Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Time

Christmas is in full swing over here, and I've had more fun this year getting everything ready than ever before. I know having Connor is what has made the holiday season so exciting; watching him experience new things and actually be "old" enough to get exciting is just thrilling.

We've been doing a whole lot of baking, decorating, and yes, still working out.

Our tree is fully decked, and I'm happy to say that Connor hasn't attacked it yet. Pretty much all of our ornaments came in a set, and they're hard plastic. That is KEY with a toddler. If the ornaments were all glass I'd probably be too paranoid to let him play around the tree.
I think our mantle is one of my favorite holiday decorations. The garland came pre-lit from Costco, and I used twine to hang Christmas cards from clothespins (that was an idea I stole from my friend Beth).
Connor visited Santa, and was NOT feeling it. Honestly though, the Santa was pretty intimidating, so I don't blame him!
These picture are pure gold in my eyes. The sheer terror Santa incited is just too much to handle.
One tradition we decided to start this year, and look forward to the kids taking part in, is baking cookies throughout the season, assembling cookie baskets for friends and family, and delivering them right before Christmas. If you're a friend that I'm getting together with next weekend for a certain holiday party, you *might* have some cookies coming your way ;)
So far, I've made: oatmeal chocolate chip, regular chocolate chip, peanut butter blossoms, and gingerbread cookies. My favorite recipe happens to be a new one I found googling. It's seriously the easiest peanut butter cookie, and it is SO good.
1 C sugar (you can use brown or white, I do half of each)
1 C peanut butter- I use chunky
1 egg
I throw all of the ingredients into my mixer, and let it go until combined. Bake at 350 for about ten minutes. SO GOOD!
I also do the Hershey's kiss in the middle directly after baking. Try these, you will not be disappointed.

And now, you have to burn off those cookies, right? Try a HIIT workout. High intensity interval training. Use the easy formula of 45 seconds work, 15 seconds rest. You really can pick any total body moves for this. Here's a great example of a HIIT workout you can do at home or in the gym. Remember, there are no reps listed because you should be working for 45 seconds, and that could end up being a different number of reps for every person. The purpose of only having a short rest period is to keep your heart rate up, and have maximum calorie burn.
HIIT workout- repeat 3-4 times
45 seconds work/15 seconds rest
Squat jumps
Butterfly push-ups
Alternating forward lunges with bicep curls
Squat with shoulder press
Bicycle crunches

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Keep it simple!

Stroller strides has officially moved inside for the winter. To be honest, I totally prefer being outside, and using things like benches and fences as part of the workout. Inside, you're a bit more limited. I've decided to take a more basic approach, and work circuits, just like I do in my group fitness classes.

The nature of a stroller strides class is very different than a group ex class, so the workout will be too.

Today was PACKED and it was so fun! Everyone was really sweating, and it was a hard one for sure. 

The workout:

4 rounds of:
15 jacks
15 squat jumps
15 burpees
15 push-ups
1 min plank
Walking lunges down the basketball court and back
2 laps

The KEY here is to make this as hard or modified as you need. Here's the truth. By the end of this, if you're not dripping sweat, you need to push it a little harder. Full burpees, getting all the way down with the squat jumps, sprinting the laps, full push-ups, get it? On the flip side, if you're really struggling, modify! Reach up and down instead if jumping, push-ups from the knees, etc. Take every workout this way, and you'll always get a GOOD workout.

Something Connor has now been introduced to, courtesy of his stroller strides friends: snacks in the stroller. We can see how well that turned out!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Frittata Cups

I have a new favorite dinner that is both easy to make AND healthy. Those are usually my 2 requirements for a meal, so this fits the bill! Frittata cups made with veggies, eggs, and bacon. So good. This really isn't a "recipe", but more of a method that you can adapt depending on what veggies you prefer or have already at home.
Crack a few eggs and egg whites into a bowl (for 3 people I've been doing 3 regular eggs and adding 4-5 egg whites), add a splash of milk, seasonings (I do salt, pepper, and garlic powder). Whisk that all together. Sautee whatever veggies you have, I usually do onion, pepper, and spinach. Wait until the veggies cool, and then whisk that into the eggs.
Before you start prepping the eggs, spread your bacon onto a sheet pan lined with foil and bake at 375 for about 6-7 minutes. You want the bacon to pre-cook a little so it crisps up nicely in the muffin cups.
Using either a muffin pan or cupcake tin, line the cup with a slice of bacon, and then laddle in the egg mixture about half to three quarters up the tin.  You can also top it off with a little cheese if you're feeling that.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the center is firm.

