Monday, October 25, 2010

Food, cont.

Well i stopped blogging about it because the $5 for dinner experiment turned out to be too easy. When we ate mini burgers with avocado, rice, and veggies, i realized that if you keep the portions under control, most meals can be under $5. I didn't feel challenged any more, so I stopped blogging about it. I haven't stopped making the $5 meals - in fact they are usually less than $5 - just stopped writing about it.

a bigger challenge would be to feed a family with kids on $5, or to do what some other woman is doing, eating on $3.33 total per day. wooo! that has to be very difficult.

that said, i still haven't identified why we spend so much at the grocery store if each of our individual meals is so cheap. some reasons i've identified are:
-waste, where we buy things to try them, don't like them and don't finish.
-waste, where things go bad before we eat them
-waste, where we don't eat leftovers
-buying more of something before we run out
- throwing too many parties.

nov 1 is fast approaching so we'll see how the numbers flush out...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day Three

Tater Tots

cream cheese
Turkey Bacon

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day Two

Trader Joes Pulled Pork - full package

one head of romaine lettuce

left over marinated bean salad
corn salsa
1 avocado
2 whole grain wheat wraps

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day One

Three Chicken Sausages -  $1.79 -  (need to double check that - could be $2.39)

Three servings of farfalle pasta - 37 cents (the link goes to peapod, which is $1.37. I get it at Trader Joe's, which is 99 cents.)

Peas and Corn - 70 cents

I will even include the glass of green tea I had - 60 cents.

Total for the night:  $3.46 -


I broke a toe and can't afford a gym, so I'm not racing right now and need to focus on other areas of wellness, like finances and food.
We just bought a car, and we have to cut back a bit on our expenses. We found that we spend about $400 a month on groceries - this is consistent over the 18 months that we have lived in our current apartment (BTW - thanks to for helping me figure that out so easily!)

$400 a month translates to $13 a day per person. At first glance that's not too bad. Once I look deeper I can see a major problem. Jeff and I both eat small breakfasts - half a bagel, eggs, cereal, or yogurt. The bagels sell at $2.99 for 6, which we always split in half, so we get 12 breakfast out of $2.99 - or 25 cents. Eggs are $1.49 for 6 breakfasts, also 25 cents. Cream cheese is about 8 cents, and condiments are pennies. Yogurt is 70 cents at the most.

Aside from Saturday and Sunday, we always eat lunch at work. I am provided with lunch as part of my salary, and Jeff works downtown in a very social environment and uses lunches to decompress and catch up with friends. Although he does sometimes prepare lunch at work, for the purpose of this budget, the money he spends on lunches don't count.

Alotting $2 per day for breakfast for both people (generous!), that leaves us with $11 a day we are spending essentially on dinner and snacks only.

We have a favorite greasy spoon around the corner called Mangi's, and there anyone can get a hot dog or burger, fries, and a drink for $4.95. In my mind, that fact shows that my husband and I are wasting serious money on groceries. If we could eat out every single night for cheaper than we are eating at home, something is wrong!

To challenge myself to be a better cook and a more frugal woman, I am going to try to spend only $5 a night total on the meals that I make for me and Jeff.

New monthly budget =
5 x 30 = $150 + $50-60 for breakfasts and $40-50 for snacks/drinks = $250 a month on groceries instead of $400.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Mardi Gras Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

I've been informed recently that people actually read this blog (cool!) so I apologize in the delay in writing. Truth be told, I got a little burnt out. I did two half-marathons in the 30 days leading up to tax season, and when that was all over, I did not want any obligations at all. So, now that it's the middle of May and work has slowed down, i'm feeling refreshed and able to keep up with training and blogging.

So back in February I participated in my first half marathon (13.1 miles). I had a great time in New Orleans, at the race, and at the after party. This one is easier to show in photos...

The entire course was decorated with Mardi Gras floats. I liked this one in particular because the guy looks like he's thinking "What the hell are all these people doing awake so early in my city??" 

The starting line. There were so many people at this race that I, in corral 24, started 41 minutes after the Elites. That means the Elites were almost done before I even started!

One thing that kept me going was the awesome course decorations. These royal statues were placed every 5K and was a great way to mark our progress. 

Parades are the heart and soul of Mardi Gras, and many of them travel down St. Charles Street. This tree has seen LOTS of Mardi Gras parades! I just absolutely LOVE that the city represents itself with bejeweled trees. 

I was still feeling pretty good at this point.

Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, with a championship Saints flag. Taken in the French Quarter, around Mile 7 or 8. By now, the heat was starting to get to me and I was definitely ready to be done! 

Almost done, and definitely hurting! 

