Monday, February 28, 2011


Good morning everyone!

Hope you all had a fun & relaxing weekend!

Friday night we had dinner at Geja's for restaurant week. It was AH-mazing. Just as I remembered it.  Dim candlelight, wine flowing, and food that will instantly warm your frozen February self right up!

We split a 4-course meal: 1) simple salad with a good vinaigrette, 2) cheese fondue (swiss & guyere) with apples, grapes, and little pieces of bread, 3) the main event -- small portions of steak, chicken, scallops, lobster, and shrimp, which we cooked at our table and dipped into 1 of 8 (yes 8!) different dipping sauces... holy condiments!, and 4) chocolate fondue with orange liquor, with various fruit, pound cake, and marshmallows! Wow...that was a mouthful.

We used the coupon we had from last time for some Lynfred wine, which I was really excited to try.  I am hoping to finally get out to Lynfred winery sometime this spring.  We have a 2 for 1 tasting coupon to use and my wine club bought a Groupon, so I see 2 trips in the near future :)

After our dinner, I very boldly stated that I think Geja's is my favorite restaurant in Chicago.  It has a mix of all of my favorite things! Cheese, chocolate, and wine...what more could you really want??

Saturday Justin's parents came into town for a late lunch at Gino's East.  This pizza was insanely thick & filling. I had a hard time finishing one piece!

I was glad to try it, but I still think Lou Malnati's is my favorite for deep dish.  We had a great time catching up with his parents (as always!) and it was so good to see them.

Sunday I had a nice day out in Geneva, Illinois with my friend Christina & her mom Donna. We went to the Geneva Bridal Walk (she's getting married this October!!) to check out everything the cute stores and local vendors have to offer. I absolutely LOVE Geneva. It is the cutest little town. We got a lot of walking in & collected a ton of FREE SAMPLES! One of life's simple pleasures.  Thanks for including me Christina -- perfect girls day!

After leaving Geneva I was able to do my grocery shopping out in the suburbs at a SuperTarget!!! It was so nice to walk down the aisles and not feel like I was playing a game of Mario Cart.  I am thankful when I can get some groceries in a little more sane environment! I was even able to pick up an old friend: I got my Camel BACK!!!!

Oh, how I have missed YOU! I love these water bottles because they are virtually spill-proof, and I need all the help I can get with that.  They also feature a "bite valve," which is great for working out!  I used to use a Nalgene, usually ending up with only 1/2 of the water actually going into my mouth.  I lost part of my pretty pink Camelbak recently after I left it at a Barre class :( I have been doing without, but I just can't seem to take in as much water without carrying one of these around.

So, you may have noticed that I have titled this post "TGI-M." I'm sure you're thinking "who put the pepp in her cheerios?!" (silly you, it was oatmeal, and the pepp was probably the peanut butter)

Since I did say this blog is about being healthy and HAPPY, I am going to be adding in a dose of the "happy," on Mondays.

I have been trying for a long time to unlock the secret of making Mondays more enjoyable.  Some people have suggested waking up for a workout, others have suggested planning something fun for Monday nights.  None of this really seemed to do the trick...although, having the Bachelor on Monday nights certainly does not hurt! ;)

I do an awful lot of "wishing my life away." I'm always saying, "I can't wait until 5 o'clock," "I wish it was FRIDAY," "I will be so happy when it's finally Spring," get the idea.  Slow. down. sista.

I recently came to the realization that maybe having a happy Monday doesn't mean unlocking some magic answer about making the day a little less depressing.  Maybe that's really the problem -- the Monday "attitude."

I have been trying to work on living more in the present, being grateful for each day as it happens.  Even Mondays! There are people in the world who truly live their life for EACH day and are thankful just to wake up, no matter what day of the week it is, or the time of the year.  Remembering that really puts things into perspective and makes me feel silly about all of the "wishing" I do.

Maybe if we all keep that little thought in our head, we will have less cases of the "Mondays" and we really will wake up saying "TGI-M!"

