection of Impressionists art. Included in the price is the Jardins Renoir, and a view of the Clos Montmartre Vineyard (the wine isn't that pleasant, but proceeds go to charity). It will take some time to go through the museum and gardens, but well worth the visit if you have time. They even have a small cafe on the grounds if you wish to grab a bite to eat.
After the museum, I opted to find a place to eat outside of the museum so I began strolling along the streets of Montmartre to find such a place, and I did at Tutti Sensi. While this place is typically reserved for desserts on the particular day I was visiting, they had sausage and onions on a baguette and I was sold! They were rocking out big time and the smell as you walked by had me in their doorway quick. I really enjoyed their take on grilled sausage and was able to enjoy this on the steps of Le Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. It was a heavily discussed treat upon my return to the states. Happiness is street food done right.
Of course, it was time to sit and enjoy Montmartre before adventuring on down the hill further. I found my Montmartre Mecca in Le Consulat. One of the best cups of coffee and chocolate mousse was sitting in this little cafe enjoying the taste of vacation freedom. Next door is La Bonne Franquette. This area is a part of the oldest part of Montmartre village, and La Bonne is over 400 years old! Artists like Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Sisley, Renoir and Monet often gathered here for a meal or a drink. These small cobblestone streets are the quintessential neighborhoods that make Paris as charming and appealing then as she is today.
One of my absolutely favorite spots in Montmartre was the Le Mur des Je T'aime (aka The Wall of Love). I just so happened to stumble upon it before leaving and was hoping I would stumble across it on my walk and I was in luck. This wall has the words I Love You, written in every language. I was excited to see a couple in the middle of a proposal upon my visit! Amour! It is a great piece of artwork added to the park that make it a must-stop in my book to see if you are visiting.
On the way down the "hill", I had finally come back to Boulevard de Clichy (paris' red light district). A more vibrant and bolder neighborhood compared to other "classical" areas. The area is home to people from all over the world, and this neighborhood truly embodies the melting pot mosaic diversity of its people. One of the most famous landmarks in the area is THE Moulin Rouge. I wish I had time to have gone in and seen a Cabaret show, but it was really awesome to have seen her nonetheless.
Heading back into the heart of Paris, I had been patiently anticipating going to Angelina's. I love Audrey Hepburn, and I have seen every movie she was ever in. So, when you hear your fashion icon loved a spot in Paris (and you love chocolate), you go! It has been quite some time since I have had a cup of hot chocolate but nothing prepares you for the richness that is Angelina's. They are famous for their hot chocolate, which is basically a melted candybar with some milk, and they have been opened since 1903! It was exquisite and super rich. I could not believe it - one cup is more than worthy of sharing. Believe me, you will not want a cup for yourself. It was the perfect way to end the day trip to Montmartre.
After relaxing for a bit at the nearby park, it was off to dinner. I have to admit, when it comes to eating in Paris, there are always so many options to choose from. Menu options give you an idea of what to expect. But, after seeing some places have the same options, you want to try something different. Variety is the spice of life and this particular day I did not want a meal I could get at home, especially so close to the end of the trip! Walking by Le Comptoir a couple days prior, I had my eye on their menu. My dinner was another three course meal. It included a charcuterie plate, chicken with fries and french onion soup. I opted to skip dessert because I really wanted soup.  Then it was back to bed since I had to get up early the next morning for the long trek to Versailles.
The morning en route to Versailles was maddening. It was rush hour on the Metro and by far the most overwhelming experience I have ever endured thus far in Paris. Taking the metro to the RER station to head toward Versailles was agitating. On top of the fact this morning I could not enjoy my breakfast at a cafe, I knew as soon as I got to the station I would need to grab something to eat. And, thankfully as I was meeting up with the Bike group, there was a bakery I quickly grabbed a Pain au Chocolat to eat. Before leaving for Paris, I had booked a biking tour with Blue Bike Tours. It was my splurge on the trip since I knew I would not have time for a day trip to Provence, France. And, it was worth every penny spent!
After we all met at the train station, we were debriefed on the day and itinerary. We were given our train tickets to get to and from Versailles and we met our guide. It was nice to see so many people from our country as well as those from our neighboring countries. It was a really diverse, but active group. We boarded the train for the 30 minute ride to our stop.
Our first stop wa the local market to get all the fixings for a picnic- which we would be having on the grounds of Versailles a little bit later on. Let's say up until this point, I had not been to an "authentic" market such as the one we ventured to that day. I had also never seen a black chicken, much less a chicken with his head still attached. I was so impressed with the high quality and variety in the market. There was a lot of options to choose from. I grabbed some duck pate, prosciutto, a block of goat cheese, a crusty baguette, a crisp green apple and juicy nectarine, two bottles of red wine, and a sea salt chocolate bar. I wandered down the street to a nearby bakery for three croissants as well.
After our adventures to the market, It was time to pick up our bikes and head to Versailles. Versailles, if you did not know, is 17 acres! That is a lot of ground to cover and most people were walking (or renting golf carts to get around). After entering the main gate, we were brought around to the fountains on the backside of the palace. As we continued on our journey, we biked around the grounds, taking in the Royal Forest (when oftentimes royalty would go on hunting parties), as Versailles was originally a hunting lodge. They later expanded on it, but its original lodge is still a part of the structure today.
Lunch was magnificent and perfect for the grounds- we stopped at the Grand Canal for a picnic. It made it all that more enjoyable to take in the views of the lake and fountains while admiring how truly amazing Versailles truly is. The Grand Canal is about a mile long and was used for naval demonstrations and even had gondolas that were a gift from the Netherlands! However, geographically, it is at the lower part of the gardens, and became a collection of water that drained from the gardens above. Using a windmill-powered and horse-powered pump system, they pumped water back to the reservoir on the roof of the Grotte de Tethys.

