Color your Easter Eggs with NO Artificial Dyes and Chemicals!

Color your Easter Eggs with NO Artificial Dyes and Chemicals!

Every year, my sister and I color Easter eggs together the night before the holiday.  It’s a fun little tradition that we started when we were younger and it just stuck even though we don’t live together anymore.  I never really gave too much thought to the artificial dyes and ingredients that are inherent in this tradition, but this year I decided to take a more natural approach.  I used matcha to make green eggs, and turmeric to make yellow ones.

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The Steps

First, you have to hard boil your eggs.  I’m notoriously bad at this, so you should probably just google this step instead of heeding my advice.

Next, you will need a jar large enough for 2-3 eggs.  Fill it about halfway with water (you can always fill it more later) and add about 1 tbsp of matcha or turmeric to the water and shake it well.  Add 1-2 tbsp white vinegar, and shake again.

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(Peep my repurposed salsa jar #mild ^)

Add the eggs to the jars (I put 2 in each jar) and carefully spin the jars around to mix it up without cracking the eggs.  Add more water if necessary until the eggs are completely submerged.  Place the jars in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to let the natural color of the matcha and turmeric seep into the egg shells.

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When you are ready to take the eggs out of the water,  all you have to do is dry them off well and set them up in a super pretty centerpiece for your Easter table!  It works best if you carefully rinse them, pat dry, and then allow to air dry for 5-10 minutes before handling too much.  If you rub them while they are fresh out of the jars, you can rub the color off.

You could probably try using beetroot powder to get a pretty pink color, or blue spirulina for that beautiful turquoise.  The turmeric worked really nicely, but the matcha didn’t achieve that rich green color I was hoping for – I might not have used enough, since I had used the bigger jar for these.

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In conclusion…

Was this more complicated than opening up a box of Paas like a normal kid and coloring Easter eggs the traditional way?  Absolutely.  It’s messier, takes longer, and you don’t have as much creative flexibility because the eggs have to be just one solid color.  You could probably crack the shell before dropping it into the dyed water to get a crackle effect (without having to worry about the die getting onto the egg whites because it’s totally edible!)  But asides from that, there isn’t much you can do the vary the design.  That said, I think there’s something to be said about simplicity, and I think it’s also important to be mindful of the dyes and chemicals that we handle on a regular basis and put into our bodies.  This is a fun way to take a popular craft and healthify it with natural ingredients.  I would recommend this method of dying Easter eggs!

Will you try it?  Tag me in your Easter photos with your naturally dyed Easter eggs!  @LiftinLuxe #LiftinLuxe

Stay fit and free from chemicals and dyes, all!  Have a wonderful Easter (or Passover, if that’s more your thing)!  🙂

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What I ate in Miami

What I ate in Miami

A couple of weekends ago I visited the amazing city of Miami for the first time.  I have a friend from college who lives down there, and a couple of friends from home who visit every year, and this year I finally was able to make the trip!  I knew it would be a weekend heavier in drinking and lighter on sleep than I am used to, and it would also be a weekend off from the gym.  I decided to NOT panic at the thought of such a dramatic lifestyle change for an entire weekend, but to embrace it and enjoy myself.  As a compromise with myself, I committed to remaining keto while on my trip, which meant:

  1. Dining out required a few modification requests, and no desserts (luckily the friends I was with aren’t big foodies, so this wasn’t difficult to achieve at all).
  2. Drinking was limited to liquor, moderate wine, no beer, and no sugary chasers/mixers

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As the other half of my compromise with myself, I committed to going with the flow, not worrying about what time I was going to sleep, not tracking my macros in my app, and generally trying to have the most fun!  I have to say, this little internal compromise was the absolute perfect balance, and really made my weekend in Miami very enjoyable.  I’m not a big drinker in general, so whatever drinking I wound up doing on my trip wasn’t enough to really throw me off track.  Not tracking my macros for the weekend was refreshing, my phone didn’t die nearly as fast as it usually does, and I just made sure to stay aware of the protein/carb/fat ratios in the things I was eating in order to stay in line with keto (and the fact that I’m a seasoned macro counter really helped with this, so don’t get too frustrated if you can’t eyeball things if you’re new to the world of macros.  It comes with time and practice!)  Lastly, one thing that we completely avoided, which also helped a lot, was getting food after our nights out.  I find that it’s the late night munchies that really throw me off the next day after being out.

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Talk about squad goals 😉

All of that said, let’s get into where I went and what I ate during my weekend in Miami!

Friday

My flight landed around dinnertime, so I only had one meal in Miami this day.  We went to The Spillover in Coconut Grove, which is a yummy restaurant that specializes in ciders and meads.  As much as I wanted to try one of their unique meads and ciders, I settled on a glass of white wine, but stuck to something dry because there are much fewer carbs in a dry wine than a sweet dessert wine.  My friends and I shared as an appetizer the Alligator Ribs special, which came with fries and coleslaw.  I skipped the fries, had a few tastes of the alligator (which was awesome, as a side note), and had some of the slaw.  It was perfectly satisfying as an appetizer, as long as you can ignore the tempting smell of the fries o_O

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As my main, I ordered the Yeyo Salad, which had the following menu description: Chopped romaine lettuce tossed with free-range grilled chicken, croutons, chopped bacon, shredded jack cheese, cracked black pepper and creamy garlic dressing.  I swapped the garlic dressing for Caesar dressing (on the side) after asking the waitress what the ingredients of the dressings were.  I also forgot to ask for no croutons so I had to pick them out when the salad came.  Asides from that, the salad was very keto friendly right off the menu, and was filling and delicious.