Remember: Every day is a gift. That is why it is called the PRESENT! :)

Hope you all have a fantastic day!



Friday, February 25, 2011

When the moon hits the sky...

Good morning!

HAPPY FRIDAY!! Or, as my friend Ashley & I text each other on Fridays: "We made it!!"

I am super excited because tonight, the boy & I are going to Geja's Cafe, a fondue restaurant, for Restaurant Week!

For those of you who are not familiar with "Restaurant Week," this is something put on by the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, featuring promotions at a bunch of the city's nicer/trendy restaurants that would normally be pretty pricey.

During Restaurant Week, these restaurants set up a "fixed menu," usually 3 courses, that they make available at a very good price -- about $35ish per person!

I was really excited that we were able to get a reservation at Geja's.  It is definitely a date place -- very romantic. The decor kind of reminds me of wine cellar!

Last time we were there we got a card for a free bottle of wine up to $50! We were seated next to a group of loud wasted people making a scene.  (Hey...what is this, Kilroys?! I did NOT see pepperoni stuffed breadsticks on the menu, and they are definitely NOT playing Bon Jovi!) The manager felt bad and insisted that we come back for another try and enjoy a bottle on the house.

Truthfully, we weren't really bothered by them (it was pretty entertaining), but I am my grandma's granddaughter & I NEVER turn down a coupon!

We typically go out to eat one night on the weekend, then make food at home the other, to save some $$.

I wanted to share with you all my go-to weekend dinner, a homemade, healthy-ish, PIZZA! It is cheap, easy, and it will leave you wanting more.

So its pretty simple...

1) First things first -- preheat that oven to 450 degrees. 

You will need the following ingredients: 

For the Crust: 1 Boboli Wheat Pizza Crust (the whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead!)

For the Sauce: You can either A) buy the pre-made pizza sauce at the grocery store, which is pretty yummy, or B) make your own sauce! This really enhances the enjoyment :)

To make your own sauce: Mix all of the below in a medium size bowl & spread on top of your crust. WARNING: You will most likely not need to use the whole mixture....because that's a little too saucy!

1, 6-oz can of tomato paste
1, 8-oz can of tomato sauce
1 to 2 tsp. Oregano (just the dried stuff from your spice cabinet is fine!)
1 to 2 tsp. Basil (again, get in that cabinet!)
Garlic Powder (give it a good sprinkle)
Salt & Pepper to taste!

For the Toppings: After you've put down your sauce, you can add toppings of your choice, whether it be veggies, meats, or a combo! Our personal favorites are sausage & pepperoni, and since I try to keep it "healthy-ish," I use turkey pepperoni & turkey sausage. You will not taste the difference!

If you're using turkey sausage, you have to check out this little number: Jennie-O HOT Italian Turkey Sausage.

What I do for the pizza is take 2 to 3 sausages, cut them out of their casing (I know this sounds gross, but just trust me, it's really quick and easy, like pulling off a band aid!), put them in a skillet, and brown them up! You can kind of "grind" up the sausage as you cook, and then sprinkle the cooked sausage on top of your pizza (usually I put the pepperoni down first, and sprinkle the sausage on top).

And favorite part...CHEESE!!!!!! In my past life, I was definitely a mouse. A cute one.

For the Cheese: 1 Bag (normal sized, use as much as you want, I'd estimate I use a little over 1/2 of the bag) Shredded Mozzarella Cheese -- you can use low-fat/no- fat if you want, but this is something I prefer to splurge on because I think the real deal is worth it! My current cheese-of-choice is the Kraft Mozzarella with "a touch" of Philadelphia Cheese. You have got to give this one a try -- it is so creamy & it really makes the pizza! 

Sprinkle the cheese over the top of your toppings.

What to do next? Pop that bad boy in the oven for about 6 to 8 minutes.  I recommend putting the pizza directly on the oven rack (aka no cookie sheet/fancy pizza pan). This gets you the crispiest crust!

