Life Lately: November 2014

Time for a life post! I have to bring you guys up to speed on the last two months, but since December was chock full of holiday fun, I’m only giving you November for now. This way you don’t have to scroll and scroll and scroll.

Life Lately

Tim and I kicked off November with dinner out at Brio Tuscan Grille in Chestnut Hill. The occasion? Our parents had never met before! Can you guys even believe that? All went well, and our food was great. We wanted to have them meet before the holidays and before our wedding planning picks up next month.

Brio Tuscan Grille

Then we both traveled for work during the first week of November. I went to Minnesota to do a couple of Stress Less seminars for our staff out there and to be there for the MN health fair. Everything went really smoothly, I got to lead a plank contest and a stretch session during the event, and the wellness champions out there organized an after work 5k race. I just love our Minnesota staff members. Everyone is so active and engaged with the wellness program, which makes for a nice change of pace.

Minnesota Health Fair 2014

Minnesota Health Fair 2014

Tim and I both had a long day of travel home on Friday at the end of the week. I landed around noon, caught a cab home from the airport, went through emails while eating lunch, and then I had to shower and get ready to go back to the airport to get Tim and head to Worcester for wedding #7 of 2014. It took us three hours to get from Boston to Worcester, and we were both exhausted, but we rallied and somehow managed to find the energy to celebrate Pete and Andrea’s special night!

Pete and Andrea's Wedding Pete and Andrea's Wedding

The rest of that weekend we pretty much did nothing! We finally got to spend some fall time outside with each other on a long walk, and it was nice to just relax and rejuvenate.

Tim and Me on a Fall HikeThe Best Yes

The following week, I hosted a girls night for my friends Allison, Shannon, and Tracy from home on Thursday. We spent it drinking wine and catching up over a good meal. I made a gnocchi and squash casserole with greens (hard to please a vegetarian AND two picky eaters!), Allison brought a salad, Shannon the wine and cheese and crackers, and Tracy brownies. It was perfect!

Butternut Squash with Gnocchi and KaleThe following night I headed over to Slesh’s apartment to hang out while we waited for our friend Erica to arrive. Erica was in town for one of the three parties that Tim and I were triple booked for on Saturday, and since I knew I probably wasn’t going to be able to make it to the one Erica was here for, I wanted to make sure I got some quality time in with her! Slesh and I hung out and drank wine (seems to be a theme, huh?), got dinner ready, and talked about some wedding related things before Erica got there. The rest of the night was spent catching up with both friends, and I felt lucky having two really great girls nights in a row. Slesh also made the most delicious chocolate chip cookies!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

On Saturday, our friends Ashley and Bret had a housewarming party, so we went over there for party #1. We brought the cranberry avocado salsa that I posted the other day, and we spent a lot of time chatting with my gym friend Jess and her fiancé Chris. Both Chris and Tim are foodies, so we knew they would hit it off!

Cranberry Avocado Salsa

Ashley and Bret's Housewarming

After a couple of hours spent at Ashley and Bret’s house, we headed out to party #2. Our friends Cate and Joe were hosting people at their house for Cate’s 30th birthday before heading out to celebrate with drinks at Howl at the Moon in Patriots Place. We had a ton of fun, but unfortunately we didn’t make it to party #3 which was a goodbye party for other friends of ours who are moving to LA. It was just too much to do in one night.

Cate's 30th Bday

Finally, I wrapped up that weekend with brunch at Johnny D’s in Somerville with Slesh, Erica, and Bridget! I was happy to see Erica one last time before she headed back to New York. This is awkwardly the only picture I have from that morning, via Bridget’s snap chat. We are weird. Sorry, Slesh.

Snapchat

The next week was the Massachusetts health fair week, so work was very stressful, but like Minnesota, the event went really well. We opened the day with a big presentation in our auditorium, we had multiple ed sessions throughout the day, my friend Dawn won the plank contest, and we did yoga. I was so relieved when the day was over (in a good way). Planning a big event like that for hundreds of people is not easy!

MA Health Fair 2014

Note Tim awkwardly getting fitted for orthodics. Haha! After the health fair, Tim and I went out for a celebratory dinner and much-needed margaritas at El Centro, a new Mexican place that opened in Belmont center. Loved!

