Thursday, March 5, 2015

Our Honeymoon Recap Part 1: Traveling to Nicaragua

Well, we have at least 6 inches of snow on the ground and it's still coming down like crazy.  So naturally I'm thinking about how I totally dropped the ball on sharing our honeymoon pictures!

And yes, this is going to be another annoying multi part recap that I post at a ridiculously slow pace.  I'm sorry.  No I'm not ;)

When we started thinking about our honeymoon, we knew we wanted to go somewhere tropical but we agreed that we wanted something different than some all inclusive in the Caribbean. Although they can be fabulous, we already did one in Jamaica a few years ago and we wanted to do something a little off the beaten path.  Costa Rica immediately came to mind, but when one of my coworkers told me all about his amazing trip to Nicaragua, I was convinced!  It didn't take much to get Dave on board too.

Just in case you weren't sure where Nicaragua is located!

Our honeymoon adventure started at the crack of dawn the Monday after our wedding.  We were picked up by a car service somewhere in the 3 o'clock hour and headed to Philly to catch our 6 am flight!  We grabbed some breakfast and obligatory cocktails at the airport and took our first 2 hour and 45 minute flight down to Miami.  Next we flew from Miami to Managua, Nicaragua's capitol.

In the Miami airport

I was a little nervous when we got off the plane, I think going through immigration is always pretty intimidating, but not knowing the language further complicates things.  We made it through fairly quickly and headed into the pick up area at the airport.  We had arranged all our transportation with the owner of the first place we stayed, so we followed her instructions and looked for someone holding a sign with our name on it.  It was extremely warm in this area since it was in the 90s outside and super crowded.  We searched around and didn't see him and in the meantime, I was almost knocked over by a frantic man running after someone carrying his luggage.  At this point, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, but within minutes we saw "David & Ambar" and I was a bit more at ease.

I wish I took more pictures during our drive.

Our driver spoke a bit of English and we chatted a little as we hit the road.  We were eager to get the most out of our trip, so we decided to take a pit stop on our way.  We stopped at Laguna de Apoyo, a large lake inside the crater of the Apoyo Volcano, for some lunch and a swim.  The views were awesome, the lake was very rocky but nice, and the lunch was tasty.  While soaking up the sun there, we also met a couple our age from Nova Scotia.

This hot sauce was everywhere in Nicaragua and I was obsessed.
It literally just occurred to me that I can order it on Amazon!

And then we were back on the road.  At this point Dave and I were so exhausted that we both managed to take a nap while riding in the back of the car with all the windows down in 95 degree heat, swerving around random bikes, livestock, and other obstacles.  After two 1.5 hour rides (one before and one after lunch) we arrived at the ferry.

The ferry ride was fairly uneventful.  We chatted with a local who had spent some time living in the states.  Some creepy men spent some time staring at me.  We decided to sit below the deck to get out of the sun and we unknowingly picked some seats right next to the engine, so we did a lot of sweating.  My butt was completely numb from the crappy wooden benches by the end of the hour, but as we got closer, the sight of the island was more than enough to keep me entertained.

We finally arrived on Isla de Ometepe, a beautiful island in Lake Nicaragua.  But we still had a 45 minute cab ride to our destination!  Our driver was easy to find, we loaded into the roomy van, and completed the final leg of our journey.  Arriving at Linda's Guest House was so relieving!  Our lengthy travels had come to an end just as the sun was setting.  Linda offered us fresh juice and some cold beer and we immediately ran into the lake.  The sunset was amazing, the lake was warm and refreshing, and we were both in disbelief that we were finally there!

Volcán Concepción

Maderas, the smaller of the two volcanoes on the island.

To be continued...

If you're married, where did you go for your honeymoon?  Have you ever been to Central America?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Highlights from My Week

Do people still celebrate dating anniversaries after they get married?  We did.  That gorgeous bouquet above is from my sweetie!  Dave and I celebrated 5 years of dating by heading into the city for a Sunday funday last weekend.  After almost killing ourselves trying to conquer a completely iced over pedestrian bridge at the train station, we cruised into the city and our first stop was Fado's Irish Pub for a boozy brunch with Michelle and Alex.  The mimosas and bloody marys were bottomless, the food was rich, and the (still drunk from last night?) soccer fans were very entertaining.  Unfortunately my camera randomly stopped working mid brunch without anything happening to it :/


After that we headed to the Wells Fargo Center and actually got to watch the Flyers win a great game!  Last time we went to a game, it seemed as if the team forgot to show up, so this was a treat.