NOT SO FAST! Let it cool down a little...then slice, serve, and enjoy :)

You can even enjoy your pizza while sipping on a glass of my all-time favorite "budget-friendly" wine: Menage a Trois, California Red Table Wine. It's a blend, and it's delicious! I used to only like white, but this is the wine that turned me on to reds. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Stay tuned for a review from tonight's dinner!

Hope you all have a happy & healthy day! :)



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Workout Motivator Mix

Hi again!

Did anyone try some oatmeal this morning??

Thanks for reading my first blog and for all of the nice comments! I was super excited you liked it! :)

Thursdays are my LONG days.  I don't usually walk in the door until around 9PM! 

Getting a workout in on Thursdays is virtually impossible for me unless I get it out of the way in the morning. 

It is definitely not easy to drag myself out of my comfy warm bed in the morning, especially when it is so cold and gloomy outside. 

So how do I motivate myself to get going? 

First off, I typically opt for an exercise class in the morning, because then you have an instructor pushing your half asleep BEHIND to keep going! 

Lately I've been taking classes at Barre Bee Fit, a great spin off of the famous Barre Method classes.  These classes fill up really fast, so you need to reserve online fairly early (days in advance sometimes). However -- great news!!! They're expanding their studio downtown, which means more classes for you to get your inner Ballerina on! "The higher the heels, the thinner the thighs!" :) 

Sometimes l head up to my gym to take a morning spin class. This takes REAL motivation. Spin starts at the crack of dawn (6AM!) and the spin fanatics get there at like 5:15 to get a spot! People are crazy about these classes! It's like shopping at Macy's on Black Friday trying to get a bike.  They do promise an amazing sweat, legs that feel like jello afterwards, and some great endorphins! 

I know many people don't have these options available to them, or just don't feel like dealing the drama of trying to get a spot.  There's always the good old-fashioned treadmill for some intervals or, my recent fave, the dreaded StairMaster! 

The only way I can get through my workouts on a machine without getting so bored I spend WAY too much time staring at the psycho in front of me running at 10.5 for 50 minutes is a great WORKOUT MIX!! Music makes the time go by so much faster and kicks me into gear when I'm feeling fatigued. 

Here is a little mix I came up with, just for you guys, that is pretty fantastic for any type of cardio: 

1) Telephone, Lady Gaga (featuring Beyonce) -- This one NEVER gets old! 
2) Like Boom, Vita Chambers
3) Hit the Lights, Jay Sean (featuring Weeeeeezzziiieee) 
4) Ooh Ohh Baby, Britney Spears 
5) E.T., Katy Perry (featuring Kanye West) -- Can this girl make a bad song? Not! 
6) Pretty Girl Rock, Keri Hilson
7) Better Than Her, Matisse (featuring Akon) -- Thanks Brigette for introducing me to this one! 
8) Wanted, Jessie James -- Had to throw in a little dose of country :)
9) Tonight (I'm Lovin' You), Enrique Iglesias (featuring Ludacris & DJ Frank E)
10) Black & Yellow, Wiz Khalifa 
11) Rock that Body, Black Eyed Peas
12) Higher, Taio Cruz & Travie McCoy
13) Bulletproof, La Roux
14) 2012 (It Ain't the End), Jay Sean (featuring Nicki Minaj) 
15) Louder (Put Your Hands Up), Chris Willis
16) Price Tag, Jessie J (featuring B.o.B)

**All of these songs are available on iTunes right now!**

The mix is about an hour long, and no I do NOT stay on the machine for that long, I leave that for the crazies! I usually will go do about 10 minutes of light weights after my cardio, or sometimes I skip a song or two if I'm just not feeling it that day. 

I just put this mix on the new iPod Nano my wonderful boyfriend got me for Christmas! 

I am loving this new gadget because: 1) It has radio on it, which my ancient one did not, and 2) It clips onto your clothes!! Woo hoo! No more stuffing my iPod in my sportsbra and getting weird looks!

