Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Foodie Pen Pals

I don't remember exactly how I found the Lean Green Bean blog, but I'm sure glad I did! I've found countless recipes, tips for cooking in bulk for the week, and most importantly- I found Foodie Pen Pals! Similar to Birchbox, but totally different. You basically create and send boxes of food to the person you are paired with. Most of the participants are bloggers, but it's certainly not a requirement. The person I sent food to was, and the person who sent me food was not.

After the initial pairing email was sent, I was contacted by Scott who would be sending me my box. He asked about any diet restrictions or dislikes that I had, and then sent me such a fun box!

Scott is from Ocracoke Island, NC and included several local items in my box. Not having any idea where Ocracoke was, I looked it up and found out that it was close to Rodanthe. If you're a fan of chick  lit, then you might remember the Nicholas Sparks' book "Nights in Rodanthe". Not that it has anything to do with my box, but there you go. It looks like it's part of a string of islands that surround the Pamlico Sound, and I imagine it's a very beautiful place.

Scott included the perfect mix new and familiar, and even something that is a favorite- Fig Preserves from Zillie's Island Pantry. I'm saving a few of the items to do a "Chopped" like challenge for dinner, including black eyed peas, pecans and Carolina Treet BBQ sauce. I was amazed at how much he was able to add to my box, and enjoyed some of the snacks he included too. The Zesty Cheese crackers and Lime Cooler cookies were awesome, and I even tried something new- Seaweed Crisps. Thank you so much Scott for putting so much thought into my Foodie box. It made this first experience so much fun!!

I put together an "Austin-themed" box that hopefully included some of the best, and weirdest, that our city has to offer.  Known for keeping thing weird, but also being a really healthy city, I tried to include a good mix including Sweet Leaf Tea, Kerby Lane Pancake Mix, and a Perfect Fit Protein Cookie from Boundless Nutrition (sponsor to many local triathletes). My box went to Erin of the Serendipity and the Sailor blog. She lives just north of Albany, NY and girl has got some serious style. I love reading her blog! I knew that she liked stationary, so I sent some cute cards that I found at Target, and she sent one of the Thank You cards back with the sweetest note. Thank You cards are a dying art, and I so enjoyed that she took the time to send one to me.

I've already signed up for the next month's round of Foodie Pen Pals, and if you're interested in it, I've included the details below. It's always fun receiving mail that doesn't include bills, and I had a great time choosing items to send to someone else. Thank you Lindsay for creating this exchange!

The Lean Green Bean

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for November, please CLICK HERE (www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/) to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 
You must submit your information by May 4th as pairings will be emailed on May 5th!

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Low Carb Blues

So you've heard me mention a few times about having to eat "low carb" for a bit. I'm incredibly lucky in that my place of work has a wellness center, fully staffed with physicians, nutritionists, massage therapist, etc. I know- it's ridiculous! And it makes it so easy to get an annual physical, complete with a round of blood work. So that's exactly what I did a few weeks ago. The good news is that (other than having gained about 10 pounds), I'm really healthy! With one exception, of course. My blood sugar tested at an elevated level, so the dr. recommended another (more thorough) test. For the second time, it showed elevated levels. It's possible that it could be associated with my weight gain, though I'm still within normal parameters for my height. There could be other explanations, and I'm working on getting those checked out as well. But the bottom line is I can do immediate things to help get it back to normal, and that means reducing my carb intake and losing weight. Shoot me now.

If you know me at all, you know that bread and cheese are just about my two favorite foods. While I don't eat a lot of white bread/pasta/rice, I do probably consume more carbs than I should. So I decided to meet with the nutritionist on staff to get some guidance. She had great things to say about some of the things that I was eating, but said that if I could lower my daily carb intake to 40-45% of my diet, and consistently exercise 5 days a week, then my weight would be back to "normal" in no time at all.

I've been working really hard these past 2 weeks to meal plan, exercise, and stay consistent with a well rounded diet- and it's starting to pay off. I've already lost 3 pounds!! For someone who tries to eat vegan about 80% of the time, I've had to add in low fat dairy to replace some of the more "carby" things that I was eating. I've also been more conscious about fruits and starchy vegetables, and have tried to add as much green leafy things as I can stomach. It's not easy, but the key to being successful is to plan, plan, plan!

