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Relaxed, Rejuvenated, Recharged

28 Jul

This post is being brought to you by the new and improved Calm Carrie just coming off of a ridiculously relaxing vacation.

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Lloyd and I just spent a week in the infamous retirement town of Boca Raton, Florida.  We stayed at a recently renovated resort that was located right on the beach and was the perfect spot for our post-CPA/engagement celebration/summer vacation that I’ve been anticipating for a loooooooooong time.  (Side note: We did attempt to visit the Del Boca Vista Phase III, but, unfortunately, we were unable to locate it.)

In case you hadn’t noticed by my numerous complaints and rants on the blog, the CPA took a lot out of me.  More than I ever expected.  In college – to put it simply – I owned.  I plowed through 18 hours of Accounting, Business, and Spanish classes each semester with internships and a busy social scene on the side without so much as a second thought of it all.  School had always come very easy to me.

But, when I started studying for the CPA, something didn’t click.  I struggled from the beginning.  I lost sleep from the first night I cracked the books (Which, by the way, had never ever been a problem for me before.  Prior to the CPA, I could have come away from the Sleep Olympics with gold medals in endurance, strength, and skill if there was such a thing.).  I had trouble balancing the new 25 hours per week recommended study schedule and spent many nights lying awake in bed considering giving up the entire ordeal.

But I didn’t.  I pushed through despite all my struggles.  Physically and mentally, I haven’t felt completely relaxed since I started the process.  Even after I passed, I still felt rushed and stressed.  On top of that, I got engaged and started planning a wedding.

Anyway, I knew I needed to get away.  I knew I needed to turn off my phones, computer, e-mail, twitter, mailbox, and blog, and recharge myself to my pre-CPA capacity.

Low-key, slow-moving Boca Raton was the perfect answer.

We spent an entire week eating, snoozing, sunbathing, reading books for pleasure, and playing and frolicking in the waves of the Atlantic.  With each passing day, I felt more and more of the CPA anxiety that had engrained itself into me slowly seep out of my body.  By the end of the trip, I’d wrung my body almost completely dry of that stress.  The test finally started to seem like a distant memory. (Side note: The CPA Exam process was totally and completely worth it.  I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Yes, it was grueling; but, it has made me stronger and better.  Nothing wrong with that.)

It was, hands-down, the most relaxing week of my life.  Well, at least since I became an adult, because, let’s face it, age 6 is pretty relaxing when all you have to worry about are dollies and popsicles.

I’m back.  I’m relaxed, rejuvenated, recharged, and, most of all, happy.

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Swearing Off McDonald’s For Life!

9 Jun

If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed my repeated tweets about how sick I was over the past couple days from eating McDonald’s breakfast.  Here is the offender in question:

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Yeah, it may look appetizing in that pic, but it’s not so appetizing after what I’ve experienced over the past couple of days.

Here’s how things shook out after I ate the overpriced breakfast sandwich ($2.50 – really?) on Monday morning:

  • Ate the sandwich but almost immediately knew something was off, as evidenced by this tweet.
  • Felt generally disgusted and off for the rest of the morning.
  • Around 12:30, was visited by the lovely nausea rollercoaster.
  • Rode that ride for about 3 hours.
  • After about 3 hours, I felt all the blood leave my face and knew it was go time.
  • Getting sick at work is probably one of the top ten worst experiences that I’ve ever had in my life.
  • High point of the day was when Lloyd was able to drive me home since I could barely function at that point.
  • Arrived home where I spent the next 3 hours in the bathroom.  NOT primping.
  • This is where it gets good: after the bathroom experience is over (thank you, Lord), something inhabits my muscles causing extreme pain from my back and shoulders to my calves and feet.  Yep, top to bottom extreme muscle pain.  WTF?  I’ve had aches with the flu before, but with this I felt liked I’d been drilled by an 18-wheeler semi about 10 times and lived to tell about it.
  • Fever of 101.5.  Oh, joy.
  • Unable to sleep due to extreme pain.  Unable to take Tylenol due to fear of spending more time in the bathroom.
  • Even though I’ve clearly – very thoroughly – emptied my insides, my stomach insists on cramping like I’ve got 10 periods going on.  Trying to sip as much water/Gatorade as physically possible to prevent dehydration which I can feel creeping on due the dull ache coming from my kidneys.
  • Everything starts to mysteriously subside around noon the day after.  What I’m left with is a weakness so bad it takes effort to just stand up and nausea that forces me to give up eating completely. 
  • That brings us up to date and I’m still enjoying those last two side effects of nausea and weakness.
  • I had some soup last night and rode the nausea rollercoaster for the rest of the night.  So, yep, still not eating.