If you're interested, Best Buy ( has these guys on sale for $134.00 ($15.99 off the regular price) right now! You're welcome! :) 

My other motivation for getting my workout out of the way in the morning? 

I usually treat myself to one of these after: 

SKIVIZZLE! Told ya I love them. Make it a double for an extra long day! ;)

Hope you all have a fantastic Thursday. We are almost to the weekend... keep on plugging! 



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Welcome to my blog!

Hi Everyone! :)

So, I've been thinking of starting a blog for a long time, and I've finally decided to take the plunge. 

Dun. Dun. Dunnnnn. 

My plan is to focus my posts on all things happy & healthy, from nutrition, to fitness, to little stories about my life in general sometimes. 

My little disclaimer: I am not a registered dietitian and I do not have any formal fitness training, etc. The things I will write about are tidbits of knowledge that I have learned along the way as I strive for a happy and healthy lifestyle, something I am definitely still working on! :) 

With all of that said, what better way to start "Bright-Eyes & Bushy-Tales" than for me to share what helps me jump out of bed in the morning with a perma-grin...


If you know me, you know how much I love & need my breakfast.  

I am not the type of person who can just walk out the door and stop at Starbuck's for a Latte and call it a morning. 

I need FOOD, preferably within an hour from when I wake up.  Whether I ate salmon & broccoli for dinner at 6PM after a hard workout like a "good girl," or splurged on some PIZZA (ahhh, pizza, mmm), I wake up absolutely starving! 

Let me just say: me = starving = not a good thing.  I am generally a very happy, upbeat person, but when I am overly hungry... I am just. plain. grumpy. 

So how do I fuel up for a big day out in the city? 

Well, most recently, I have been hooked on this little combo I created: 

I have been mixing oatmeal, with a spoonful (small spoon, let's not get crazy here!) of Jif Natural peanut butter, and a small handful of raspberries. I pop 1 packet of oatmeal + 1/3 cup water +1/3 cup organic fat free milk into the microwave, stir in the peanut butter, drop the raspberries on top, and TA DA -- a filling, protein & fiber packed breakfast! 

Why do I enjoy this meal? 

I will not sit here and tell you how many calories this breakfast has in it.  I have all but given up on calorie counting.  I just don't believe in it anymore.  

I know for some people trying to lose weight, or maintain it, keeping track of what you eat in some detailed food journal or cool iPhone app is really the way to go.  And for those of you who do that, that's great and you go girls (or guys?)!! :) 

I have learned over the years what works best for me, and counting calories just isn't it.  It just makes me kinda crazy about food and my lifestyle doesn't really allow for it. 

So, what is great about this breakfast? 

1) It has protein! I would estimate about 10.5ish grams of protein, depending on how crazy you get with the peanut butter. 

2) It is surprisingly low in sugar!  The Jif Natural has only 3 grams of sugar per serving (2 tablespoons), and the oatmeal has only 1 gram of sugar per packet! Those are some very low numbers for peanut butter & oatmeal!

I will tell you that this oatmeal can be difficult to find.  I got hooked on it over the summer, and then they took it away from me at my grocery stores! As Stephanie Tanner would say, HOW RUDE! But, don't despair (wow, did you know that was spelled with an "e"?), I have now found it at both Target & through PeaPod (we will talk about the Pod at some later date!). 

3) It has lots of fiber! Approximately 8 to 10 grams! Fiber keeps me full until lunch and it has some other benefits...but that's all I will say about that! ;) 

3) The raspberries sweeten it up a little, add some more substance, and are full of antioxidants (whatever those are!). 

Sometimes I will top this little number off with an extra splash of organic milk! 

After I eat this hearty breakfast, I feel like this: 

Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to take on the world!!! Well, at least Chicago!

(and no, I do not wear that top to school or to work, thank you very much!) 

I also enjoy myself a skinny vanilla latte on some days when I'm really feeling like doing it up, or as the peppy Starbuck's lady near my work likes to call it, a "skivizzle!" 

Hope you all have a great day & thanks for stopping by! :)