When we left the stadium, it was almost 50 degrees which felt like t-shirt weather!  We finished up our time in the city by grabbing a bite to eat at Victory in Xfinity Live and finishing our drinks outside in the sun.

My week started out fairly uneventful, but on Tuesday there was some action!  I left work a little early to head to the chiropractor before cheer practice, but while I was cruising up 476 I heard an awful noise.  I crossed 3 lanes to get into the shoulder and just as I was coming to a stop, the entire tread ripped off my tire!  Forget getting a flat, my whole tire basically flew off!  I didn't even know that could happen!  Thank God I was able to pull over when I did because I did not bend my rim.  I am also so thankful that I wasn't in the 2 lane construction zone with no shoulder that was only a few miles up the road.  And I was lucky it was a rear tire because when that happens to a front tire, apparently it's a lot more dicey.  My knight in shining armor came to save me with the help of a police man and service truck to give us some cover.  It was pretty nerve wracking watching Dave change my tire while people whizzed by him doing 70 miles per hour.  Public service announcement: PLEASE change lanes if you see someone stuck on the side of the road, especially if they are squatting down 2' from the edge of your lane.  I immediately drove to Creamery Tire and was in and out.  They are the best.  I was even able to still squeeze in a session at my chiropractor where they tried a new technique on my back.  I'll have to post more about that when I figure out what it's actually called.

On Thursday I took a long lunch and went to check out a local farmer's market called Super Gigante with a coworker.  I picked up a ton of cheap produce and what I'm really excited about is finding lots of organ meats and bones!  I've dabbled in making bone broth from whole chickens or random leftover thigh bones, but I've been wanting to try to make beef broth.  I also know how nutritious organ meats are but when I finally got up the nerve to even think about trying them, I couldn't find any in the few conventional grocery stores I looked in.  I plan on sneaking some liver into dinner sometime in the near future.  These burgers are 1/3 ground beef, 1/3 liver, and 1/3 bacon.  With that kind of bacon ratio, how bad could they be?  I've also been checking out these garlic chicken livers, very simple and the recipe has so many glowing reviews.  I'm not telling Dave lol.

This week also marked the beginning of the 2015 CrossFit Open!  When they posted the first workout (+ a bonus workout) I was feeling kind of anxious.

My recorded max snatch is 80 lbs and although I know my real max is higher than that (just haven't had the chance to really try it), 75 lbs snatches sounded heavy!  I was also intimidated by the toes to bar (which is exactly what it sounds like: hang from a bar, swing toes up to bar).  I didn't think I could really do them.  I have the kipping motion down but my toes don't usually make it anywhere near the bar.  This is the first year there's a scaled division and the scaled WOD was 55 lbs for women with hanging knee raises instead of T2B.  I really wasn't sure if I should Rx or scale.

I was also nervous about my linger back issues.  Lighter weight deadlifts are supposed to be connected (as opposed to just dropping the weight every time), which isn't always great for my back.  And let's not forget maxing out a clean and jerk after a grueling WOD!  That was really my biggest worry.  My back has been touch and go with cleans and for some reason my forearm was hurting last week too.  And to top it all off, I really didn't get enough sleep this week.

When I got to the gym at 6 am, I was itching to ask my coach for advice.  She asked to see my T2B and some snatches (and offered me her personal barbell to use) and recommended that I Rx it.  I agreed that I should, but it immediately made me super nervous!  We went in 2 heats and I had to go first because I needed to get it over with so I could stop stressing.

The workout went great!  The T2B were hard and slowed me down since I was doing them one or two at a time, but I did them!  The deadlifts were the easy part.  The snatches were definitely heavy and I struggled on a few of them, but I'm so glad my coach pushed me to Rx.  It was definitely the right choice.  And using her bar was nice too, it's made for women so it has a smaller diameter which helped me grip it.  This WOD was all about grip and it definitely made a difference.  I got through 3 rounds + 3 T2B but after the 9 minutes were up, it was time to max out!