Our next stop was Petit Trianon, the chateau built by Louis XV for his favorite Mistress, Madame du Pompadour. Unlike today's views on mistresses, in French court, it was acceptable to be married for diplomatic reasons and have many mistresses. However, a favorite, such as Madame du Pompadour had great power, and she aided in Austrian negotiations which lead to the Treaty of Versailles. Even though she was only his mistress for 5 years, she became his in-house pimp, and often would interview young girls she thought he would like.  The house itself was stunning. As she was very much into interior decorating, the house was quite lovely.
Nearby the Petit Trianon was Marie-Antoinette's favorite escape,, the Hamlet, a make-shift recreation of her town from her country of Austria. It was build exclusively for her and her enjoyment. She would often bring friends here to escape her responsibilities and structure of court life. While this Hamlet reminded her of home, it was also "staged" with workers to maintain the 'normalcy' of village life, having servants often portraying villagers. It was also during this time she would entertain lovers, one particular was a scandalous affair with Swedish Count Axel von Fersen, who attempted to grant her safe passage out of Versailles.
Next up was the Grand Trianon. This was the "home away from home" for royalty to stay to get away from court. Built by Louis XIV as a summer home, it was one of the most grandeur places to see. One of the most exquisite spots is the marbled hallway, which opens up to the gardens, in true geometric french-style. Louis XIV often dined here with guests that did not wish to be watched at court. However, after neglect, it was in quite disrepair. Later on, it would be the home of Napoleon and his second wife, who would would renovate the home to the emperor's tastes. Today it is used to host foreign officials and tours.
After we returned our bikes back to the warehouse, we walked back for the main palace of Versailles, and luckily we were able to skip the line (thank you tour group!). Our tour guide said goodbye as he gave us our listening guides and we parted way so we could self tour the remainder of the Palace. Thankful our group arrived there when we did and get ahead of a few tours. Every room was insanely ornate (as well as themed) and no detail was left out. The hall of mirrors was quite overwhelming in the best of ways and the views of the gardens were incredible. There was so much to see but our group was able to get through before they closed the gates. We finished our stroll of Versailles and grabbed the train back into Paris.
On the way back, however, I had to stop at Amorino for floral gelato! They were amazing! I got a mix of 3 flavors: mint chocolate chip, espresso and rich dark organic chocolate. I have had a lot of gelato in my life, but Amorino is by far one of the best places in the world to get really amazing gelato. If you find one in your city, try them out. You will not be disappointed. Their gelato is a real treat.
Finally, after a lot of walking around, it was time for dinner. France is known for their cheese - it is one of the things that makes them "them". And, so far up to this point, I had some amazing cheeses added to my dishes. But, I wanted fondue. I had heard that Paris has some of the best fondue joints and it would be sure to please my cheese-loving appetite. So, in search for dinner, I had come across this cute little cafe and decided to give their fondue dinner at Le Symposium a go. I was happy at first with the wine selection and began enjoying my salad, when the fondue came out. I really wish I had read the reviews on this place prior to sitting down, but I had not. This was the worst meal I had in Paris. It came with selection of baguette and steamed potatoes for dipping in the fondue. I found the bread to lack flavor and the potatoes to crumble into mush in the fondue. The fondue itself was lacking; as if you purchased the least flavorful generic cheese you could find and melted it in a pot with a large amount of milk. It was disappointing. The best part of the meal was the wine, as that was the only thing that could help me through the meal. I was devastated. I left and went back to the room and slept.