Below are just a few of the meals that I have in rotation, so I'm not having to reinvent the wheel on a regular basis.


0% fat greek yogurt with berries and ground flax seeds

Egg whites and spinach on Ezekiel toast, with a little hot sauce on top

Green smoothie

Veggies, tofu and hummus, oh my!

Chopped spinach salad with a cauliflower pizza bite

Egg whites with spinach, tomatoes, kale and a babybel
(trying to clean out the fridge at the end of the week)

Tofu and kale tacos with avocado

Okra and spaghetti squash with avocado cream

Black bean and kale tacos. Maybe not the most "low carb",
but they still kept me within 40-45% for the day

I know several people who are either getting ready for a wedding, or just trying to reshape their overall health. What are your tips/tricks for staying on track?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wedding Planning on a Budget

I originally wrote this post on The Holland House blog, but trying to keep up with two blogs is exhausting. So for now I'm going to continue using this one while I figure out which direction I want to go in. I highlighted some vendors that I have really enjoyed working with, so I wanted to share in case anyone else is going through the wedding planning process.

It's funny that in a matter of weeks since I wrote this, our budget has been completely blown. Now that all the response cards are in and the final count has been given to the reception site, we are way over budget! We had more people RSVP than expecting, and every little thing just seems to cost more than you expected. Ex- picking up my dress from alterations yesterday. That was not a fun check to write- but the end result is worth it.

With our wedding less than 5 weeks away, and a likely "wedding detail freakout" 2-3 weeks away, I thought I would write about how our planning process has been. We have a relatively small budget (as far as weddings go, it seems) of $5000, and are doing our best to stay within that amount. This is a second wedding for both of us, and other things like home improvement projects, traveling, and retirement funds are much more important than throwing an all-out bash. Besides, the best thing about planning a second wedding is that you get to forgo many of the "traditional" things that seem to add up so quickly, in favor of a much more personal event. Since we are just about finished with the planning process, I thought I would give my 2 cents about how we were able to pare down costs and still plan a special day. I will note that this budget did not include our wedding attire- we each paid for that out of our own funds.

Choosing a ceremony site:
Think outside of the box. In Austin (and many other cities, I'm sure) there are plenty of special places that don't cost a thing to use. Or, if you're willing to not go with a traditional Saturday evening wedding, you will have much more luck getting a reduced rate by choosing a less popular day and time. We happened to choose a public space that is special to both of us, and asked my brother to perform the ceremony. It was easy to get ordained online, and most states have few rules over who performs the ceremony. While we're not having to pay hardly anything for the ceremony (with the exception of 2 pedicabs and a few rental chairs), the risk is that anyone could be there at the time we have designated for the ceremony. But I have faith that the kind folks in Austin will be willing to give us about 15 minutes of privacy so we can say "I Do". And if they aren't, one of Hank's beefier friends will be in place to make sure they do.

Reception venue:
If you're having trouble finding a ceremony site, combining it with the reception venue is also an easy way to go. This is our backup plan, should the weather decide not to cooperate on our wedding day. The main thing that I looked for in a reception site was a private space, and no additional fees. We were also hoping to find a place that had the "Austin character" we were looking for. We found all of that and more at Lambert's, located in a historic building downtown. Most restaurants will allow you to pay just a deposit that will go towards the cost of food and drink. We also chose brunch, given that it would significantly lower the cost of food. Most private venues will charge a rental fee starting at $1500, and it usually doesn't pay for much else. It would have been impossible for us to stay under budget with that wasted expense. Get creative with menus and drink offerings, too. We toyed with the idea of just having an hour long cocktail reception before deciding on brunch. If you're wanting to completely avoid a traditional reception, you could easily plan a "picnic" with something fun like a food trailer. Many food trailers will do private events for a minimum amount, often costing far less than using an actual restaurant space. This is especially fun for any out of town guests who might appreciate some local flavor!