PROS:

  • I’ve lost 4 pounds.

CONS:

  • See above.
  • I’m out $2.50

What McDonald’s Has To Say:

I called up ‘ole McDonald’s today to inform them of this tragic incident.

The manager on duty took my name and information and repeatedly asked me if I had gone to the doctor.  I repeatedly told her “no”.  I am sure she was insinuating that her precious breakfast sandwiches were not the culprit of my sickness and instead I had some sort of summer stomach flu that goes around all too often.  Yes, the stomach flu could be an option.  But, I felt 100% fine before the damn Bacon, Egg, and Cheese biscuit.  In fact, I went for a 3 mile run that morning and was feeling fantastic after that.  Almost immediately after I ingested the bacteria-laced sandwich was when I started to feel like I was going to die.

So, back to the McDonald’s manager.  She tells me that she’s never dealt with this type of situation before (which is odd, because so many people I’ve talked to about mysituation have said they’ve experienced something similar from the restaurant) and told me to hold on while she consulted with her Mickey D’s posse.

Well, apparently, McDonald’s doesn’t have a” “Hold” button on their phone because I managed to hear a couple juicy sound bites from the posse’s infinite wisdom.

  • “Did she go to the doctor?” (again, NO!)
  • “Then, how does she know that she’s sick?” (Seriously?!!)

After the brilliant advice that the manager’s posse bestowed unto her, she returned back to me on the phone.

She told me that she’d have to send my information to the corporate office and that they’d call me back soon with some more questions (I’m assuming along the lines of “have you been to the doctor?”).

Lessons Learned:

  • Never visit McDonald’s ever, ever, EVER again.  Or any fast food establishment for that matter.  (Chipotle does not count.)
  • Since I’ve just cut my 1-2X per year visit to McDonald’s down to 0X per year, I just saved myself $5.  Which over the course of my lifetime might add up to about $350.  And if I invest that little nugget into high-yield savings accounts, well, then who knows what the future could hold for me!

Use These Tips When Your Motivation For Working Out Dwindles

16 Dec

FOR YOUR HEALTH

  • You’ll sleep like a rock instead of tossing and turning all night. (Bonus point for looking refreshed in the morning!)
  • You’re less likely to get sick.  Before I started working out, I was sick ALL the time.  Now I get about 1 cold per year – sometimes zero!
  • Your heart and blood pressure will thank you!  Last time I checked, you kinda need your heart to stick around for a while!
  • I always feel better after I sweat out a gallon of toxins!  It’s so cleansing for your body.
  • Everything, and I mean everything, works & feels better: your hips, your posture, your walk, your skin, your glow!

FOR YOUR LOOKS

  • Muffin tops, back fat – be gone!
  • Pants won’t cut into your hips/belly anymore.  Trust me, I’m not a rail, but I used to HATE that uncomfortable feeling of too tight pants in the waist-region.  This feeling alone greatly increases the quality of my days – all day, every day.
  • The above bullet applies to your entire body, too.  Clothes will actually fit you and skim your body instead of suffocating it.
  • 2 words: BIKINI SEASON
  • Looking better in front of cameras.

FOR YOUR AGING

  • I plan to have fun in retirement, not sit in a rocker all day long.  Working out will give me the stamina I need live a good, quality life well into my senior years!
  • Building and maintaining a workout plan in your youth can help prevent or lessen the ailments of old age.  Keep your hips healthy with strong leg and ab muscles, keep your back sturdy by stretching and lifting weights, etc.