I woke up pretty upset and went to my favorite cafe (Cafe Panis) to sulk after such a crappy dinner. This is when I knew my day was going to turn around for the better. I had the best breakfast I had so far in Paris. Cafe Panis had a breakfast special of potato quiche that morning and boy was it was delicious! It came with a hefty helping of salad. This was layered with perfectly cooked potato, ham, cheese and egg. It was utter perfection in a soft quiche crust. I loved it.
I really was not sure what I expected when I arrived at the Rodin Museum (Musee Rodin), but I really had no idea how many works this museum actually had. I opted to not tour the museum but to instead just go through the gardens (10 euros/person). While this is not as popular as many other museums in Paris, it is one worth visiting. Before leaving for Paris, there was an exhibit of Rodin at my local museum, so it was exciting to see more of his works in Paris. One of the most exciting pieces of Rodin's was Dante's Inferno - titled "The Gates of Hell". It was massive; if you go into the museum, you will see quite a few sketches of the piece from different aspects of the larger work that sits outside in the garden. It is the size of a large door and shows over 180 figures. Rodin worked on it until his death in 1917. It was a commissioned piece and it is truly outstanding. Also, if you see the single figures scattered throughout the lawn, you will see them together in one large piece by the exit gate. The comparison between them standing alone versus standing in a group is a true reflection of how great Rodin really is as a sculptor. They are as life-like as can be.
After walking around and finally getting to the Seine, it was time for lunch. Faust is a great location -as both a restaurant and nightclub, they are seated right on the main pedestrian/bike path at Pont Alexander. I found a great chicken caesar salad to enjoy for lunch. They have great portions and give you the perfect amount. Their chicken was tender and the salad tasted fresh and crisp, with the best tasting tomatoes I had all trip. While they did not have a 3-course lunch option, their selections are quite decent for the price.
Next stop was a quick walk to Musee D'Orsay. For 12 euros/person, this is a really great museum, and one of my personal favorites on the trip. I am a huge fan of more modern art and this train station turned museum has a ton of collections for modern french impressionists and post-impressionists artists (1848-1914). From the beautiful statues, to the massive art collection and the beautiful clock that still resonates current time in the museum, it is a must-stop in paris. And, no worries about lunch, they have a large cafe inside so you can enjoy lunch or a smaller one for just coffee. One of the cooler sites to see is the renovation of paintings done before your eyes. It was amazing to see restoration of masterpieces as large as the room itself being worked on by professional art historians.
And, you cannot leave Paris without having at least one full meal on the Seine. And, that is exactly how I wanted to end the trip and my last night in Paris. I found this amazing little hot dog stand (I cannot find the name for the life of me), and grabbed a hot dog with ketchup and mustard with a glass of wine and perrier. it was the perfect end of the day. Afterward, it was time to head back to the Air B&B and pack and prep for the early departure the next morning.