After our workouts, I'm typically laying on the floor for a bit before I can even sit up and grab a drink... NOT maxing out an olympic lift!  We had 6 minutes to work up to our max, so it was a little bit of a puzzle to add enough weight at a time to not waste your energy doing a bunch of non max reps vs. adding too much weight at a time and not being able to do it.  I put too much on my bar during one of my jumps, couldn't do it, and immediately ripped off 10 lbs.  Apparently I get really mental during max cleans and I bailed a few times on what I thought might be my max for the day.  I didn't count the plates while this was going on, I couldn't waste the time or mental capacity, so I really didn't know how much I was lifting.  After a few bails, everyone in the gym was sending lots of encouragement my way and I told myself I could do it.  And then I did!  The jerk was a little bit of a struggle but I muscled it up there.  I tried to add another 5 lbs on the bar in the last 30 seconds, but I couldn't get through my mental crap.  When I added up the weight, I realized I lifted 125 lbs for a 5 lbs PR!  I'm still not really comfortable dropping into a full squat when I'm cleaning or jumping into a split when I jerk, both of which would put me lower when I catch the bar, so I wouldn't have to lift it as high allowing me to lift more weight.  So I think I still have a lot of room to grow on my maxes.  Also my back didn't hurt at all during the workout :)

This weekend has been whirlwind of fun events including an epic fajita feast with some of my coworkers and a fun day in the city that involved helping our friend propose to her girlfriend!  It was awesome but I'm glad our Sunday will be filled with church, family, and rest.

What was the highlight of your week?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Guest Post: Stephanie's Whole30 Results

I am so happy to share another Whole30 success story with you guys!  And I'm hoping there will be even more in the near future. Stephanie did her first round with me back in July and I was so happy when she decided to join me again in January.  She really embraces the program for everything that it is. Great job Steph, you rock!!!!

I got one less pound without ya!
My second (more successful) #Whole30 journey

After Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and a wedding weekend/mini road trip with my boyfriend’s family, it was time to re-evaluate my lifestyle. I ate (and drank) without a lot of regard to what I was putting in my body and rarely exercising. I’d justify my actions thinking “I don’t eat this too often so it’s ok” or “it’s only once a year” or “I’m in a rush and need to eat now or I won’t eat for hours.” I was going to Dunkin Donuts regularly, and not just for coffee- hurting not only my body but my wallet. In a pinch I’d grab a McWrap and I didn’t think twice about frozen pizza out of it’s sheer convenience. And worst of all I drank too much.

In December I purchased a new gym membership with the hopes I would lose some weight before the January 3rd wedding. I went a few times and it felt good, but not enough to make the impact I wanted and I was just uncomfortable enough in my dress to trigger my motivation to make a change. To make matters worse, nearly every member of my bf’s family is a (marathon) runner and in amazing shape.

Enter the Whole30.

In the back of my mind I thought about doing this again in January or at least make an effort to practice a more paleo lifestyle. Amber (thankfully) read my mind and gave me that last push I needed to get back on track, and as a result I am down 5 lbs., lost an inch in my chest, and about a quarter inch everywhere else. Best of all- I feel great! My clothes fit better, I have more energy, and my cravings for junk food, alcohol, sugar, and grains are practically gone.

Things that contributed to my success
  • Time: My job has a condition where I am required to go on unpaid leave for one month every year. It just so happened that I took January as my furlough month. This was a blessing in disguise because it allowed me the time to plan meals, shop, cook, and take advantage of my gym membership. I rediscovered my love for cooking and retaught myself how to shop. Before the Whole30, I grocery shopped maybe once every other week. Shopping was neither habitual nor pleasing.
  • Tools: I LOVE kitchen gadgets- always have, and I can thank my dad for that because he was always in the kitchen cooking up something delicious. There are certain tools though that make paleo cooking that much easier and I never ever want to live without them:
    • Citrus juicer: I go through lemons and limes more than I ever have in my entire life when I eat paleo. Hand squeezing the juice out only goes so far and when I’m spending more money at the grocery store, I want to make sure it goes as far as it can.
    • Garlic press: There’s nothing like fresh garlic! I keep a jar of minced garlic in the fridge but if I’m spending this much time in the kitchen already I’m going to go with the fresh stuff and this is my favorite way to prepare garlic.
    • Mini-chop and food processor: I’ve happily used my mini-chop for a few years now, but now that I’m cooking with fresh produce on a daily basis the time-saving benefits are really coming to light. And then I discovered that a mini-chop is NOT the same as a food processor, an amazing gadget that luckily for me, my roommate owns.
    • Immersion blender: Purchased during my last Whole 30 to make smoothies, it still makes awesome drinks when I’m just not in the mood to cook. As a treat I learned to use half coconut milk and half coconut yogurt with frozen fruit to make a thick and tasty sorbet-like dessert-yum!
    • Hand-held mandolin slicer: If you don’t have one- buy one. $14.99 at Wegman’s but I’m sure you can get it anywhere. It paid for itself in the first use making plantain chips. I’m a sucker for salty crunchy snacks, and this gadget is necessary to get those consistently thin slices of your favorite fruit or veggie to make chips or slightly thicker slices for roasting.
  • Support: This was my leading cause for success in this program. Between the Facebook group, my family, and my friends I had nearly 360° support. I originally discussed my plans to do the Whole30 with my boyfriend while we were away at his cousin’s wedding. He wasn’t terribly interested in doing the program but out of support he agreed that while we were together he’d eat and drink compliantly, which was a good enough deal for me. About mid-way though the program he started getting the hang of it and admitted to feeling better when he shared meals with me. My mother was also a great help. She went grocery shopping with me 3 out of the 4 weeks of the program and helped me price shop and buy some bulk items with her Costco membership. Her and my step-father welcomed my cooking and snack making both at my house and at theirs. Together we tried hidden liver meatballs, paleo bread, and a full spread of (90% complaint) Super Bowl snacks. Over the course of the program I continued to share recipes, struggles, tips, and issues with an amazing group of paleo practicers. It was fun to try new recipes and make compliant substitutes for not so healthy or whole foods.

