Thankful: Thanksgiving Edition

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again. How is Thanksgiving on Thursday? I’m so excited for all the great food and company. We’re going to be at a “Friendsgiving” tonight, and then on Thursday, I’m making double of this pie for the two dinners I’ll be at, and I hope it turns out as good as the pictures!

Yes, there is.
Yes, there is.

I don’t know about you, but I always tend to get a wee bit emotional as the holidays approach. For me, it’s a very reflective time of year—I think of where my life has taken me in the past 12 months, friends I’ve gained, loved ones lost. The year usually goes by in a whirlwind, and the holidays are a time where we (try to) slow down, spend lots of time with those we love and think about where we’ve been and where we’re going.

This year has been great. It went by way too fast, but that’s because it was filled with busy weekends, fun trips, friends, family and laughter. I got a promotion at the beginning of the year, fell even more in love with my boyfriend and got to go to some pretty cool places.

This year has also been stressful. My family has had some ups and downs, some friendships hit a bumpy path. I saw people I care about go through some pretty rough times.

But no matter what deck of cards we’re dealt for the year, we must count our blessings and be thankful.

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My mom always said “If you have your health, you have everything,” and I always try to remember this. It’s true. No matter the year’s highs and lows, God has blessed me and my loved ones with another 12 months of health and another year of being together. So Thursday, I’ll be celebrating.

Here is a short list of 13 things I’m thankful for (because it’s 2013). I hope you join me in sharing yours, or at least reflecting upon them as you read mine.

This year, I’m thankful for…

  • My boyfriend. He’s truly my best friend, and I can’t imagine a day without him. I can’t wait to see what adventures this next year brings us.
  • My mom. She’s raised me and my sister on her own for the past 12 years, and I think she’s done a pretty damn good job.
  • My sister. Even though she’s my little sister, I look up to her in so many ways. Next year, she’ll hit another milestone and graduate college with her degree in dietetics. I’m already so proud!
  • My grandma. If I didn’t have her, I’m not sure who I’d call when I burn myself baking spaghetti squash. Or need advice with a friend. Or just need someone to listen.
  • The rest of my family. Not that they aren’t important to list out individually, but I’m not sure you have the patience to read. 🙂
  • My girlfriends. It doesn’t matter how awesome your significant other and family are; you need your ladies.
  • Timmy! This little bugger makes me smile every day. He’s made my house a home.
  • My apartment. Aside from my noisy neighbors, it’s my little oasis. I’m coming up on three years there, and it’s by far the best place I’ve called home (besides my mom’s).
  • My job. As cheesy as it sounds, most days, I wake up excited to get to work. Not something I’ve always been able to say.
  • My coworkers. I work with some of the most talented people in Cleveland who inspire me and push me beyond my comfort zone. They’re also some of my greatest friends.
  • Freedom. I’m so thankful to live in a safe place, and that’s because of the men and women who sacrifice their comfort every day.
  • Running. I’m grateful I have my health and can run to stay fit. I’m running with one of my good friends tonight, and I’m already looking forward to it!
  • This blog! I never knew this blog would be so fulfilling, but it is. Every time someone tells me they read it, I squeal a little inside. To be able to write every week and share it with you guys makes me so happy. Thank you for reading.

thankful

I wish you all a joyous Thanksgiving with your families and a wonderful kick-off to the holiday season.

XO,
Liv

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How I Control My Appetite

Ever since I was a pre-teen, I’ve had an appetite the size of a teenage boy. I got nicknamed the bottomless pit. And although my insatiable appetite subsided through high school and college, it reared its ugly head again when I started exercising consistently. So keeping myself satisfied without totally overeating has always been a challenge of mine.

I’m shocked when some people tell me they don’t eat breakfast. Or they “forgot to eat lunch.” How do you forget to eat? I haven’t skipped a meal in 27 years! Balancing my fat/carbs/proteins is the only way to ensure I have a breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack that doesn’t leave me wanting more. Also, I have a hungry boyfriend to feed. People, food is important, and a world without great meals is just a sad place I’d never want to visit.

