Official Nashville Hipsters

Hipsters — such an overused word. But still, as I approach my mid-thirties (gulp), I think I aspire to be one. #noshame

Since moving to the Nations, Justin and I have totally embraced being city mice — riding our bicycles as much as possible. Blazing new greenways. Tying the bikes up at the local watering hole, having a craft beer and cruising home. This weekend and its phenomenal weather set the scene just perfectly for another Nashville Hipster weekend. Bring your beard.

Friday night when Justin got home around 5 or 5:30, we tore straight out the door for the 12 South neighborhood. We had a Nashville Originals gift card from my amazing realtor, Frank J. Miles, and it was burning a hole in our pockets! We started with Happy Hour at Bartaco (best margarita in town – no joke) and then headed to Urban Grub for dinner.

Urban Grub. We sat right there by the fireplace. It was perfection.

Y’all — that dinner. We hadn’t been to Urban Grub! It’s rare to find a place that neither of us have been, so this was a treat. They fly their seafood and Oysters in FRESH, like that day, and dry age and butcher their meat in house. Justin had the most massive NY Strip I’ve ever seen. The menu says it’s 16 oz, but I’m not sure how that is possible. It appeared to be about 55 oz if I had to guess. I had the Lobster Casarecce (pasta), add truffle oil. YEP. Oh yeah, and throw in some grits with house-made bacon on top as our side. If you haven’t been to Urban Grub, I highly, highly recommend it. Just wear your stretchy pants and go for it.

Saturday morning, after sleeping off our food coma, we hopped on our bikes about 10 a.m. Justin needed a haircut — so first stop was Scout’s Barbershop in Sylvan Park, which is about 2 miles away. This place is dreamy, y’all. Justin got an old fashioned barbershop trim and a rinse for $15. YEP.

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Scout’s Barbershop

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Scout’s

Next up we cruised over to McCabe Pub right as they opened the doors for a quick lunch. McCabe’s is a staple in Sylvan Park and oh so good. I had the Chef Salad – Justin had the spicy chicken sandwich.

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McCabe Pub

My main priority this day was to get new tires on my bike. They were worn down (I purchased this baby off Craigslist about 4 years ago but it’s mostly been sitting in storage. Still, the tires were ready for a change. I’d already had one flat tube). ALSO, because I own a cougar cub masquerading as a kitten, my handlebar tape looks like this. WHAT did that tape ever do to you, Fiona!? I can’t be driving around looking like that.

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Fiona strikes again

So we left McCabe’s and headed to West End (a short 3-4 miles) to Cumberland Transit. I used to live almost right above Cumberland Transit and these guys are a staple in the Nashville outdoor arena. Fishing, biking, running, camping…they’ve got everything you need.

The guy was like “WOW…dog?” No, cat. He was impressed.

He was like “well, let’s pick out some tape — we have lots of colors.” I said “eh, probably just white again. The bike is orange so I’m not sure anything else will look good.” He said “well, you haven’t seen all the colors we have.” Boy was he right…SEAFOAM!! Seafoam and orange obviously go together.

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Seafoam!

While we waited on the bike (which really needs a name, I think), we went next door to Three Brothers Coffee. This really upped our hipster status. I mean, while we were sipping our lattes a guy came in chewing on a deer antler. Just, you know, chewing on a deer antler like it was a piece of hay or something. I think those are for dogs, but whatever dude. Maybe I should get a deer antler…

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Three Brothers Coffee

Most weekends we head South and see the McCombs family — Justin usually gets involved in some sort of brief manual labor with his Dad. This weekend was moving the grill, which we promptly broke in on the new deck.

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Sunday we finally went back to Crosspoint! We love Crosspoint Church so much. Now that wedding and moving craziness is behind us we can’t wait to get more involved and regular.

After some errands and a workout at Planet Fitness, we’d earned dinner  — so we hopped on the bikes and headed to the other side of the neighborhood for 51st Kitchen and Bar. Y’all. I love this place so much. And this Sunday was particularly special. They were having a neighborhood picnic/pop-up dinner with a guest chef and for $35/head it was all-you-can-eat gourmet picnic food. Like, the best mac n’ cheese I may have ever had. Grilled chicken wings with chimichurri. Homemade slaw with shrimp. I mean, it just went on and on. Delicious. Oh and $5 craft cocktails. YEP!

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Don’t try this at home

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51st Kitchen – Blood Orange Mule and a Malbec

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All you can eat? Yes please.

We finished the weekend on our back porch with the babies. Right where we should be. They cannot get enough of the back porch and watching the birds and eating bugs (OK, mostly Fiona. Dixie prefers eating mulch). We are loving life and loving Nashville so much. Don’t even deserve this beautiful life — but thanking God for every moment we get it.

