Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Italian Dinner Party

Last weekend we celebrated my wife's birthday.  While we were in Italy for our honeymoon, after a few glasses of wine, Robin mentioned that we should have an Italian themed dinner for her birthday and call it "Aged to Perfection."  I didn't mention it after the discussion, but I tucked that idea into my back pocket and decided to do this - surprise style - for her birthday.  I started with an Evite, and I made sure to only invite people that Robin can really be relaxed around, since I knew a surprise party was already out of her comfort zone.  Here's the invitation:

Here's the menu:

Appetizer: Bruschetta + Caprese Salad Bites
Pasta Course: Gnocchi with meat sauce + Gnocchi with pesto
Entree: Two homemade pizzas (1 with pancetta + mozzarella, 1 margarita)
Dessert: Tiramisu

On Friday night (with the student organization I advise having their meeting in my living room), I made two batches of pizza dough, homemade roasted tomato pizza sauce, and tiramisu.  I was most nervous about the tiramisu because baking involves, well science, and I get nervous about getting the measurements, timing, pans, etc. correct.

 Making the custard using a double boiler for the first time ever.

Roasted tomatoes, garlic, and oregano fresh out of the oven.  I just blended it all up and it was a delicious pizza sauce.  The recipe is here.

On Saturday, our friend (and my Beachbody coach), Heather, took Robin out for a day of fun (AKA get her out of the house while I cook), and Heather's wife, Nicole came over to be my amazing and lovely sous chef.   We first got the house ready by figuring out to set a table for 9 when we had 8 plates, 8 wine glasses, 8 placemats, etc. etc. We ended up giving Robin the "special" sets of everything (i.e. the mismatched).  It worked out. :)

 Gnocchi life.  This isn't even a quarter of it.

 Best sous chef ever (she's also proof of how great Focus T25 is - she's so fit!)

 The "special" table setting with the Birthday Cake Candle

The Table

The cooking process actually went really well and the timing of everything worked out so that I had washed all of the flour off of my face and changed out of my pajamas before people arrived - phew!  We all drank prosecco and passed out the appetizers to start the night out.

Mini Caprese Salad Bites (from the recipe here)

After everyone sat at the table and we transitioned to some red wine, we served the pasta course.

 Homemade Gnocchi with meat sauce

Homemade Gnocchi with pesto (thank you Terry Hagen for the pasta-making lessons!)

I made two pizzas for the entree.  This is my second time making homemade pizza, and I love the recipe from Elise Blaha Cripe - The Only Pizza Dough Recipe You Will Ever Need (as well as all of the things on her blog - check it out!).

 Here is the pancetta and mozzarella version.  I really like using ciliegine which is just small cherry size balls of mozzarella cheese.  

 I love this picture - such an adorable couple.

Here's what we could salvage for pictures of the margarita pizza. It went fast.

For dessert we had the tiramisu I made on Friday night.  My friend, Amanda, who was our food photographer for the evening may have had a few too many glasses of Chianti Classico by then, because we somehow have no photos of the dessert.  Here is the delicious recipe I  used:

Here is a link to my Pinterest Board for the event in case you want other ideas:

We had so much fun with this themed birthday dinner, and with how little stress was actually involved, I definitely want to do it again.  Maybe a dinner that is on the food plan, but still delicious for next time?  Any ideas?


Friday, September 11, 2015

21 Day Fix versus 21 Day Fix Extreme + A Day in the Life (Because who doesn't want pictures!?)

This month Robin and I started 21 Day Fix Extreme after two very successful cycles with 21 Day Fix.  The food plan is the exact same except you aren't "allowed" any treats.  We didn't use any of the treats during the regular 21 Day Fix except for special occasions, so that meant basically meant the same food plan for us.

With a meal plan in place, we started the workouts.  This is definitely where the difference comes in to play. The workouts are HARD! Like, burning out your muscles so much that you can't pump the shampoo bottle in your post-workout shower.  The schedule looks like this:

Monday: PLYO Fix Extreme
Tuesday: Upper Fix Extreme
Wednesday: Pilates Extreme (which we substitute for soccer)
Thursday: Lower Fix Extreme
Friday: Cardio Fix Extreme
Saturday: Dirty 30 Extreme
Sunday: Yoga Fix Extreme

It follows a similar setup to the standard 21 Day Fix, but the biggest difference is that there is very little rest in between each workout as you go through the 30 minutes.  I've been doing lots of modifications and doing the best I can.  It is hard, but good.  I don't want it to seem like I don't  like the program.  I definitely do!  I was getting slightly bored with the sameness of 21 Day Fix after two cycles, so it is nice to jolt myself with these intense workouts.

We're in week 2, and it has been more manageable than last week.  More to come on the success with this program!

Ok, and on to the food pictures!

 Breakfast: 2 eggs with salsa + avocado

 Lunch: Leftover steak fajitas (from Fixate) over couscous with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top

Dinner: Clean and simple.  Grilled chicken with southwest seasoning (from the 21 Day Fix booklet) with steamed broccoli and A1 sauce.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Treat Week (AKA How NOT to Maintain your Weight Loss)

After completing our second round of 21 Day Fix, Robin & I took a week long break before starting 21 Day Fix Extreme yesterday.  I'm learning that the hardest part about this journey will not be the weight loss but the maintaining.  I only gained back 3 lbs. last week (most of which I think was salt-focused; I was already down 1.5 lbs today),  but I also gained a lot of perspective about how hard maintaining weight loss will be.  I drank beer, ate pasta, pizza, Taco Bell, Red Robin, and Thai food without abandon, and my only exercise was soccer. Autumn's dvds, my running plans, and my dog's leash all sat awaiting my laziness to end.  Thankfully it was only a week.

