TGIF, Holiday Gift Guides, and Other Fun Things

Good morning, and happy Friday!

It’s a rainy morning outside, but I’m excited because it’s about to get chilly up in here. Yesterday it got up to a whopping 66 degrees — which, while enjoyable for a day or so, feels kind of strange for December. I did, however, take advantage of it as much as possible with a walk to Whole Foods and a 4 mile run around the National Mall. It’s always wonderful to get outside and get some fresh air!

Speaking of Whole Foods, I picked up this grocery bag there, and I’m convinced it’s the cutest grocery bag ever. We have a ridiculous surplus of reusable bags, but I couldn’t resist this little guy. I mean, it’s a baby stegosaurus om nom noming an apple! (The tag says he’s a generic monster, but I beg to differ. He’s clearly a stegosaurus.)

 

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Anyways, today I’m sheltering myself from the rain by working from home. I don’t often get to do this, but I was given a project that has some flexibility — so, for the first time in the five years since I moved back to DC, I’m chillin’ in my home office. I had one other day of working from home a few weeks ago, and OMG. It was sublime.

I expect today to be similarly fabulous: I’ve got a warm cup of tea, and I fully intend to spend the day looking like a total schlub in my yoga pants and sweatshirt. (Yoga pants > work pants. In fact, yoga pants > work pants by a power of 10,000. Also, can we talk about how work shoes/heels are actually instruments of torture? Every single pair is giving me horrible blisters now. Even my old faithfuls have started tearing up my skin when I wear them for more than 10 minutes. And, because I have super narrow feet and struggle to find shoes that fit, I reeeaaaaalllly don’t want to have to go shoe shopping. Blergh.)

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And, on a wholly separate topic (or, as the Monty Python boys say, “An now for something completely different!), when I had some downtime the other day I started scouring various holiday gift guides for some shopping inspiration.

I don’t know about you guys, but holiday shopping makes me want to crawl into a hole and hide. I haaaaate large crowds, and I especially hate large crowds filled with frantic holiday shoppers. This is made even worse by the fact that I often don’t know what to buy for people (why is everyone I love so hard to shop for?!), which means I’m forced to browse among the aforementioned awful crowds of frantic holiday shoppers.

 

 

Like I said, it makes me want to crawl into a hole and hide. Happily, though, I’ve been doing most of my holiday shopping online for the last few years (Amazon: you complete me), so that’s made things better.

However, coming up with gift ideas is still a challenge. Because I can’t deal with that whole hot mess of guesswork anymore, this year I sent my parents and brother an email saying that they were forbidden – absolutely, totally, unequivocally banned – from saying things like “Oh, I don’t know what I want” or “Oh, just get me something you think I’d like.” I told them that I need definitive ideas, or at least a list of places they’d like gift cards to, because I’m not taking shots in the dark on this anymore.

If that’s not the embodiment of holiday cheer, I don’t know what is.

Anyways, for those of us who aren’t heartless enough to give their nearest and dearest holiday ultimatums, a lot of awesome healthy living websites have been compiling some great holiday gift guides. If there’s a foodie, athlete, or health junkie in your life (or, possibly, someone in need of healing), these lists could help with gift-giving inspiration.

For foodies: Greatist has an awesome list of kitchen gadgets, edible goodies, and books that will light up the eyes of any foodie or kitchenista (yeah… I totally just made that word up) in your life.

For athletes: Girls Gone Sporty, one of my favorite online health and fitness resources, has a fantastic gift-finder. You can search gifts for men, women, and teens – and you can sort the options by price, gift type (relaxation, athletic tools, etc.), so it’s super user-friendly. FitSugar also has a list of Practical Stocking Stuffers for Fitness Fans, and it’s chock-full of great ideas.

For eco-mavens: Well + Good features a lovely list of five gifts for a healthy, stylish home.

For those who love healthy living or are looking to get healthier: Meghan Telpner, author of UnDiet and nutritionista extraordinaire, compiled a fantabulous gift list for just about anyone who’s interested in health and wellness. Truth be told, I’d gladly accept every single thing on her list. Especially the meal delivery. Sweet fancy Moses, the meal delivery. If I had a week off from cooking dinner, I’d be so excited I’d probably faint.