This is where the marathon took a turn for me. This is St. Louis Cemetery on Esplanade. on the course, we had just passed mile 9. The heat was intense and I was about 2 hours and 15 minutes in. I was exhausted and desperately wanted it to be over. I wasn't really having fun any more. The last few miles had taken us through a residential area of town that, while nice, wasn't very visually stimulating. Most of the people who were running along side me were feeling down - for example, when we passed mile 9, some ladies in front of me stopped to walk and i said to them in encouragement "Only 4 more to go!" and the lady's response was "4 miles sounds like a nightmare!" although I didn't exactly echo her sentiments, this kind of attitude is hard to deal with when you're actually on the course. Then I passed the cemetery. 

I have a deep love of horror and the occult, especially vampires, but one thing I haven't done in the 9 times I've visited New Orleans is take a cemetery tour. I just never really had the time or money for it. So when I passed this cemetery, I took time to stop and take some pictures. 

I was really struck by the lack of color in the cemetery. I wasn't expecting the tombstones to be covered in beads and boas, but for a vibrant, colorful city, the cemetery was a stark contrast. If you are interested in this sort of thing, check out "St. Louis Cemetary 3" on Google Earth. You can scroll through the city and see all the greens and blues of the trees and water compared to the vast white of the cemetery. 

I took a five minute break to photograph the cemetery. After that, I was recharged with new creative thoughts about death, vampires, and this amazing city, and I was ready to finish the last 3 miles. I took off toward City Park, which I knew was close. 

As I rounded the corner from Esplanade into the City Park area, I saw someone on a truck with a video camera ahead of me. My initial reaction was that it was race crew filming for a promo video for next year. As I passed the truck, I glanced to my right to see who they were filming. My second reaction was "That person looks incredibly familiar! I wonder if they are from Chicago. We must go to the same gym or something," and I slowed to strike up a conversation. At this point - 2 hours and 30 minutes in - I had listened to my favorite playlist all the way through and was craving human interaction. Then I noticed what the familiar looking woman was wearing - a red Biggest Loser t-shirt. It clicked instantly - This was the red team from the current season of the NBC reality show! Oh. My. GOSH! While I was looking at Melissa and making sure that she was in fact who I thought she was, I realized that her husband, Lance, was running directly next to me. 

In comparison to some of the other celebrities I have met, Lance and Melissa are hardly famous. Most people would not recognize them on the street. But the Biggest Loser has played a huge part in my life lately, most notably it is a huge part of the reason why I decided to become a personal trainer. I have never been shy about talking to famous people, and after 10 years of working in music I know how to treat the stars like the normal humans that they are. 

We were 10 miles in, and Lance was clearly struggling. So I started the conversation by asking how he was doing, and letting him talk. He told me that he was hurting, as he had barely trained for this, but it was his wife's birthday wish, so he was going to finish (damn it.) He was extremely polite and only after about 2 or 3 minutes did we get into the fact that he was on television and I recognized him. I introduced myself and told him that The Biggest Loser had deeply inspired me. We talked about family, work, and running. We chatted for about 10 minutes before Melissa joined in the conversation. 

If you watched this past season, you know that Melissa was a very controversial character because she gained weight when she had immunity, and lost huge numbers when she didn't ( therefore ensuring her stay on the show). The trainers accused her of lying, cheating, and manipulating the scale. As a (pending) weight-loss professional, I never believed what the trainers were accusing her of. It's extremely hard to control weight gain and loss like they were implying. Also, I understand the fragility of extreme working out. The contestants on the show were exercising for 6 to 8 hours a day, which is extremely taxing on the psyche. I never believed that Melissa had the emotional capacity to manipulate the scale in the way they were accusing her. 

That said, I didn't bring ANY of this up while we were running. First and foremost, I didn't want to piss her off or make her want to stop running with me. When I first saw them, I was SO CLOSE to hitting a wall that I desperately needed their companionship. I wasn't going to risk them leaving me. Also, I wasn't caught up on watching the show and as far as I knew, she was still a contestant. I understand the seriousness of confidentiality clauses, and we were being taped, so I just avoided questions about the show entirely. The one thing I did ask, which I have always wanted to know, was if the confessional interviews are filmed after the events. The show is edited to look like the contestants start the challenge, stop for a 5 minute interview (during which time they talk to the camera in present-tense), then finish the challenge. Melissa told me that all the interviews are done at the end of the day, and they are asked to speak in present tense. Aside from that, I didn't learn much about the show. Mostly we talked about work (Melissa is a prosecutor in a small Texas town, and Lance was a deep-sea diver but is currently looking for something new and closer to home), and both of them knew what they were getting into when they signed up for the show. 

We ran together for 3 miles, sharing stories about training and family, advice, and jokes. I absolutely LOVED hanging out with them and kind of wish we could stay friends.

