Setting Summer Goals

Hi friends, and happy Monday!

Today is my first day back to work and to my daily routine since vacationing in Virginia Beach last week. And we are already halfway through June! I can’t believe how quickly this month — and the summer — is flying by.

Now that my lengthy summer trip is behind me, and before the summer gets away from me, I wanted to take the time to set some goals to accomplish by Labor Day — 11 weeks from today. My small group is not meeting regularly in the summer, and the 3rd grade Sunday school class that I teach is also on summer hiatus, so this is a great time to double down and focus on some things that I want to accomplish:

1. Achieve a total loss of 30 pounds.

I did not weigh myself last week, because we were on vacation, but I’ve been holding steady at about 17 pounds lost.

I’m absolutely thrilled that I’ve lost this much weight since late February and have done a good job of keeping it off, but I want to re-focus and get back to losing. (I’ve basically stalled since May.)

By September 1, I plan to achieve a total loss of 30 pounds, which is losing about 1 pound per week — what I set out to do from the beginning. My long-term goal: be at my goal weight and in a bikini next June in Virginia Beach!

2. Blog 4 times per week — including weekly “Weigh-In Wednesday” posts.

I love blogging here, and I want to return to doing it regularly. I also plan to re-start my “Weigh-In Wednesday” posts, because they keep me accountable. (I haven’t written one since May 1st!)

3. Exercise 4 times per week.

I need to re-find the motivation to get up early and work out. When I was exercising consistently, I was losing weight consistently. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

I also want to return to doing exercise classes at my gym, especially BodyPump. This might not be possible every week, but I want to get back into the habit.

4. Return to restricting my consumption of sweets to Sundays.

I very successfully gave up sweets for Lent this year — unfortunately, it was the only Lenten practice that I set for myself that I was able to consistently follow — and I know that it made a huge difference in my weight loss efforts. I need to be honest with myself and acknowledge that I need to go back to doing this.

I will officially re-start abstaining from sweets during the week next Monday, June 23rd. (I’ll be honest — I have some sweets in the house right now that I don’t want to throw out!) My two exceptions will be when I go home to Pennsylvania for the July 4th holiday, and the weekend trip that I am taking to Ocean City, Maryland, with family in early August.

5. Finish reading 4 books (not including the one that I just finished on vacation).

I love to read, but I have such a difficult time finishing books! My attention span is so short lately, and I tend to pick up a new book before finishing the previous one.

My goal is to actually finish 4 books this summer, in addition to the one that I just completed in Virginia Beach!

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My current book selection

6. Re-energize my Scentsy business.

“Fragrance” is one of the three major focus areas that I established for my blog, but unfortunately, I haven’t really posted about my journey with Scentsy. I think this is really due to the fact that I’ve put it on the back burner.

My husband and I are diligently trying to eliminate some debt, and some extra income would be great for us right now. As such, I definitely want to put some effort this summer into re-energizing my Scentsy business. I do think it is possible to be successful at direct selling with some hard work!

7. Determine the direction of my career.

That said, I don’t intend for Scentsy to become a full-time gig, because I do have a full-time career as a nonprofit fundraiser in Washington, D.C. I want to take some time this summer to seriously think about where my career is heading and what exactly I would like to accomplish in the next 5 to 10 years.

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I plan on providing an update on these goals around July 24th — about 5 1/2 weeks from now — and again just after Labor Day!

Do you have any summer goals?

What are your summer plans? I’m happy to be heading back to the beach at least one more time!

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Friday Favorites #8: Week of May 30, 2014

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to my 8th Friday Favorites link-up, courtesy of Heather at Housewife Glamour!

It’s been several weeks since I’ve participated in Friday Favorites, and it’s good to be back.

Here are some of the things that I am loving this week!

1. Organic Black Bean Dip from Wegmans

My obsession with black beans continues. This black bean dip was an impulse buy on Monday — I saw a sign for it when I was passing through the aisle — but I don’t have any regrets about purchasing it!

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There’s a good mix of tomato and black bean flavors, and I do detect the lime. The consistency is alittle thicker than standard salsa. The best part: it’s only 10 calories per tablespoon — making 1/4 cup, the perfect amount to accompany 1 serving of tortilla chips, only 40 calories.

2. “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (Will Smith)

Nothing says summer like this song. I will always love it!

3. Post on Jesus from James J. Martin, SJ

I discovered Jesuit priest, author, and commentator James J. Martin several years ago when I started reading one of his books, My Life with the Saints. He’s exploded in recognition lately, which is likely related to his appearances on The Colbert Report as the “resident chaplain” and his cultural and religious commentary in major media outlets.