Saturday

Friday was a late night, and Saturday was a late morning, so for our first meal of the day we wound up getting brunch at 1 PM at Eating House in Coral Gables.  It wasn’t a boozy brunch for me at all, but I did have some coffee with cream.  The table ordered tater tots, maple candied bacon, and cap’n crunch pancakes to share, and I sadly couldn’t participate.  I did have a piece of the bacon, and am honestly not sure how much sugar was actually on it, but it was delicious.  As my main, I got the Carbonara Eggs Benedict, and the menu description was: soft eggs, bacon, black truffle, grana padano, toast.  Before going to the restaurant, I looked up the yelp page to see what I was working with (something I always do prior to visiting a restaurant) and I noticed that there was something that looked like breadcrumbs in the photos of this Benedict dish.  When I ordered, I asked the waitress about what they sprinkle on top and she confirmed that they do add breadcrumbs, so I ordered the dish sans-breadcrumbs, and sans-toast.  The waitress was unsure of my decision, but I went through with it anyway, curious to see what low carb eggs benedict would be like.  It was covered generously in a creamy grana padano sauce, so it was definitely filling enough without the toast, and it was served in a deep dish so it was easy to eat without the toast as well.  Overall, it was a great decision to have something savory for brunch (as opposed to the pancakes or waffles I probably would have ordered instead), because the healthy fats and minimal sugar kept my head clear, and didn’t make me sleepy all afternoon.  Also, not having the toast was a great decision because I didn’t feel overly full and bloated afterwards.

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We took a ride into Wynwood later in the afternoon, walked around town, and saw the Wynwood Walls.  For a late dinner, we went to the Wynwood Diner.  I ordered a Diet Coke with my meal because I wanted something a little sweet and bubbly, and as my main I got the Cobb Salad: iceberg, avocado, tomato, egg, grilled chicken, bacon, gorgonzola, served with a red wine vinaigrette.  I opted for regular vinegar instead of the vinaigrette, but asides from that I didn’t modify this dish.  Unfortunately the restaurant was very dimly lit so I didn’t photograph this one, but the portion was massive and all of the ingredients were fresh and delicious, so I enjoyed this meal a lot!

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Sunday

We didn’t have much time to do anything except for breakfast on Sunday before our flight, but we still had an amazing breakfast at Havana Harry’s in Coral Gables.  The portions at this Cuban restaurant are immense and the food was really good.  I got the spinach and goat cheese omelet with a side of tomatoes instead of potatoes.  They were generous with the goat cheese to say the least, and this was the perfect meal to end the weekend.

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Concluding Thoughts….

Eating keto while away was all around the best decision.  It made me eat less overall (i.e. no toast at brunch, and not participating when everyone is sharing something like fries and pancakes), which obviously led to less calorie consumption but also made me feel better in general.  It also caused me to choose more healthy meal options, because there are only so many options to choose from that can be modified into a no carb meal.  When it comes down to it, some dishes just won’t work, no matter how much you try to modify!  For example, you can’t modify a waffle or dish of pancakes to be keto friendly, but you can modify an egg dish to suit your needs.  In choosing the eggs, you might be eating the same number of calories, but you’re eliminating the sugar and adding healthy fats.  I find that the menu options that can be modified into keto friendly meals are generally the more healthy options to begin with.  And, when all else fails, SALAD!  You can literally build any salad you want at virtually any restaurant, and this will always be a savior for anyone counting their macros.

What are your go-to meals when eating out at restaurants, and what are some of your vacation hacks for staying on track? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Stay fit and fresh, all!

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Days 4-7 on Keto

Days 4-7 on Keto

If you follow me on Instagram or read my latest post, you’re definitely very well aware that I am a couple of weeks into the ketogenic diet, and am totally loving every avocado filled minute of it!  In that first post, I explained a bit about what the ketogenic diet is, and some of the benefits of following it.  I also told you not to pass judgment on the diet just from hearing about my first three days experience, and to stay tuned to hear about the rest of my first week.  (PSA, apologizing in advance for the not cute photos in this post.  It’s pretty difficult to glam up my tupperware lunches that I bring to work, especially when they have mushy avocado all throughout.)  As a quick recap of my last post, by the end of day 3 my ketone levels were “trace,” which was a step above average levels.  I was tired, I had body aches, and come-and-go headaches.  Sounds like fun, right?  It was a no-brainer that I had to keep going, so let’s see how I fared for the rest of the week!