 I also wanted to share a few pictures we had done recently for our Christmas cards. Unfortunately, Connor was sick the day of the photo shoot, and he wasn't his usual smiling self. We got a few that will be cute for a Christmas card, even if he isn't smiling brightly!

Another big update on the baby (I guess toddler now!) front- he started walking yesterday! Just over 14 months. Everyone has always warned me about how much harder things will get (at pretty much every development), but Connor is such an easy little guy, and I don't worry too much about it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sorry I've been absent recently. Between teaching classes, starting a new part time writing job, and taking care of Connor, I really haven't had any down time. 

My teaching schedule has changed a bit too. Now I'm doing weekday (mwf) mornings at the y, and teaching mon and tues evenings at PSC. Stroller strides is going to be either Tuesdays or Saturdays (alternating) this month. I've realized that two nights per week is the max that I'm ok with being away from home. Having dinner as a family really is important to me, and if I teach any more than two nights, it feels like I miss more dinners than I'm home for. I'm lucky that Matt is so great at taking over when he gets home from work. Bath time and putting Connor to bed has been Matt's job for a long time. It's nice that they have their own time together, and if I'm not teaching, it gives me a nice break! Even if its just to clean up, it's easier to do it without watching Connors every move.

Speaking of moves, Connor has officially taken steps! He's certainly not full on walking, but he's on his way!

Here's some recent favorite pics:

This one kills me; almost exactly one year difference:

Ok, enough showing off my boy!

Time to get to the important stuff- the workout. Below is what I did in my 8:30 class today. It was a nice mix of body weight moves combined with strength and cardio. Definitely a total body workout that will leave you drenched.

Preform each exercise for about a minute, and repeat each circuit twice.

Have a great day!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Quick and Healthy Dinner

Trader Joe's is one of my favorite places. It's also one if Connors (they give out free samples). I love it because they have lot of prepared food that is actually healthy. Most frozen foods are high calorie, high fat, and loaded with sodium. 

My favorite frozen staples are the Thai shrimp and veggie dumplings. They're pretty low calorie (under 300 for about 6) and make a good lunch with added veggies. The quinoa with roasted veggies is really flavorful and filling. One bag is good for about two lunches for me (and Connor). Organic waffles are a breakfast staple for C. The frozen fish is amazing, too! We especially love the miso glazed cod.

The refrigerated section has great options as well. I LOVE the eggplant parm stacks. About 300 calories for a portion (two per package). I add roasted broccoli and its a really filling lunch or dinner. 

The grilled marinated chicken breasts are perfect for building salads. Last night I took the lemon pepper chicken, added a ton of fresh veggies, and dressed it with tj's peanut salad dressing. Matt was raving that this was "seriously a restaurant quality salad". Now, that's huge. It takes a lot to get that man excited about salad for dinner.

Trader Joe's lemon pepper chicken breasts
Shredded carrots
Butter lettuce
Pea shoots
Thinly sliced celery
Peanut dressing 

Try this!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How To: Design Your Own Workout

If you feel intimidated walking into the free weight section of the gym, you're not alone. When I talk to friends and people that come to my classes, a lot of them tell me they will only ever come to a class or do cardio machines, because they feel like they just don't know what to do with the weights to maximize their time. It IS hard to put together a good strength workout if you haven't done it before.

Follow my "formula", and you'll see how easy it really can be. This "formula" is how I design most of my classes, and it's a great way to vary the moves in the workout. If you come to my classes, you know that I never repeat the same exact workout twice, because it's boring! Swapping circuits, mixing and matching, and taking favorites from different workouts is a great way to switch things up.

People always ask what I think the best type of workout is; yoga, weights, running, cardio machines, etc. Hands down, if I have only 30 minutes to do something and I want to get the most "bang for my buck" it's going to be a strength based circuit workout. What does that mean? Strength based circuit training uses free weights (but some of these workouts won't), short but intense cardio bursts, and body weight exercises.