The flight home was long and tiring but after landing back in DC, it was time for dinner and our drive home. My recommendation, again, is to park at one of the local hotels and have them bus you over - it saves a ton of money and ensures you are charged less per day to park. I paid $6/day as opposed to $20/day for the parking at the airport. If you can, find a way to do it! I hope you have enjoyed my trip and I look forward to sharing my next adventure with you all.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Whole 30 Week One : Starting Whole30, Creating a Plan and Tackling Social Outings

Like I said in my previous post, this is my second round of Whole30. I found last time week 1-2 were the worst for me, roughly about the first 9 days. Once I passed that threshold, I was in the clear for an easier time. I purchased the rest of my groceries and meal prepped and planned Sunday night to ensure the first rough week would be a much smoother one.

Pre-Whole30: Sunday. Okay. So, like last time I am doing a before/after photo and changes that will happen. My next photo will be on day 31. I went kayaking today, and was excited to wear my new motivational tank. For my pre-whole30 meal, i had a cafe latte, smoothie from tropical smoothie, roasted chicken with herb rice and a berry tart for dessert.

FitBit: I made my 10K steps today. I walked a lot, did an hour of kayaking, an hour walk this evening around my neighborhood, slept over 8 hours last night and ate fairly well today. I weighed 135.6 lbs and I am 5'4".
Before Starting Whole30
Day 1: Monday. No one likes Monday. I found the last go round that the first two days seemed easiest and then it was all downhill from there. So far, Monday has proven to be the same as before. The first day in my opinion is one where you are most hopeful. Everything always seems to go smoothly on day 1. Willpower is at the all time high and you have a renewed sense of energy on the program. Breakfast was an omelet with salt, pepper and spinach, cooked in coconut oil. I had a side of sweet potato hash (seasoned with salt and pepper). Seltzer water to drink. Lunch was salad mix, guacamole and paprika chicken (rotisserie chicken pieces cooked in coconut oil with fine herbs, paprika, and garlic powder). Seltzer to drink. Dinner was salmon with a tomato and capers sauce with seltzer to drink.
FitBit: Sleep was really restful. I got 8 hrs and 53 mins of total rest. I did 50 mins of yoga tonight. I was not as active as I wanted to be as far as step count (1,256 steps), but I still felt like I was very active - even with my super busy desk job on a Monday. I am hoping to pick up my step count throughout the week. I learned I need to strengthen my hands for some of these yoga poses. I will work on that. I only made 3/10 flights of stairs, so I will need to boost that to hit my goal.

Day 2: Tuesday. So, this was a high stress day at work. And to think I always Monday was that way. Anyway, I am still feeling good for the second day. I have not had any cravings or withdrawal at this point. So, compared to last go round, that is a bonus. Breakfast was two hardboiled eggs with salt, pepper and nutritional yeast with a cup of green tea. Lunch was detox soup with a little bit of chicken. This particular recipe I did not follow exactly. I added veggie broth, carrot, celery, onion, spinach, cauliflower, rainbow chard stalk, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. This recipe works well if you have a bunch of scraps and want to find a budget way of reusing them. Besides, it tasted really good. Afternoon snack (not pictured) was my date balls - I had a slight low energy lull around 330p, so a quick snack was good to hold me over until dinner. And, Dinner was acorn squash stuffed with apples and sausage. The recipe was really great- I just skipped the panko and parmesan cheese and opted to increase the apple instead.
FitBit: I was happy to get 8 hrs and 14 mins of rest. It was much needed after a busy Monday. I hit over the 10 flights of stairs goal I made. Additionally, I did my 30 mins of yoga. It was a little more challenging than the prior day but exactly what I needed before bedtime. As far as step count, with a few errands I ran, I hit 3,500 steps. Progress. I am hoping to hit the gym Wednesday night and up that count.