Day 4

When I woke up this morning, my ketone levels according to the ketone strips I bought was between small and moderate.  My body felt completely normal again,  so my headaches and body aches went away.  It was my day off from the gym, so I got to sleep in before going to work, and I wasn’t tired at all when I woke up (which was somewhat surprising, because it was my first day back after a five-day July 4th holiday).  My head felt very clear all day.  I intermittent fasted, so my first meal was at 1PM.  I made myself a cold avocado, tomato, and mozzarella salad that I brought to work, dressed in olive oil.  I also had a snack of pecans on the side of my lunch.  This kept me full all the way until dinner at 6:30 PM.  For dinner I made myself zoodles with homemade pesto (basil, olive oil, and parmesan cheese), and some dark meat chicken.  As a bedtime snack at 9 PM I had some brie cheese.  Overall, this was a very good day.  My energy and focus at work were above average, and I didn’t get my normal afternoon munchies.

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Day 5

This morning I tried a fasted workout, which was a huge fail.  I usually do a fasted workout in the morning before work, but I also usually have BCAAs along with it which helps with hunger and energy.  About three quarters of the way through this workout I just about KO’d.  I’m not exactly sure what made this workout so difficult, but I’m sure it was a combination of it being my first ever truly fasted workout attempt, and also the first morning workout attempt since coming back from the July 4th holiday.  Either way, I called it a loss and left the gym early.  When I got home around 7:50 AM I had a snack of cottage cheese (so I did not intermittent fast today) and almost immediately felt so much better and full of energy.  This morning at 10:30 AM I also had a matcha latte made with almond milk and a splash of heavy cream.  For lunch at 2 PM, I had a cold salad of zucchini, mozzarella cheese, and avocado dressed in olive oil and liquid aminos.  For dinner, I had scrambled eggs cooked in butter with mozzarella cheese and some more brie.  I noticed as I was leaving work today that I was getting some cramps in my leg muscles.  After asking a friend, who is a seasoned keto survivor, and doing some more independent research, it turns out this diet results in the body retaining less water, which means we can become depleted in electrolytes.  On my way home from work I stopped into my local health store and bought potassium and magnesium supplements.

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Day 6

I woke up this morning not hungry at all, and I attempted another fasted workout (but this time brought some pecans to the gym with me in case of an emergency.  I wound up not needing them, though, as my body handled my fasted workout much better this morning than the previous morning.  My muscle cramps went away, and I was left with some residual soreness, but nothing at all major or similar to the cramps I was experiencing the day before.  I intermittent fasted today and had my first meal at 1:30 PM of scrambled eggs with mozzarella cheese, some breakfast sausage, some avocado, and (decaf) coffee with a splash of heavy cream.  For dinner at 8 PM I made myself some zucchini “nachos” which were basically thinly sliced zucchini baked in the oven and topped with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, avocado, olive oil, and a bunch of delicious seasonings.  As a bedtime snack at 9:30 PM I had some pecans and cottage cheese.  My energy and focus today were absolutely amazing, and my hunger levels were pretty low.  Also, right before going to bed my ketones were at a moderate level, which was the most they have been all week!

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Day 7

This morning was the first morning waking up feeling totally normal.   All of the residual side effects of my glucose detox have gone away, and tracking my macros and preparing my meals feels like second nature.  I am definitely proud of myself for not only sticking to such a restrictive diet for a full week, but also detoxing my body of sugar in the process.  I realized that this week I hadn’t even eaten any packaged goods or supplements like BCAAs and protein powders, since I didn’t really feel a need for them.

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I would definitely recommend checking out my previous post for a ton of things I learned during my first three days on keto, since I learned the most during those first experimental days.  Towards the middle of the first week there was definitely a light at the end of the tunnel of side effects that started during the first few days.

The second week, which I am just finishing up as I write this post, was significantly easier than the first, and I was consistently amazed at how well this diet keeps me full and energized for hours on hours.  I intend on keeping up with the diet for as long as I can, and hopefully see if I can incorporate some sort of occasional cheating with carbs, in an effort to make it more sustainable in the long run.  If anyone has any experience on keto and incorporating cheat days, please comment or message me!  Until then, stay tuned because I already have a TON of keto friendly recipes to write up 🙂

Stay fit and fresh, all!

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My First 3 Days on Keto

If you’re following me on Instagram, you might know that I recently started the ketogenic (keto) diet.  I had been thinking of trying this diet for a while now, but was never able to jump on board with its restrictive nature.  I am all about balance, especially finding the balance in a nutrition plan to incorporate all foods that you want to eat.  However, after doing some more research about the keto diet and reading a few articles that particularly caught my interest, I decided to take the plunge and give it a try.

What is the ketogenic diet?

Boiled down to the very basic of basics, the ketogenic diet is one in which you eat very few carbs (ideally 20g net per day, or 50g total), moderate protein, and high fat (>70% total daily calories).  Normally, the body uses the glucose it produces from carbs as a source of energy, because it is a quick and easily created source of sugar.  The body can alternatively use ketones for energy when glucose is in short supply, and these are produced from the breakdown of fats by the liver.  The goal of the ketogenic diet is to put your body into a state of ketosis, in which it is consistently producing ketones, and actually prefers to use ketones for energy instead of glucose.  Since ketones are produced by breaking down fat, your body looks towards your diet for fats it can use to produce ketones, but also to the fat you already have stored on your body.  This is why fat loss is a typical benefit of the ketogenic diet.  Other rumored benefits include stabilization of blood sugar, a decrease in sugar cravings, increased mental focus, and clearer skin.