I follow Father Martin on Facebook and Twitter, and last Sunday he posted about how we can know what God is like through the words and deeds of Jesus:

Now it’s true that God is a mystery. Beyond us. Beyond our complete comprehension. St. Thomas Aquinas said that if you can define it, or you think you know it, it’s not God. Because God is always bigger and more beautiful than what we can imagine.

But, by the same token, Jesus tells us quite clearly if you want to know who God is or how God is just look at him. That’s often helpful for people are struggling with their relationship with God. Because often you’re not relating to God, but to a creation of your own. Often, for example, people who have had parents or teachers who were harsh and judgmental project those images onto God. And that becomes their God. And then they have a hard time relating to that. People often need to be invited to let go of those images of God for God’s God.

Jesus shows us quite clearly who God is and how God is. So what is God like? Just look at Jesus. Always merciful, always forgiving, always loving. Yes, Jesus says God will be judging us at the end of our lives, but that make[s] sense. A God who doesn’t judge is basically a God who doesn’t really care what we do. But much more than the judging God, Jesus shows us a loving and merciful and welcoming God in Jesus.

Jesus is always welcoming people. The movement for Jesus is always from the outside in; he’s always bringing people inside. Including. Welcoming.

And most of all what is God like? Love.

I love everything about this.

4. Magnum Mini Classic ice cream bars

I am so obsessed with these Magnum Mini Classic ice cream bars!

My small group leader gave one to me a few weeks ago for the first time, and I’ve been hooked ever since. The chocolate is rich, and you can even see the vanilla bean specks in the ice cream. They are divine and only 150 calories each!

5. #KimyeWedding

I have a confession to make: the Kardashians are my guilty pleasure. I like reality TV in general, but I’ve really tried to cut down on my consumption in the last year. I’ve succeeded, with one exception: the Kardashians. I’ve probably seen 90% of the episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and all of its spinoffs, like Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami. This obsession really doesn’t make sense, because their lifestyle often contradicts my values, but I can’t help it . . .

. . . Which is why I spent way too much time last weekend searching for details about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding!

The couple finally released some official photos — posted by E!, on Kim’s Instagram account, and on Kanye’s Twitter — on Tuesday morning.

I’m completely in love with Kim’s dress. She looked flawless.

The above photo has become the most “liked” photo ever on Instagram.

Who knows how long the marriage will actually last — I really hope that it does, and they do seem genuinely happy — but the wedding sounded incredible, from all that I’ve read.  (It should, for the rumored $2.8 to $4 million that they spent on it.)

I’m looking forward to when Keeping Up with the Kardashians returns with new episodes on June 8th!

What are you loving this week?

Do you have a guilty TV pleasure?

Friday Favorites #7: Week of May 9, 2014

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to my 7th Friday Favorites link-up, courtesy of Heather at Housewife Glamour!

Here are some of the things that I am loving this week!

1. Grumpy Cat Notecards

One of my friends from work surprised me on Monday morning with this fantastic box of Grumpy Cat notecards. I can’t wait to use them!

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My co-workers know me and my love for Grumpy Cat so well! I work with some really great people.

2. My small group

I was extremely fortunate to find a small group through my church that has strengthened and enriched my faith immensely. I am so blessed by all of the young women in the group and especially by our leader, who serves as a mentor. It’s crazy to think that I didn’t know any of them before I joined the group last fall. On Monday night, we had what will likely be our last regular meeting for the summer, and it reminded me again how much I value our group and how much it has impacted me.

3. Lunch at Heritage India‘s buffet

There were a number of people out of the office this week working at a conference we hosted in Boston, so 6 of us that were left behind trekked to a fantastic Indian buffet for lunch on Wednesday. I seriously can’t get enough of Indian food!

4. Italian Meatball Sliders from Cooking Light

I was finally able to make this recipe from Cooking Light on Wednesday night, and it was worth the wait! These sliders turned out awesome and are a great way to satisfy a craving for Italian flavors. My hubby even gave them his seal of approval! Definitely a win for me.

5. “Birthday” by Katy Perry

I admit it: I love Katy Perry. And this song is just super fun.

What are you loving this week?

Friday Favorites #6: Week of May 2, 2014

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to my 6th Friday Favorites link-up, courtesy of Heather at Housewife Glamour!

