Thursday, July 28, 2011

Guest Post: Parties in a Pinch

Recently, my friend Erin asked me to guest blog about healthy ways to prepare for the big day on her brilliant wedding and event planning blog, Goldiblog. I've been reading Erin's blog for awhile and am always inspired by her ideas for making an event memorable and special so I was thrilled when she agreed to do a guest post for

Just in time for this weekend, Erin has shared tips for throwing an easy, yet stylish party. After reading them, you'll likely want to throw your own impromptu get together! And don't forget - for additional wedding and event ideas, visit Goldiblog.

Parties in a Pinch

Well, summer is in full swing and if you are anything like me, summer is synonymous with parties! With so many great reasons to celebrate, it’s easy to overwhelm even the most seasoned hostess. In fact, one of the most frequent questions I am asked is “I’m hosting a party this weekend. I don’t have much time to prepare, what can I do?”

Well, dolls, here are a few tips you can use the next time you want to pull together the perfect party!

I find that one of the most useful tools in my arsenal is repurposing what I already have. I take a quick spin through my house, pulling all the interesting things I find along the way. A lightweight, underused drapery panel can make an amazing tablecloth. Grab some placemats, arrange them end to end down the center of your table and –poof! A stylish runner. Make that table sing by grouping vases or candles of varying sizes on your newly crafted runner. One of my favorite centerpieces is a red ceramic bowl I fill with lemons. If you are someone with more than one set of dishes, combine them and craft an imperfectly perfect place setting.

Old magazines and tissue paper can become paper chains and hanging pom-poms. Cut pages of discarded magazines into strips. Tape the ends of the strips to form chains. Then hang in doorways or above your table. For poms, fold several sheets of tissue (stacked like pancakes) into a fan. Wrap some wire around the center of the fan and fluff up the layers. You’ll see the pom start to assemble itself and hide the wire. Tie some thread or string to the wire and hang!

Super easy, super quick and, best of all-super chic.

Another great way to punctuate the mood of any party is to download or arrange existing music into a festive mix of tunes onto your iPod or MP3 player. I am a huge believer in The Playlist.

This last tip is the easiest and probably the most obvious. Plan a colorful menu. Select bright vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, carrots, corn and broccoli to liven up the dinner plate, especially if you are serving meat. Everyone loves veggies and they’re beautiful on a plate…and the waistline as well.


I have been blessed with extremely thoughtful friends. Inevitably, whether I ask them to, one or more of them will bring a bevvie to share with the group. This is indeed a blessing. If you pool all the unique beverages, you and your guests can play ‘bartender’. The trick is to use only what you have available to you. You and your guests will love coming up with creative drinks to try.

Food and Desserts
Unless the occasion calls for it, I think party food should be simple, healthy (for the most part) and fun to eat! Pot stickers, bruschetta, crostini with a white pepper/scallion cheeseball and red pepper hummus are my go-to recipes. There are endless variations available to me and I can always please a crowd. Stick with no-muss finger food and you’ll never be led astray.

For me, desserts are always the hardest part of any menu. I love to make fancy pastries, baked goods and other such yummies that are often complicated little time suckers. One dessert I can always count on is the chocolate-covered strawberry. They are simply the living end! You can find great deals on strawberries when they are in season. Dark Chocolate (with at least 60% Cacao) is always available in the baking section of any market and trust me, your guests will love it!

There you have it, darlings! A few of my tried and true tips for the perfect party. Oops, I have one more tip to share- Above all, have fun! If you have something to celebrate and a group of amazing people to celebrate with, then you already have the Perfect Party.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Running is a Journey . . . That Sometimes Leads to Chilled Treats

After taking some time off, I'm back in training mode for my next half marathon. It's about three months away, which gives me plenty of time to build mileage and improve speed before the big event.

One step at a time
Something I've been thinking about lately is how running is such a personal journey and it doesn't necessarily have an end destination. Sure, there are milestones along the way, such as races, but in the end, the only thing that really matters is being able to run another day. Every training run counts just as much as the races because they're what helps build momentum to achieve each milestone. And once a milestone is met, there's always a new challenge to
reach. But ironically, for a sport that emphasizes speed, it doesn't really matter how fast you progress along your journey. It's more important that you just keep moving forward, at any pace.

Those were the thoughts that got me through yesterday's training run. After, I rewarded myself with a homemade popsicle. If you've never made these chilled treats, you need to give them a try. They're simple to make and a great post-run eat.

Although you can use nearly type of fruit, vegetable or herb, here's one of my fave combos:

Banana Cranberry Popsicles

2 ripe bananas, pureed
4 oz light cranberry juice

Divide pureed bananas between four popsicle molds. Top with cranberry juice. Freeze until firm.

It's that easy! What running milestone are you hoping to achieve next? What's your favorite post-run treat?

- ST

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Racing in the Heat

When I first began training for the Summerfest Rock 'n Sole Half Marathon, my goal was to finish in 1:54-1:55. Things were going well and I was pretty confident I would be able to make this time without a problem.

Then the arch pain started, which affected my final few weeks of training. I was still able to run, but not as long or fast. I adjusted my goal to finish under two hours, which I thought was fine for my first half marathon.

Too hot to handle

About two thirds through the actual race, I knew I wasn't even going to make my two hour goal. Before the race, I thought the Hoan Bridge would be my biggest race hurdle, but it turned out to be the scorching heat and humidity. Despite proper pre-race fueling (a bottle of Ensure, 32 oz of water, 10 oz Gatorade) and regular water and Gatorade intake throughout the race, I was forced to slow down. Way down.

The Hoan Bridge was actually one of the easier parts of the race, maybe because I went into it expecting the worst. The next two miles following the Hoan Bridge, I was still on pace to make my goal time. From there, it fell apart. I had to walk through the next few aid stations and slow my pace. The heat really affected me and suddenly my goal was just finishing the race. I slowed my pace for the final third of the race, only upping my pace for a final kick during the last .2 miles. I love a good sprint to the finish line!

Several hours after finishing the race, I learned about the aid station issues and how the heat affected so many other runners. I feel very fortunate that all of the aid stations were fully stocked when I went through. Knowing an aid station with cold water and Gatorade was just ahead helped keep me going during the later stages of the race, so I can't imagine how terrible it was for the runners after me who came upon stations that were out of supplies.

Race stats

Here are my race results:

  • Overall time: 2:10:51
  • Overall place: 1000/2954
  • Gender place: 385/1616 (top 25 percent!)
  • Age group place: 83/341 (top 25 percent!)

Updated race schedule

Needless to say, I'm eager to better these results and can't wait to race another half marathon. Here's my revised race schedule for the upcoming months:

What are your race day strategies when temps hit the upper 80s or 90s?

- ST

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Seven Layer Bars

Every now and then, a treat is in order. And I don't mean a "healthy" treat. I mean a gooey, fattening, I'd-like-to-eat-the-entire-pan type of treat. Next time you have one of these cravings, try making Seven Layer Bars. Don't feel bad if you eat more than one - I promise I won't say a word.

Seven Layer Bars

(adapted from
Fave Diets Sweet Seven Layer Cookie Bars)

20 reduced-fat Pecan Sandies cookies

1/2 cup Smart Balance, melted

1 can fat-free condensed milk

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add the cookies to a food processor and process until a fine grain results. Place melted Smart Balance in a 9x13 pan. Add processed cookies on top and press into the pan.

Pour the condensed milk on top of the crust in an even layer. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips, pecans and almonds. Top with the shredded coconut.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.


- ST