My personal decision to try keto…

I think that one of the main reasons I recently have been seriously considering trying keto was that my regimen at the time (high protein, moderate carbs, low fat) was starting to feel very unsatisfying.  I tend towards low blood sugar, so I often feel insatiably hungry, but I was also starting to have unique cravings, mostly for fatty things.  And I wasn’t simply craving greasy foods, but I wanted nuts, avocados, and red meats – things I historically don’t enjoy indulging in.  I had to assume that my body needed something I wasn’t giving it enough of, namely healthy fats.  Also, the keto diet claims to stabilize blood sugar, so I thought maybe I could get those hunger pains under control once and for all!  Once I started doing more reading on the diet, I learned that it is known to increase energy/brain function throughout the day, and who doesn’t want to be more energized and productive?  Lastly, I have always been curious about how the keto diet would affect my body fat percentage and in general the way I look.

Once I had done the research that I considered to be sufficient, I started to get really excited about starting up.  I always enjoy a good challenge, and to say this would be a challenge is an understatement! The keto diet basically broke everything I understood to be true about nutrition, and it was almost the exact opposite of how I had been currently eating.  My entire grocery list would need to be revamped, and I’d have to figure out a whole new store of recipes.  Challenge accepted!

I decided to start on a Monday, and I had three days consecutively off from work (for the July 4th holiday), so I figured that would be enough time to get through the first few days of side effects while I was in the comfort of my own home.  And, I had a bacon egg and cheese bagel the day before (Sunday) so I felt as though this was the absolutely correct decision to make the Monday after.

Day 1 – Monday

I woke up this morning super excited, not only because I had the day off from work, but also because I had resolved to commit to a very involved and challenging nutrition regimen.  In addition to adopting the keto diet, I also decided that I wanted to try intermittent fasting as many days as possible.  For me, this meant choosing a roughly 8 hour window in which I would eat, and the other 16 hours I wouldn’t consume any calories to allow my body to process whatever I had previously put into it.

I wasn’t feeling too hungry, and hadn’t gone to the gym in the morning, so I wanted to try intermittent fasting on this first day.  My fridge was completely empty, so I went to the grocery store to stock both my fridge and pantry with keto friendly food and snacks.  Here’s what I bought:

  1. Eggs.  Lots of them.
  2. Avocados.  Lots of them.
  3. Chicken thighs
  4. Grass fed butter
  5. Brie cheese
  6. Mozzarella cheese
  7. Monterey jack cheese
  8. Cottage cheese
  9. Mini cucumbers
  10. Fresh baby spinach
  11. Lettuce
  12. Pecans
  13. Olive oil

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I had my first meal at 1:30 PM and it was: 2 eggs, 1 oz monterey jack cheese, 100g avocado, and 14g (1tbsp) butter.  I also added salt, because I read that this diet tends to dehydrate you, and you should add salt to your food for electrolytes.  You don’t need to tell me twice to eat salt, so I seasoned to my heart’s content.  This was my first time eating butter and cheese in my eggs in YEARS and omg was it delicious.  It was like flavor overload.  It did feel heavy, though, and I almost couldn’t finish it all (and if you know me, you know how uncharacteristic this is).  As soon as I was done eating I was very aware of how full I felt, and wondered if I’d be hungry again in an hour, like I typically would be after a meal.

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Well, I was full for HOURS.  I did some chores and went to the gym for an incredible lift.  I didn’t need to eat again (not even a snack) before the gym, and my next meal wasn’t until 6:30 PM.  I made myself a salad with 100g of spinach, 100g cucumber, 100g avocado, 1 oz monterey jack cheese, 1 oz pecans, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1 oz of brie on the side.  Added salt to this as well.  This was also as filling as it was tasty, and kept me full until my 9:30 PM bedtime snack of 1/2 cup of cottage cheese.

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Overall, this day wasn’t bad.  I wasn’t hungry at all between meals, food felt a bit heavy, and by the end of the day I was really tired.  I went to sleep pretty early in the hopes of sleeping off the grog.

Day 2 – Tuesday

Another day off from work, because it’s the Fourth of July!  And what better way to spend the holiday than planning out your meals for your new diet?  I intermittent fasted again today so I had my first meal (snack?) at 1 PM of 100g of a bratwurst.  Surprisingly, just that one sausage made me feel full and I didn’t have the urge to have another, or to keep snacking.  The brat held me until dinner, which was at 5 PM.  I put 100g BBQ’d skirt steak in a salad of 100g spinach, 100g cucumber, 100g avocado, 1 oz monterey jack cheese, with 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Meals today felt less heavy, but I wasn’t really feeling too great all day.  I had a headache and in the afternoon before dinner I was exhausted.  I actually reclined in my lawn chair and fell asleep for a bit outside.  I had a snack before bed at 9:30 PM of 100g avocado with a drizzle of 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 oz pecans, and 1 oz brie and was satisfied.  I spent some time logging my meals for the next day in my app, and then went to sleep pretty early.