Housewife Glamour

Here are some of the things that I am loving this week!

1. My city girls umbrella

It rained like crazy for the better part of the week here in D.C., to the point of setting records. This fun umbrella by Nicole Miller, which I’ve had for 8 or 9 years now, made these dreary days a little bit better.

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2. Seth Godin’s Blog

Seth Godin is a marketing guru, and I’m a huge fan of his blog posts, which I receive daily via e-mail. This post from Wednesday has been making me think since I read it:

“I didn’t have time”

This actually means, “it wasn’t important enough.” It wasn’t a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list.

Every few days, Twitter and Facebook soak up a billion hours of ‘spare’ time. Where did that time come from? What did we do before social media was here? Weren’t we busy five years ago?

Running out of time is mostly a euphemism, and the smart analyst realizes that it’s a message about something else. Time is finite, but, unlike money, time is also replenished every second.

The people you’re trying to reach are always recalibrating which meetings they go to, which shows they watch, which books they don’t read. The solution has nothing to do with giving people more time (you can’t) and everything to do with creating more urgency, more of an itch, more desire.

If you work in marketing, fundraising (like me), or sales — or if you just want some good insight from Seth every day — I recommend signing up for his blog!

3. Fantastic free lunch for attending a lecture

I will occasionally attend lectures over my lunch break — one of the perks of working in a city filled with so many interesting organizations. The organization where I go most often always assembles thought-provoking panelists speaking on great topics — I even heard Bill Gates speak a few weeks ago — but one huge incentive is the incredible free lunch!

Complementary lunch is often provided at these events across the city, but usually that means sandwiches and chips — which are good, don’t get me wrong. However, this particular organization that I went to on Tuesday has an in-house caterer and provides a full spread, free of charge! On Tuesday, I had top round roast, baked chicken, steamed asparagus, and slices of French baguette. On top of all of that, the discussion on Biblical solutions to poverty was excellent and challenging. Definitely a great way to spend my lunchtime!

4. Cajun cheese and sea salt crackers

As we were exploring the town during our day trip to Culpepper a few weeks ago, we came across the Culpepper Cheese Company and decided to look around. A woman near the front of the store was offering free samples of several cheeses, and of course I had to have a taste. One of the samples was of this incredible Big John’s Cajun Cheddar from the Beehive Cheese Co. in Utah. My hubby tried it, too, and there was no way we were leaving the store without it! We also bought some sea salt flatbread crackers to go with it.

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Yummy cheddar inside, delicious cajun spices outside!

The piece was pretty big, and we’ve been snacking on it since we got it. (We even served it as an appetizer to our feast on Easter Sunday.) I’m definitely going to buy it again! I know of several artisan cheese shops closer to the city, but if all else fails, I discovered that I can order it on the Beehive Cheese website — hooray!

5. Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

After one of my best friends told me last week how much she loved the movie Heaven is for Real, which is an adaptation of a bestselling book by the same name, I had to see for myself what it was all about. I decided to read the book before seeing the movie, and I couldn’t put it down! I’ve been having trouble focusing on reading lately, but I read this in 3 days!

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I love the instant gratification of my Kindle, but it can be dangerous…

The story about a 4-year-old boy and his near-death/out-of-body experience during surgery is beautiful but also thought-provoking. I plan on posting more about it and my thoughts next week.

What are you loving this week?

Easter Weekend Wrap-Up and an Exciting Fitness Announcement

Happy Easter Monday, everyone! I hope you had a blessed Good Friday and Easter. My weekend was super busy but fantastic.

I took off from work on Friday to prepare for the weekend’s feasting and to spend some time at church. The Good Friday service that I attended was more liturgical than the ones I normally go to on Sunday, but I loved it. One of the recitations from the Book of Common Prayer, the guide for Anglican services, really stood out to me:

We glory in your cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your cross
joy has come to the whole world.

May God be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of his countenance, and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

We glory in your cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your cross
joy has come to the whole world.

It reminded me again how much God wants to bring us into fullness in our health and humanity through Christ!

On Saturday morning, my husband and I ventured to Culpepper, Virginia, which is about 70 miles from D.C., where my accountability partner lives. She was teaching for the launches of the new cycles of BodyPump and BodyCombat at her gym, and I was so glad to finally get to see her in action! The classes were fantastic — especially the music for the new BodyPump release. After our workout, we met up with our husbands for brunch at a local diner and walked around the extremely charming downtown, which is full of specialty food shops and boutiques. (I love when the character of historic towns are preserved, and when they thrive!) I definitely want to go back!