 

Anyways, with allllll that being said, happy Friday! And now, I want to hear from you…

Do you ever get to work from home?

Do you like cold weather around the holidays?

Do you love or loathe holiday shopping?

What’s the best gift you ever bought/made for someone?

What’s the best gift you ever received?

 

Friday Recap: The Great Crock Pot Experiment and a Protein Bar Review

HAPPY FRIDAY! The weekend is once again almost upon us, and I’m pretty effing excited.

I’ve got big (well, insofar as my grandma-status goes) plans for this evening: I’ve got a phone gabbing session scheduled with a family friend in Colorado as soon as I leave work, and then I’m gettin’ my hair did this evening. I’m going to a place near our new apartment, and it got great reviews on Yelp…so here’s hoping they handle my tresses well!

As for the Great Crock Pot Experiment and Operation: Time Management, overall I feel like this week was a win.

On the time management front, I felt much more on top of my schedule — and even though I often needed to push my morning workouts into the evening, it wasn’t hard to do. Dinner was ready as soon as I got home, which meant that working out didn’t feel all that daunting (there’s something about working out after chopping veggies and cooking that feels waaaaaay more onerous than just working out and then eating dinner).

I also really appreciated being able to rely on frozen/pre-chopped veggies, which made my life a lot easier. I saved a ton of time and effort by just opening up a bag of veggies (as opposed to rinsing, peeling, chopping veggies, and then washing knives and cutting boards), and I seriously enjoyed that.

 

As for the Great Crock Pot Experiment, the results were a mixed bag. Our verdicts on the recipes were thus:

Enchiliada Casserole: Meh. Kind of dry yet mushy, and pretty seriously lacking in flavor. I might try this one again with significant modifications, but I’m not sure.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic: We weren’t a fan. Brandon wound up ordering pizza instead.

Beef Carnitas: A good one! We approve!

Mediterranean Chicken: This was a monstrosity. It was straight-up deplorable, y’all — which, considering that I make this on the stove all the effing time, is a fairly spectacular fall from grace for this dish. I choked down my serving because I felt bad wasting so much food, but Brandon couldn’t get past the second bite.

The fact that the Crock Pot recipes were 1 out of 4 is, um, really demoralizing!

It looks like I have a steep learning curve to climb before I really get the hang of cooking things other than hearty winter soups and stews. (I bust out the Crock Pot all the time in the winter, and I have no problems with chili/tortilla soup/insert fall or winter food here — but apparently other entrees are a different matter.)

But learn I shall! In the words of the crazy restaurant owners whose Facebook meltdown went viral, I WILL PREVAIL! I WILL TRIUMPH!

In the interest of continuing to find ways to cut back on cooking time, I checked out some cookbooks from the library for a bit of culinary inspiration. I won’t be able to go Crock Pot-crazy every week, but if we can find good recipes that I can prep on the weekend, then that’ll definitely help. In the library mix:

 

Light and easy dinners

 

I looooove Ina Garten, and I’ve heard good things about Ellie Krieger — so, I’m excited to try these out!

I have to admit that I especially love all things Barefoot Contessa. She seems so down-to-earth, kind, and creative, so she seems like the sort of relatable woman I’d want to be friends with. Did you know that she used to be a budget analyst at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before embarking on a massive career change? How cool is that?!

On a separate note, I’ve been trying to increase my protein intake as part of TNROLFW. To that end, I decided to try out three different kinds of protein bars this week, just to experiment and broaden my protein-y horizons.

I scoured the offerings at Whole Foods, and I eventually decided on these three: Luna Protein in Mint Chocolate Chip flavor, a Perfect Fit Protein Cookie, and the Quest Bars I keep hearing about.

 

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The reviews?

The Luna Protein Bar was uh-maaaaay-zing. I’ve desperately missed Luna bars in the 5 years that I’ve been gluten-free, and I was beyond excited when I saw that they had a GF line of products. I haven’t tried the other flavors, but the Mint Chocolate Chip was delicious! It tasted just how I remember Thin Mints tasting, and I wolfed it down.