Because we finished together, there is video of us crossing the finish line. YAY! I feel extremely lucky that my first half-marathon was documented this way. I'm the one in the white shirt and black pants (not the yellow): 

Then I was done! 


It felt amazing. 


This is a bike stuck 25 feet up a tree. I was intriqued by how this could have happened, so I photographed it. It wasn't until I was on the plane home that someone told me this park had been 25 feet under water during the hurricane. I put  two and two together, and the result is pretty mind blowing. 

One last note - although this was a Rock'N'Roll marathon, none of the bands really stuck out at me. I was actually kind of disappointed that there wasn't more jazz and funk. Yes, it was 8am, but still... 

More later... 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Summer Safety (please!)

I try not to be preachy about exercise - just because it works for me doesn't mean it will work for you. However, the one thing I am preachy about without resolve is safety on the roads. Accidents happen every day, especially in a city like Chicago. You don't plan for a collision - "Hey, I'm going to wear my bike helmet today, cause I have a feeling I'll get nailed by a truck!" The reason they are called accidents is because they are unplanned.

Anyway, as the weather warms up, lots of people either move their workouts outdoors, or the decide to dust off the old kicks and head out for their first jog since November. I'd like to take this opportunity to hop up on my soap box and explain the dangers of the great outdoors.

First, and most important, is the bike helmet issue. The number of cyclists around the city and on the lake front path has quadrupled now that the weather is over 70 degrees, and I'm astonished by the number of people who don't wear helmets. I know, I know - your mom has been telling you to wear a helmet since you were 4, and it's just annoying. Well in this case, Mom is right. Bike/Car collisions happen daily (not to mention bike/bike and bike/pedestrian), and even if you are a "safe rider" or you ride a cruiser bike at 8 miles an hour - if a car driving 30 miles per hour strikes you while you're at a dead stop, you WILL be injured. Please trust me on this - I've had more collisions than most people I know and I can vouch for the pain of a car accident. Wearing a helmet every time you get on your bike is essential to your survival. You are not clairvoyant, you cannot predict when you are going to be involved in an accident, and it REALLY hurts when you hit your head on the concrete. If you don't have a helmet, aren't sure how to buy the right one, or can't afford one, let me know. Jeff and I regularly attend bike swap shows and can help you find something affordable.

Continuing with the bike theme, lets discuss tune-ups, tire pressure, and lubrication. A lot of people seem to be breaking out their bikes after a winter of rest and getting right out there. The best thing you can do to prepare for a summer of riding is to get a tune-up. When mechanical parts sit still for a long period of time, especially in changing temperatures, things shift. Parts get dry, metal rubs on metal, chains rust, and rubber cracks. It's perfectly reasonable that your bike tires might be soft, your brake cables are loose, your brake pads have been worn down, or your chain is grinding. Quick rule of thumb - you are not supposed to hear your bike squeak, grind, whine, or wail. All you should hear is the whir of the gears and the hum of the tires.

A bike professional can fix all these issues with a simple $50-70 tune-up. It would suck to be cruising down a hill, heading toward an intersection, when you find out that you have no ability to stop. I highly suggest checking your inner tubes, your brake cables, cleaning and oiling your chain, and getting the wheeled trued. If you don't have a local bike shop, let me know and I can recommend one. If a bike tune-up is something that you want to do but have no idea where to start, let me know - Jeff is great at this stuff and we have a bike stand in our house.

The only other important thing to remember about biking is to stay hydrated and to take it easy on yourself when you're heading into the wind.

Now for running.

Running is a progressive exercise - to get results, you must start slow, go easy, and build miles while increasing speed over time. Even professional marathoners cut mileage when they are increasing speed or changing climates.  If you are used to running on a treadmill and move your exercise outside, you will not receive the same results. Also, if you are used to running outside in the cold, you will not get the same results when the temperature increases. I read a statistic in Runners World that said that for every 10 degrees over 60, you should decrease your mile time by 30 seconds. So if you comfortably run a 10 minute mile in 50 degrees, in 70 degrees you should run that same mile in 10:30, in 80 degrees make it 11 minutes, etc. The reason for this is because your heart rate increases with the temperature, so your body could easily overheat, causing dehydration, heat stroke, lightheaded-ness, fainting, muscle fatigue, and worse. Long story short - running in heat is REALLY bad for you if you're not used to it.

My recommendation is to start off the season slow. If you're used to running 3-4 miles on the treadmill, go for an easy 2-mile run outside to start, and increase by only one half of a mile each run. If you're used to running outside but not used to the heat, I recommend taking one long walk in the heat to slowly get your body used to regulating your blood flow. On Tuesday, the first day it was over 70, Ellie, Chuck and I walked 4 miles and I was winded and slightly sore afterwards.