day 2 bedtime snack

Day 3 – Wednesday

Last night’s time spent planning out my meals for the day went out the window when I woke up at 5:30 AM (on another day off from work, so I did NOT need to be up this early) and felt too awake and alert to fall back asleep.  I layed in bed trying to go back to sleep until around 7, but wound up getting out of bed because I was starving.  I ate breakfast at 7:30 AM, so I did not intermittent fast today, of 100g avocado, and 1 egg cooked in 14g (1 tbsp) of butter.  I’m still not sure why, but today I was consistently a little bit hungry all day.  I had a snack at 12:30 PM of 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and 1 oz pecans.  I had dinner at 5:30 PM of 100g leftover skirt steak and 50g leftover bratwurst in a salad of 100g spinach with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp parmesan cheese.  I had 100g avocado at 10:00 PM as a snack before bed.  Overall, this day was not extremely pleasant.  My mouth was dry, and I tracked my water all day to make sure I was getting enough (my goal was 1 gallon for the whole day).  I also had some muscle aches, which I read could be a symptom of dehydration and lack of electrolytes.  Today I also bought ketone strips to test the level of ketones in my body, and in the early afternoon my levels were “trace.”  By mid afternoon, I had drank most of my daily water goal, I was feeling less sleepy because of my snack, and the muscle aches had subsided a bit.  By the time I went to sleep my ketone levels were “small,” which is one step up on the scale from “trace.”  This was my first physical sign of progress (asides from my keto flu symptoms) so even though I wasn’t feeling so great, I was still pretty excited!

Before you decide that I’ve made an awful decision…

These three days sound terrible, right?  Headaches, muscle aches, fatigue… What was I thinking?  Well, before you let this write-up deter you from even considering this diet for yourself, rest easy knowing that it’s currently Saturday afternoon (day 6 of the diet), my keto flu symptoms have completely subsided, and I’m feeling great!  My next post will detail days 4-7 of my first week of keto, so stay tuned for that before drawing conclusions based on my experiences.

Lastly, here’s a few keto tips I’ve picked up on so far from my experience

  1. Do your research prior – I generally go overboard on research before I start something new.  That said, it’s definitely good to thoroughly understand a thing that you decide to participate in, especially if it involves health and nutrition.  There are things you’ll need to know and understand in order to make sure you’re doing the best thing for your body, since every single person is different.  Also, it’s good to understand the rules of the game, this way you’re not in the grocery store every minute googling ‘is [food item] keto friendly?’
  2. Know the symptoms and side effects – This goes hand in hand with doing your research, but it really helped that I got myself familiar with the side effects and symptoms of transitioning into this diet.  It made me way less nervous when the symptoms started to affect me, and it also kept me motivated because it meant I was on the right track (even though the symptoms were unpleasant)
  3. Get the test strips – It’s nice to see your progress in front of your eyes.  Again, do some research.  These test strips aren’t 100% accurate, and your results will vary depending on different factors (how much water you’ve drank, when you last worked out, what time of day it is, etc..)
  4. Log your meals and track your macros – With a diet like this, it’s incredibly important to know exactly what you’re putting into your body.  Your macro ratio has to be favorable for achieving ketosis, and in my opinion you need to count macros to achieve this.
  5. Log your entire day’s meals ahead of time – Especially in the very beginning.  Counting macros is a tedious process if you aren’t used to it, and it becomes even more tedious on this diet because you can’t easily borrow across the macro categories.  You need to hit your targets without going over your carbs, and it’s a game of Tetris to get you there.  It helps to log everything in advance, because if you don’t you’ll likely end up in a situation where it’s dinner time and you have 5g protein left, you’ve already gone over carbs, and you have 67g of fats left.  You could make yourself one lonely egg swimming in a pool of butter… or you could plan ahead and avoid this whole situation in the first place.
  6. Maintain flexibility – Don’t let the stigma on fat get into your head.  If you’re hungry, please eat.  Count your macros to make sure you’re at a comfortable number of calories.  But if you’re hungry and all that fits in your macros is half an avocado, then by all means eat it guiltlessly.
  7. Drink a TON of water – I can’t stress this enough.  A lot of the keto flu symptoms can be greatly reduced by just staying hydrated.
  8. Salt is your friend – I will be talking more about electrolytes in my next blog post (detailing the remaining days of the first week of keto) but it’s really important to make sure that, as you hydrate, you’re also replenishing your electrolytes.  Sodium is important, and it’s easy to get this by simply salting your meals.  I learned later that other electrolytes I was likely deficient in are potassium and magnesium, so I got supplements for those at my local health store.
  9. Do it on a weekend – Or whenever you have a couple of days off from work, if possible.  There are symptoms that you will deal with, and it’s a lot easier to deal with them if you are in the comfort of your own home.
  10. Stick to it – Achieving ketosis can be finicky, and the last thing you want is to do all of this and not actually achieve ketosis because of a small evening affair with some Oreos.