Day 3: Wednesday. Half way through the work week. It has been a busy one for sure. Breakfast was a  2 egg spinach omelet. Lunch was egg salad. I was impressed with how easy it was to make a makeshift version. I used 2 hardboiled eggs, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, homemade Whole30 mayo, garlic powder and chopped celery. I put it on a rainbow chard leaf and it was pretty good. Dinner is ground lamb meatballs on salad, which I really loved. And, it didn't take hardly any time at all to make.
FitBit: 8 hours and 4 mins of sleep and it felt good. I am impressed my sleep has been over the 8 hour mark- since some days I just do not get the rest I need. I did get a good workout at the gym tonight. I did a good mix of cardio with an abs and arms workout. I could tell the last couple of days of yoga, I need a bit more emphasis on my arm strength to help with my balance and strength. 4,500 steps was a good boost but I still need to work more on that front. And, I met my flights of stairs goal: I made 12 flights of stairs, so I surpassed my 10 flights of stairs goal. Yahoo!

Day 4: Thursday. Thankfully, this first week is almost done. I had struggled with a few headaches last night that were not fun but let's hope that is just from not drinking enough water. So far, other than that I have not had any withdrawal symptoms. Breakfast was almond butter and a granny smith apple. Lunch was a chicken salad with sauteed zucchini and onions. I mixed it all together. Dinner was steak and squash. I went a bit too heavy on the ghee but otherwise a good dinner.
FitBit: Well, I just missed my 8 hour sleep mark by 1 minute! One! 7 hours and 59 mins of total sleep. But, that is okay considering I upped my step count and hit 5,100 steps! A small victory considering my desk job really does not allow me to get much walking in. I did not meet my flights of stairs goal- but I made 5/10 so it is progress.

Day 5: Friday. A busy day at work and I almost forgot to make myself some breakfast. Breakfast was chopped granny smith apples with coconut oil, nutmeg, cinnamon and star anise; topped with walnuts. It was a warm apple pie type breakfast and was really good. Lunch was my homemade asian cashew chicken with salad topped with guacamole. The asian chicken is simply coconut oil, coconut aminos, garlic, nutritional yeast and chopped cashews sauteed in a pan; then topped with cashew halves. This was a favorite and super filling. Next up was date night at the comedy club. I made the mistake of not eating prior to the show (really, time was not on my side) and got quite hangry for dinner post-show. It ended up being a rough night for sure. Dinner was Chipotle. And, I had to pass two locations since they didn't have any carnitas left. Fast food is not an easy option on Whole30. Next time, I am going to eat before an event.
FitBit: I kicked butt on sleep this time. A total of 9 hours and 13 mins of sleep. Yahoo! I failed on making my steps shine sadly. I only got 2,200 steps. I was not able to get my yoga in, so I am going to need to boost that in the next couple of days. I find weekends tend to ruin my good flow I have during the week. That is something I am going to have to work on. I did make my 10 flights of stairs goal, so that did make me feel somewhat productive.

Day 6: Saturday. This was a sleep in kinda day. One of my favorite types of days. And, with the changing of the leaves, it was a perfect time to sleep in. Breakfast was a homemade sausage patty. I didn't take a picture simply because I was so hungry I did not even think about it until after I had eaten it. Major fail for me. Lunch ended up being these oven roasted wings I made with avocado oil, ghee, salt and pepper; topped with fine herbs. They were good but a tad drier than I prefer. (I will need a sauce next time.) I had a co-ed bachelor/bachelorette party to attend that evening. Dinner was the most challenging meal, as I was not able to prepare it myself. Ordering out is always the most difficult thing to do on Whole30. If you can review a menu ahead of time, as I did, it will allow you to narrow your choices down so the questions you have for the waiter can be at a minimum. Dinner out was limited, so I opted for the salad (minus cheese and croutons-  oil and vinegar dressing). It was hard to not have a drink with friends, but I am okay with it. Other than my stomach having to adjust to this new change (this is stage 2 where your digestive track pretty much starts cleaning out all the bad foods and resets itself), it has been quite smooth sailing. Overall, a decent day.
FitBit: Rocking my sleep at 8 hrs and 27 mins of total sleep. Win! Steps wise, I killed it this day. Since we had gone on a haunted walking tour after dinner, I got a ton of steps and stair climbs in today. I had a total of 14,400 steps and 31 flights of stairs. Double win! While I may not have done my yoga or hit the gym, the walking tour and errands ran during the day was more than enough to get me over my 10K step goal.

