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Posts Tagged ‘Trader Joe’s’

I tried on a new bikini last night and didn’t hate myself.

For the record, today is January 20, meaning I tried on a bikini in the dead of winter and didn’t hate myself. That’s next-level crazy.

pants

Clearly not a bikini shot, but I’m loving my strong legs these days. Also my lion’s head garbage can.

 

By no means was there an Instagram faux-perfect body staring back at me. First of all, I’m paler than any swimsuit model would dare to be. Six-pack abs still elude me, mostly because I’m not giving up ALL of the good things in life, like the occasional glass of wine and chocolate croissant. The thighs could be spindlier, but they just don’t seem to want to (even when I was seriously tracking meals and workouts and weight and body fat percentage, they didn’t want to be tiny).

What I saw in the mirror was … OK. My abs are in good shape (I have a little oblique action going on). I’m loving my arms and shoulders — although my lifting game is not impressive weight-wise, my tiny muscles are a joy.

Finally, my legs are STRONG. They have a few muscle cuts. They can climb and lift, which in the end is more important than being skinny.

At 43 years old, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, and I feel fabulous.

Over the past few years, I started rethinking my nutrition and fitness goals. I stopped having a “goal weight” (I have no idea what I weigh right now, but my clothes fit the same week after week, so SCORE). I began to pursue weightlifting not as a weight-loss activity, but as a bone-building, let-see-what-these-muscles-can-do activity. I’m not lifting super heavy – my condo gym is small and frequently not populated with spotters, so I have to lift only what I can safely carry (a good travel rule for suitcases, too).

The husband helped me make a standing desk for work – it’s hard to get sleepy after lunch if you’re on your feet.

The biggest changes I’ve made have involved food. I cook. A LOT. We eat more whole foods than processed foods. Note I didn’t say NO processed foods – we still eat meatballs from the Trader Joe’s freezer. I still make a weekly trip to Moe’s Southwest Grill with the office crew (Moe’s Monday waits for no one). We eat the occasional frozen chicken burrito at home (a Trader Joe’s original, yet again).

But for breakfast? Oatmeal. Not instant. Sometimes steel-cut. Topped with cinnamon, walnuts and raisins.

Lunch? Leftover quinoa. Always a salad (sometimes only a salad) with good greens, grape tomatoes, feta and sometimes banana peppers. I like the Caesar dressing from Trader Joe’s, but after reading  about “natural flavors” in The Dorito Effect, I’m considering just topping my greens with a little vinegar.

Dinner? I have a great recipe for chicken tacos from The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook by my favorite cookbook authors at America’s Test Kitchen. Also included in that book is a stuffed manicotti recipe – that one is a two-day affair, since it’s easier to make the sauce one day and complete the dish the second day.

We eat a lot (A LOT) of cheese and salad. I make a mean meatloaf. The aforementioned meatballs come into play at least once a week with my homemade marinara sauce – sometimes with stuffed ravioli (yo, Trader Joe’s again), sometimes on a bun from Publix for sandwiches (although I’m notorious for leaving at least half of the bun on my plate – simple carbs aren’t taboo, but they aren’t a requirement, either).

I drink a lot of water. And a bit of coffee. The occasional glass or three of wine.

Perfect dietary guidelines? No. Better than some, worse than others, but it’s working for me. My meal-planning is a combination of deciding what I would really enjoy and what’s good for my body. Not good as in, oh, this will keep/make me skinny, but good as in, oh, this will help with today’s deadlifts, or help me stay upright and focused while I finish making this presentation.

Good as in, I tried on a new bikini last night and didn’t hate myself.

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panniers

Maybe it’s a character flaw, but to be inspired to walk, run or bicycle, I need a destination.

That destination may be somewhat impractical – this is the time of the year, for example, when I try to talk the husband into strolls through the back, sorta swampy part of Piedmont Park, in hopes of spotting snakes. I’ve also had a bit of success getting him to stroll to the dog park, even though we have neither dogs nor any intention of getting dogs.

My go-to destination since we moved to Atlanta has been Trader Joe’s. It’s just within walking distance, although it’s a tad far in really cold or really hot weather. The parking lot is impossible to negotiate most of the time, however, and I would walk twice as far to avoid the ridiculous process of stealthily driving around trying to spot someone leaving. (Yes, there is overflow parking in the back lot by the movie theater, but it comes with its own set of problems, namely aggressive drivers who are angry that they were forced to use the overflow parking lot.)

But the walk is a slog, time-wise, 20-something minutes each way, with refrigerated items suffering in the sun all the way home on hot, sunny days. Not to mention my tendency to suddenly remember that I need 3 pounds of apples AND 3 pounds of potatoes, adding unplanned weight to the bags.

My rarely-used bicycle was, of course, the answer, but the only suitable bag choice, my reliable black JanSport book bag, didn’t hold very much, left a big sweat stain on my back and made the ride home less than enjoyable.

Finally, the husband remembered than panniers were a thing, and we were soon ordering bags and a rack from Nashbar. The Townie was our bag (technically basket) of choice, and we chose the Axiom Journey bike rack to hang it from.

