Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Disney restaurants - favorites and wish-listers

Through Lesley, I discovered that Deb has restarted her Disney-themed Wordless Wednesdays link-up! I'm jumping back into the fun today after a long hiatus.
This week's theme is Food Favorites.

I haven't been to any of the Disney parks for a few years (and am hoping to change that!) During my most recent visits, I didn't take any food pictures. Therefore, I am going to share a few restaurant favorites, plus several on my wish list.

Unfortunately, none of these pictures are my own - so obviously I have denoted my sources.

First, here are three of my favorites:

Tusker House at the Animal Kingdom
Restaurant Marrakesh at Epcot
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios
Now, moving on to my wish-list Disney restaurants. There are so many I want to try that I could write an entire thesis! But for the sake of brevity, here are five:

Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Resort
Blue Bayou at Disneyland
Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas
California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort
Le Cellier at Epcot
Disney dining aficionados - now it's your turn. I am always looking for thoughts, suggestions, and recommendations. Please tell me about your Disney food/restaurant favorites, as well as your wish-list items!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Spinning out and June 20-26 training recap

I am going to echo the sentiments of so many folks who can't believe it's the end of June already, and that July 4th is next Monday. Where does the time go???
Here are my workouts from the week:
MONDAY - 10 minutes stationary biking, 30 minutes strength work on biceps, triceps, abs, lower back, and hamstrings
TUESDAY -  3 miles of interval training on treadmill (10 minute warm-up, 2:1 tempo/walk ratio done at 7.5/3.5MPH), yoga class
WEDNESDAY - 45-minute circuit workout (Luna Rise and Shine event), Zumba class
FRIDAY - 40 minutes lifting, full-body
SATURDAY - Run 10 miles
SUNDAY - Spin class at CycleBar

I'm still fighting boredom with my workout routine, so Wednesday's circuit workout and last night's spin class helped.

Let's talk in more detail about spinning. To me, it's an exceptionally challenging workout. The first time I took a spin class, it hurt to walk for three days afterwards! For this reason, I've only taken a handful of classes over my lifetime.
Last night, Erin invited me to attend a grand opening event at CycleBar in Burr Ridge. Thanks, Erin! I put on a pair of biking-type shorts and braced myself for the inevitable burn.

Upon arrival, the studio had a photo station set up with cute props:
L: Erin
R: me
Erin and I ran into Susie and Tiffany. This was my first time meeting Tiffany in person, which was a very nice surprise.
From L to R: me, Susie, Erin, and Tiffany
The studio felt like a nightclub - it was dark with differently-colored spotlights and pulsating music.
Sorry for the blurry photo, it was hard to take pictures while pedaling!
The studio provided spinning shoes to all participants. It was my first time clipping in to a bike, and it took some getting used to. I'm accustomed to focusing only on the downward pedaling motion so I need to learn how to "pull up."

As expected, the spin class was killer. In addition to the usual cadences, sprints, and climbs, the instructor led us through a series of on-bike strength work. For example, we did miniature "push-ups" on the handles; pedaled while standing up and leaning our butts back as far as possible (reminiscent of barre exercises); and pumped a small bodybar. It was quite a workout! This is what my legs felt like afterwards:
How the heck do people take spin classes on a regular basis? Those folks must legitimately be built with quads of steel. Good lord.

Shifting gears (literally) - here are some random notes from the week:
  • Adam and I have a car that's 13 years old with only about 80,000 miles on it. We only use it to visit suburban friends/family on weekends, and to run errands when public transit isn't convenient. For us city-dwellers, owning a car is a luxury. Unfortunately, we've had a rising number of issues with repair and maintenance, so we've been thinking for awhile about getting rid of it. This is tough for me because the car is my baby and I love it. However, over the weekend, another repair issue came up - so we are again debating whether the car is worth maintaining. Sigh.
  • I started food journaling on MyFitnessPal last Tuesday. The experience has been quite the rude awakening for me. I usually eat fresh fruits liberally, but MyFitnessPal tells me they've got lots of sugar and carbs. My first day, I was already over my daily quota for both by mid-afternoon. It's definitely a learning process that takes time. I'm making adjustments little by little. 
  • Last Saturday night, Adam and I went to our first outdoor concert of the season at Millennium Park. The city was decked out in honor of yesterday's Pride Parade so the backdrop was especially stunning:
  • My 10-miler on Saturday morning went well for about the first 6 miles. I hadn't been looking forward to the long run, so it was an enormous relief to feel normal. Then the temperatures, sun, and humidity started rising, and things quickly went downhill. Clearly I still have work to do in adapting to the warmer season. In the meantime, I am contemplating the much easier, simpler, faster, and more effective path of simply never running summertime races again. It's all about efficiency, right? =D
As HoHo would say, "That's a wrap!"

Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap. I'm also inaugurally linking up with Angela and Ilka for the Sunday Fitness & Food Linkup (even though I'm a day late!)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Viva las summer

First off, thank you to everyone for your support in my accountability post. I really do appreciate all of your understanding and words of wisdom! Now, back to the more jovial content. =)

Summer in Chicago is wonderful with the endless array of activities and events. I wish I could take a sabbatical between Memorial Day and Labor Day every year! This week, I attended three fun events and wanted to share more about them.

A Red Line Runs Through It
Earlier, I'd mentioned here that Adam and I went to Second City for a comedy show last Sunday night. This is what we saw:
Description: "A Red Line Runs Through It rides the rails of Chicago in order to answer life’s tough questions." Very intriguing!

I thought the script would focus on Chicago life, using public transit as the base. While there were indeed some scenes aboard the train, the show was an extremely diverse and hilarious collection of skits about life in general. Scenes were both scripted and improvised.
The show was so cleverly designed, so fast, so energetic, so progressive. The acts were loaded with hysterical jokes and staggering references to local Chicago life that literally slammed home. This included nailing an enormous host of current affairs and politics, including an uproarious jingle about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Mayor's picture was even part of the stage backdrop:
I was lucky to get this picture of the set when I did. Shortly afterwards,
the cast vandalized the picture in a way that I shouldn't repost!
I think Chicago locals would all have an especially strong and heartfelt appreciation for this show. I loved it!

Flavor Your Life
On Monday night, Adam and I went to Quartino for a Flavor Your Life master class on tasting and blending extra virgin olive oil. The class was taught by Giovanni Zucchi, who is an olive oil producer and expert from Italy.
Giovanni Zucchi sharing his olive oil wisdom, adorned by his team.
I learned a lot about the production and intricacies of olive oil. Different regions of the Mediterranean produce different varieties, which can be specially blended to suit the tastes of various consumers. We were taught how to properly smell and taste olive oil, and encouraged to evaluate how it impacted our senses.

We each received four types of olive oil to test. Afterwards, we each got to create a personalized olive oil blend based on our individual preferences. We were told the blending process takes a lot of time, trial, and effort; and indeed it did!
Left: Our EVOO testing/blending tools
Middle: Adam immersed in his blending process
Right: My own custom-blended bottle of extra virgin olive oil!
The four types of olive oil came from Greece, Spain, and two different regions in Italy. In this instance, the Spanish olive oil was my favorite for its comparative balance of freshness and sweetness.

After class, the attendees enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Quartino:
Based on what I learned, olive oil reminds me a lot of wine since both have so many subtleties. My perspective on olive oil has now changed a lot.

All in all, it was a very educational night filled with delicious eats!

Rise and Shine
Yesterday morning, I attended an early morning workout event called Rise and Shine, which was hosted by LunaBar and A Sweat Life.

The festivities took place on the roof of the Wit Hotel. We were treated to beautiful city views:
The workout was led by Nike master trainer Betina Gozo, who is an amazingly strong and inspirational woman. Here is the class in action:
Betina rocking us out
Afterwards, we received some post-workout refreshments, and got to hang out and chat with our fellow attendees.

Here's a snapshot of Maggie, Erica, and me, along with some shots of me attempting to do a couple of yoga-themed shots (as inspired by Wendy):
Left: Fearless Maggie, Original Erica, and Bold me. =)
Upper right: "Daring" dancer's pose
Bottom right: "Fearless" tree pose
The workout was a great way to start off the morning!

In conclusion...
Linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud Thursdays.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Keeping myself accountable (again)

When I first started blogging in 2011, I wanted to share the story of training for my first marathon. Blogging was a way to talk about running, and to keep myself accountable.

A lot has changed since then. While running still gets a spotlight here, I've expanded my horizon to talk a lot more about my life in general. I have enjoyed the metamorphosis!

Today, though, we're going to go back to the foundation on which this blog was built. This is because I need to make myself accountable again.
I'll be blunt. The scale has started creeping up on me.

This initially happened a few weeks ago. I was able to get things reasonably under control, so I didn't think too much about it afterwards. But it has happened again more recently - and this time it's more noticeable. It's time for me to be more intentional about addressing it.