Day 7: Sunday. Sunday is always meal prep day in the Whole30 household. Not only do I plan my menu out for the week, but I do as much prep work as I can for those meals- it just helps keep me on track when I do my best to find ways to help myself out when I may feel like caving during the week. Breakfast started out strong. I had run out of my previous almond butter, so I went out yesterday and picked up a jar for the rest of Whole30. I had it with chopped apple and coconut flakes. Lunch time came around and I was in the mood for cooking. I made zucchini and sweet potato latkes and they were amazing. Topped with my homemade guacamole and it was really one of those 'meatless monday' meals that do not make you feel hungry later; super filling. I didn't make my Whole30 bacon that morning so I will have to make this again and sprinkle a bit on top for that salty element i feel this missed. Dinner time came around and I was invited over to friends houses for a cookout and sunday night football. My girlfriend, who was so inspired by my Whole30 journey she did it herself, knew about my second round and was more than accommodating. Since she had made a few changes in her life as well, it was easy to come over for dinner. We had steaks on the grill, I brought a foil packet of asparagus. It was so good and I was so hungry I completely forgot to take a picture of dinner. Ugh.
FitBit: Well, Since I went to bed late Saturday night, I did not get nearly enough sleep. Only 5hrs & 44 mins of total sleep. I was just short of making my flight of stairs goal; I only made 8/10 floors. And, to top it off, I only walked 4,900 steps. I will have to kick it in gear next week to help improve that. The good news is that the first half of this upcoming week I am dog sitting, so that should help my step goals while I am helping out a friend.

End of Week 1: After thoughts. Okay, so the first week is done. I did well on sleep; my average was 8 hrs and 30 mins of total sleep so that is well over my 8 hour goal. And, I did 5 days of exercise last week (a total of 130 active minutes- an average of 16.25mins/day - something I need to improve on), which is a good start, and I hit 80 flights of stairs. Despite a few social outings, I did well in keeping to my goals. My only struggle is when it comes to fitting in my exercise routine on the weekends. While I do not always get dedicated time to exercise, I do get in walking time instead. I am optimistic that this upcoming week will be better than this one. The good side to all of this is in comparison to my prior Whole30, I have physically not felt any withdrawal from any of the items nor felt cravings for them. I think that is a major improvement upon last time. It is my hope that will continue.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

DIY Project: Homemade Body Wash

Homemade Body Wash!
I actually did two versions: the no-grate and the semi-grate version to see which one I preferred. I did try one for frog legs and one for myself...and for the semi-grate version, I did not purchase the glycerin (it did not make a difference in the finished product).

NO-GRATE: 3 Bars of Soap, 6 Cups water
For the no-grate version, I chose to do Irish Spring, since I had some spare bars. I wanted to see if it would make a great body wash. I am not a big of soap bars over body wash and I really am not a fan of this soap anyway, so I figured why not give it a go.
Irish Spring Soap
**This part you must watch closely** You are going to take the bars of soap and microwave them, until they melt. 
Ready to nuke 'em
While they soap is in the microwave, you are going to need to get a large pot, and slowly boil the 6 cups of water. 
Once the bars have melted, you are okay to place them in the boiling water.
Once the soap is mixed with the water, ensure that you continue to stir until the "melted" soap is fully dissolved in with the water. **You do not want the water to boil too much, or you will lose too much water for the body wash. If you do, just slowly add water in 1 cup at a time until you get a body wash consistency**
Making Soap
Once the soap is fully dissolved, you are ready to place it in the storage container. **It should be cooled down enough for pouring.** Ensure the container you will place the liquid in can handle the slight heat from the mixture. 
Semi-Grate: 3 bars of soap & 6 cups of water
**I found the semi-grate to be a better overall dissolvable mixture, and it did take less time. However, it does provide a larger mess!
For my body wash, and the semi-grate version, I chose Oil of Olay, since my skin needs a lot more moisturizing than frog legs does. 
3 bars of Oil of Olay soap
You will need to grate the soap to a fine consistency, to ensure it will dissolve quickly. I use the same side that I would for nutmeg or laundry detergent, as it works great.  
Fine powder-like mix
Once done, you will need a large saucepan and start boiling the water. I did one bar at a time, but it went quickly. 
Hot water...
Add the soap and still until dissolved. This should not take nearly as long as the other version did.
Cooking soap
And, once it looks like a milky liquid, you are ready to pour into your container. Again, ensure your container can handle a slightly warm liquid. 