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Our backyard oasis

XOXO,

Jenn

White Cheddar, Green Onion Pimento Cheese

I made this delicious pimento cheese over the weekend and posted a photo on the social medias, and several people asked for the recipe — so here you go!

I finally read my July issue of Southern Living and this is what happens. Since I couldn’t eat all of the watermelon, peach or cucumber recipes (since it’s almost October now), I opted for the year-round, ever-enjoyable cheese.

Disclaimer – this recipe is adapted from Southern Living’s. I say adapted, because I accidentally grabbed green onions from the store instead of chives. Win.

But I thoroughly enjoy green onions, so I’d do it again. If you want chives though, do 1/3 cup of chives instead of the 1/4 cup green onions.

cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12-oz.) block aged sharp white Cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 (4-oz.) jar diced pimiento, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Grate half of cheese using the large holes of a box grater; grate remaining half of cheese using the small holes of box grater. Stir together mayonnaise and next 6 ingredients. Stir in Cheddar cheese until well blended. Let stand 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 3 days.

XOXO,
Jenn

My Juice Cleanse Experience — The Juice is Loose!

juice. Nashville

**I preface this post by saying, I am not a doctor. What works for me may not work for you. This is my opinion and backed by no professional or medical knowledge about basically anything, ever.**

Several weeks ago I got serious about researching a juice cleanse. I don’t really know why – it was a combination of things probably. I have been really serious about trying to eat healthier foods, watch my calories and overall be healthier since the new year rolled around. I also read about it on Beth’s blog when she did it last year – and I pretty much trust that anything she says is awesome, will be awesome. The day I picked up my juice, she was there picking hers up too – for her third cleanse in six months.

Since it seemed to be the best around, I settled on Juice Nashville – a local company who does not have a brick and mortar storefront – they are a mobile, family-owned, cold-press juicery. That means no preservatives are added, no sugar, no nothing. The juice has a shelf-life of 3 days, so you get it and use it – or freeze it immediately. And if you open a bottle, you drink it within 8 hours. All this to say, it’s fresh, y’all.

So I placed my order for a the 3 day cleanse and was ready to pick it up on Saturday morning. I made sure I had no dinners planned, no fun events, etc. I was just going to hibernate all weekend with my juice and wrap it up on Monday at work.

I went to pick the juice up at the Nashville West Farmer’s Market where Wes (the husband half of the Juice team) sells on Saturdays. As he sifted through paperwork to locate my order, my juicy heart sank. He didn’t have it. Even though I had my confirmation email, something happened and my order was missing. I left thinking I might not be juicing after all – but Stephanie (the wife half of the team) called me as soon as I got to my car and said they were trying to figure out what happened to my order – not to give up yet. I went home and put on my PJs and Tweeted my feelings – and in true 2013 customer service style, Stephanie replied to my tweet in about two minutes and said that she was moving heaven and earth to find my juice.

WOW – customer service gold star for you ma’am. About 45 minutes to an hour later I got a tweet that said “found your juice! Calling you now.” And my cell rang. (I did drink a Naked fruit juice in the meantime that I had in the fridge because I was getting hangry = hungry + angry).

I zipped back down West and got my juice. I could have hugged Wes. I couldn’t believe they were so responsive to my juicing woes and were just so, so nice. Turns out, they had my order all along and the paperwork had just been misplaced so the two couldn’t be matched up.

So, let’s Juice.

The Juice Cleanse includes NO food. No drinking ANYTHING other than water or green tea. (I missed coffee dearly). You drink 5 juices a day (the same 5) and one almond milk a day.

The juices are:

 the cleanse 5 juices

I’ll be honest – I liked some of these more than others, but I hated none. I LOVED the C Ya – orange, apple, grapefruit and ginger. OMG. Snap – apple, carrot, ginger. Delish. But I think, crazy enough, the almond milk might have been my favorite. I love almond milk.

The Whoa (apple, beet, kale and ginger) was a bit harder to swallow. The Oh Yeah (apple, kale, collard and lemon) got old by the third day. But again, none were terrible. And the nutrients they clearly contain kept me chugging!

The experience:

Were you hungry? Not really. To know me is to know how much I love food. I love to eat. Food = love, to me. If you love me, cook me dinner. Buy me dinner. I love to eat. I exercise so I can enjoy food. Some people eat to live – I live to eat.

So a liquid diet with no chewing and salty food was a real challenge. But was I hungry? Not really. I did yoga Sunday night (day 2), and the calorie burn made me momentarily starve, so I ate a cutie (one of those tiny mandarin oranges). Juice Nashville says if you are desperate, you can have a raw fruit or vegetable.

By the third day I had a screaming headache, but I still think that may have been from three days with no coffee more than anything. I don’t think it was from no food as much as it was caffeine withdrawal. Although I will say, when that last juice was gone, I ate a spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar. Sorry I’m not sorry.

