Friday, November 30, 2012

Fit Friday: Sweaty in 30

For this Fit Friday workout get ready to sweat!

In only 30 minutes you will have worked your whole body, boosted your metabolism, and blasted fat away. Yet with all these benefits comes some glistening, so get your towel, dumbbells, and water ready.

0:00-10:00 Fit Sugar's Full Body Workout from Pop Physique: This is a great way to start getting your muscles loosened up and ready to work.

10:00-20:00 Fit Sugar's Metabolism Boosting Workout: This workout uses weights and compound exercises to get your heart rate up and tone your muscles.

20:00-30:00 Fit Sugar's Blast Away Belly Fat Workout: Get ready for lots of cardio to blast that fat!

If you want a longer workout, repeat videos 2 and 3. My guess is that whether you do these videos once or twice, you'll be feeling the burn tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Christmas Table and Lentil Stew

After we returned from a great Thanksgiving trip to North Carolina, I immediately turned on the Christmas music and started decorating! We aren't getting our tree until this weekend, but until then we have multiple nativities up and a decked out table!

Now onto what to serve... Want a tasty, healthy, yet hearty meal after Thanksgiving week? I have just the recipe for you!

This lentil stew is so delicious while being filling and healthy. It's also quick and easy to make.

Spicy Lentil Stew, inspired by Tasty Kitchen

Serves 4
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound chorizo sausage
2 jalapenos, chopped
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup dried lentils
2 cups chicken stock
Ground black pepper, to taste
6 cups fresh chopped kale
Mexican blend cheese, for topping


  1. In a big pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in garlic and onions, letting caramelize for 10 minutes. Add the chorizo, stirring constantly until it browns and is almost done, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add in the jalapenos, beans, tomatoes, lentils, chicken stock, and pepper, stirring to combine. 
  3. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils are soft.
  4. Add in the kale, and let simmer for 5 minutes or until kale wilts. 
  5. Serve with cheese, if desired.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving NC Trip

Last Tuesday, John and I headed to North Carolina for our third annual Thanksgiving with the Shack/Wells families. It was another wonderful time of reconnecting with family, eating delicious meals, sitting by the fire, hiking, and of course some competitive games in the mix.

Tuesday: On Tuesday, we arrived in the afternoon and relaxed, catching up with my parents and John's sisters and parents.

Wednesday: On Wednesday the fun began as John's aunt, uncle, two cousins and grandparents arrived bringing the attendance to a grand total of 14! I spent the morning making our traditional Thanksgiving dishes with my mom before spending some time relaxing by the fire and playing Scattergories with the rest of the family.

Thursday: On Thanksgiving our feast began at 1pm, and before eating John's dad read a great quote on gratitude by William Faulkner: "Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all." I love the idea that gratitude brings a sort of electric energy to life, brightening the day. And I am so thankful for families who enjoy spending holidays together.

Our Thanksgiving meal was complete with smoked turkey, oven-roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans, the Wells shiitake mushroom gravy, traditional gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, bread rolls, and our choice of 5 different pies - complements of Grandma Shack. I also contributed my gluten free pumpkin bars to the mix. After our delicious feast, we needed some exercise so we headed outside in the beautiful weather to throw the football and for a competitive game of Bocce ball. After two rounds, Mom and Dad were named the champs!

That evening, John and I headed back to my parents' cabin, where we were also staying, to play Scrabble. The winner this time? John, who finally upset my Scrabble wins!

Friday: On Friday, we got up for a 9:30 hike with John's parents and uncle. It was another sunny day with a gorgeous view at the top of Rock Mountain. We arrived back around 1pm for a some lunch and relaxation before dinner that night. My parents had everyone over for an Italian meal of grilled vegetables, smoked mahi mahi, and pasta. Emma then performed an amazing concert for us with songs she's written, and afterwards we played a couple games.

Saturday: I worked on Student Launch Pad (after sleeping in!) while John headed into Asheville with some of his family to see the new Lincoln movie. Everyone returned in time for us to cheer Florida State on, and thankfully we had a delicious meal to look forward to after a disappointing loss.