All the other details:
One of many things that I learned from my first wedding is that very few people actual remember, or even care about, all the little details. Yes, flowers make everything look better. But they aren't really necessary. Neither is a candy bar, a photo booth, or a specially carved ice bar for a frozen yogurt station. Seriously. I'm resisting many DIY projects, and just hoping that people show up, enjoy some food and conversation, and then go about their day. If my mother was not helping out with flowers, I would have gone to HEB, picked up some simple yellow and white flowers, stuck them in some type of recycled container and called it a day.  It's really easy to get wrapped up in all the little things, but I've tried so hard to not stress myself out about them. As the clock ticks down, I've decided that personalized fans for the ceremony, favors for the reception, etc. just really aren't necessary. Avoiding most of this is how we will (hopefully) stay within our budget. After all, what's most important is making the promise to love one another, and stay together through thick and thin. Making that our priority has made it really easy to not get too wrapped up in everything else.

With all that being said, below are the few vendors we have used to make this day happen:
Minted.com- They have quality products, for less than what you would pay for in a store. I was beyond happy with my invitations, and paid under $300 for 50 invitations and RSVP cards.
Blue Bridal Boutique- Purchased my wedding dress here. They really have an amazing selections of more affordable dresses, and you can read my review of this store here. Going online is the best way to really manage this cost though.
Melanie Wright Photography- I am lucky in that I have a friend who is working to expand her business to include more wedding photography, and was kind enough to offer me a lower rate. Most wedding photographers charge $2500+, so finding a talented friend is the most affordable way to go.
Verbena Floral Design- They are doing my bouquet and some lovely arrangements for the tables. This wouldn't have happened if not for help from my mom, so it would have been cut accordingly without her help.
Lou Neff Point- A public space that is part of the Austin Parks & Recreations program, and does not require a deposit to use.
Lambert's- A $500 deposit (that goes toward the food/drink minimum) reserved our reception venue with a private upstairs space perfect for our smaller sized group, and that also serves a really great brunch!
Whole Foods- I'm getting 2 large Chantilly cakes for $60, and then 2 chocolate cakes from another bakery (none of them are traditional wedding cakes). The total cost for 4 cakes is less than $200.
So there you have it! I found my wedding shoes this past weekend ($32 at DSW!!!) and I'm taking my dress in for alterations this Friday. Other than a shirt and socks for Hank, wedding attire is done. Now we just have to get logistics of the day nailed down, and finish playing the waiting game. We couldn't be more excited for our big day, and look forward to sharing more about it with you! Feel free to ask any questions- I'm happy to share any info about planning/vendors.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bronko Box Giveaway

It's an exciting day at Amy in Austin....today is the very first giveaway! If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I do my best to support local Austin business. From restaurants to retail stores, we always try to shop local. So imagine my excitement when I was contacted by a new local business, Bronko Box, to give their service a try. Started by an adorable Austin couple, their mission is to save you time, money, AND your sanity, throughout the moving process.

Fortunately for you, dear readers, I won't be moving for quite some time. So in lieu of me trying out their service, they are passing along a $75 credit to you! This can be used towards one of their moving packages.

Here's the way their service works: you visit their website, and select the moving package that works best for you. Bronko Box will deliver their sturdy, reusable boxes for you to pack and move, and then they will pick them up at a scheduled time once you've had a chance to move your things. How easy is that?! Their packages are based on room size, with options for how long you need to keep the boxes. No more crumply boxes, no more sticky tape dispensers, no more trash in our landfill. For a city that bans plastic bags, I think a reusable moving box service should fit right in.

So, leave a blog comment, follow Bronko Box on Facebook and Twitter, and tweet the heck out of this giveaway! Each activity gives you more chances to win! (**Note- each Facebook and Twitter add will also put you in the running for an iPad Mini and a guitar signed by KOKE FM Texas Music Series artists.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lunch in a Box: Curried Salad with Egg and Cashew, and Cauliflower Pizza Bites

This weekend I researched the heck out of vegetarian, low-carb recipes. And while the title of this particular lunch sounds really odd, it's packed with lots of good (and good for you) food that just happens to be low carb. I spent a reasonable amount of time menu planning, but didn't want to spend all afternoon in the kitchen prepping food for the week. So I found a few interesting salad ideas, and some easy to put together dinners, and headed off to HEB with my list. What I thought would only be about a $70 grocery bill turned into $128 by the time I checked out. It just kills me how expensive it is to eat healthy, fresh food. About 3/4 of my cart was filled with produce, and the rest was things like tofu, fish, coffee, cat litter, and a few bathroom items. I can't imagine how expensive it must be to buy groceries for more than 2 people. But we do prepare breakfast/lunch/dinner at least 4 days out of the week, so in reality that comes out to about $5 per person, per meal. I guess it's not so bad when you look at it that way.