How did you feel? I felt detoxed, just like they promised. I felt pumped full of vitamins and nutrients and I felt healthy.

Why did you do it? To detox. To cleanse the system. To purge the crap. I did NOT do it to lose weight.

But did you lose weight? Yes. I lost 4 pounds. It was an added bonus – yes. AND, it did jumpstart my fitness this week when I finished the juice. I wanted to keep that four pounds off. I worked out twice a couple days this week. I was determined. But I also ate pizza, which I did crave while I was abstaining from solid foods during the cleanse! Ha.

Let the record show – I just weighed myself this morning and gained every bit of those four pounds back this week. Even with two-a-day workouts and overall watching what I ate, I gained it back. So it’s my advice not to do this cleanse for that reason. Or any cleanse. Clearly.

How did it work for you and would you do it again? I think it totally purged my system. I was drinking a huge glass or two of water between each juice and I was peeing every half hour. My system was cleansed. I was so hydrated – TMI, but my pee was so clear you couldn’t tell I’d peed at all. It was insane. SO I would venture to say that a lot of the weight I lost was water weight and as soon as I started consuming regular food and salt again, it just came right back. I’m not near as hydrated as I was.

Would I do it again – yes. I would definitely buy their juice again and incorporate it into my regular diet, probably before I would juice again. They have lots of other flavors I want to try! But I would juice again if I started feeling sluggish and full of crappy crap. I’d do it again.

Can you work out during the cleanse? I’m no doctor, so I say just do whatever you feel like. I went to power yoga on Sunday evening, two days into the cleanse. This is a 400+ calorie burn class, so it’s intense, and I was totally fine. Again, you aren’t starving yourself – this isn’t a lemon juice and cayenne pepper cleanse. You HAVE nutrients in your system, so just do what you feel like.

How much is it? Lots of people asked me this. It’s not cheap – but when you realize how much fruits and veggies are crammed into every bottle, they can’t be marking it up that much, y’all. It’s quality product, so you pay for it. The three day cleanse was $123 with tax and the refrigerated tote that the juice comes in (which I’ll definitely be using again!). Full disclosure, in the name of stellar customer service, Stephanie gave me half off my juice cleanse because they misplaced my order. Thanks gurl!

So there you have it. Oh – one more thing. Again in the spirit of full disclosure, this juice cleanse did things to my bowels that you would not believe. And the worst day was on the third day when I was back at work. (You’re welcome, coworkers!) I mean, when you’re stockpiling fruits and green veggies in your system and they are in liquid form, there are going to be some touch and go situations. So, that’s all I’ll say about that. Just be prepared, if you do the cleanse.

Huge thanks to Juice Nashville for being overall awesome and wonderful to work with. I can’t say enough good things about Stephanie and Wes, how adorable they are, the customer service they provide and the product they deliver. They truly have it figured out. Nashville needs you – so thanks for being here.

XOXO,
Jenn

New Year–New Habits

If you read my last blog post, and if you know me at all, you know that in (at least the second half of) 2012 I was happy. Happier than I’ve been in a long while. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. However, I would trade the “eh – it’s ok – I’ll deal with it later” attitude I took toward eating that also came along with this happiness.

It’s something I only realized in hindsight, but I was just shoving whatever tasted good into my mouth and not thinking about the consequences. Whew. It added up in a big way. I also blame the amazing cooks at my office who brought in goodies during the holidays, but that’s neither here nor there. 😉

So on Jan. 3ish I got serious about keeping up with my Fitness Pal again on my iPhone and have a fitness goal (we’ll call it that, instead of weight loss goal) by May – our family beach trip.

I call it a fitness goal, because I know I’ll never be the skinny-mini I was in college and don’t really want to be – but I do want to go to work without the zipper on my skirts pinching my muffin top. There I said it.

And I want to just feel good when I look in the mirror.

The first serious week was this week – and I lost 2.8 pounds. We’ll go ahead and call that THREE pounds! I know it just gets harder, but damn – that was a boost I needed to stay on the program.

I’m sticking to 1400 calories a day and trying to work out at least every other day. I’ve also cut back on my wine intake, but still indulged a few nights this week if I had some calories to spare.

If you’re on Fitness Pal – add me and let’s encourage each other. I also love to see what other healthy things people are eating so I don’t get in a rut.

Speaking of – I made a delicious recipe last night from HandletheHeat.com. Curried Lentil Soup. Note – as Tessa did, I did not use the chutney either. I also didn’t find red lentils in the grocery store, so I just used regular dry lentils – Publix brand. Y’all – this dish was so good. It definitely has a lot of Indian flavors in it – obviously, curry – and was really, really good. And low calorie.