This has been a really long post, and there’s even more I could have said!  As always, DM, comment, or email me any questions you have! Stay tuned next week for a post detailing the second half of my first keto week!  (Also, while the rest of my family was sipping yummy summer cocktails, I made myself a refreshing keto friendly mocktail on the Fourth of July made with water, lemon juice, lime juice, and a splash of seltzer.  Yum, right?  It’s pictured below.)

Stay fit and fatty, all! 😉

fourth of july drink

This Girl’s Back!

This Girl’s Back!

It feels like forever has passed since my last post!  During this past year, my primary focus has been on my health, my career, and my personal self-development.  I’m so happy to announce that I’m back from my hiatus and am excited to share my fitness/foodie/NYC journey with you all again! But first, I’ll share some highlights and things that I learned during my time away.

First and foremost, I learned that I CAN.  So many times I’ve found myself doubting my abilities, or telling myself that I probably couldn’t do something.  Over the past year, I’ve made an effort to tell myself ‘yes’ more – Can I consistently wake up early to get a lift in before work? YES.  Can I meal prep every single week no matter what the circumstance? YES.  Can I take a trip across the country by myself with no one to meet up with on the other side? YES.  It led to me to try new things, take risks, and really step out of my comfort zone.  And you know what?  I haven’t failed.

Second, I learned about ‘work-lift’ balance.  My job is seasonal, so sometimes it’s a 6-8 hour day, and sometimes it’s 12-15.  When outside commitments can be both time-consuming and unpredictable, the gym is often one of the first things to drop off our radar because it can be viewed as ‘optional.’  I learned very soon, however, that the gym really isn’t optional for me, because it translates to health and happiness, and those things are certain necessities.  I developed the mindset that the gym is equally as important in my routine as taking a shower or brushing my teeth.  You don’t shower only when it fits your schedule – you make the time to shower because it’s not optional.  When you view fitness in the same way, you realize how reasonable it actually is to maintain consistency with your regimen despite other commitments.  You also learn to get a little bit more creative in order to achieve your goals.

Third, I learned a thing about being by myself.  This one goes hand in hand with the fact that I CAN.  I’m pretty extroverted, so I love to surround myself with people.  That said, I am also perfectly capable of venturing out enjoying certain experiences by myself.  The idea of being by myself for days at a time, though, was always an unsettling one.  This past summer, I spontaneously decided to take a solo trip to California.  I had never been to California before, had never traveled by myself before, and I didn’t know anyone out there.  I was nervous about it, but wound up having probably the most enriching two weeks experience of my life.  And, I can’t wait to take another solo trip this summer.  (Interested in a post about my trip and solo traveling? Leave me a comment!) 

There’s so much more I can say, but everything I learned and accomplished this past year will spill over into my posts to come.  Leave me a comment! I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Stay fit and fab, all!

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Lombard Street, San Francisco
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View From Coit Tower, San Francisco
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San Francisco, California
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Carmel, California
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Pacific Coast Highway

 

 

#teavanatime

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending a really great event put on by Teavana at their Broadway and 9th Street NYC location.  I have always loved drinking tea for both the taste and the experience, however I have been a more consistent coffee drinker over the years.  I have been looking to reduce my coffee drinking, though, not because coffee is inherently bad, but because having a cup of coffee for me is an excuse to also have a lot of milk and sugar.  Tea has always been such a great alternative because I am capable of enjoying it without the added milk and sugar.  That said, I have been actively looking for a tea brand or company where I could consistently get tea that I know I would love.  Teavana put on such a great event at such a perfect time for me, and I’m so excited to share it with all of you!

The event was an “Entertaining with Tea” session, featuring Teavana Teologist Naoko Tsunoda, and entertaining expert Chris Nease.  Naoko talked with us about five different tea blends, explaining the logic behind their flavors, how to perfectly brew them, and what foods to serve them with to best complement their rich flavors.  Delicious samples were provided, of course!  She also incorporated a bit of the history of tea into her segment, including the origins of the different teapots and why each teapot is ideal for different teas.  It was truly fascinating, and I had no idea there was so much that went into brewing a perfect cup of tea, including even the temperature of the water!  Chris’ segment centered around planning and executing the perfect tea party.  From table setting to food and dessert, and even tea related games to play, she did a great job sharing her creative ideas for planning a tea party that would go down in the books!

Check out both of their social media for tea-time tips and tricks!

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I was SO excited at the end of the event when we got a gift bag with the Teavana Perfectea Maker, as well as a sampling of tea and some other goodies.  I couldn’t wait to brew my own perfect cup of tea at home.  The Perfectea Maker was so easy to use, easy to clean, and made it simple to brew the perfect cup of tea in just a few steps.  I think the only tricky part is making the water the perfect temperature – 175 degrees Fahrenheit.  I have a cooking thermometer that I use to measure the water temperature, but Naoko also told us that water drops 5 degrees every time it is transferred to a new container (as long as the containers have similar sized mouths), so this is an alternative way to ensure that you are brewing your tea with water of the ideal temperature.  Some of the teas have dried fruit in the blend along with the tea leaves, so it is naturally sweet, fragrant, and yummy.  If you’re brewing tea for two (or more), consider the large option for the teapot.