But..back to my lunch. I found the recipes for the Curried Salad with Egg & Cashew on the Eating Well website (a current selection for our cookbook club), and the recipe for the gluten free Cauliflower Pizza Bites on the Damy Health website. I'm interested in trying a few of the other cauliflower recipes on her site, as it's a great way to sneak in some serious fiber in your diet. Plus, it masks the taste that I'm not a huge fan of.

For the salad, I used the following ingredients:

1 cup spinach
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
1-inch piece of cucumber, chopped (with skin on)
1-inch piece of celery, chopped
2 T cashews, lightly toasted on the stove
1 hard boiled egg
2 T dressing (I used 1 T. of real mayo in place of the 1/2 cup of low fat)
**I omitted the cranberries because of carb count

For the cauliflower pizza bites, I pretty much followed the recipe exactly. But the only hot sauce I had was Valentina's Mexican hot sauce, which apparently is loaded with calories. So for the next batch I'll use something else like Cholula or Tabasco. Other than being a little messy (I had grated cauliflower everywhere), these were really easy to make. And now that I know they are worth the effort, I'll make a double batch to freeze the next time. I paired it with some spicy red pepper pasta sauce that I had in the pantry, and it made for a satisfying side dish to the salad.

I've been using the LoseIt app to track calories and carb percentages for each day, and my goal each day is for my overall carb percentage to be under 45%. Right now I'm at 34% (that's including all the meals I plan on eating today), so I'm doing really well. But it's really hard to feel full when all you're eating is salad, which is why I like these Cauliflower Bites so much. It feels like I'm eating something starchy when I'm really not!

Is there anyone else who is watching their carb intake, and have found any go-to recipes that you really love?! It has been a bit of a struggle for me, considering how much I love all things bread, but I'm slowly making progress.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Adventures in Fostering: A Total Foster FAIL

I've been a foster volunteer for the Austin Animal Center for about 3 years now, and I receive emails of adorable kittens, puppies, cats and dogs on a daily basis. While I might glance a few extra times at the cuter ones, I'm usually pretty good at clicking "delete" and going about my business. We are very thoughtful about when (and who) we take in as a foster, and having just adopted out Beckham a few weeks ago, we had decided to take a break until after the wedding. That is, until I saw this video on Friday afternoon:

Of course I forwarded it on to Hank, and his immediate reply was "Go get her!" In hindsight, I should know better than to send something to him if I really don't want to make it happen. But he has always been supportive of my animal habit (in reality, he's just as bad as I am), and given the negative 55 kennel spaces available on Friday, I made the call to go ahead and pick her up after work. All I knew from the email that accompanied her video was that she was 6 weeks old, and had been picked up off the side of a very busy street by a nice samaritan who then dropped her off at the shelter. Busy streets are no place for a little puppy to be roaming, and neither is a shelter! So the foster team went into action to get her into a home so that she would be more comfortable until she became available for adoption.

So that's how I ended up at the shelter on a Friday afternoon, and just two weeks out from our wedding, taking home an adorable 6 week puppy. And by adorable, I seriously mean the world's cutest dog, hands down, EVER! The video doesn't do her justice. We got her home and let her meet our two dogs, and then the cats, and everyone seemed to be doing fine. She wasn't the least bit scared of everyone, so we knew this would be an easy foster. 

Her first glamour shot hanging out in the backyard.

Foster dog, my ass. Within the first 24 hours, we had both pretty much decided that this dog was way too special to rehome, and knew that we had met our first foster FAIL. We took her to breakfast on Saturday morning, and it was like a celebrity was out on the patio. Not one person could walk by her without making kissy faces and baby talk at her. She really is that cute. She fell asleep in Hank's arms, and we were pretty much done at that point. We just knew we had to keep her. 