Here’s to a continued healthy 2013!

XOXO,
Jenn

It’s Cool — I’ll Just Sleep Here, Too

If you’ve read the blog for long you know my love hate relationship with running. Some days I love it and some days I’d rather bang my face against the wall than run. Several months ago I started switching up my workout routine to try and come out of my “I hate running, especially in the summer” funk. I did a couple of bootcamps, which I loved, got addicted to BarreAmped, which I cannot afford, and bought a couple of random Groupons here and there.

Speaking of – if you are in the Nashville area, I have about 15 day-passes to the Delta gym if you’d like them. Lemme know.

I told myself that as soon as I sold my house I’d get a YMCA membership. All my friends (i.e. all the cool kids) are members and I wanted to be too – but just needed to wait until the damn house sold before incurring any extra expenses. (That’s what grown-ups do…ahem ahem).

Anywho…

So I joined the Y a little over a month ago and HOLY gym rat, Batman. I am one of them. I am LOVING the Y and all the options I have now. I’ve gotten totally addicted to yoga, circuit blast, swimming and am dabbling in cycling, now. I just took my first cycling class last night and can barely sit down today. You know – in the crotch area. Wow.

But I LOVED cycling! I had no idea. Riding a bike up pretend hills while listening to rap music as someone yells at you to “BREAK AWAY FROM THE PACK!! You’ll come in last if you don’t KICK IT!” through a microphone? What’s not to love?

So, here’s what a typical week looks like for me now – of course, meetings and happy hours occasionally drop in there on the evenings, but if I had NO obligations, this is how I’d roll.

Monday
6:00 a.m. – swim a mile downtown (indoors, friends)
5:30 p.m. – yoga with Debbie downtown. She rocks!

Tuesday
6:00 a.m. – Circuit Blast (in East Nash.) with Nikole, my Hungarian beauty. This is 50% of why I joined the Y. (No, not to meet hot girls). My friends are in this class and (rightly so) talk about Nikole non-stop. She seriously is amazing. She’s so encouraging, puts so much thought into planning workouts for us and pushes us till we about die every time. YES! We fondly call it “hell class.” The folks in our class recently raised over $2,000 to send her and her daughter back to Hungary for a visit since she pines for it regularly and hasn’t been in many, many years – so that should tell you what an impact she has on her classes.

Evening – rest

Wednesday
6:00 a.m. – swim a mile or run 2-3 miles, depending on how I feel
5:30 p.m. – cycling downtown

Thursday
6:00 a.m. – Circuit Blast with Nikole again
5:30 p.m. – rest or yoga downtown (am trying this class tonight for the first time). How well I like the instructor totally makes or breaks yoga for me.

Friday
5:30 a.m. – Pancake Run! 3 miles.
6:00 p.m. – Yoga with Gina in Green Hills (Nashville peeps. Have you been to Gina’s class yet? Lawd. She about killed me. It is hardcore, but awesome. Come with me if you’re here!)

Saturday
REST! Eat and drink. It is football season, after all.

Although…there is a spin class at 8:45 a.m. that I’m checking out this Saturday. 🙂 I’m addicted.

Sunday
4:30 p.m. – power yoga with Ed. Again – quite the challenging class.

Start it all over again.

So, you’re probably wondering how in-shape I am and how much weight I’ve lost after doing this routine for a little over a month, now? Well, first thing first….I’ve GAINED a couple pounds. UGH! Dang it. It sucks being a woman. I workout like crazy and eat mostly healthy and I GAIN weight because my body is all like “OH NO! Reserve the fat! What if we want to have babies one day?! Must.hold.onto.fat.” DUMB.

In other news though, I know some of the weight gain is from muscle strength. I have lost inches, I can tell, and am much stronger than I was when I first started Nikole’s class, for example. So, I’m not too mad about the scale. So long as my pants continue fitting and I don’t bust out of them like the Incredible Hulk when I walk, I won’t worry about it.

I don’t have a recent picture of me in a sports bra to show you my workout bod progress — but this one looks pretty much just like me, so it’ll work.

source

Ha.

Are any of you members at the Y and have a class that you just love? Tell me! As you can see, I like to try new things. 🙂

XOXO,
Jenn

Training Gets Personal — with Kathy Mead

Recently an email hit my inbox from Kathy Mead who lives here in Nashville and is venturing into the world of personal training after almost 15 years of being a group exercise instructor. Kathy and I have mutual friends (the Pancake Girls that I run with every Friday morning), but haven’t ever met. This was perfect — because Kathy wanted to hone her personal training style with a few guinea pig clients that she knew nothing about.

I love being a guinea pig!