Verdict:

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The Perfect Fit Protein Cookie was ok. I think I was expecting a legit cookie, which probably raised my hopes and set the bar a bit too high. I suspect that if it was just a straight-forward protein bar, my expectations would’ve been lower and I would’ve been pleasantly surprised by how cookie-like it was — but since it’s marketed as a cookie, my brain had a hard time reconciling this information with my taste buds. I kept thinking “Aw man, this cookie tastes like a protein bar! Oh, wait…”

Verdict:

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The Quest Bar was surprisingly delicious! I tried the Coconut Cashew flavor, and I was really impressed. When I opened it up and saw that it looks alarmingly blob-like, my first thought was “Really? This is what everybody raves about? This looks heinous!”  I then veeeeeeery skeptically tried a teeny bite…only to be wowed by the sweet and salty taste. It’s effin’ good, y’all! I also wolfed this one down, which is really saying something.

Verdict:

 

Anyways, I’m off to do this morning’s workout (kickboxing + more lifting) — but I hope everyone has an awesome morning! TGIF, people. 🙂

Have you ever tried Luna Protein or Quest Bars? 

 If so, what flavors do you like?

 What are your favorite cookbooks?

Do you have big weekend plans? (I’m dyyyyyyyying to see the new Star Trek movie – SO EXCITED!)

TGIF: My Week In GIFs

Good morning, and TGIF! I’m sleepy as all get-out and struggling to string together a decent sentence, so I figured I’d illustrate my sentiments about this week in a series of GIFs.

It’s been a hectic week, and I spent an appalling amount of time like this:

cute babies dancing

I spent all week feeling like there simply weren’t enough hours in the day, which is frustrating enough on its own. But then add to the fact that [my apologies to any dudes who might read this blog — I’m going to go there] my PMS feels like it’s waging a war against the entirety of my being, and you have a Lillian whose only discernible thought is this:

Between the lack of time and the PMS, I feel like I’ve been running around like a headless chicken. This can only mean one thing: I’m tired as all-get out and feel compelled to do this:

But! Despite the PMS, fatigue, and profound lack of time, I got everything done that I needed to do, so I do feel rather accomplished. Now if I can just get my act together for real, I’ll be all:

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For now, though, it’s Friday! Huzzah! Frankly, I could really use a happy hour — but, failing that, as of 5 p.m. this evening, I’ll be all:

 Animated Gif on Giphy

Per my usual Friday night routine, it’ll be a wild party…by which I mean watching TV, getting Thai food, and, because I’m incapable of staying up late, doing this around 9:30:

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I’ll be back tomorrow with the weekly article round-up (I’ve been compiling them all week, and let me tell you, there are some good ones!) — but until then, my friends…

A Picture (or GIF) Is Worth A Thousand Words: Friday!

As always, I’m insanely glad that it’s Friday. When I woke up this morning, I thought it was Wednesday (that day off in the middle of the week has me all discombobulated) and totally felt like this:

So you're having a bad day.
Image source: thesimpsonwayoflife.com, via Buzzfeed

But then I remembered that, no! It’s Friday! And I felt like this:

Scrubs Turk and JD dance

And not only is it Friday, but it’s supposed to be absolutely gorgeous outside this weekend: sunny, mild, and generally perfect. I can’t wait to spend some time outdoors — I plan to go for a long run on Sunday — and get some vitamin D. I work in a windowless office, so the prospect of spending time in the fresh air and sunshine has me feeling like this:

The 13 Most Annoying Questions People Ask Dogs

I have to admit, though, that I’m seeeeeriously sleepy this morning — I stayed up past my bedtime watching GirlRising, which was amazing — and in desperate need of more caffeine. I try to limit my Starbucks trips to one time a month (either as a treat or when I’m in dire need of some liquid inspiration), but I suspect today will be the day I go for my monthly Starbucks run. After some espresso, I suspect I’ll feel like this:

Source: tumblr.com

I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap of this week’s workouts, but until then, happy Friday!

Source: tumblr.com