FOR YOUR KIDS

  • So I’ve heard (and this makes sense), being in shape makes pregnancy & delivery easier!
  • It’s more fun to play with the kiddos than watch from the sidelines.
  • Who doesn’t want to be the MILF everyone talks about in the neighborhood! (What, that’s not everyone’s dream?)

FOR YOUR MONEY

  • If you’re getting sick less, you’re taking less time off work, going to the doctor less, and spending less on medicines.  Cha-ching!
  • The more you work out, the less likely you are to sabotage your hard work with fast food or other bad food choices.  Those things can add up!

FOR FUN

  • There is something to be said about knowing that you can throw down if you need to, if say, some girl tries to flirt with your boyfriend.
  • You can make friends at the gym or use it as bonding time and bring one of your girlfriends along!
  • Lloyd and I worked out together a lot when we first started dating.  It was almost like an exciting date every time we went.  Drag your new girl/boyfriend to the gym with you and pretty soon you’ll be going daily!

FOR YOUR MIND

  • There’s nothing like that calm, relaxed feeling that you get post-workout.
  • Hate that afternoon slump?  Feel tired every morning?  Feel like you never get enough sleep?  Your energy will skyrocket and those feelings with disappear with a regular and consistent workout program.
  • You can actually have the occasional ice cream or other treat and not complain about how guilty you feel for eating it – you deserve it!

FOR YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER

  • I’d love Lloyd if he were 500 pounds.  Love may start with looks, but after a while it’s just about what’s inside.  However, I want to be there to grow old with Lloyd.  What’s the fun in retirement if you can’t enjoy it with the one you love?  Respect yourself and your S.O. with some regular TLC for your bod.
Disclaimer:  I don’t condone violence or truly “throwing down” with someone.  Please don’t go out and beat someone up just because I said it can help motivate you to work out.  Thanks! 🙂

How Working Out Became One Of My Passions

10 Dec

A couple of you have commented that you want to see my workout/eating plan and tips on how I stay so motivated to work out.  Those two posts are coming up later this week, but first I’d like to share with you the story of just how I got sucked into the world of fitness.

First and foremost, making and keeping a commitment to fitness and good health takes years to master.  It is NOT something that you can turn into a permanent habit in 21 days or whatever the supposed rule of thumb is.

In high school, I was one of those lucky people who was a twig naturally, but eventually college and maturity caught up to me in my late teens and early twenties.  In college, I gained about 20-25 pounds.

Towards the end of college, I began a 3-times-per-week running plan.  However, I never really lost weight because I had zero muscle mass (well, not zero, but I wasn’t building any muscle mass).  This frustrated me to no end and was very discouraging!  Here I was, getting myself to the gym 3 times a week and pounding it out on the treadmill and I wasn’t seeing any results!  What gives?!

What I discovered after a couple years of on and off cardiovascular exercise was that running was not going to take off the pounds if I wasn’t building any new muscle to burn extra calories throughout the day.

Sometime in 2006, I fell in love…with weight lifting that is.  That year, I picked up my first dumbbell and never looked back! I had finally found my workout soul mate and couldn’t have been happier.  This year we celebrated our 3rd anniversary. 😉

Ladies, when I began lifting heavy weights, I lost about 20 pounds in 2-3 months!

I didn’t change my diet, I didn’t do any extra cardio (running, elliptical, etc.).  The one and only thing I started doing differently was lifting weights for about 15-30 minutes 2-4 times per week.

There is something very important to point out that makes a lifting regime so effective.  This is the point where women usually get scared off and go running to a Step class claiming they don’t want to become manly!

YOU MUST LIFT HEAVY WEIGHTS.

Please, please, step away from the 3, 5, and 8 pound dumbbells.  Those do not do you any good.  “Spot training” or “toning” is a myth that has been created by the media.  The only thing that works is building real muscle mass with heavy weights that will burn crazy amounts of calories throughout the day.  Essentially, when you build an extra 2, 3, 4, or 5 pounds of muscle, you’re working out ALL day because your body is burning more calories.