First, Kathy and I had a phone conversation about my workout history, likes and dislikes. We talked about running, my injuries (stupid ol’ knee), my recent love for boot camp and BarreAmped classes, etc. She asked me what my goals would be if I were to work with a personal trainer on the regular, and I told her that I’d love to just continue to tone up — lengthen and strengthen, people. So that’s what we worked on.

Soon after, Kathy and I scheduled two personal training sessions. Again, her goal was to practice working with brand new clients and putting together fun, effective, hour-long personal training sessions that aligned with the individual’s goals and fitness level. She also wanted to get familiar wtih her new studio location and all it has to offer.

I met her bright and early at 6 a.m. at the studio she’ll be working out of — which was amazeballs. It’s so convenient to me, and anyone in the downtown area. It’s in Hillsboro Village on Wedgewood Ave. in one of those beautiful old houses that you always wish your office would relocate to. 🙂

The entire upstairs, with a separate entrance in the back, are small fitness studios outfitted with tons of equipment for whatever your exercising heart desires. It’s called The Studio of Muscle Integration, run by Kandice King. Go to the website and read about Kandice too — she kicks major butt.

My hour-long session with Kathy went something like this. 5 minute warm up on the treadmill to get the blood pumping. Then, three sets of a circuit that involved two strength exercises and one cardio exercise. We used the exercise ball, exercise bands, TRX, dumbbells, kettlebells and more. I’m telling you, they have a little bit of everything to keep it interesting. After working hard for 50 minutes or so, we cooled down and stretched. And I was a puddle on the floor.

So, for example, we’d do a set of wall squats using the exercise ball, some tricep and oblique (I’m so workout term savvy, as you can see) exercise using a band, and then a set of burpees for cardio. Then we’d repeat that at least one more time. Then she’d introduce another “circuit” of three new things. It was awesome and I was pouring sweat.

OMG the TRX. Do you all know what this thing is? I’d never used one, but had seen it. Here’s an example of a push up using TRX. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4fUS7yITAw. I fully expected for an elbow to give out and for me to get tangled up so badly that I’d have to be cut out of it with scissors, but it was great. Total body workout because you’re balancing and engaging your core the whole time. Don’t think me weird if I install one of these at the Flat, soon. 🙂 Here’s another one we did — TRX Side Plank. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ezC5UNcyyg&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PL4D2D34FEAE5E9A05

I’ll have to be honest — personal training has always seemed intimidating to me. I’ve never done it before, but the thought of someone staring at me and only me while I workout is daunting. But not so with Kathy — she is so likeable, personable and makes you feel comfortable right from the beginning. We chatted (as much as I could while gasping for breath) about random stuff like books, exercise, travel, cocktails! and such. It was like working out with a friend — if that friend just watched you sweat and told you what do to next.

It was SO nice to have someone who knows what they’re doing to be sure your form is right and to be sure that you aren’t about to blow a knee out because you can’t properly do a lunge. That was so cool — because that’s how so many inuries happen. Kathy was great at adjusting the workout up or down as I needed.

Perfect example: on the day of our second session I had run out of peanut butter. (Huh? Yes.) If I workout in the morning I eat one spoonful of peanut butter and that’s enough to give me some protein so I don’t pass out, yet it’s light enough so I don’t puke it up. I know, lovely.

I didn’t have any PB the morning of our second session, so I crammed some dried fruit bites in my mouth and headed out the door. About halfway through our workout I was doing a simple strength exercise and was watching myself in the mirror and saw all the color drain from my face. Then I thought I was going to barf. Then I thought I was going to…well, nevermind. I had to stop, lay down, started POURING sweat and my ears were ringing. I went in the bathroom to splash water on my face and to consider what it would be like if Kathy had to break the door down to pull my face out of the toilet after I fell into it. Finally, I settled down. It was terrible.

I was so embarrassed and felt so wimpy! Kathy was totally cool of course and was like “let’s stretch.” So we did about 20 minutes of really good stretching to finish the workout. Poor Kathy.

If you are interested in personal training in Nashville, give Kathy a call, please. She is so kick ass and you will love her for kicking yours.

Bio and Contact Information for Kathy Mead:
Kathy Mead has a B.S. from Vanderbilt University in Human and Organizational Development and Psychology and a M.S. from MTSU in Exercise Science. She has been a certified group exercise instructor for almost 15 years and interned with MTSU’s strength and conditioning department as a graduate student.
 
She’s worked as an Exercise Coach since 2004 (also certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health and Fitness Specialist since 2004) and is a VERY amateur bike racer.
 
She is absolutely committed to exercise and fitness as a way of life and has worked with a myriad of populations including: pre/post-natal, bariatric surgery patients pre and post-op, post-physical therapy patients, athletes, and just the everyday “Joe” or “Sue” who is interested in improving fitness or losing weight and unsure how to amp up their workout routine or start a routine all together.