Here are the biggest factors that have led me to this point:
  1. I no longer participate in the Weight Watchers program. My company used to sponsor employees' memberships. As a member, I used to get weighed-in weekly, attend weekly meetings, and track everything I ate. However, my company recently terminated the sponsorship program, after which I cancelled my membership. This also meant that I ceased all of the membership practices, most notably...
  2. I stopped food journaling. This has been very damaging since I no longer pay attention to what and how much I eat. It's by far the most negatively impactful change on my lifestyle, and it cascades into many other issues.
  3. I started forgetting that you can't outexercise a bad diet. I work out almost every day, which makes me feel like I need plenty of fueling. However, since I'm not tracking my food/activity ratio, I've become blind to "overfueling."
  4. My self control has been poor. I've been dining out a lot, going to many events where copious amounts of food are served, never turning down dessert, and enjoying the office candy jar frequently.
  5. I've let portion sizes get out of control. This is true when I'm dining out, of course. It's also true when I cook my own meals. At home, it's all too easy for me to go back for seconds or thirds. Also, I have this notion that since I prepared the food myself, it's healthier than what I'd get at a restaurant. However, this is counteracted if I'm eating larger quantities altogether.
Now, the "fun" part. Here is what I plan to do to get back on track:
  1. Start food journaling again. This is the most foundational change I can make. I've heard good things about, so I'm going to try using it. (If anyone has other suggestions for good online food trackers/apps, please let me know.) This should help me be more conscious of controlling portion sizes, etc.
  2. Focus on drinking more water. I haven't been as good about staying hydrated as I should, and I know I've been guilty of misinterpreting thirst for hunger.
  3. Make food planning a higher priority. Work on keeping healthy foods stocked and on hand at all times. Don't ever let myself get too hungry, which can lead to losing control. Do more cooking prep work when time permits on weekends. This should also help reduce how much I dine out unnecessarily.
  4. Make better choices. When going to events, try to seek out, say, the vegetable trays instead of going straight for the deep-fried appetizers.
  5. Reduce consumption of sweets. My goal is to limit desserts to once per week. I will do my best to avoid walking by the office candy jar altogether. 
Obviously everything is much easier said than done, and there will be bumps along the way. At the same time, I think it's really important to remember this:
All I can do is take it one day at a time - starting right now.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Training week recap: June 13-19, 2016

I hope everyone is having or had a wonderful Father's Day! Earlier today Adam and I went to see my parents and celebrate the holiday honoring my dad. It was heartwarming to see all the families gathering together on a beautiful summer day.
Here are my workouts from the week:
MONDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill, 20 minutes strength work on biceps, triceps, chest, abs, lower back.
TUESDAY - Yoga class, 15 minutes of leg strength work
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class
THURSDAY - Yoga class
FRIDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill, 10 minutes strength work on shoulders, chest, upper back
SATURDAY - Run 7 miles
SUNDAY - Run 1 mile on treadmill, 15 minutes of leg strength work

Workout notes:
  • Yesterday, I ran 7 miles to begin my 4-week crash preparation for Rock N Roll Chicago. It was the longest training run I've done since running 6 miles on May 21. I got started too late in the morning, and the weather was already uncomfortably warm. The run was a battle of misery. I'm starting to get apprehensive about what race day might have in store for us, e.g.:
  • I didn't do any speedwork or incline work this week. Since I've done so little running over the last few weeks, I think it's a more urgent priority right now to focus on resolidifying my base. Ideally it wouldn't be one or the other, of course, but at least for the next four weeks it'll be more about running volume. Either way, running motivation remains low.
  • My workhorse running shoes are 25 miles away from retirement. Part of me wants to get them all the way to the finish line, part of me is ready to just move on to new shoes. I have a pair of brand-new Saucony Ride 8 shoes in the box, awaiting their inaugural run. I have resisted taking them out so far because once I do, I will probably not want to wear the old pair any more!
The Saucony Ride 8
  • I am continuing to try to tack on bits and pieces of strength work onto the tail end of other workouts, where possible. This has been a nice change. Psychologically, it's easier knowing I only have a handful of incremental sets to get through, versus the 25+ sets I do in a focused full-body lifting session.
Moving on from exercise talk - it was a very enjoyable week. Let's shift into photo recap mode.