El Centro in Belmont

The rest of the weekend was exactly what I needed after the health fair craziness. On Friday, I worked from home and met up with Dawn for a Whole Foods lunch date, and then Tim and I stayed put on our couch that night.

Whole Foods Salad Bar

I was supposed to teach another Athleta class on Saturday morning, but unfortunately it got canceled. Instead, I went on a morning hike and out to breakfast with some of my gym friends.

Gym Friends Hike

Since we met before 8am, we were done with our workout and breakfast by 11ish. I loved having the rest of the day to run some errands, prepare for Friendsgiving on Sunday, and relax!

Thanksgiving 2014

Sunday was Friendsgiving at Slesh’s, which you guys already read about in my Thanksgiving post a couple of weeks ago.

Thanksgiving 2014

That week at work was a short week. On Thanksgiving Day itself, Tim and I did a quick workout before splitting the holiday between both of our families.

Thanksgiving 2014

The rest of the weekend was spent teaching a post Thanksgiving class, grabbing another breakfast out with the gym girls, and hanging in on Friday night. On Saturday, I got all the details for my Holiday Hustle Challenge ready, we went out to lunch with our friends who were in town, and we saw Tim’s sister and her boyfriend for margaritas back at El Centro at night. Finally, I wrapped up the weekend and month at my friend Nicole’s baby shower.

Nicole's Baby Shower

And that was my November! December and holiday update coming soon.

–Let’s chat–
I would normally ask how your Novembers were, but that seems like ages ago now. Instead, tell me what you guys have going on for New Year’s Eve tonight. Going out? Staying in?

Tim and I are going out to dinner at Solea on Moody Street, and then we are stopping by Hopsters to see what their Happy Brew Year shindig is all about. We wanted to keep it low-key without staying in. Whatever you guys are doing, have fun tonight! Be safe!

You Can Do It All, But You Don’t Have To

This post is sponsored by Whole Foods Market Arlington. All opinions are my own.

I was walking into Whole Foods for my weekly grocery run the other day, when a little sign in front of the store caught my eye.

Whole Foods Market Arlington: You Can Do It All

“You can do it all, but you don’t have to.”

This is the ongoing battle I have with myself, day in and day out, week after week.

Full time, I run a corporate wellness program. And you want to know what programs I want to offer? All of them.

Part time, I teach fitness classes. And while I only teach two classes a week, I want to teach more. Oh my God, how I want to teach more.

Part time, I blog. Even though I consider blogging a hobby and something I do for fun, it’s starting to provide income for me. Fitness & Feta is growing, you guys. And it’s awesome and makes me really excited for “someday.” But someday isn’t today, and today I have all sorts of posts I want to write, all sorts of projects I want to do, and all sorts of events I wish I could attend but can never make because I’m trying to run a corporate wellness program and teach fitness classes. And strength train. And food prep. And have a social life. And clean my house. And spend time outdoors. And plan my wedding. And finish my wellness coaching certification. And start my Christmas shopping. And do all those returns that have sat in my car for weeks now. And read. And think about what to make for Thanksgiving…

I am someone that tries to do it all.

Muscles

The holidays are right around the corner (can you even believe it?!), and this is a time of year that usually sends people like me right over the edge. Sure, they can be a time of joy, relaxation, and cheer, but that’s usually if you are not the one responsible for all the cleaning, cooking, baking, planning, decorating, hosting, wrapping, socializing… right!? Sound familiar?

If you can relate (cough, cough all my fellow Type A friends and readers), I want you to ask yourself something. What if, for one year, you stop trying to be superwoman (or superman)? What if instead of “getting through” November and December, you took the time to truly enjoy these months? Do you ever stop and think that our “I can do it all” attitudes are probably the true culprits of so much stress and anxiety?

I ask myself this all the time.

This holiday season, I encourage you to try to create more space in your life. Even if you want to do ALL THE THINGS, remind yourself that having those margins to breathe is just as important as crossing off everything on your to do list.

Instead of trying to survive, thrive.

Delegate.

Ask for help when you need it.

Give yourself permission to say no or do something differently.

If a tradition stresses you out, change it.

Whole Foods Holiday Menu

As I continued my grocery shopping last week, I realized that Whole Foods actually offers a pretty awesome solution for changing things up. If taking the stress out of your holiday meal isn’t a great starting point, I don’t know what is.