Contact her at either 615-330-7308 or at meadkm1028@yahoo.com for more information.

Adventure Boot Camp – Recap

Several weeks ago I saw a Groupon for Adventure Boot Camp here in Nashville. It was for either 5 or 10 sessions at a drastically cut rate – I think I got my 10 sessions for like $52, which is awesome. It meets every morning (or evening, but I chose mornings) at 5:45 a.m. and lasts four weeks. The normal package is for four weeks of camp and you can choose to go 3, 4 or 5 days a week. I did four days for two weeks and finished my last two days (10 sessions) this week.

I wasn’t sure what to expect – but my friend Kim had been through camp before and helped prep me a bit. Her one beef with it was there wasn’t enough upper body workout. Well, your review was heard, Kim – we burned out those arms several times.

Quick run down.

Josh Allen leads Adventure Boot Camp and is awesome. He told us the first day he would be encouraging, but wouldn’t yell at us. Well hell – what kind of boot camp is that? 🙂 But he was just that – very encouraging and supportive, without making you feel like a fat idiot. He adapts everything to your skill level – if you’re hurt or having issues with something, he can help you modify every exercise and does a great job of floating through the class and checking form on every exercise, praising you when you do well and will know your name by the second class. I just can’t say enough about Josh.

The boot camp meets at Lipscomb University and their facilities are the jam. I loved being outside (if it wasn’t rainy) on their tennis courts and watching the sun come up while getting my sweat on every morning. Started my whole day on a high note.

The camp is made up of all women, which was nice. One reason I hate gyms and have never held a membership is because of all the grunting men. I don’t want to see your beefcakes or hear you flexing them. So being surrounded by other women trying to reach the same goals was a nice, calm, supportive environment. I made several new friends and loved seeing their familiar faces every morning as we bonded over sweat and near tears some days. (Nah, it wasn’t that bad). 🙂

I consider myself pretty in shape, particularly with cardio since I run. But this really stretched me to do weight lifting (just 8 and 5 pound weights are required for the class) and to work some different muscle groups that running just doesn’t touch. It was a challenge every day, but not to the point where I thought I didn’t want to come back or felt like I wasn’t getting enough. It was always just right. I left in a puddle (I seriously was so sweaty I looked like I’d been swimming some days), and was sore some, but not to the point that I couldn’t come back four days in a row. One day the class will focus more on legs, the next day more on abs and arms, for example — so your soreness has time to wear off before you really burn those muscles out again.

The class progresses and gets more challenging every week, so you never get complacent and you can feel yourself getting stronger. I did drop a couple of lbs in the 10 days, but even more than that can see more definition in my abs, legs and arms. Cha-ching! But, I do intend to drink my share of cold beers and eat my weight (daily) in seafood next week at the beach – so, I look forward to undoing it all! Kidding. That’s the great thing about Josh’s camp is that I’ve learned so many things that I can take with me and do at home or while I’m at the beach next week.

Adventure Boot Camp really teaches you a lot, quickly – and pushes you in a good way. If you have a chance, try it out. I think Josh does Groupons pretty regularly, so that’s a great way to dip your toe in if you’re not sure about it, and then you can upgrade to the full four weeks if you enjoy it.

XOXO,
Jenn

ATX — What’s Yo’ Dream?

This past weekend was the 7th Annual Phi Mu Girls Weekend. My college pals and I have been out of college almost 7 years (gasp!) and we get together every MLK weekend to celebrate. Why? Because we like to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of course.

Actually, it’s a convenient weekend because most people have Monday off and well…we’re not doing much else.

We rotate locations of this weekend extravaganza since we’re all spread out, and this year was in Austin, TX. Crystal moved there in the past year or so, and we’re STOKED she did! It was epic.

Prepare yourself for a photo-heavy recap of Phi Mu loveliness.

Ready, go!

Crystal told us to take all non-essentials out of our purses for shopping on Saturday. Please notice that Melissa started sorting through her purse and pulled out Big Boy. (under her arm in this photo). He stayed in the purse – totally essential.

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Lunch on Congress St. at Home Slice. To die for NY style pizza. And this was my menu, so you know it was a winner in my book.

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Adrienne, Crystal, Melissa, Edgin, Yours Truly, Doss and Monica.

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Food trucks on Congress St. Can you tell we like to eat? Maybe that’s why we’re all such good friends. This is Crystal – our hostess with the mostess.

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Sweet Melissa and Monica with her cupcake. I don’t hang out with ugly people, clearly.

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Alright – for dinner, we headed to Uchi. Crystal made us reservations two weeks in advance and the only time we could get in was 5:30. I made AARP jokes. But, little did we know, we hit “Sake Social” hour. SCORE.