For the workout design, think 4 movements per circuit. I like to start each circuit with a cardio burst. Think of moves that get your heart racing very fast, and also incorporate a strength movement, like a squat jump. After that, pick 2 total body exercises, and then add on something that engages the abs at the end.

For example:

Perform each exercise for 1 min, repeats circuit 2-3 times

1. Cardio- squat jumps
2. Total body- reverse lunges with a front arm raise using dumbbells
3. Total body- squat/press (squat down and press arms up at the top of the squat with dumbbells)
4. Abs- plank with shoulder taps

You can pick any moves you'd like, but once you've designed a workout, it will start to seem easy!

Below is a page from my book that I bring to each class. I switched up this class by doing the same circuit 3 times, the first was for 1 minute, second was for 45 seconds, and third was for 30 seconds. It helped to make it feel a little easier, since the hard time was going to be the most challenging.

Write out your workout, bring it with you, and feel confident in the weights section of your gym. You know what to do!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pasta Fagioli Soup

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the cooler temps and pretty foliage, and I love being able to make a one pot meal that is super easy and tastes amazing.

My girlfriend Alia gave me this recipe. It's meant to be done in the slow cooker, but mine is pretty small, and I realized early on (after throwing a bunch of ingredients in) that it wouldn't fit. I threw everything into my big soup pot and brought it to a boil, reduced it to low, and let it cook for hours on the stove.

This was so good, and will be great for leftovers throughout the week. Now that I'm out teaching 2 (soon to be 3) nights a week, I like to have something easy for Matt to heat up for dinner.

I've also done a little fall decorating around the house. Trader Joe's has mini pumpkins and squash for on 69 cents. I bought a bunch and put them around pillar candles on my dining room table.

On our buffet table in the dining room, I added a glass container with fake artichokes and wine corks. I finally hung my favorite (target) missoni prints. They were such a steal, and I don't know why I didn't think to hang them there. It's the perfect spot! 

I found these cute little glass figurines for my mantel.
Enjoy the soup!
Pasta Fagioli
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 C carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (I used 4)
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
4 C beef broth (I always use low sodium)
1 jar prepared pasta sauce
2 t oregano
1 T hot sauce
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/2 C dry pasta, add at the end of cooking time until done
Use a 6 quart or larger slow cooker, cut the recipe in half, or cook on the stovetop.
Brown the meat in a pan, drain well. While meat is cooking, chop up the veggies, add to the crock pot or large soup pot. Drain and rinse the beans and add to the pot. Add diced tomatoes with juice. Add in pasta sauce, beef broth, and seasonings. Once drained, add beef. Cook on low for 6-8 or high for about 4 hrs. Every crock pot is different, so keep an eye on your soup and taste to see when you think it's done.
This recipe is from my friend Alia, who originally found it on

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Work Updates!

I've had a lot of changes happening work wise, and I'm really excited to share them. If you're a reader, you know that I was previously teaching at Sweat (where I started teaching group fitness) and training women in a small group setting at ZAKTi. The way my schedule was working, I would be in the city on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and then head way out to King of Prussia in the evenings. Matt had to rush home from work in order to watch Connor so I could get to Sweat. Although I enjoyed both work experiences, it was pretty clear by this summer that it wasn't working.

Balancing Connor, home life, and part time work is not easy. I now understand the struggle working moms, part time working moms, and stay at home moms all have. Each role presents it's own challenges. For me, part time work as a fitness instructor has been difficult, because it simply doesn't make sense to pay a babysitter while I'm working. That would essentially defeat the purpose (money wise). So, I had to start pursuing work options where I could bring Connor.

Just like the saying "when it rains, it pours", work opportunities have been popping up all over!

I'm now proud to say that I am working (or will be starting very soon) at three different fitness companies: Philadelphia Sports Clubs, The Haverford YMCA, and Fit 4 Mom/Stroller Strides Media.

I'm teaching total body strength/cardio at 2 (soon to be 3) Philly Sports Club locations- Society Hill, Radnor, and Ardmore (soon). So far, I've been loving it, and the club members have been so welcoming. The Society Hill front desk informed me that I was taking over for an instructor that had been there for 15 years, and had a very loyal following. Not to make me nervous, or anything! At the end of my class, the participants were happy, and one even told me it was the best class she had ever taken. I was so flattered.