For dinner, John's cousin Abby made us a wonderful Southern meal of pulled pork, green beans, balsamic tomatoes, potatoes, and mocha chocolate mousse with caramel brittle... yum! We all hung out after dinner, working on a puzzle, talking, and watching Home Alone.

Sunday: John and I ate a big omelet breakfast that my dad made for us before heading to Buck's Coffee Shop with Amy and Emma. We headed back to Atlanta after lunch and began decorating for Christmas... one of my favorite activities!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Student Launch Pad: Preparing to launch!

I am passionate about coaching individuals and groups to their highest potential. I love witnessing someone discover how they are uniquely gifted and finding ways to integrate those strengths into their work and life. BeEmbraced is all about being embraced by the journey, and my current adventure is with Student Launch Pad!

I noticed that a lot of students were wasting valuable time and tuition dollars pursuing mismatched majors and careers in college. 53% of college students change majors 2 to 3 times, contributing to the over 50% of students who are taking longer than 6 years to graduate. Each additional year it takes to graduate will cost on average another $19,171 of tuition money, depending on whether it is a private or public university.

I want to reverse this trend and teach students how to apply their strengths and find their “sweet spot.” What if students knew how their unique combination of strengths, passions, values, and personality fit into a major or career?

Too many adults started down a career path that wasn't a good fit to begin with and now feel stuck. Instead, I believe that you can balance your passions with the practicality of making a living. In fact, your strengths, passions, and values all work together for success. 

I would love your support and for you to follow us on Twitter @StdntLaunchPad and like us on Facebook at Or check out our website. Thank you to everyone for the encouragement you've already provided and your ongoing support!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Start of Year 2 of Marriage

John and I aren't even a full month into year two of marriage, but I can already see how it's going to be different - in a good way.

Thankfully, our 10 year friendship prior to marriage, 14 month engagement, and excellent pre-marital counseling made our first year of marriage a lot less of an adjustment than I had expected. 

However, I was recently telling a friend who is about to get married that one of the big transitions into marriage that I had was seeing myself reflected every day in John. By this I mean seeing how my every word and every action impacted someone else. It was like walking around with a mirror in front of me all day. And unfortunately that mirror oftentimes revealed my selfishness, my imperfections, my pride. 

And the funny part about recognizing my self-centeredness was that it still made me focused on myself. In trying to will myself to be less self-focused, I was perpetuating the problem. 

Going into year two of marriage, I have a better perspective of where my focus needs to be. Even if I set my gaze on John instead of myself, growth would stagnate. Instead, we must both look to something higher than ourselves. 

It's the upside-down Gospel where our marital foundation is found not by looking below to where our own feet are taking us, but above. 

Is looking down making you dizzy?
Set your heart and mind on things above (Col. 3:1-2)

Thankfully, I am blessed with a husband who is gracious, patient, and loves me for the imperfections. Together we have grown throughout our first year of marriage, and it has already been exciting (and often funny) to reminisce on first year "bloopers" me crying when I burnt John's favorite cookies  on his birthday, or John getting frustrated when I beat him in a game of Scrabble.

Going into this second year, I am eager to reset my focus. Yes, it is important to take stock of your relationship with your spouse. However, if you constantly assess your marriage, you'll quickly become obsessed with everything that is not quite perfect enough to qualify you for "the best marriage ever." We are broken people in a broken world, so playing the game of perfection will only result in frustration. You must see a higher purpose. What is God calling you to as a couple that you couldn't do alone?

I want to intentionally remember that my sinful nature is made pure only through Christ.
Colossians 1:22

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fit Friday: Total body at home circuit

Today's workout will work just about every muscle in your body. Be prepared to sweat and be sore the next day... only the best kind of sore though, when you know you've done your body good!

I recently made this workout up when I didn't want to run or do a workout DVD, and I ended up loving it because of all of the variety. It will keep you moving and on your toes - no boredom here!