While I was at the Teavana location, I couldn’t help but notice how friendly, helpful, and well-informed the staff was.  They are so obviously passionate about what they do, and were so knowledgeable about Teavana teas and their blends that they helped me pick out the perfect blend for me to take home. While I was browsing the store, I also saw a matcha set which came with matcha powder, an electric whisk, and a porcelain bowl to mix your matcha in.  The matcha sample during the event was so good that I couldn’t resist buying this set. I have not been disappointed.  My sister tipped me off to a great matcha latte idea, where you whisk the matcha powder into almond milk instead of water, and instead of sugar you can add some vanilla protein powder.  It makes a DELICIOUS vanilla matcha latte that, depending on how much almond milk and protein you add, can function as a great snack.

If you’re into tea, or you’re looking for a means by which to familiarize yourself with tea, Teavana is a great place to start!  Stay tuned on my Instagram for more tea-related updates… I placed an order with Teavana for all sorts of teas and they should be arriving any day!

Stay fit and full of flavor, all!

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Happy New Year!

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New  Year’s Day is a day for turning over new leaves, making resolutions, and beginning fresh.  New Year’s Eve, however, is a day/night to party!  It is a celebration where we can all take the time to look back on the past year and acknowledge the things that made us happy and sad, and move forward into the new year for better or for worse.

This year, me and my sister hosted a small party where we got creative with the food, the drink, and the decor.  My sister mixed a deliciously festive punch, I baked some glittery cookies, and we put together a DIY photobooth for some fun prop-filled pictures.

All photos in this post are courtesy of my sister (Minnie In Manhattan). Check out her blog for NYC Lifestyle posts, many of which feature dog-friendly ideas and options.

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The punch consisted of:

  • 2 parts POM pomegranate juice
  • 1 part Ciroc vodka
  • 1 part pear nectar
  • 1 part club soda

What we wound up doing, since this was a slightly experimental recipe, was making a small batch and tasting it before we made enough to fill our entire punch bowl.  We suggest that you do the same so that it is tailored to your specific taste preferences.  We also used Ciroc because it’s smooth and delicious, but you’re welcome to use any vodka you prefer.  Also, we garnished our glasses with glitter sugar on the rim, using honey (agave also works) to get the glitter sugar to stick.  The way this is done is to pour some honey/sugar into a bowl, and some glitter sugar into another bowl.  Before any punch is poured into the glasses, dip the rim into the honey/agave and then into the glitter sugar.  Don’t use too much honey/agave here or it will drip down the glass.  Also, any type of fine sprinkle with work, so get creative with it!  We then used some fresh cranberries on party picks from Party City as a decorative garnish.

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This was my second time making this particular sugar cookie recipe, and the more I make it, the more I fall in love with it.  You can find the recipe here. The great thing about this recipe, aside from the fact that it’s DELICIOUS, is that you don’t have to chill the dough before you can roll it out.  What I do do, however, and I highly advise you to do too when rolling out any sugar cookie dough, is to sprinkle flour generously and frequently throughout the whole process.  I sprinkle on the surface I’m putting the dough on, and then before I start rolling I press the dough down with my hands and do another sprinkling of flour on top of the dough (to prevent the rolling pin from sticking to it).  Then after the dough is rolled out, I sprinkle flour again on top of the dough to prevent the dough from sticking to the cookie cutter. I also flour the cookie sheet before I put the cutouts on there as well.  Have fun with this recipe, as its texture makes it very malleable, making it easier to get the perfect shape (with super crisp edges)!  I was able to hand cut the champagne flutes you see in the photos, as I had trouble finding cookie cutters in this shape.  The icing is hand made using confectioners sugar and milk/water.  You can also add food coloring for even more decorating options!

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Lastly, this DIY photobooth was such a fun and unique addition to our NYE party.  We bought some props like hats, noisemakers, and sparkly leis from Party City, as well as a white backdrop, a “2015” banner, and some party streamers.  We hung the banner and the backdrop on a bare wall, positioned the camera (self-timer capabilities are a necessity) on a shelf a few feet away, and we had a perfect party photobooth in a matter of minutes! Make sure you do some planning beforehand, as you’ll need a method of hanging the backdrop on the wall you select.

We had a great time this New Year’s Eve, and have high hopes for an amazing 2015!  Stay tuned within the next week or so for more helpful posts, including delicious and healthy recipes and some of my favorite workout regimens to kickstart some New Year’s resolutions!

Stay fit and festive, all!

Sweet Potato Muffins AND DIY Holiday Sunglass Warehouse Sunnies

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What says DIY Holiday Sunglass Decorating Party quite like healthy and delicious sweet potato muffins? Well, maybe just a few things…

This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending my very first DIY holiday sunglass decorating party, hosted by Pretty in Pistachio, with crafts supplied by Sunglass Warehouse.  My contribution to the event was a sugar-free and flour-free sweet potato muffin, inspired by this cookie recipe.  I’ll start off with the sunglass DIY, and I’ll finish off with the muffin recipe.