And, that is how you make at-home body wash!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

DIY Project: Placemat Pillows

Hey Guys! Happy Fall!  I have been wanting to check some great DIY projects off of my DIY To-Do list. This past weekend I completed my first project and I am so excited to share with you all the results.
All you need!!!
My inspiration came directly from Something Like That Designs and I could not have been more thrilled to complete this for my new bedding (pictures to come!). 

For this project, you will need 
  1. Placemat (one for each pillow, this is mine, i got two)
  2. Polyester fiberfill (one bag per pillow - this link is the lg. bag. i got the small one)
  3. Sewing Machine or this!
  4. Seam ripper
First thing you will do, using your seam ripper and placemat, create a small hole in the placemat (remember, just big enough to stuff in the filler. You will most likely use the entire bag of filler for one placemat pillow. Next, using your sewing machine (or liquid stitch), seal up the hole created. **Note, if you use liquid stitch, you will need to wait 24 hours before pillow is ready for use**
 I am very happy with the overall look of the pillows. They really do look store bought!! What do you think? Are you ready for a pillow upgrade??

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Quick and Healthy Meals (from Trader Joe's)

After watching this YouTube video, I was inspired to create healthy and quick meals that my Nutritionists would approve of if she was pushed for time and on a budget. I think Trader Joe's is a great place to shop for healthy items and some meals they have really are healthy. If you know what to look for and can add a bit of creativity, you can have a healthy meal within minutes (and skip the fast-food pickup).

My Nutritionists has mentioned a few things to keep in mind when choosing a meal:
  • Under 500 calories (you really should not go too far past that per meal)- it needs to be healthy!
  • Keep the sugar low (most processed foods add a lot of fake sugars)
    • Women are only supposed to have 100 calories of sugar a day (25g= 6 tsp).
    • Men are only supposed to have 150 calories of sugar a day (37.5g= 9 tsp).
  •  At least one vegetable per meal - she prefers more but at least 1 is mandatory!
Flatbread Pizza *Individual size*
  1. Frozen Garlic Naan
  2. Arugula
  3. Goat Cheese
  4. EVOO (or pizza sauce)
  5. Prosciutto (optional) 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place frozen Naan piece on oven rack and cook each side 5-7 mins per side. Remove. Lightly coat top of Naan with EVOO. Top with Goat Cheese, Arugula and Prosciutto. Place back in oven for additional 5-7 mins, or until cheese is melted. Remove, Cut and Serve. 

Detox Soup
  1. Cauliflower Florets
  2. Vegetable Broth
  3. Kale
  4. Carrots
  5. Onion
Heat broth in large pot on Medium. Chop vegetables into small pieces. When broth is on a light boil, add all ingredients, except kale, into pot. Allow to cook on medium heat for 5-9 minutes. Before serving, add Kale and allow to cook for 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Tex-Mex Tortillas
This recipe is so simple and quick, especially if you have most of it already prepped (like chopping tomatoes, leftover chicken breasts from this recipe, and chopping up avocado). Lay the tortilla on a cookie sheet and place shredded cheese on top. Place in oven on BROIL for 3 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Once removed from oven, assemble all ingredients on top and serve immediately. 