I’m sharing a typical “day of food” in my life because I’m interested in what you eat. How do you come home and not run the cat over trying to make dinner? Or wake up not immediately thinking about breakfast? Let’s hope it’s the result of a high metabolism…

Source: buzzsugar.com "I have a very high metrabolism!"
Source: buzzsugar.com
“I have a very high metrabolism!”

Here’s my typical day meal by meal (because really, that’s the way I live)…

7:45: When I’m on my way to work, I’m drinking coffee with a splash of cream. Eyes.must.stay.open.

8:30: I’m at my office and make a beeline for the kitchen. Oatmeal with a scoop of peanut butter and chia seeds for me!

10:30: Am I a three-month-old infant who needs fed every two hours? I shut my growling stomach up with a banana or other piece of fruit and a small handful of almonds.

12:00: Thank goodness it’s time for lunch. I thought I’d never make it. Lunch is either a big salad, a salad and a sandwich or leftovers from dinner the night before.

2:30: How am I hungry again? I eat a yogurt and pray this does this trick.

4:00: Nope, didn’t work. I eat another piece of fruit or a granola bar and drink some tea.

6:30: Get out of my way. I’m a woman on a mission. Dinner, of course differs every night, but one of my favorite combos is baked chicken with brown rice and roasted veggies. And maybe a glass of wine.

Phew. I’m full just thinking about it. I’ve found if I stay ahead of my hunger, eating before I’m ravenous, and come to work armed with healthy choices, I’m less likely to raid the office candy jar. But I’m going to be honest and say that although this is a typical day, some days involve Reese’s cups, cupcakes, macaroni and cheese and other unhealthy options. Not going to lie.

This meal plan is especially important for me to stick to, considering next week will basically be the equivalent of an eating competition. Stay strong, my friends!

Yummy Homemade Energy Bars

This blog post is dedicated to my little sister. Because she is the one who perfected this recipe—not me.

Me and my sister, living it up at OU
Me and my sister, living it up at OU

There are many reasons why I love and admire my sister, but one of those reasons is because of how multitalented she is. I mean, really. The girl can cook. She can bake. Sculpt. Draw. Craft. Run. And although I have a leg up on her with some things (anything that involves coordination, really), she’s always been slightly more blessed than me in the kitchen. I have to work to make a great meal. She just does it.

I visited her at college this past weekend before she came home for Thanksgiving, and as I drove away, I was left with the same pang in my stomach that I always have. She’s my best friend, and it’s hard to spend a whole weekend together and then leave her again. But the holidays are coming, and that means she’ll be here for a whole month. So expect more recipes from her cookbook!

These awesome energy bars are based on this recipe, but below is the combination my sister used. They were better than any store-bought bar I’ve had, and are of course healthier because they’re less processed.  She said she’s going to experiment with canned pumpkin and chocolate protein powder next. I’ll be around to taste test that for sure.

For easy portioning, bake them in muffin cups. They store well in the fridge. Enjoy!

  • 1-pound can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked beans)
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup mashed banana
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups of oats (you can toast them if you want, but I can’t tell the difference)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup stir-ins: shredded coconut, dark chocolate chips, chopped nuts

My Response to the WSJ Article

Hi friends! I must say, I was planning to post about a really yummy homemade protein bar my sister perfected last time she was home from college. But then I saw this article, and the recipe post had to wait. Even though the author probably doesn’t give a hoot what I think, I still want to voice my opinion, just like he did.

To sum it up, this Wall Street Journal editorial is a vent about how most runners are people who just want attention, parading down the street in their running gear, posting selfies, visiting running stores and slapping 26.2 and 13.1 bumper stickers on their cars (guilty—I have a pink one on my car).

Source: therunningstickers.com
Source: therunningstickers.com

He’s right. Some people do run for attention and post pictures on Instagram in neon running gear, shoving it in people’s faces via every possible social media channel. But that’s just a select group of people who run. I think there is a group of yogis who overdo the “namaste” trend. And a group of Crossfitters who is crazed about their WODs. And a group of vegans. And vegetarians. And animal lovers. And liberals. And conservatives…

Man, people are obnoxious, huh?