My parents and brother and sister-in-law came into town on Saturday afternoon, and we all went into D.C. for dinner at Rasika, one of my favorite restaurants, to belatedly celebrate my mom and sister-in-law’s birthdays. (It was the first time my parents had ever been to an Indian restaurant, and it was a success!) After the delicious meal, my husband gave everyone an impromptu tour of the city by car, and we ended up at the Pentagon Memorial. I had never been there before, and it was very beautiful and moving, especially as the sun was setting.

Sunday morning was a glorious celebration of the Resurrection! My whole family went to my church for the 8:30 a.m. Celebration Service, which was a huge blessing. The sermon was fantastic and focused heavily on God’s grace. (I really want to listen to the sermon again when they post it online, hopefully today.)

The rest of the morning was spent preparing for a delicious feast! I love holidays and especially the fantastic meals that accompany them. I hosted last Christmas and again yesterday for Easter, and both times I’ve gotten ham and turkey from Honeybaked Ham. Nothing else comes close!

One of my favorite things about our Easter celebration was the candy boxes that I prepared for everyone. It’s not Easter without Easter baskets, and I thought that these came pretty close.

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No one was allowed to open them until we sat down for the meal, and everyone was surprised and excited about the stash of goodies inside!

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Following the meal and some fantastic desserts — Georgetown Cupcakes (another holiday splurge) and my mom’s homemade mini cheesecakes made to look like birds’ nests — we dyed Easter eggs. I love still participating in holiday traditions that we enjoyed as kids!

My family ventured back to Pennsylvania soon after we finished our egg coloring, and I spent the rest of the evening relaxing from all of the celebrations. I fell asleep watching a movie with my husband on the couch and wasted no time falling asleep in my bed soon after. I decided to take the morning off from work today, to allow a little time for extra sleep, and I’m so glad that I did. I feel energized now and ready to take on the week!

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And now for my exciting fitness announcement!

I’ve officially signed up for a 5k race on June 21st!

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Last week, an email arrived in my inbox advertising the Fit Foodie 5k. I looked into it a bit more, and decided that it would be perfect for my first race of this journey, because it embodies everything that I am trying to achieve — a balance between healthy living and loving food!

The concept of the Fit Foodie was born out of the idea that a healthy lifestyle and delicious culinary experiences don’t have to be separate. Calories burned, calories earned, right?? Life is about balance and working hard so that you can indulge in those things that you are passionate about. When delicious food, working out, and good friends are all combined, it is a beautiful culmination of all that life has to offer.

Sponsored by Cooking Light and Health magazines, the event is only being held in three cities, and Fairfax, Virginia, is one of them! The race location is 20 to 25 minutes from our house.

Following the race, I get to indulge in delicious tastings and fitness demos!

Cruise across the finish line and get ready to celebrate your success in style. At the Finisher’s Village, you’ll enjoy a post-event celebration where runners can enjoy refuel stations, celebrity chef demos and tastings, fitness demos at the Power Systems stage, beer and wine tastings, giveaways, and delicious bites from participating restaurants, sponsors, and more! 

I think this race is going to be perfect for me, and I can’t wait! I think it will also be great motivation to continue with my training plan! (Thanks to my friend Kelly for the suggestion, and to Carli for the Lululemon gift card! I’m going to get a new outfit with it, just for this race.)

What was your favorite part of your Easter celebrations?

Besides the C25k plan, how else should I prepare for my Fit Foodie race?

Weekend Wrap-Up: Cherry Blossoms Edition

Happy Tuesday, friends!

So, I know the weekend is two days behind us, but I wanted to give a little recap of last Saturday, when I enjoyed my favorite rite of spring in D.C.: the National Cherry Blossom Festival!

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a 3-week celebration that takes place in D.C. in late March and early April, officially commemorating Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the city in 1912 as a token of friendship, and unofficially kicking off spring.

The cherry trees reach “peak bloom” — when 70 percent of the blossoms on the trees around the Tidal Basin are open — during the Festival, and tourists and residents alike flock to take photos and celebrate the new season. Because of the crazy winter that we had, the trees reached peak bloom on April 10 — the latest date in over a decade. (They barely arrived before the official end of the Festival!)

My parents came into town last weekend to enjoy the blossoms, and I went with them to the Tidal Basin on Saturday morning. I knew that it was going to be crowded, but always amazes me how many people actually show up! Despite the crowds, I had a wonderful time on an incredibly gorgeous day.