Philly Sports Clubs also offers babysitting during my class times (early evenings), so I can bring Connor if Matt isn't going to be home that night. I brought him last week, and he fell asleep on the babysitter-so out of character for him, but so cute! He's now a favorite member there :)

The Haverford YMCA is brand new, and opening today, October 1st. I haven't started yet (as the doors literally opened this morning at 5 am) but am so excited to teach on Fridays and Saturdays. The facility is absolutely beautiful, and is walking distance from our house. I can't wait to have Connor play around with all of the other kids in the Kid Zone while I teach.

My final venture is Fit 4 Mom/Stroller Strides Media. Stroller Strides offers moms fitness classes at outdoor locations (and alternate indoor locations in the winter) where mom can bring the baby. Again, it's so key for moms to have something to do where they don't have to worry about or arrange child care! Not only are these classes a good workout, and fun to interact with other moms, but the kids/babies have fun too. There are different songs, activities, and rhymes done while the moms are working out. The owner of the Media branch, Erin, also organizes things like story time and birthday parties for the kids after certain classes.
I'm so happy to be so busy, and looking forward to meeting a lot of new people! Email me if you'd like to try out a class!
I'll leave you with some recent pictures from a trip to the zoo :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Instagram pics lately

Instagram is officially my favorite social media website. Less text, more pics!

Follow me @eosimpson

Also known as "he's not always perfect"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lately, I've been starting each day with a protein shake about 20 minutes after my morning workout. I've never really been that into them before, but I've been bored of my same go to protein snacks, and need something that will fill me up for a few hours. I think I've found a good mix of ingredients that really work well together. The shake is delicious and really does keep me full until lunch.
I blend:
1 frozen banana (I cut them up and freeze individually in plastic baggies)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use designer whey from Trader Joe's)
1 T smooth peanut butter
1 cup vanilla almond milk (I'm going to get the lower cal version next time to compare taste)

Something else we've been doing lately is jogging over to the park near my house and working out outside. Although I run outside a lot, I usually keep my strength workouts in my living room or the gym. The weather has been much cooler and just too nice to stay inside. I like working out at the park because it keeps me thinking, and using whatever "equipment" is there, like the swings. 
Today we did:
Quick jog to park
10 pushups
20 tricep dips on park bench
repeat 3x
30 jumping jacks
20 squat jumps
20 "pull-ups" holding onto a swing
10 reps of knee tucks from plank position- feet on swing
repeat 3x
1 min high plank
30 sec side plank R
30 sec side plank L
I then did about 3 minutes of walking lunges, pushing the stroller.
Here's an image I found to illustrate the swing "pull-ups".

Little buddy was watching me :)
 Our "gym" for the day:

Lastly, a quick pic of Connor while waiting for the Doc at his one year exam. Little peanut is still under 20 lbs at a year! Not sure how he's this small, I swear he eats as much food as I do!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup/ Weekend pics

I've been trying to get some new recipes in my routine. We've been having so much of the same things lately. Tonight I made a pumpkin black bean soup that was so good. The only changes I made was an additional Tablespoon of curry (original recipe had 1 T), and I swapped the heavy cream for milk. It was just as good (I'm sure) and it cut a lot of calories and fat. The picture doesn't necessarily look too appetizing, but I promise it was delicious! I also added some sriracha on top. Try it.

*Edited- original link to recipe wasn't working. This was originally from food network, it's not a recipe of my own.
1 small onion
2 cans pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1carton veggie or chicken broth (I used chicken)
1 cup heavy cream (I used milk)
1 T curry powder (I used 2 T)
1 t cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Dice the onion and saute in olive oil until softened. Add all of the other ingredients and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Let this soup simmer on low for at least 30 minutes. I find soups have the best flavor when you turn the heat off, and put the lid on about 20 minutes before serving. When the soup is too hot, you simply can't taste the ingredients. 

This weekend, we packed up the family and headed to upstate New York for my cousin's wedding. The reception took place in a barn and was absolutely beautiful. Everything was very rustic and elegant. Connor was a trooper, and was so well behaved at the ceremony. He even hung out with his parents for a drink at a bar during the afternoon!

Connor selfie

This weekend was a lot of fun with my family. We spent a lot of time together with my parents, brother and sister in law. Connor loves them all, and has so much time with them.

Beautiful floral arrangements

Such a beautiful place!