My opinion: I think this guy needs something to stand behind. Why target a certain group of people—what do you have against them? I want to know what is wrong with getting heavily involved with something like running, or any fitness activity for that matter. Suggesting people get in their cars and drive 10 miles rather than run it—that’s just ignorant. Being into fitness beats being lazy, unhealthy and uninteresting, doesn’t it?

People have been running for decades, and many of my friends have found running to be a fulfilling way to stay in shape, be healthy and have some fun while doing it. Everyone has something that they throw themselves into and love (or at least I would hope they do) and talk about to their friends/share via social media.

I’m not going to bore you with what running has done for me. I’ve already talked about that and will continue to do so. But as far as I know, runners don’t hurt anyone. Nor do people who practice yoga or Crossfit. They have just found a lifestyle they want to pursue and share with the world. And if it weren’t for some people sharing their love for running with me, I wouldn’t have found it.

I wouldn’t have had some of my happiest, most accomplished moments in life without becoming a runner. People celebrate getting their master’s degree, raising money for charities. Why can’t we celebrate too?

One of our first races together (a 4-miler)
One of our first races together (a 4-miler)
My first half marathon in 2010
My first half marathon in 2010
Crossing the finish line after 26.2 in 2011
Crossing the finish line after 26.2 in 2011

So in the meantime, you can find me running around my neighborhood and driving to work sporting my 26.2 sticker.

Oh, and Mr. Stafko, some people truly enjoy running outside rather than chasing a treadmill belt and working out in a bacteria-infested gym when they get the chance. If you have a problem with it, why not keep your eyes on the road while you’re driving, eh?

OK, enough venting for now. Protein bar recipe will be posted soon!

Running Memories

The other day, I went to the gym and had an extremely satisfying workout. The kind where you grab a gossip magazine, crank up your iPod and cruise on the treadmill. I knocked out a quick 2.5 miles without looking at the timer once and felt like I was able to relieve some of the week’s stress in a quick half hour.

During my runs, I think about a lot of things, but when I’m having a really great workout, I often think of some of my best accomplishments. Bringing myself back to that place of such fulfillment always gets me feeling motivated and helps me to push harder—whether it’s to run faster, do a couple more pushups or not lower my leg in my Pure Barre workout (yes, I’m going regularly now!).

I have a lot of great memories from running races throughout the past few years, but my absolute favorite is crossing the finish line of my first (and only) full marathon in May 2011 with one of my best friends. You can read the full story of my 26-mile journey here.

Anyone who has ran a race knows that the journey to get there goes way beyond the mileage you complete that day. Although I officially started training that January, the process really took more than a year when I started running seriously and training for my first half marathon. At the time, I was really looking for something to throw myself into to lose a few pounds, tone up and do something constructive with my time. But what I found was so much more.

What I discovered was that the more miles I logged, the more secure I became. The more satisfied I was. The better sleep I got. The more secure I became. And most importantly, the happier I found myself. No matter what life was throwing at me, running was my constant and consistently left me feeling better than I did before I ran.

Source: Unknown
Source: Unknown

And when I told people I was going to do something kind of crazy and train for a full marathon, I know they had their doubts. I did too. I was secretly terrified of not being able to make it through my training program and having to say “I quit.” I had never done anything that physical in my life—I was never an athletic girl, let alone a marathon runner.

So when I crossed that finish line after five hours of running (we never stopped except to walk through the water stops), it had all come to that moment. Crossing the finish line hand-in-hand with my friend, we both looked at each other and broke down in tears. I had done something I never thought I could do. I pushed my body to its limits and accomplished something about 1 percent of the world has.

This is one of my favorite moments to close my eyes and go back to. When I’m trying to motivate myself to go to the gym on a cold winter night or trying to push through that last ½ mile, I go to that moment, and I immediately get a second wind.

I’m planning to run the Reindeer Run in December, and it’s moments like these I’ll think of when I see the finish line. Because when you see the end, you don’t slow down—you break into a sprint.

What’s your favorite proud exercise moment?

Fun Fitness Quiz

Happy Wednesday, friends! I found this fitness quiz on one of my favorite blogs and thought it would be a fun mid-week post. Enjoy, and feel free to share your answers too!