Fast StirFry
  1. Stir Fry mix (sauce is included)
  2. frozen jasmine rice
  3. grilled chicken
Microwave jasmine rice for 3 mins. Meanwhile, place skillet on stove and cook stir fry mix according to bag. Once mix is completed, add grilled chicken to mixture and place over rice onto place. Serve. *Hint: You can reduce the amount of sodium and calories by substituting the sauce mix for coconut aminos.

I hope you like these and they are as enjoyable to you as they are to me. Also, Trader Joe's does have a section of their website dedicated to creating meals (and desserts) around their items. You can go under Recipes from their site and even search for various options. They will even let you know if they are GF or Vegan.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The 7 Hills of Richmond, VA: Chimborazo Hill

This is Part 4 of Blog Series: The Seven Hills of Richmond, VA. Find the Intro here. Chimborazo Hill

Chimborazo Hill has a long history in the roots of Richmond and her ties to war- and beer. Famous explorer Alexander von Humboldt attempted to scale Chimborazo, a volcanic mountain in Ecuador. After his unsuccessful attempt, he dubbed the Richmond hill as Chimborazo in 1802, due to its likeness to the Ecuadorian volcano. A local brewery, The James River Steam Brewery,  used the hill  as a cellar to store beer. At the top of the cellars was a hole that acted as a chimney. A local newspaper reported any fire in the cellar would case "billows of smoke (to come) through making the hill look like a miniature volcano."
Prior to the Civil War, Chimborazo Hill was use to organize militia coming into Richmond. When the war started, several large regiments camped out and on the Hill and built extensive wooden barracks for shelter. As they went into battle, they left behind these buildings where were commandeered by Samuel Moore, the Surgeon General of the Confederate States of America for the establishment of a hospital - Chimborazo Hospital. At the time the hospital was being established, besides the barracks, only two buildings were located on the hill; a large house owned by Richard Laughton and a small office building.
Chimborazo Hospital, known as the "hospital on the hill', was one of the first functioning military hospitals, serving over 76,000 patients from 1862 to 1865. It achieved a 9 percent mortality rate, higher than the hospitals we have today, thanks to Chief Surgeon and local Richmonder, Dr. James Brown McCaw. He had received his medical degree from the University of New York in 1844 and was a professor at the Medical College of Virginia (currently VCU Medical Center) when was called upon to work for the confederate hospital. While medical regulation and supplies were limited, the proficient Chimborazo staff was innovative in providing quality of care for their patients. McCaw acquired a canal boat, named Chimborazo, to trade other cities, like Lexington, for provisions needed for the hospital. Unfortunately, not all patients survived treatment, and those who perished were received by Oakwood Cemetery. By 1865, Oakwood had received over 16,000 patients who perished. In April 1865, Union officers overtook Petersburg, forcing Confederates to retreat and General Robert E. Lee ordered the evacuation of Richmond, including those at Chimborazo Hospital. Those that were not able to leave before Union officers arrived the next day, were transferred to other quarters for care while Union officers were to be treated primarily. By summer, the hospital was closed and transitioned into a Freedman's Bureau school for over 200 freed slaves.
After the Civil War, Chimborazo Hill became the site of a refugee camp - overseen by Freedman's Bureau. Many of the buildings were used as schools, but were eventually torn down to use as firewood. The community, however, did not last long and the camp was closed and in March of 1866, The Freedman's Bureau ordered the people to vacate by early April. In 1874, the city of Richmond purchased the 35 acres of land of Chimborazo Hill at a cost of $35,000. The city of council of Richmond began purchasing most of the land from the Freedman community and auctioned off the last remaining homes in 1880. The last structure disappeared around 1900. The only history remains is Chimborazo Medical Museum, owned by the National Park System on the original grounds of Chimborazo Hospital.
Chimborazo Hill is rooted deep within Richmond's history of war and change. As a mecca for those who were ill during the war, Chimborazo is as full of history as a battlefield. Her steadfast beauty is only a foreshadowing thought following her past. As Chimborazo holds a key to Richmond's past, and her history is preserved in the land we stand on today.