Whole Foods Thanksgiving Menu 2014

After browsing through the 2014 Whole Foods Thanksgiving menu, I realized you can order pretty much anything for your holiday meal. The menu includes turkeys of all kinds, signature sides, relish and gravies, breads and rolls, tons of hors d’oeuvres, fresh fruit, cheeses, soups, desserts, and more. Basically anything you need for your holiday party you can get through Whole Foods. I love that the menu also features Health Starts Here options, caters toward any allergies, and offers Meal Deals for families of 2, 4, 8, and 12. You can even get flowers and candles to decorate with!

Interested? Just visit the Whole Foods online ordering site, select what you want, and pick your items up at your local Whole Foods store. Easy as pie, except easier because you won’t have to make it. Some Whole Foods stores will even have a holiday ordering table set up with a team member taking orders right on site. Look how festive the Arlington store table is!

Whole Foods Arlington: Holiday Food Menu

No matter what you choose this season, whether it be catering your holiday meal from Whole Foods or simply turning down an invitation to a party you don’t want to go to, own your decision. Don’t feel guilty about it. Maybe you get some snide remarks from a crabby relative, but who really cares if you spent three hours trying to make a Pinterest perfect dish? Is that a non-negotiable to you? Probably not. Show yourself some compassion, and accept your decision as important to you.

–Let’s chat–
Are you someone who tries to do it all? How do you accept that you don’t have to? What are your tips for approaching the holiday season with a stress free mindset? Have you ever ordered off the Whole Foods holiday menu before?

P.S. Whole Foods Arlington is also offering some pretty cool cooking classes geared toward preparing for Thanksgiving this month! I might check out the centerpieces and hors d’oeuvres class next Tuesday, but the one on brining and roasting a turkey sounds pretty awesome too. That would totally get me out of my comfort zone! Both classes are free, but you have to sign up online, and donations will be collected to support the Feed Four More foundation.

New To Me Whole Foods Finds

Today I’m here to share a whole bunch of foodie finds with you! Whole Foods in Arlington generously put together a bag of new to me goodies for me to sample.

Whole Foods Finds

Talk about the most exciting grocery store stop ever since I got to leave with a stash with my name on it! Whole Foods made sure to give me a combination of both products from their 365 value brand and other name brands they carry.

Whole Foods ArlingtonWhole Foods ArlingtonI’m curious if you guys have tried any of these products or brands before. Here’s what I got:

Chocolate

Whole Foods Chocolate Bars

  • Taza stone ground organic chocolate: I was psyched to see Taza in the bag because Tim and I toured the Taza factory back in the day and had a blast. Their chocolate is the real deal (none of this processed Hershey’s crap), and 70% dark is my preferred cacao level.
  • Sweetriot’s kickin’ coconut: This bar was one of my favorite goodies of them all! Seriously you guys, this brand is life changing. Paradise in my mouth. The coconut flavor isn’t overbearing at all. I’m sure you can assume that I had a lot of trouble limiting myself to one serving at a time with this one!
  • Whole Foods 365 brand dark chocolate with almonds: This one wasn’t bad, but it was definitely my least favorite of the three chocolate varieties I received. The texture seemed a little grainy to me!

Coffee

Whole Foods: Organic CoffeeTim and I do really well with eating mainly organic produce now, but I never really stopped to consider drinking organic coffee. After sampling a couple of different Whole Foods 365 coffee flavors (organic breakfast blend city roast and organic colombian cup vienna roast), I’ve tried to buy organic k-cups more often so I can at least drink organic coffee at home. Drinking organic coffee all the time would be unrealistic, but I can taste the difference in quality! I liked the Vienna best since I prefer a medium roast. Coffee snobs out there, do you have any recommendations for me?

Bars

Whole Foods BarsWhen it comes to granola bars, protein bars, energy bars, etc. I find myself very skeptical. I used to swear by certain bar brands, but the more educated I become about food and nutrition, I find the sugar content too high in unless I’m in a bind while traveling. Or hiking up a mountain? If I’m not making a homemade bar, I usually stick to Kind bars or Larabars because I trust in the ingredients.