As for making the switch from winter clothes to summer clothes, there are some important things to know. In the winter, you want to wear dark colors, to absorb the heat from the sun and keep your body temp up. In the summer, you want the exact opposite. I have seen a lot of people running in all black, and while fashionable, this is a surefire way to end up over heated. Wearing a light colored technical shirt will keep you cool in the sun. Also, please be sure not to wear a black hat. Just as in the winter, hats keep heat in your body, which you do not want in the summer. A white hat or a visor is ideal for warmer temps.

Last but certainly not least, please remember to wear sunscreen!

Hopefully this inspires you to be safe when you hit the road this summer. Happy running!

For more info please see:,7120,s6-238-267-269-11994-0,00.html#

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

2010 Race Schedule with Details.

 So in the athletic world, here is what's up with me lately.

I just completed my first half marathon on February 28th in New Orleans. I'll recap that race in a different post.

I have another half marathon scheduled for March 27 in Libertyville, IL. I'm training for this one by increasing my overall mileage, increasing the difficulty of the mid-length (4-6 mile) runs, and running up to 12 miles on Saturdays. I'm barely cross-training at all and I'm not lifting weights at all.

After I recover from that, I'll start training for a June 13 Sprint Triathlon in Naperville. I plan to follow the same training plan I used last winter but on the hardest level. Even the hardest level starts with some easy runs and rides, and works up to some crazy-hard brick workouts toward the end. For those who don't know, a brick workout is when you train two of the triathlon events in a row (ie swim and bike, or bike and run). A sample brick workout is to bike 10 miles, run 2 miles, immediately bike 10 more miles, run 2 more miles, bike 10 more, and run 2 more, resulting in 30 miles ridden and 6 miles run. This is actually only two-thirds of an Olympic distance triathlon.

To help with this season's tri training, I have two races scheduled for the month of May. I didn't race at all last summer, so when it came time for my first triathlon I didn't know exactly what I expect. On May 15 Jeff and I are competing in a 20k bike/5k run in Chelsea, MI. Jeff's only doing the bike and I'm doing both. Then on May 29 I hope to run in the Soldier Field 10-mile in Chicago. I'm hoping the Chelsea races will have some hills that will wake up my flat-land muscles. I'll treat that race as a brick workout. At the moment I don't own a geared bike, so unless I come into some money between now and then, I'll be doing that race on a single speed. Interesting!

The Soldier Field 10-mile doesn't really have a training purpose, I just really, really want to do it. The finish line is at the 50-yard line of Solider Field, which just sounds so freaking awesome!

The weekend of June 5 is Meredith's baby shower and I start my taper for my tri.

I haven't planned late June through early July's training schedule yet. 

July 31 is another sprint tri in Racine, WI, and to prepare for the open water portion of that race, I'm swimming a mile open water race on June 26. Hopefully the lake will be warm enough and e.coli free so I can spend July swimming in Lake Michigan. My first Olympic distance tri will be August 15, which will probably end my season, since my wedding is August 28 and my honeymoon is Sept 5-19.

I may run one more half marathon at the end of the year, perhaps in Denver, Las Vegas, or Houston.

Links to race registration:
Des Plaines River Half Marathon:

Naperville Women's Tri:

Chelsea Heart and Sole:

Soldier Field 10 Mile:

Been a while...

Oops, I got kind of busy with the holidays and winter and training and fell off the writing wagon. I'm back now! yeehaw!

The last time I wrote I was training for a four mile Turkey Trot race. My goal was 45 minutes, and I crushed it! I came in at 43:52 which absolutely thrilled me. I was in great shape physically, but emotionally I was dealing with the ramifications of yet another job loss.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I went to see my doctor about depression. I know depression is a taboo topic to talk about. No one likes to admit that they can't fix their own problems. It was extremely hard for me to ask for help, but I really needed it. My doctor put me on a low dosage of Paxil and told me to give it three months then reevaluate. I went to Cleveland for Thanksgiving and had fun, then I went back to Chicago and pretty much shut down, waiting for the pills to start working. I tried applying for jobs but couldn't muster the strength. Around Dec 15, I started to feel better, and then it was time to go to Cleveland for Christmas. I loved being home, and while I was there I made a really important decision. I decided to earn my personal training certification and start looking for jobs at gyms! I'm very excited.

I'm eager to teach people what I know about exercise and to turn people into athletes. I love helping people, and helping them get healthy is the best way to give back. The studying is tough - it's very dry and between work, planning the wedding, and half-marathon training, I'm finding it hard to sit down and get through the book. I really need to make that happen before tax season is over!

I got my license last week, so I can finally start applying for jobs outside of the city.

Good things are happening!