Now, this restaurant is one of the current Top Chef contestant’s restaurants. Crystal built it up so big in our minds that I was sure it would never stand up. It’s mostly (or maybe all) sushi. We sat down, perused the menu, and had no idea what to order. Most of it isn’t even in English.

Thanks to our helpful waitress and our local gal though, we picked out a few happy hour tastings and began the teasing of the tastebuds. Oh.Em.Gee. If you are in Austin, take out a small loan and go on a romantic date or girls night here. Then do yourself  favor and order one of everything. It is worth every.single.penny. The sushi was the freshest thing I’ve ever tasted. It melted in your mouth.

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SAKE!

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Here are a few of my tastings. First, hama chili — yel­low­tail sashimi, sliced thai chili, orange supremes. This was my favorite. I should have ordered a second one of these. As you can see, it’s a small tasting size dish. Totally Top Chef style. I felt like Padma.

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Next, this sushi roll was the Shag — tempura fried salmon roll, sun dried tomato, sumiso, spicy sauce. Hands down, the best sushi roll I’ve ever tasted. I would have eaten these till I threw up if I wasn’t afraid of embarrassing my pretty friends. That’s some squid ink or something spread on the serving board. Pretty tasty.

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And finally – the Bacon Steakie — pork belly, water­melon radish, citrus, thai basil. I had never had pork belly. I die. It was so good. Like bacon but ten times richer and better.

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Also, I had an order of the machi cure — smoked baby yellow­tail, yucca chips, asian pear, marcona almonds, garlic brittle. I must have inhaled it so quickly though, that I forgot to take a photo.

The tastings were small, but it allowed you to have a taste of everything and it was so fun. Honestly, it wasn’t that expensive either. For all of the delicious food we got to try and the drinks we consumed, I honestly would have paid double and still thought it totally worth it.

Me and Melissa drinking our un-distilled sake. It’s traditional to pour the sake overflowing in a small glass, that sits inside these boxes. The overflowing glass symbolizes generosity. Then you pour the rest of the sake into the box and drink it like so. 🙂 We’re so cultured.

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Next, it was onto the famous Broken Spoke for dance lessons and honky-tonking.

Me and Edgin on the left – my roomie from Freshman year at UT! And Dossy on the right – my beautiful Phi Mu who lives in Nashville, but I see more OUT of town. 🙂

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Don’t hate.

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Melissa getting her dance lesson with Jack. He had some moves!

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After the Broken Spoke it was back to Crystal’s briefly (the Broken Spoke was sort of early in the evening). And we had a special surprise for Crystal, who just got engaged. A Phi Mu candlelight! Oh yes – a sacred Phi Mu tradition…well, not that sacred. This is a public blog, after all. Want to know the handshake? 😉

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Congrats, my love!

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Now, in the cab and on to Downtown Austin!

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Meet the Space Rockers, who dressed like Power Rangers and played Top 40 hits…but from 7-8 years ago. I swear, it was like we wrote their playlist during our senior year at UT. Get Low, anyone? What about “Shake it like a Salt Shaker?”

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Crystal, convincing them to give us a shout out. Yep – we were just dancing away and all of the sudden heard, “this one is for my Phi Mu ladies….” We squealed like groupies.

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I call this “the morning after.” P.S. – yes, we’re in matching shirts that say “7th Annual Phi Mu Girls Weekend – Austin, TX” on them. Crystal really went the extra mile with this hosting business!

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Next was on to Juan in a Million. Oh.Em.Gee. Although the smell of food almost made several of us have to run for the bushes, we eventually quelled the evening’s shenanigans with some breakfast burritos and tacos. I was the only one we strayed and got beef, rather than breakfast tacos. Mistake. I survived on chips and queso at 9 in the morning. Delish.

Juan in a Million is famous for the Don Juan, which is a HUMONGOUS breakfast burrito. And it’s $4. Two people split it and still can’t finish it. Breakfast for $2? Yes sir. It was featured on Man vs. Food, where Adam tried to eat 8 of the breakfast tacos – and failed miserably.

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Monica is proud of her stereotype as an Asian driver. She is so hilarious. She also was fond of asking people (after a little liquid courage) – “Do you know why we’re here?” And after a couple of seconds of confused, blank staring, she’d respond “We’re celebrating the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King.” We thought at one point it may be more appropriate to say “life and legacy,” but it was too engrained in our minds by then to change it.

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Sunday evening it was off to the Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX. This was recently featured on Top Chef where they competed in a BBQ challenge and I was so excited after watching the episode. Can’t believe we actually went there – and can’t believe I didn’t take photos of the massive amount of food we ordered. We started with brisket, ribs, smoked turkey and sausage, (1 pd. of each) and then ordered more of the brisket and sausage. We had two pints of cole slaw, one pint of potatoes, baked beans and pickles and onions. Then we got one of each dessert – blackberry cobbler, peach cobbler and pecan pie. We tipped generously, and each owed $12.50. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Oh, and it was BYOB, so we had our cooler tableside. Heaven.