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Step 1: Plan and Materialize! Figure out the theme you want your glasses to be, and brainstorm with the materials you have to make it into a reality.  I chose a Christmas reindeer theme, and these are all of the materials I used for my design.

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Step 2: Execution.  This step is made WAY easier with a hot glue gun and plenty of glue.  I used a hot glue gun to get most of my materials onto the glasses.  I used two pipecleaners for each of the antlers, and they were a little bit tricky.  Take two pipecleaners and, keeping them together and even, fold them around the hinge of the glasses at the halfway mark of the pipecleaner.  Then, twist them like a twist tie very tightly for about a half inch.  Split the loose ends into two groups of two and then continue twisting.  I glued the antlers to the frame for additional security.  Get creative and make each point a different length!

For a little extra flair, I wrapped some gold and red sparkly ribbon around the temples of the glasses and glued it with hot glue.

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My reindeer nose was just a pipecleaner rolled up into a ball.  I also put some glue on the front of it and sprinkled it with red glitter.  Then I attached it with red wire to the bridge of the glasses, and tucked the wire behind the nose pads to keep the wire mostly out of sight.  Be sure to measure the wire while the glasses are on your face to be sure the red nose falls right at the tip of your nose.

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And voila! The perfect holiday reindeer glasses.  I can’t wait to be silly and wear these during the holiday season.  But wait – there’s one more step!

Step 3: Have fun! (Ok, that was cheesy.)  But seriously, this party took arts and crafts to a whole new level.  Get some friends and family together, eat and drink and have a blast with it. And don’t forget to bring your creativity!  Your glasses can be wearable, or you can decorate the lenses themselves and make ornaments or decorations out of them.

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Were you uninspired by my design? Check out Pretty in Pistachio‘s and Minnie in Manhattan‘s finished sunglass designs also!

Want to DIY for the holidays but don’t want to decorate sunglasses? Check out Sunglass Warehouse’s other DIY holiday ideas.

Now for the muffins…

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These were a delicious and guilt-free snack because they’re sweetened with honey, and the only oil in them is from almond butter.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup of almond butter
  • 1/2 cup of pureed sweet potato (Bake or microwave them to get them soft)
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup or honey (I used honey, and this is optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 chocolate bar chopped, or chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl. Make sure your sweet potato is pureed well before you add the other ingredients.  Instead of blending the potatoes, I mashed them up with a fork and this worked fine.  Also, buy a little bit more potato than you think you will need, because it is difficult to measure a half a cup of pureed sweet potato when you’re looking at a whole potato in the super market.  It will shrink, when you peel it you lose some mass, and once you bake/microwave them, there are bound to be some parts that you can’t use.

I used honey instead of syrup, but after tasting the muffins I learned that this addition should be totally optional.  They were very sweet.  Also, the addition of chocolate chips and the amount you add is totally optional and up to you.  Other delicious morsels that would taste good in these muffins are shredded coconut, raisins, almond slivers, walnuts, or cranberries.

The original recipe is a cookie recipe, and it called for a lot more additives (the things I just listed above), but I scaled these down.  My dough, therefore, was a little more loose than cookie dough should be.  So that’s why I made muffins instead.

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They came out DELICIOUS, needless to say, because sweet potatoes can do no wrong.  If you add nuts or protein powder to the recipe, these could be a great breakfast item or post-gym snack.

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More DIY coming soon!  Get excited for it. Instagram your favorite DIY activity or healthy recipe and hashtag it with #fitnessandflorals.  I’d love to try and feature a recipe of yours!

Stay fit and festive, all!

When Your Backyard Is A Resort, Every Day Is A Vaca

Mercedes Club

Mercedes Club

 After a long day at work, you slip out of your day’s ensemble into a more desirable one – a bikini.  You take the elevator to the pool and relax on a lounge chair while the last rays of golden light turn into a pink and purple sunset.  You allow the day’s problems to melt away until the sun is down, and the only way to remove the evening chill from your skin is to spend some time in the jacuzzi before retiring to bed.  And then you wake up from this blissful dream, right?

Not so! Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Mercedes House, one of New York City’s luxury Midtown rental apartments.  I was invited to the 2014 Pool Party hosted by the Mercedes House and Instrata, and was able to enjoy the luxurious amenities offered at the Mercedes Club, which is the apartment’s affiliated wellness center and health club.  The event was a lot of fun, and was catered by Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Yummy!

The Mercedes Club amenities include an outdoor pool and deck with lounge chairs; an indoor lap pool and jacuzzi; a spacious fitness center including a weight room, ample cardio machines, fitness classes, and personal training; and a lounge and living room area.

Mercedes Club

Mercedes Club

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Mercedes Club

Mercedes Club

Mercedes Club

Don’t want to move into the Mercedes House just yet?  The good news is that the Mercedes Club is open to the public with a subscription, and members have access to the previously mentioned amenities.

The Mercedes Club offers a unique experience centered around wellness and fitness.  It is located at 550 West 54th Street.

Stay Fit and Fab, all!

Mercedes Club