When I say heavy weights, I mean 15, 20, 25, 30 pound dumbbells.  Of course, I know some exercises can’t be done with this high of weight and you have to use the 5s or 10s, but double digits is really where it’s at.

The weight loss happens fast, too.  If you really start pushing yourself with the heavy weights, you will really start to see pounds fall off your body.

Your body will start to change shape, too.  It will NOT change in a bad way.  There is NO way you can look like a man unless you are taking steroids or you have some sort of crazy testosterone imbalance (in that case….uh, get thee to thy doctor).  Instead, your body will look tighter, tinier, more compact.  I remember when I was heavier in college, I would sometimes experience a sort of “blob” feeling – now I feel like I have a tight, lithe body that I have more control over.

I’ve been lifting as heavy as possible for over 3 years and not one part of my body has gotten bigger (as the media claims); on the contrary, each part of my body has gotten smaller.

A funny thing happened when my body started changing and the weight started falling off (without having to follow some exhausting, ridiculously time-consuming workout plan) – my whole life got better.  I walked with more confidence, I slept better, I felt better throughout the day, I carried myself better, I just felt healthier.

Let me tell you, feeling and looking better than you’ve ever felt or looked in your life can be really life-changing.  It can turn whatever you’re doing to make yourself feel this way into a passion.  So, that was it, I was hooked.  I was officially a workout addict.

I remember when I was younger, when I would first start up an exercise program,  I’d think, “Oh, I can’t wait to lose 20 pounds so I don’t have to workout anymore!”  Even if I would have lost 20 pounds, it wouldn’t have lasted.  It’s so cliché, but it truly does take a lifelong commitment to maintain good health.

My love for heavy lifting doesn’t mean that I shun cardio exercise anymore.  Surprisingly, it has made my cardio workouts ever better!  I still do some form of cardio exercise a couple times a week, it’s just not my favorite part of working out.

My life is so much better now that I’ve found one of my many passions in exercise, but the key to making it stick was finding something I loved about exercise.  Hate running?  Don’t do it!  Hate group classes?  Never go to them again!  Experiment until you find something that makes you feel happy or helps you relax at the end of the day.

Everyone’s passion for health is out there somewhere, you just gotta dig until you find your workout soul mate.

Coming up this week and next:  How I stay motivated to workout & my workout/eating plans!

PHOTO SOURCE

One Of My Miniature Dreams: A Home Gym

4 Dec

Have you ever wondered about that side bar towards the bottom of my page that’s titled “Home Gym”?  You know, this one:

Well, let me explain.  For me, working out is like brushing your teeth.  It’s just something I do everyday without a second thought.  If I miss a couple days of working out, I get cranky and can’t think straight.  I have an inkling that this is how I felt most of the time before I started working out daily.  But, that’s another post for another day…

My point is, though, that you wouldn’t buy a house without a sink to brush your teeth or a bathtub to take a shower in would you?  Nor would I buy a house where I could not build my very own home gym.

It must have been fate when I met a guy who was even more of a workout addict than myself!  😉  Lloyd is an inspiration and never misses a workout.  He works out 6 days a week and is an avid weight lifter.  Needless to say, he wants a home gym just as much as I do.

I know a home gym will take time to build.  It could take years even before we have it perfect (Lloyd wants to build a “locker room” in our home gym which I think is a little absurd considering there will probably be a bathroom around the corner.  Boys…).  However, it is one of my requirements that I have a few necessities before I have a kid (Momma’s gotta work off the baby weight somewhere!):

  • treadmill
  • spinning bike
  • set of dumbbells (preferably convertible like these)

Those three things are my bottom-line, must have requirements to build the foundation of our gym.  Of course we’ll need other necessities eventually like:

  • plastic floor tiles (the kind they have in gyms)
  • mirrors
  • TV
  • stereo
  • resistance bands
  • barbells
  • flat bench