Additional results and takeaways
  • It’s all about balance. One of the main principles of the Whole30 is to focus on the quality of foods you put into your body and not to count calories. However, it’s still important to monitor proportions. I believe this is where I need to continue to work. I never felt hungry during my program but I also didn’t focus too much on the balance of vegetables, proteins, fats, and fruits. I plan to use My Fitness Pal as a sort of check and balances. I think the simple act of recording my food intake will make me more conscious of my choices (how much protein, how much calcium, how much sugar I’m putting into my body).
  • Keep exercising! I’m usually either good at focusing on working out OR eating right and have yet to find the ability to focus my attention on both simultaneously. What can I say, I’m a work in progress!
  • Not everyone is going to want to try paleo. My roommate, who has been trying to eat better, prefers to count calories and purchase 100-calorie snack packs rather than chopping veggies. It’s her choice. All I can do is provide information to her about the benefits of paleo, if she wants it, and support her in her endeavors.
  • Similarly, I’ve learned how increasingly different I have become than my family with regard to health and eating. I come from a family of frozen, boxed, and canned meal makers. Premade marinades? Check. Powdered mashed potatoes? Check. Splenda packets, boxed muffins, bread and butter with every meal? Check, check, and check. And while it was nice to grocery shop with my mom, I was constantly biting my tongue- preventing myself from constantly asking her “Why do you buy this crap?” On the other hand, I was becoming irritated every week when my grocery bill was nearly three times larger than hers.
  • Paleo mayo is just not worth it. Like many paleo replacements like mayo, ketchup, bread, etc they just don’t live up to the real thing. But the fact of the matter is- that’s ok. Why? I didn’t really eat those products to begin with! If I make tuna or egg salad I’m going to use an avocado instead of mayo. Instead of ketchup on my eggs I use hot sauce or balsamic vinegar. And honestly, I don’t miss bread so I couldn’t care less to not have it around. Cheese on the other hand...there’s no substitute and I thank my lucky stars that it doesn’t have a horrible effect on me!

I’m going to strive to continue to live a more paleo lifestyle. I believe in the 80/20 principle because no one is perfect, and at 80% paleo all the time I think I deserve the 20% relief (pending good gym habits continue).

I plan to continue to...
  • Be grain free, with the exception of popcorn, but I’ll scale back and move away from the pre-packaged kind.
  • Drink only on the weekends. While not only economical, it’s way better for my health and I notice less puffiness under my eyes.
  • Limit my dairy consumption. I’ll reserve cheese and ice cream as special treats and seek calcium in other areas (green leafy vegetables and maybe even sardines).
  • Limit caffeine consumption.
  • Stay away from legumes. I think it’s obvious why.
  • Limit sweets and seek dark chocolate as an alternative for when I get a sweet craving.
  • Buy fresh and local produce. Converting to all organic is just not in the budget, but when I can I’d prefer to support locally grown products. I’d also like to go to more farmers markets in the spring.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the January Whole30 and best of luck in your future fooding!


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