Here’s the rundown on the brands I tried from Whole Foods though:

  • Bobo’s Oat Bar: I think I was bias toward this one as my favorite of the three because this company is located in Boulder, one of the coolest places I have ever traveled to! I received the original flavor, and I couldn’t even tell that this bar was wheat free or vegan. The sugar content wasn’t out of control, and Bobo’s boasts being organic, having no artificial ingredients, and coming in gluten-free flavors as well.
  • Bonk Breaker Bar: I wouldn’t go as far as to call this one the “world’s best energy bar” like their packaging claims, but the ingredients are all real, and all Bonk Breaker bars are gluten-free and dairy free. Fun fact: these are actually the official bar of the Ironman triathlon series and of USA Cycling! Obviously I liked the chocolate and peanut butter combo, but I’m not sure my workouts are intense enough to need an energy bar like this for my pre-workout fuel.
  • ProBar: Finally, I also received a ProBar meal replacement bar (not pictured). I think I had a few bites of this one and then handed it over to Tim. I don’t like to use bars as meal replacements because eating full meals makes me happy. Why have a packaged bar when you can eat a delicious breakfast and savor each bite?

Oils

Whole Foods Arlington: Oils

I was really excited to receive new oils because Tim and I don’t really experiment with that many oil varieties. We pretty much stick to extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and grapeseed oil, so almond and pumpkin were certainly new to us.

  • Whole Foods 365 brand almond oil: I had to research what to do with this one! I learned that it cooks at a high heat, improves vitamin E level, and actually has a lot of uses for at home skin and hair remedies! So far we’ve only used this for salad dressings, but I’d like to try it for under the eye circles or in other kitchen ways. Ideas?
  • La Tourangelle toasted pumpkin seed oil: This is perfect for all you pumpkin lovers out there! We’ve mainly used this for salad dressings too, so I guess we still need to expand our oil horizons. Over the weekend I drizzled some of this on vanilla ice cream with pumpkin seeds for dessert though. I highly recommend it!

Other

Whole Foods Arlington: Snacks

  • Whole Foods 365 brand cashew butter: Yes, yes, yes! This definitely did not disappoint. In the nut butter world, I mainly stick to peanut butter and almond butter, but cashew butter was DELICIOUS. I enjoyed the variety for my pre-workout fuel of choice: cinnamon raisin Ezekial bread with nut butter and sliced bananas. It was also a great snack right from the jar!
  • Whole Foods 365 brand vanilla whey protein powder: Protein powder is something that I still don’t feel comfortable with. I’ve used a regular whey kind from Trader Joe’s in the past, and I’ve used the vanilla from Whole Foods (unpictured) since I received it in my goodie bag. I’ve mixed it into smoothies and made energy balls and cookies with it, but I still don’t know enough from a nutritional standpoint about regular whey, whey isolate, and casein. I recently opened this question up on my F&F Facebook page and received a ton of comments and opinions!
  • Ancient Harvest quinoa flour: I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t tried this yet! Does anyone have any recipes that call for quinoa flour you can recommend?
  • Whole Foods 365 brand summit seeker trail mix: I loved that this trail mix wasn’t too salty. I’m a sucker for salt, so having an unsalted variety helped me keep my snacking in check. This is a trail mix that I can easily replicate making on my own!

Aside from all the above, Whole Foods was also generous enough to leave a $20 gift card in the bag. Tim and I put the money to good use for a sushi and seafood night on a Friday night in together.

Whole Foods Arlington: Sushi

I know sometimes Whole Foods gets a bad rap for being so expensive, but I think it’s just a matter of putting in a little effort. At work, we recently organized foodie field trips to another Whole Foods store so staff could learn tips for shopping at Whole Foods on a budget. During the tour, they talked a lot about the 365 value brand as well as how to navigate the weekly sales flyers. They also talked about their options for buying in bulk at 10% off or paying by weight as to not buy giant containers of things you only need a bit of. Finally, I always try to remind myself that even if I’m paying a little more for my groceries, I can trust in the quality of my food and I’m investing in my health. That’s worth it to me!

–Let’s chat–
What is something at Whole Foods that you’ve always wanted to try? Have you guys tried any of these products before? What do you think? What are your tips for shopping on a budget at Whole Foods? Do you love or hate grocery shopping?

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post, but Whole Foods Arlington provided all the products in this post at no charge in exchange for writing this review. As always, all opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links within this post.