You'll need about 5 - 10 pounds weights, a stability ball, and a medicine ball. Be sure to warm-up/cool down and stretch before and after the workout.

To see examples of the exercises, click on the following links:

Wide squat with overhead press
Lateral front raises: Same as the link below but to the front
Lateral side raises
Skull crushers on stability ball: Lying on a stability ball will also work your core. You can use dumbbells for this instead of a barbell.
Stability ball knee tuck ...and add a pushup when you're in the plank position

Leg curls on stability ball
Hip thrust on stability ball
Stability ball side leg lift
Back lunge with front kick

Toe touches with medicine ball or holding a dumbbell
Russian twists with medicine ball... hold a medicine ball or dumbbell to make it more challenging
Bicycle crunches

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Recipes for Chilly Days

This past week was the annual Chomp and Stomp Chili Festival in Cabbagetown, a neighborhood close to us. John and I biked to our friends Brant and Anna's house and walked over to the festival with them for bluegrass music and all you can eat chili. Local restaurants as well as ambitious individuals make their best chili, and you can sample as much as you want. It was all very delicious with some unusual types like brisket chili, smoky vegetarian, and one sweetened with maple syrup.

It was an usually warm and sunny day, so we met up with several friends, sat on picnic blankets in the park, and enjoyed the music and festivities. After all that spicy chili, we cooled off with King of Pops popsicles - the best!
Anna and me at the Chili Festival
After the beautiful weekend, we were greeted this week with chilly and rainy weather, which left me craving some more warm, hearty food. As a result, I've compiled some more fall recipes that I've made this week... enjoy!

For breakfast, pour a bowl of this delicious granola with some almond milk, and heat it up in the microwave for a warm start to the day!

Pumpkin Granola

Pumpkin Granola
Makes 3 2/3 cups
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (gluten free if making GF version)
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chopped almonds (or slivered almonds)
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp canola oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Spread oats and quinoa on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Toast in oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove oats from oven, pour into bowl and add flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, and raisins.
  4. Reduce oven to 300 degrees.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine honey, pumpkin puree, oil, spices, salt, and vanilla. Pour over oats and stir with a spatula.
  6. Spread mixture evenly onto baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. 
  7. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet.
This next recipe I made for dinner one night, but it made delicious lunch leftovers! I've shared a spaghetti squash recipe before, but this one is more like your typical spaghetti dish.

Spaghetti-style Spaghetti Squash 

Serves 4
1 spaghetti squash, halved and deseeded
1 onion, sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
Dash of red pepper flakes
1/2 Tbsp. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 15 ounce can of diced, roasted tomatoes 
1 cup spinach
Parmesan cheese, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place halved and deseeded squash on greased baking sheet, with cut sides down. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes (depending on size of squash) or until inside is tender.
  2. Once squash is done, remove from oven and let cool.
  3. Heat olive oil in a pan and add onion and garlic. Caramelize onions over low heat for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Increase heat to medium. Add in mushrooms and spices. Cook for an additional five minutes.
  5. Add in spinach and tomatoes; let simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Scrape flesh out of spaghetti squash with a fork into a large bowl. 
  7. Add tomato mixture into bowl with spaghetti squash, and toss to combine.
  8. Top with cheese if desired.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mission > Identity

When you sign a letter or an email, the closing line is often a brief but telling summary of the content.

When I sign off with
...I am usually writing to a family member or close friend. "Sincerely, Stephanie" is more formal, and "Thanks so much, Stephanie" indicates a note of appreciation or requesting a favor.

My box of wedding letters
Yet when I read through Paul's letters written to the early church, I tend to skip over his greeting to get to the heart of his words. This time, as I read through Colossians with my She Reads Truth study, we intentionally paused at the first verse of Paul's book: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace and peace from God our Father."

In this greeting, Paul announces who he is and who he is writing to - much like our salutations and closings in our letters. He defines himself as an apostle, one sent by God for a mission. His conviction and boldness in this calling made me think, How do I define myself? 