We *think* that she is part Australian Shepherd, which is a breed that I've always loved. And she'll be a great running partner, which is something that Hank really wanted in our next dog. But we had always planned on waiting until Marley was just a tad bit older before bringing another permanent dog into the mix. We're ok with being a year or two early on that idea. It will just be a full house for a bit, especially as she continues to grow bigger (and how big that will be, we have no idea).

I spent most of Saturday with her, working really hard on potty training. We're crate training her and being very diligent about going outside right after eating/drinking, and about every 20 minutes that she's roaming the house. Our goal is to have her potty trained within a couple of weeks. After that, we'll start some serious (life-long) training as I want to take advantage of having such a smart dog in our household. If she really is a working breed, then it will benefit all of us to keep her mind active and engaged. 

The shelter named her Bonnie, and we thought about keeping it. But we have an actual friend named Bonnie, and it just felt a little weird calling her that. I liked the idea of a B name though, so after some thinking, we decided to call her Brees. I love the Saints, and her coloring is black and tan, so it seemed appropriate and fun. Plus, Drew Brees is an all-around fantastic guy, so who wouldn't want to be named after someone like that?!

She continues to impress anyone who comes into contact with her, and it's been fun taking her out on little adventures over the weekend. She's so easy going, and I hope exposing her to being out and about makes it easy to continue doing so as she gets older. 

So now that we have 5 permanent animals, Hank said I have to actually get my volunteer hours by GOING to the shelter, and not just bringing animals home. We will have to shut down our foster services for awhile, but I will keep volunteering, as I feel like it's an important way to spend my time. I'm sure we will have plenty of Brees posts, and hopefully you don't mind being inundated with cute puppy pictures, because we just can't get enough of her right now. We're being very conscious of making sure our other animals don't feel neglected, and are giving them plenty of attention too! 

Showing off her pretty markings.

Fast asleep at Taco Deli.

Occupying herself while riding in the car. 

Marley had to check out the crate.

And fast asleep again. It's hard being so cute!

If you aren't already following Amy in Austin on Bloglovin', feel free to add me please! You can also check out some other great blogs to add to your feed too.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Run/Walk for Boston

Last night the running community of Austin, led by the lovable Gilbert Tuhabonye, gathered together for a vigil in honor of the victims of the Boston bombing. Sadly, the event was also to honor another, much closer to home tragedy- the victims of the West fertilizer plant explosion.

Hank and I both run with the Gilbert's Gazelles group (though I'm currently on hiatus) and they are truly a special group of people. 48 of them, including some of Hank's friends, were up there for the race. Monday was surely stressful, just like it was for everyone else in the world who watched the events unfold. Luckily, all of our friends were ok and made it back to Austin safely. Thursday was also a chance to welcome them home and celebrate all of their hard work that allowed them the chance to run Boston.

Well over 300 people gathered in a parking lot next to the Town Lake trail, shared a moment of silence, said a prayer, and listened to Amazing Grace played out on a bagpipe. We hugged our friends, and embraced the time together. It sounds cheesy, but it was something that I think we all needed to begin the healing process from such a difficult week. Then we all ran or walked the 3 mile loop of the trail, lighting it up with our various glow sticks. It was a beautiful sight to see, and just another reason why I love our city so much.

Friends Mike and Bonnie- Bonnie ran a great race, and made it back home after
being locked out of her hotel for a few days.

Hank didn't pack for the weather, and had to borrow my neon
volunteer shirt to wear so he wouldn't freeze.

David (who came up with the idea) and Gilbert, speaking to the crowd.

Glow sticks!!!

Part of our Gazelle crew.

As the sun went down, our glow sticks went into full effect.

View of downtown Austin, from the spot on the trail where
we'll be getting married in just a few weeks,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lunch in a Box: Veggie Bento

This is my first true Bento lunch (at least based on what I think the definition of Bento is), making spectacular use of leftover veggies and some pre-made items. First, I whipped up a batch of Egg White Frittata Muffins on Sunday, and used one of them to add protein to my lunch. I need to tweak the recipe on the next go around (adding one whole egg to the egg white mix), but these are such an easy item to make, and they are also great to pull out for any meal of the day. I love that you can add just about any toppings that you have, and are great for using up veggies from the fridge.