The grounds were amazingly beautiful. You can check out more on their website, because I can’t do it justice without photos. It would be amazing for a wedding, but I can’t imagine the cheese you’d have to fork over for a rental fee.

Hey – Yates – maybe you should look into that for your upcoming nuptials. I will pitch in $12.50 for my meal.

Here we are below, in the Salt Lick winery doing a tasting while waiting on our table.

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Nik, Crystal’s man, joined us on this excursion and even treated us to the wine tasting. We love Nik.

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The pit! If you watched Top Chef, you saw this.

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I imagine this was against Health Dept. regulations, but whatev.

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Me and Edgin with our beer staches – best invention ever.

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My other sustenance for the weekend. I had 2.5 Whataburgers and as many fries. Nom nom nom nom.

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Pirate! Snuggling and chewing her bone on my sleep spot.

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The last night we cuddled on the futon (with Pirate) and watched Bridesmaids. The perfect ending to a perfect weekend with perfect girlfriends.

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We really are so blessed to still have each other and be so close. Even if we don’t all see each other regularly, or even keep in touch as well as we should with our busy lives, we all come right back together like we didn’t miss a beat. That’s what real friendship should feel like, if you ask me. Ups and downs, backwards and forwards, we always have our girls.

Thanks again for being such an amazing hostess, Crystal. The entire weekend was planned to a T, but flowed so seamlessly. Can’t wait to come back for the Yates/Bristow wedding extravaganza!! I’m making my reservation at Uchi as so0n as you tell me your wedding date. 😉

XOXO,
Jenn

Butter Pecan Granola

My house smells amazing right now thanks to this easy recipe. I adapted it from this Southern Living recipe because the grocery store didn’t have wheat germ (not that I’d want to eat something called wheat germ, anyways) or sesame seeds. And my way turned out pretty dang good.

So, see the original Southern Living recipe here, or use mine below. Note, their recipe makes enough for a North Korean army, so I halved the amounts in mine. It still filled a large sheet pan.

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1.5 cups uncooked regular oats
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
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Preparation

Preheat oven to 325°.

Stir together melted butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl.

Add oats, pecans and sunflower seeds and stir until mixture is evenly coated.

Spread oat mixture on a lightly greased 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan.

Bake 22 minutes or until toasted, stirring every 10 minutes.

Spread granola onto wax paper, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).

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Nom nom.

I’m going to have mine over some yogurt in the morning. It should be slightly healthier than the bag of sausage balls I demolished over the past week during my staycation. 😉

XOXO,
Jenn

Cranberry Pecan Cheese Wafers

Oh em gee. These little babies are so delicious. I saw this recipe in the December Southern Living and being a cheese lover, whipped some up this weekend. I already had 90% of the ingredients, too, which was nice. You probably do too!

These taste like a fancy Cheez-It, which is one of my favorite snacks ever. Pretty much anything with cheese is my friend, let’s be honest.

I made some of these and put them in a little Christmas box because I’m visiting my best Wendy and her family later today. These will be the perfect savory treat for everyone to enjoy.

Note – the below recipe from Southern Living makes enough to feed a small army – about 8 dozen. I halved the recipe and it still made about 60 wafers. Although, I think I’ll be making the other half to take home for Christmas! 🙂

So, this is the full recipe, but adjust accordingly. I’ve heard in baking (I don’t bake much) that doubling recipes will mess it up, but halving this one seemed to work fine!

Southern Living Cranberry Pecan Cheese Wafers:

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped sweetened dried cranberries
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 4 cups (16 oz.) freshly shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground red pepper
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Parchment paper
Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Cool completely (about 15 minutes).

Meanwhile, soak cranberries in boiling water to cover 15 minutes; drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Beat butter and next 3 ingredients at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until blended. Gradually add flour, beating just until combined. Stir in cranberries and pecans. Shape dough into 4 (12-inch-long) logs; wrap each log in plastic wrap. Chill 8 hours to 3 days.

Or, wrap in aluminum foil if you’re out of plastic wrap, like me. It works.

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Preheat oven to 350°. Cut each log into 1/4-inch-thick slices (use a serrated knife and it’ll be so much easier) ; place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. (Note – this actually took about 17 minutes for mine. Just keep an eye on the bottoms of your wafers, because they brown quicker than the tops).

Remove from baking sheets to wire racks, and cool completely (about 20 minutes).

1/4 inch slices, read to go in the oven.

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Cooling on the counter.

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Nom nom.

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All dressed up and ready to go!

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Seriously – run to the kitchen and make these! They are so salty, sweet, nutty, cheesy – delicious.

XOXO,
Jenn