How we define our identity is obviously important because we act out of who we are. Yet so often we take on identities without pausing to assess whether we want to define ourselves this way.

For instance, in the book Creative Nonfiction, author Philip Gerard discusses the importance of defining yourself as a writer without any qualifiers. He points out that before you can be a writer, you must believe you are one. Writers recognize the moment when this happens because "their ambition for the writing becomes more important than their ambition to become writers."

Excerpt from Creative Nonfiction
In other words, it is how Paul begins his letter: I am an apostle sent on a mission because of God's will. His ambition for his mission becomes more important than his identity. In other words, his identity is God's plan for his life.

The problem with the world's notion of "finding yourself" is that it continually points to you. Paul shows us that our true identity must point to Christ. Yes, each of us has a high calling on earth. But this confidence is not because we are so grand as to deserve to make a difference but because we serve a King who mightily works through us.

An excerpt from the She Reads Truth Colossians study.
Be still today and let Christ work through you.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Orlando Trip in Pictures

John's and my time in Orlando this past week was a work/fun combo trip. Work because John had an event on Halloween to oversee and that required prepping part of Monday and most of Tuesday. I also took the opportunity to meet with my marketing and website contacts that are helping me develop my company. And fun (obviously) because we got to spend time with both sides of our families!

Here's the recap of the weekend in pictures:

Friday: Arrived in the evening and had dinner with John's family.

Saturday: Universal and Islands of Adventure... Including (my favorite!) Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the new Rip Rocket Roller Coaster!

From a previous Islands of Adventure trip... it wasn't this warm outside this time!

That evening, the Shack's had a big group over for dinner, and it was so fun to catch up with everyone.

Sunday: Shopping with my mom... no pictures, just soon-to-be Christmas gifts!

Monday: Half day of work then enjoying the beautiful weather, especially since last time I was in Orlando it was rainy and muggy. John and I spent most of the day with my parents.
Rainy view of my parents' backyard on the last trip to FL
Beautiful, sunny, and crisp weather this time!

Tuesday: Another work day, and then I took a break for lunch to meet one of my lifelong best friends for lunch. Her lunch hour flew by because we were having such a good time reconnecting.
Alex and I after lunch
That afternoon I squeezed in a quick workout before the Shack's and Wells had dinner together.

This leopard print carpet at my parents' house makes for a fun at-home workout!

Wednesday: John had his event at Arnold and Winnie Palmer hospitals, so I got a haircut and worked a little more. That evening, my sister-in-law Emma celebrated Halloween with us. We roasted marshmallows in the fire pit and watched some Seinfeld episodes... a perfect way to end our trip!

Thursday: We returned home and arrived to a 55 degree house... apparently Atlanta got a lot colder than Orlando did! We didn't know the heat wasn't set up when we moved in, so while we waited for someone to come fix it, I made vegetarian chili and my pumpkin muffins for us to warm up with for dinner!

Vegetarian chili

Thursday, November 1, 2012

15 Workout (15 reps, 15 minutes)

When we were in Orlando this past week, I wanted to squeeze in a quick workout before dinner one night. Since I wanted to maximize time with family, I wanted an efficient yet hard workout to power through.

The result is my 15 workout... efficient and effective!

15 reps of each exercise
2 sets
= 15 minute total body workout

Links on how to do each exercise are below. Be sure to modify where needed. For instance, if you can't do 15 push ups, just do the knee tucks. Or use lighter weights if you need to. 

Burpees - get your heart rate going!
Stability ball knee tucks with push up - add the push up to make it great for the abs and the arms
Jumping alternating lunges - hold 5 pound weights in each arm to get a good burn; do 15 per side
Dumbbell chest press on stability ball - use about 10 pound weights in each arm
Bicycle crunches - the slower you do these, the more the burn; do 15 per side
Triceps bench dip - great for the arms
Bird Dog - a yoga move that really works the abs; do 15 per side