Next, I used roasted vegetables that I made with dinner (I cooked extra just to use for lunches) and leftover tofu from dinner as well, along with the White Bean Hummus from HEB. (A- this hummus is delicious, and B- it only has 70 calories for a 2T serving.) I wish I had a little more color range in my vegetables, but this box includes: okra, red bell pepper and brussels sprouts. The peppers are raw, but the others were tossed with a little bit of olive oil, kosher salt and fresh chopped oregano from our garden. All around a totally delicious and outrageously healthy lunch, that only took a few minutes to assemble thanks to a little early preparation!

Estimated nutritional info for the entire lunch (please note that I eat 2 small snacks during the day to supplement my calorie intake):

261 calories
9g fat
24.7g carb
7.6g fiber
19.3g protein

Egg White Frittata Muffins (makes 9 muffins)

1.5 cups egg whites (I used the HEB brand in a carton, but next time will add one whole egg)
1/2 cup rice milk (you can substitute any kind-of milk)
1/4 slice from a small log of goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli
4 T chopped sundried tomatoes

1. Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray, and heat oven to 350ยบ.
2. Mix egg whites and milk together, then pour into muffin tin.
3. Sprinkle toppings, and bake for about 12 minutes (until mix has set and top is slightly browned).

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Girly Weekend

On Friday, my sister and best friend came into town for some "girly time" before the wedding. I had already refused all offers of wedding showers, and certainly didn't want a Bachelorette party, but I'll never turn down some quality time. In case you're wondering why I don't want those things, I had plenty the first go around and just want the focus to be on me and Hank getting married.

We met at The Westin at the Domain and chit chatted for a bit before getting ready to head out. We started with drinks and apps at Apothecary, one of the most perfect places to go for a little gabbing. They recently changed the menu, and I'd love to go back to try more items. But we were content with a cheese plate and a few glasses of wine. Everyone who works there knows that wine list inside and out, and they are always able to offer honest suggestions. I love that place!

Next up was dinner at Olive and June. It's in a beautiful 3 story space that wraps around a huge tree, and the atmosphere is enough to make me want to go back. But I was most excited for dinner since I'd heard so many great things about it. The menu is farm-to-table, with an Italian influence. First, order a delicious cocktail or glass of wine, and then peruse the menu. I love that they have a "Piccoli Piatti" section- it's basically really small bites, and a great way to get a feel for the menu. We had Suppli and Crostini with ricotta, tangerine and balsamic, and they were both delicious.

For our main course, all three of us chose a different pasta dish. They make their own pasta, and pair it with some of the freshest ingredients that Austin produces. I loved my whole wheat ravioli with herb ricotta, swiss chard, capers and almonds. The portions are much smaller than the typical big bowl you find at some restaurants. I felt less guilty ordering it because I knew it wouldn't be overkill, and they didn't disappoint. All of the components of the dish made for a salty, creamy, and slightly crunchy meal that was simply amazing. My sister had gemelli (with pork sausage, white wine and fennel), and Jackie had Mezallune with butternut squash, sage and pecorino. All 3 were great choices!

We opted not to have dessert, since we planned to make our way back to The Domain for a nightcap, but the dessert menu had plenty of decadent options. Overall, this restaurant is a can't miss for Austinites. It makes for a great date night, but also fun to enjoy a meal with some friends.

The next morning we all slept in (what a treat!) and then got dressed to head out for a day of pedicures, lunch and shopping. Holly had read great Yelp reviews about a place called Passion Nail Spa, so we went to visit their Jefferson Square location. For $38, you get a killer deluxe manicure that includes your choice of scent for the scrub and mask. The place was packed, but thankfully we had made an appointment that got us ahead of a few others. The massage chairs were perfect, and they really spent a good amount of time making my feet look pretty (and that's no easy feat!) After primping, we were starving and ready for lunch, so we headed around the corner to a sandwich shop called Foodheads. I had never been there before, but the food was awesome. An egg salad sandwich on whole grain bread did the trick, and we were fueled up and ready for some shopping.