Last Wednesday, Adam and I got together with friends Cheryl, Don, Ravee, Helanne, and Rose. We went to Chinatown and started with dinner at Dolo, then indulged our sweet tooths at Honey Dessert.
Top from L to R: Cheryl, Don, Ravee, Helanne, Rose, me, and Adam
Bottom from L to R: Adam and me with a terra cotta warrior at Dolo;
Cool Chicago-themed decor at Honey Dessert;
Mango coconut bubble tea;
Shave ice with tapioca
On Thursday night, the Windy City Bloggers Collective hosted an event at Blaze Pizza. This event was a huge treat for me! I am a huge fan of their make-your-own-pizza concept with unlimited toppings, so I really loaded it up. Since I'm a deep-dish pizza lover at heart, I basically tried to convert my thin-crust into a quasi-deep dish:
Friday night, Adam and I hosted game night/potluck at our place. It was a laidback night hanging out with Erin, Jason, Margaret, and Vinod. We played a new-to-me game called Castle Panic. It proved to be very strategic and so difficult to beat that some of us were joking it was fundamentally flawed. =D
Notice the castle on the left is going down in flames!
Last night, Adam and I went to watch the Cubs take on the Pirates at Wrigley Field. Here's a pregame shot:
Adam and I saying hello to Harry Caray before the game.
Despite Adam being clad in Pirates garb and me in a Cubs shirt, this is NOT a doom scenario.
The weather was perfect for a night baseball game. It wasn't until just a few weeks ago that I learned Wrigley Field only hosts one or two Saturday night games the entire season! This is a shame, because the atmosphere is really fun.
Left: Check out the beautiful sky contrasts over the ballpark
R: Erik Kratz is nothing if not consistent in his batting averages! He was up to a career 0 for 15 by the end of the night.
As I mentioned above, we celebrated Father's Day with my parents earlier today over a lovely brunch. To close out the weekend tonight, Adam and I are heading to Second City for a comedy show. I will share more details afterwards. How do weekends always go by so quickly???

Your turn! How was your Father's Day and your weekend? Who else slugged through training or races in the summer heat and humidity? What toppings do you like on your pizza?

Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thinking Out Loud Thursday

Good morning! I am linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud Thursdays.
1. Hip to be square
Thanks to Amazon's "recommended for you based on your browsing history" feature, I bought this brownie pan a few months ago:
The pan was sitting untouched in my cabinet... until last weekend. Suddenly I was overcome with a brownie hankering so strong it could part the Red Sea. When you have a craving that strong, you don't even bother trying to fight it. As quickly as I could, I whipped up a batch (from scratch, I might add!) I wasn't sure what to expect, but I LOVED the results:
No more disastrous messes from cutting the brownies and having everything stick to the knife. Every piece is the same size. The brownies cook more evenly. This is such a wonderful baking tool!

2. "Take the gun, leave the cannoli."
I don't watch a ton of movies, so there are plenty of classics I've never seen. One of Adam's all-time favorite movies is The Godfather. He quotes lines from it all the time and he does an uncanny impression of Vito Corleone.

I have always shied away from watching The Godfather for two reasons: 1) it's almost 3 hours; and 2) I've heard it contains graphic violence. Last weekend, I finally caved and sat down to watch it with Adam. (It helped a lot to have him there, because I initially had trouble keeping all the characters straight.)
The verdict? I absolutely understand the hype. What an epic story! So many layers, so many complexities, so many subtleties, so many questions of motivation. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino are both spectacular in their roles. The emotions were raw in their authenticity. It's definitely a movie you could watch multiple times to pick up more details over time.

The Godfather II is now in queue for a viewing in the near future.

3. "How can I know that and not know who I am?"
Speaking of movies, I am really looking forward to the new Jason Bourne movie being released next month! Matt Damon is one of my favorite actors and I think the Bourne series is the best of his career.
I rarely watch movies right when they open up in theaters, but this one I want to catch as soon as possible!

On a side note - I think it's funny the new movie takes place in Las Vegas. It reminds me so much of Ocean's Eleven, and Linus Caldwell is the complete opposite of Jason Bourne. =)

4. Groovin'
Here's the latest addition to my workout playlist:
Credit this one to yet another fun routine from my awesome Zumba instructor. I feel like I'm a little old to be rocking out to Justin Timberlake, but the dance number is so catchy!

5. Rocking in Memphis
Remember when I mentioned here that I wanted to visit Memphis? At the Chicago Blues Festival last weekend, Visit Tennessee had a photo stand set up with Memphis's Beale Street as the background. I took advantage (yes, I am wearing a wig):
Check out the animated version here.

Now I want even more badly to get to Memphis so I can see the real thing!

6. It was Olli a Maatta of time
(How do you like that word play on Olli Maatta's name? =D I only wish I could take credit for coming up with it myself!)

Obviously I am late in mentioning it here on the blog, but what a thrill to see the Penguins win their fourth Stanley Cup championship last weekend. Most of all, I couldn't be happier for Olli Maatta. He battled a cancerous thyroid tumor, mumps, multiple shoulder surgeries, kidney bruises, and concussions to get there. Olli is only 21 years old but has already been through more adversity than people twice his age. He is a true champion!

This picture of Olli (#3) and Nick Bonino (#13) is very touching:
7. Party on, Artemi
As happy as I am for the Penguins, I am ready for the Blackhawks to get the Cup back next season. So ready.

I have a LOT of other hockey thoughts to share, but will save those for another time.

In the meantime, it is terrific to see Artemi Panarin enjoying his offseason!
This pose is inspiration for a future race photo body spasm on my part...