Five fitness items I can’t live without:
This is hard, because I’m not a huge workout gear person unless I’m training or running a long-distance race, but here goes.

  1. My Bobble water bottle: I don’t have to buy expensive plastic water bottles at the grocery store to get good tasting, purified water during my workouts.
  2. My North Face sports bra: It keeps everything right and tight when I’m running/bouncing around for hours. Enough said.
  3. My Garmin watch: I could never have trained for a long-distance race without knowing my pace and mileage. Mine is a few years old, but here’s a similar one.
  4. The Jillian Michaels’ Shred It With Weights DVD: This is my go-to work out when I’m too lazy to go to the gym—I can barely walk the next day every time.
  5. A good gossip magazine: Any time I go to the gym, I grab an Us Weekly or another gossipy tabloid. It’s a guilty indulgence and it keeps me distracted while on the treadmill so I am not tempted to watch the clock.

Favorite pre-workout snack:
I’ve already talked about my go-to work out snacks, but I’d say my favorite is peanut butter on a waffle.

On my fitness bucket list:
Thankfully, one of my bucket list items, running a full marathon, is already checked off. However, I’d love to run a half marathon one day and beat my best time (2:13) and beat my best 5K time. I’d also love to get to a point where I can do pushups and pull-ups like a beast.

Top exercise gear:
This kind of goes with the above question, but another favorite of mine is my Lululemon jacket. It’s lightweight yet warm enough for a cool evening run … and it’s cute!

Motivational mantras:
I really got into mantras when I was training for my first half marathon. My favorite mantras I repeat over and over in my head, especially when I’m having a tough time working through those last few miles. My go-to is “I’m privileged to be able to run.” Not everyone can run, especially long-distance, so I’m thankful for my health to be able to do it.

Here are a few other favorites.

Source: Unknown
Source: Unknown
Source: Unknown
Source: Unknown
Source: Unknown
Source: Unknown

I asked my friend who is not a runner, but is serious about her workouts, what her mantras are, and she said “You are only one workout away from a good mood” (so true!) or “You never regret a workout.” Love these—great motivation to get my butt to the gym!

Next big exercise goal:
I don’t have any serious races on the horizon, but I would really like to stay consistent with my workouts and be fit throughout the holiday season. It’s hard to go to the gym when it’s dark outside and cuddling on the couch is the alternative, but a work out, even a quick one, will help me stay healthy through the season and boost my mood on those cold winter nights.

Favorite cardio exercise:
Running—duh! 🙂

Favorite strength move:
I love traditional moves, especially squats, pushups and tricep dips. They burn and make me feel strong.

What’s your favorite exercise mantra?

My Pinterest Party

This weekend, I did something very unlike myself. First, I walked into a craft store. Then I threw a Pinterest party and handmade a holiday wreath.

My Christmas masterpiece
My Christmas masterpiece

You guys, I don’t have a creative bone in my body. I was the kid whose art creations were hung by my mother on the fridge for the obligatory amount of time and then filed into a box in the basement. I can’t draw a straight line, and my imaginative drawings were always overshadowed by my sister’s pottery, sketches and paintings. Now that kid is an artist. I create art with words, not paint and charcoal. Believe me, I know where I stand.

One of my sister's many beautiful creations
One of my sister’s many beautiful creations

So when I logged onto Pinterest a few weeks ago, and saw a link to this wreath, I was immediately intimidated, even though it looked fairly simple. But then I thought, “If these fools can do it, well then so can I. Darn it.” I invited a group of girls over, and we crafted.

I learned that although I have no business in a craft store and could never walk in there without a detailed list and come up with a concoction of supplies to create something original, I can follow step-by-step instructions to create something pretty for my home.

Here is my friend’s wreath, and the link to the tutorial. I think hers turned out even better than the one on the website!

Tulle holiday wreath
Tulle holiday wreath

Now, we have beautiful, homemade decorations that we can hang up (after Thanksgiving, of course) and be proud of. I may not be any Picasso, but nothing beats wine, friends and something to show for it.

Have a great week, everyone!

What’s a homemade creation you’re proud of?