Tres amigas

I loved the billy balls on the table- it's what Hank will be wearing on our wedding day.
You know you've reached a certain age when your shopping trips involve a stop at a baby store, but that's exactly what we did. There is a really cute boutique called Picket Fences that has the most beautiful bedding, decor, baby items, clothes, and even maternity clothes. My sister was on the hunt for something to wear to the wedding, so we stopped to take a look. I have to admit- stores like Babies 'R Us scare the bajeezus out of me, but a store like this I can handle. It's like they curate the best of the items that you need, and merchandise it in a way that doesn't give me a headache. The only thing they are missing is an online registry option.

We made a few more stops, and then made our way out to my house to get ready for a crawfish boil hosted by our (now famous) friend Shanna, of Because Shanna Said So. It was way up in Round Rock, but the weather was perfect for a short drive to the country. It was held at a really neat party barn, and they even had a few bouncy castles to keep the kids entertained. We found our friends and settled in for some eats and drinks.

Little kids on the left, big kids on the right.

You know you're in the country when...

Georgia had so much fun in the bouncy house- it was nearly impossible to get her out of it.

My love!

All of that was packed into Friday night and Saturday, so by the time Sunday rolled around I was exhausted. But Hank and I went over to our neighbors to watch The Masters, and then I spent a few hours in the kitchen making healthy stuff for our lunches. It was such a fun weekend! With less than 3 weeks to go until our wedding, I'm hoping the next two weekends are a little more low-key so I can wrap up the rest of the details. A huge thank you to my girls for making time for me this weekend!

Lunch in a Box: Greek Chickpea Burger Wraps

Since my Asian Black Bean Burger Wraps were such a hit last week, I thought I'd try it again with a more mediterranean flare to it. I modified the Chickpea Burger recipe from the Tone It Up eating plan, and am really pleased with the results. Now that I have 2 good protein burger recipes, I plan on making them in bulk batches and freezing so that I'm not spending quite as much time in the kitchen.

I'm trying to watch my carb intake (still planning on writing about that later), so this lunch is my attempt at getting enough protein without upping the carb count. After trying collard greens and iceberg lettuce, I've decided that romaine makes the best "wrap" by far. It tastes better than collards, doesn't break as easily as iceberg, plus- it's a darker green color, so it's better for me. I rounded out my lunch with a 1/2 cup of 1% fat cottage cheese, and a really yummy Cucumber Pear Salad.

Greek Chickpea Burger (makes 8 patties)

2 cans of Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup 0% fat Greek yogurt (I use Fage)
1/4 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion (I used white, but any onion would do)
1 tsp each: turmeric, paprika, cumin
1/4 ground flaxseed
2-3 sprigs of dill, chopped

1. Heat oven to 350°. Spray baking sheet with fat free spray.
2. Mash chickpeas in a large bowl (my pastry cutter worked perfectly).

3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.


4. Form into 8 balls, and then press into flat patties. Bake for 12 minutes on each side (until slightly browned and crispy).

This is roughly the nutritional information (per 1 burger):

123 calories
2.9g fat
341g sodium
19g carbs
5.7g fiber
2.7g sugar
6.7g protein

Tzaziki (makes 6 servings)

1 cup 0% Greek yogurt (I use Fage)
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp chopped garlic
1-2 sprigs of dill, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and store in fridge.

Cucumber Pear Salad (makes 4 servings)

1 cucumber, halved and seeded and chopped (you can keep the skin on)
2 pears, peeled and chopped
6 T rice wine vinegar
1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp sugar (I used 2 packets of Nectresse)
dash (or two) of red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients in a bowl- will store in fridge for up to 5 days.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Influenster: Sugar 'n Spice VoxBox

About a month ago, I received a box of goodies from Influenster to try out and review. Having recently canceled my Birchbox, I was suffering withdrawals from getting fun things in the mail, so this came at just the perfect time! Even better was that the box was bigger, and had full sized items for me to try out.

I've had a chance to try out most of the items, and overall have been impressed that at least two of them are ones that I will continue to purchase on my own.