Sometimes Lloyd and I will get to dreaming really big and claim we want these things in our gym:

  • cable crossover (the big machines with the cables)
  • locker room (again….not gonna happen)

I totally get that most people probably think we’re crazy for wanting to spend so much money on a home gym.   However, I often daydream about rolling out of bed in the morning and heading right down to my personal gym instead of driving half-asleep, 10 minutes across town to my public gym – and that alone makes me so happy.  An added perk is the fact that I will no longer have to work out next to “talks-too-much-guy”, “stares-too-much-guy”, “smelly-guy/girl”, or “Spandex-guy” (quite possibly the fashion faux pas of the century).

There you have it – that little sidebar is no longer a mystery.  It’s one of my miniature dreams that I can’t wait to make into a reality someday!

Now that you know about my mine – what are some smaller dreams that you want to accomplish in your life that you are saving for?

So What If I Have Kleenexes Shoved Up Both Nostrils

15 Nov

This post is being brought to you by germ-infested sickness-swamp that used to be my couch.  I have a sore throat that would be described better as scorching flames licking at my Hangy-Ball.  Fun.

I’ve been downing H20 like it’s a Jaeger Bombs and I’m still in college.  Which always seems counter-productive when you’re sick, because then you have to rise from your slumber every 30 minutes to go to the bathroom.  Which is it doc, rest or liquids?!

But the point of this post is that around 2pm today, I shuffled (in my pink fuzzy slippers) over to Lloyd’s man cave and twisted his arm into taking me to the grocery store.  It really didn’t take much twisting since you can’t help but pity someone who looks like death with kleenexes shoved up both nostrils (thank God we’re in the comfortable stage…).

I’ve been holed up in our place for 2 days, so it’s funny how exciting a trip to the grocery store can be when you’re bored out of your mind.  While there, I spied – what’s this? – a $1.98 per pound sale on organic chicken!  Oh me oh my, this is the kinda sale a PF sucker like myself lives for.

I glanced down at my stained Target-brand Ugg boots and caught a glimpse of my sans-make-up splotchy complexion in the glass of a nearby freezer door and debated getting up close and personal to the meat-boy (during my sick-as-a-dog grocery store trips, I generally look down at all costs and walk as fast as my weak body will allow).

Screw it, that’s a damn good deal.  I marched up to that guy (did he look scared?) and requested 4 pounds of that chicken.  Who cares if I look like I just got hit by a truck?  Two bucks for a pound of good chicken is NOT a deal this sickly lady is going to pass up.

The point here is that I have no shame and will not pass up a good deal no matter how bad I look or feel.  Ah, the things we do for our budget my friends.

Now excuse me as I go pour warm water through my sinus cavities with my Neti Pot.

Top 7 Healthy & Budget-Friendly Foods That I Swear By

4 Nov

If you follow me on twitter, you might have noticed that I’m a bit of a health nut.  Working out keeps me sane.  I eat as healthy as possible, but definitely don’t deprive myself (balance is key, my dear readers).

There are those that claim eating healthy is expensive and that’s why our country is so overweight.  Unfortunately those people are just misguided, because healthy foods on the cheap are ‘a plenty in my grocery store.  In fact, I’ve noticed that when I don’t stock up on snack-y, processed foods and instead fill my cart with minimally (or zero) processed foods, my total bill is much cheaper.

Without further ado, here are the top 7 healthy foods that are staples in my pantry:

  1. FRESH GARLIC.  Garlic spices us every dish.  I like to saute onions and garlic in extra virgin olive oil as a delicious topping for my chicken and fish.  It’s also great in stews, soups, salads, and omelets!  Garlic is chock-full of antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory compounds.  So, eat up during the cold and flu season!  Cost for one garlic bulb: ~30-40 cents.
  2. ROLLED OATS. As odd as it sounds, oats are practically a cheat meal for me.  They are so delicious and so versatile.  I eat traditional oats (i.e. not out of a bag) with cinnamon and almonds for breakfast and this keeps me full all morning long.  I also love adding oats to yogurt (a la Swiss Oatmeal), pudding, and cookies!  Be good to your heart with oats – whole grain, all natural, rolled oats help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Oats also stabilize blood sugar which means NO sugar crashes!  Cost for 42 ounces of oats: ~$3.00
  3. POPCORN KERNELS. Next time you’re in the popcorn aisle of your store, look way up or way down.  You’ll most likely see one or two bags of all natural popcorn kernels hidden behind an array of boxed popcorn.  The only catch is that in order to make these little kernels uber-healthy, you need to invest in an air-popper.  I bought one about 3 years ago for $15 and it still works great.  Popcorn is a great source of fiber (5 grams per serving), protein (4 grams, who knew?!), and healthy fats.  This is a frequent nighttime snack at my house!  Popcorn is great plain, dashed with sea salt, or topped with melted olive oil based butter.  Cost for 32 ounces: $1.35 (32 ounces lasts forever!)
  4. DRY BEANS. I challenge you to stop buying canned beans that have been processed and contains artificial ingredients that you can’t even pronounce.  Not only do you get more bang for your buck, but there’s only one ingredient listed on a bag of dry beans: beans.  We all know beans are full of fiber (maybe a little too much?), but they also contain tons of protein (a plus if you don’t eat meat), and provide that jolt from carbs without the crash afterwards.  Plus, the dark, rich colored beans contain lots of antioxidants!  There are so many uses for beans – soups, salads, dips, taco-topper, burrito-filler, salad-topper, and even brownies!  Cost for 16 ounces: ~$1.25
  5. FROZEN BERRIES. Two disadvantages to fresh berries: they’re only in season a short amount of time and they’re (usually) high-priced even when in season.  The solution: frozen berries.  I like frozen berries much better because they never go bad (well, not for a long time) and their generally cheaper.  The deep, dark color of berries means their loaded with antioxidants – especially blueberries.  Berries are a great fruit for those avoiding sugar since they only have about 5-10 grams of sugar per serving, while most fruits have 25-50 grams per serving!  Surprise, surprise, berries also boast a good amount of fiber per serving – sometimes as much as 8 grams.  I love to throw berries in my cereals, oatmeal, and yogurt as well as just have a big bowl on berries by themselves!  Prices vary: anywhere from $1.50-$3.00
  6. EGGS. Eggs are an egg-celent (couldn’t resist) source of protein at a budget-friendly price.  Many people rely on chicken, fish, and beef for protein, but – unlike eggs – these foods are usually expensive.  I eat eggs as snacks and as meals, so they have many uses, including: hard-boiled eggs as snacks, omelets, scrambled eggs, “fried eggs”, egg sandwiches, and of course, they can be used for baking.  Cost for 12 eggs: ~$1.50
  7. YOGURT. When buying yogurt, look for fat-free, low sugar, generic varieties.  Manufacturers can be sneaky and hide tons of sugar and fat in yogurt without you even knowing it!  As with all dairy products, yogurt is a good source of calcium.  However, the superstar nutrient in yogurt is really the Probiotics.  Probiotics are live, friendly bacteria that keep your body healthy and help it to fight off bad bacteria.  Probiotics also help regulate your digestive system.  As someone who’s experienced problems with imbalances of good and bad bacteria, I rely on yogurt quite a lot to load up on the good guys.  Plus, it’s more fun than taking a supplement!  Yogurt can be used as a topping to oatmeal, mixed with nuts/fruits/oats, topping to pancakes/waffles, or just right out of the carton!  Cost for one off-brand fat-free 6 ounce yogurt: 33 cents

These are foods I LOVE and swear by!  I think this is key when finding balance in a healthy lifestyle – experiment and find foods that you love that seem like a cheat to you, but they really aren’t!

What are you favorite healthy foods on a budget?

**Disclaimer: Prices may vary.  These are the prices I’ve found at my local discount grocery store.   Prices may also vary across different parts of the country.  Nutritional information can be found here.