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The beauty brought to mind some verses from the Gospel of Luke: “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you — you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28)

We even got to see FDR on our walk around the Tidal Basin:

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His memorial is sprawling and beautiful, with a number of statues and waterfalls.

After walking around the circumference of the Tidal Basin, a journey that took about 2 hours, my parents and I ventured further into the city for lunch at Taylor Gourmet. My dad is completely obsessed with hoagies — also known as subs to those outside of the Philadelphia area, where I’m originally from — and I knew that he would love Taylor, a local sandwich chain that specializes in Philly-style sandwiches. (They were recently named best sandwich place in all of D.C. by Washingtonian magazine’s Great Sandwich Smackdown.) I’m not sure if they still do, but at one point Taylor was trucking in their thick, chewy rolls daily from Philadelphia.

I had enjoyed two cold Taylor sandwiches when my office had it catered several months ago, but I had never actually been to the storefront for a hot sandwich. It was worth the wait! I splurged and enjoyed the Benjamin Franklin Parkway — basically a chicken parm sub made with an Italian-breaded chicken cutlet and amazing sharp provolone cheese. (Every sandwich is named after a different street in Philadelphia!)

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Even though the restaurant didn’t have outside seating, we cheated a bit and ate our lunch at a table outside of the Starbucks next door. It was an incredibly enjoyable meal in the gorgeous weather! I love eating outside when I can, and it was great to spend such quality time with my parents.

Following lunch, my parents went on their way to do some more sightseeing, and I headed back to my car (but not before stopping to do some browsing at the mall where I parked.)

When I got home, I went grocery shopping, completed one of my C25k workouts, and helped my husband prepare dinner. The rest of the evening was super low-key, since I had done so much during the day! I even reached a personal record on my FitBit — 25,060 steps travelled, equivalent to 10.32 miles!

It was a truly fantastic Saturday!

Does your city have some type of spring festival?

Do you have a favorite sandwich place? I definitely prefer hot sandwiches to cold! Meatball sandwiches are a particular favorite.

Friday Favorites #4: Week of April 11, 2014

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to my 4th Friday Favorites link-up, courtesy of Heather at Housewife Glamour!

Housewife Glamour

Here are some of the things that I am loving this week!

1. A 3 day weekend

I decided to take last Monday off from work, basically to catch up on stuff at home — like huge piles of laundry — that I’ve been too busy to accomplish over the last few weeks. I had a doctor’s appointment, too, and knew I would already be out of work for part of the day, so I just decided to take the whole thing.

Even though I didn’t really get to relax on Monday, the 3 day weekend was glorious! It was fantastic to have time on a weekday to work out in the afternoon, make a nice dinner, make and freeze homemade muffins for when my family is in town for Easter, and run errands, in between household chores. I wish I could have a 3 day weekend every week.

2. Living near (many of) my best friends

I was very fortunate when I moved to D.C. almost 6 years ago that several friends from college were already living in the area. Some of them have moved away since, but others have come, and my circle has expanded by getting to know friends of friends. I’m incredibly blessed by having such great community here! Although we may not see each other as much as we used to or would like, these ladies enrich my life in so many ways. (And I was so glad to see two of them on separate occasions this week!)

3. My new workout outfit

I finally bought my new workout outfit on Monday! I wanted to get a new pair of Nike shorts like ones that I already owned, so I went to the Nike Factory Store at the outlet mall near our house. Although they didn’t have the exact style that I was looking for, I came away with two new pairs of shorts and a shirt!

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Typically, I’m not at all one for shirts with cocky sayings, but I love this! There is just something about it that boosts my confidence — I am doing this, and I am awesome!

I still have my eye on that Legally Blonde inspired tank, too…

4. Spinach Melt and Chicken Pita from The Perfect Pita

Continuing my obsession with Mediterranean food, I’m completely hooked on the Spinach Melt and Chicken Pita from a local lunch chain called The Perfect Pita. Whenever my close friend and I meet for lunch on a weekday, we always end up there, and I always order this sandwich. Although it was a bit windy, the weather was so nice when we met yesterday that we were able to eat outside! Glorious.

5. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

This book was recommended to me by some of the women in my small group and a friend from college. I just started it yesterday and am only on page 19, but I have already fallen in love. Ann Voskamp’s writing style is absolutely beautiful and unique, and I can’t wait to dig more into her topic of living a life of gratitude, right where God has me today.

What are you loving this week?

Have you read any good books recently?