The clear winner in this box (in my opinion) was the Colgate Optic White line. There was a toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash. With my wedding just weeks away, I'm more than happy to find any way to get my teeth whiter, and this line has really done the trick. I was consistent with using the toothpaste twice a day, every day, but only used the mouthwash 3-4 times a week. I'm not great with mouthwashes, and there was an aftertaste that didn't sit well with me. But I found that if I rinsed my mouth out with warm water after I had used it, I didn't notice the taste anymore. The good news is that I can already see a difference after using this for just 3 weeks, and plan on purchasing the toothpaste this weekend.

I also really loved the brush. The bristles were not too hard, and the back of the toothbrush cleaned the inside of your cheeks. I felt like my teeth got a really good cleaning every time I used it.

A very close second was the Vaseline Spray & Go moisturizer. This stuff is awesome. It doesn't leave any greasy residue, and dries immediately after you spray and rub in. I don't even have to wash my hands after I use it! My legs feel so soft after I put it on, and it has really helped my skin get moisturized leading up to wearing a top-revealing wedding dress. Of course, it's perfect for tank tops and shorts as we head into the warmer months. I used the Total Moisturizer one, but would love to try the Aloe as well. I'm sure it's perfect to use after a day in the sun. For just under $6, it's a little bit pricier than the generic brand lotion I usually by, but the can has gone a long way and the results seem to be worth it.

The final product (for today) are the belVita Breakfast Biscuits. I'm not gonna lie- the Cinnamon Brown Sugar flavor was delicious! But the amount of carbs and sugar in these will keep me from ever eating a whole package for my breakfast. Yes, they contain whole grains, but I don't know that it's enough to really keep me satisfied throughout the morning. So my solution was to just eat one biscuit with breakfast, and added it to my non-fat greek yogurt and fresh berries. The added crunch was perfect, and I didn't feel so guilty knowing it was paired with a well-rounded meal. If you're wanting a bite of something to curb your sweet tooth, I think these are a great option. I just wouldn't recommend eating a whole package for your breakfast.

Has anyone else tried any of these products? Can you think of any other ways to incorporate a belVita biscuit into a healthy meal?

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Happies & Crappies {2}

TGIF! I can't believe it's Friday already, and I'm linking up with Scissors & a Whisk for a second week. It's kind-of nice to think back through the week, reflecting on the good things that happened. The crappy ones always come to mind quickly, so it's a good practice to find a way to focus on the happy ones more.

Scissors and a Whisk: Happies and Crappies Link Up

Let's get the CRAPPIES out of the way first- mainly because I'm going to write more about it later:

1- Got my blood work back from our wellness center, and it shows that my blood sugar is elevated (like pre-diabetic elevated). I met with our staff dietician (could I BE any luckier to have these services on site at work?!) and we mapped out a plan to nip this thing in the bud. It's crappy for sure, but probably the kick in the butt I needed to take back control of my health.


1- We got a heck of a lot of yard work done this past weekend, and it has been so nice pulling up to the house each day, seeing our beautiful yard.

2- We purchased our wedding bands, and checked one more thing off the wedding "to-do" list.

3- I managed to wake up 3 mornings in a row to exercise, and even fit in a lunchtime run and an after-work yoga class. On my way to making better habits!

I'm so ready for the weekend to officially start. I get to spend time with girlfriends tonight and tomorrow, and then Hank and I are heading to a crawfish boil Saturday afternoon with even more friends. Looks like the weather is going to be perfect, and it should be a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Today I'm linking up with Jenn over at Perfectly Imperfect to share just a few of my favorite Instagrams from the past week or so. Jenn recently had to say goodbye to her beloved pug Daisy, so send lots of good thoughts her way!


Breakfast: Greek yogurt and fruit with a cinnamon belVita cracker for some crunch.
Lunch: The most amazing Asian Black Bean Burger Wraps.
Dinner: Quinoa Cakes with spinach and basil pesto, and a side of veggies.


Katie sitting all lady-like.
Maddie fluffed my pillows and kept them warm for me. She also wouldn't move.


Easter with the fam, including my sis and favorite niece Georgia.
Georgia Bluebells finally blooming in our yard.
The one month countdown to our wedding began!!