The verdict? So far, so good. The bags hold a little more than I usually get during a standard shopping trip, and the three attachment accessories (hooks, Velcro and a bungee cord) mean they don’t bounce around too much, even with filled with groceries. As you can see, I forgot to bring bags to put inside the bags during the excitement surrounding my first trip with the new setup; the Townies are especially sturdy when the groceries are secured inside another bag and, therefore, aren’t bumping around inside.

The travel time to Trader Joe’s has been reduced to a mere 10 minutes, provided I catch the light at 10th and Monroe the right way, and go full speed down every available hill (which, of course, I totally do). The trip back takes a couple of extra minutes – you can’t go downhill on both parts of the journey, after all, and no matter how well-balanced the load is, it still adds weight to the ride.

All that time saved means more time to look for snakes and watch dogs. And I haven’t even mentioned the chipmunks.

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tulips

One side effect of owning a cat for the better part of 18 years was a strict no-flowers-in-the-house rule. Yang loved nothing more than calmly sniffing a bouquet and then suddenly snatching a flower between his teeth, ready to chow down like a champion.

When the husband brought home a gorgeous bouquet of lilies for Valentine’s Day, I actually left them at home instead of hiding them in the closet until I could secrete them away to the safer confines of my office. They were a lovely, colorful addition to the condo.

During my next trip to Trader Joe’s, it occurred to me that people actually buy flowers for their homes, all the time, without holidays, birthdays or anniversaries as a prompt. Five dollars later, I had the perfect little bouquet of tulips to add a touch of spring to the living room.

It’s a small indulgence, but $5 every couple of weeks is money well spent to lift the mood of our small space. I’d trade them in an instant to have my cat back, though.

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I knew I had moved close to a Trader Joe’s in Atlanta, but I didn’t realize I had moved dangerously close. We’re talking an 8-minute walk, as opposed to the previous (and very, very rare) 2-hour haul to the Nashville store.

My first impulse purchase was Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Coffee, which was filled with the flavors — and aromas — of orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. I’m not fond of most flavored coffees, but this one is so rich and flavorful that I’m making an emergency shipment to my mom.

The much-ballyhooed Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Greek Yogurt, however, was a bit of a disappointment. It had all the requisite spices, and the flavors almost came through. What was missing? The fat. Fat carries flavor, and I’ve found that Greek yogurt with 2 percent fat does the job perfectly. The fat-free variety, however, is thin and … can I use “vapid” as an adjective for food?

I’m biding my time before trying Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream, which is rumored to taste amazingly like pumpkin pie. My hopes are pretty high, given that it apparently contains fat, as ice cream (and yogurt) should.

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Two years ago, I completed a successful search for a recipe that tasted like the fabulous Gingeroos that I bought at a Las Vegas Trader Joe’s but couldn’t find in Nashville.

The husband and I spent Christmas in Vegas this year, and when I spotted the bags of Gingeroos on the shelf at TJ’s, I knew it was the perfect time for a taste test since we had just polished off the last of this year’s Triple Ginger Cookies a couple of days earlier.

The verdict? My cookies are actually BETTER than Gingeroos. Either I originally gave these cookies more props than they deserved, or the recipe has changed over the last three years. They were lighter than I remembered, more like a basic gingerbread than the spicy cookies I’ve been making. The big chunks of candied ginger that I recalled simply weren’t there.

Don’t get me wrong: Gingeroos are still one of my favorite store-bought cookies (granted, this is not a long list). They served as a delicious impromptu hotel snack and got us through the last 30 minutes of a long flight home.

The revelation that they’re not the best cookies in the world, however, has made me realize that I not only can make foods that are just as good as store-bought, I can make them BETTER.

End-of-the-year ego boost? I’ll take it.

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My little green bowls make me smile. Fill them with salsa verde from Trader Joe’s and I’m positively ecstatic.

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When you know you’re not going to have electricity for five days or so, you get creative with the freezer triage process.

We’ve got an ice chest that can be powered via vehicle battery through the cigarette lighter; as long as we run the husband’s truck for about 40 minutes twice a day to recharge the battery, we can be assured of a cold ice chest.

Unfortunately, space was limited in said ice chest, meaning only the best, most essential items could be rescued from the fridge and freezing unit in the days after Alabama’s late April tornado outbreak.

Knowing that it wouldn’t fit in the ice chest, we grilled a frozen pizza instead of letting it thaw. Burnt bottom aside, it was delicious. We also grilled a couple of Trader Joe’s chicken burritos; again, they were blackened in a few spots, but their interiors were warm and delicious.

We pan-seared a couple of pieces of tuna from the freezing unit, and I stir-fried a small bag of shrimp. We ate like kings, really, until the four-day safety window ran out. Luckily, the day after we busted out the PBJ sandwiches in earnest, the power came back on.

Losses included a couple of small stuffed flounders, which we couldn’t figure out how to grill without burning, and two Nestle Drumsticks (we ate two that were half-melted out of sugary desperation). Also lost were several freezer bags filled with blanched greens; admittedly, no one was sorry to see them go.

Overall, we discovered we’re pretty good at camp-style cooking, although we’re not camping people. And don’t think that five days of electricity-free living is luring us in.

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