I now know that I need to start planning for maintenance long before I get to that point.  My hope is so stay a bit more controlled after this 21 day cycle, since I don't know what is next after this. I will definitely need a plan.

I also feel no guilt about last week.  It was a treat week.  I've worked really hard since July 5th, so I earned a week to do what I wanted.  Here are some delicious pictures to prove it.

 Cooking with my friend's dad, Terry Hagen (the owner of Bravo! Restaurant and Cafe)

 Chicken & Waffles at Arcadia Brewing Co. after soccer on Wednesday with a Jaw Jacker Pumpkin Ale (not pictured)

These pictures are both from Nonla, the new Vietnamese restaurant in Mattawan, Mi.

(As always, lots of the photo credit goes to my lovely wife, Robin)

More to come on 21 Day Fix Extreme after we complete our first week.  Yesterday was Plyo Fix Extreme - basically super intense leg day.

**Want to know more about 21 Day Fix or how to get connected with the program?  Let me know!  I can be reached at or through comments on the blog!**

Monday, August 24, 2015

21 Day Fix - Cycle 2 Results

The results are in....

After 2 cycles of 21 Day Fix, I have lost 12 lbs!  In addition, I have lost 2 inches off of my bust, 2 1/2 inches off of my stomach, and 3 3/4 inches off of my hips!  Yesterday I had a great Non-Scale Victory when I bought jeans that were 2 sizes smaller than my jeans at home.  Here are some pics from our measurements this morning:
 This is Before, After the 2nd Cycle, and my Current After shot

 Here is my before (July 6th) to today (August 24th)

This week we are off of the program, but we aren't going off of the deep end.  We have still made food plans for the week, and we are going to try some new activities.  I  haven't gone running since we started this program, so I am going to that this week, and we are going to try the PLYO Fix DVD that came with our program that we haven't used yet.  We also have soccer on Wednesday.

Next week we will start 21 Day Fix Extreme! From what I have read, it is the same food plan, but more intense workouts.

Who else has done this program with success? Either 21 Day Fix or Extreme? What are tips/advice/results?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Staying on Track While Camping

This weekend, Robin & I went camping with some friends.  Since we're smack in the middle of our second 21 Day Fix plan, we didn't want to throw everything away over the weekend.  We struck the best balance we could.

We have found that the more prepared we are when going into situations like this, the better.  If I just hope to make smart choices, it will never work out.

First, for the workouts.  We did our Friday workout and missed Saturday, but we went on a long hike and played disc golf on Saturday.  It helped to feel good knowing that we were choosing healthy activities and not just sitting around and eating all weekend.

For food, we portioned and planned ahead of time.  For Friday, we packed snacks for the car including strawberries, cottage cheese, and string cheese, and brought chicken sausages to grill when we arrived.  On Saturday, we had an egg, sausage, and veggie scramble for breakfast and our shakes for a snack some cold brew coffee I brought.  For snacks, we packed fruit, cottage cheese, sliced peppers, and baby carrots.  Lunch was a sandwich with chicken deli slices and guacamole.  Dinner was chicken sausages again.  We did have some beer throughout the weekend, but we made smart choices and brought Miller 64 instead of heavy micro brews.

On Sunday, we had the same breakfast and stopped and bought some iced coffee to mix with our shakes.  We had Panera Bread for lunch, cottage cheese for a snack, and ate dinner when we arrived back at home.

Overall, we had a great weekend, and today began doubles workouts week, so the "break" was nice.  Today was Total Body Cardio + Pilates Fix.  I'm wiped out!

Oh yeah - one more thing.  I wore a bikini this weekend!

Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

21 Day Fix: The Workouts

Today I want to talk about the workouts I've been taking on during 21 Day Fix.  Each day I workout for 30 minutes.  Autumn Calabrese is the trainer, and I love that she pushes, but is also not a drill sergeant.

The schedule is this:  
Monday: Total Body Cardio
Tuesday: Upper Fix
Wednesday: Lower Fix 
Thursday: Pilates
Friday: Cardio Fix
Saturday: Dirty 30
Sunday: Yoga

I love the combination and flow of the weekly workouts, and I have had great results! In our first month, I lost 2 inches each off of my bust, waist, and hips.  I am one week into my second session of 21 days, and I'm enjoying each of working off those inches again!

Tonight is Upper Fix - let's do this!

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Day in the Life - 21 Day Fix

Today is the first day of the 21 Day Fix for Robin & I.  This will be our second trip through these 21 days.  When I was getting used to this plan the first time, I found that seeing a typical day from other people was incredibly helpful, so here it is!  A Day in the Life of 21 Day Fix (with pictures of course!):

Breakfast:  Chocolate Shakeology with strawberries and peanut butter (PB&J)

Mid-Morning Snack (not pictured): Blueberries

Lunch: Salad: Chicken with Mediterranean seasoning, lettuce, red pepper, cucumbers, turkey bacon, and 21 Day Fix Balsamic Dressing (homemade)

Afternoon Snack (not pictured): Cottage Cheese (did you know they sell 3 lb. containers of this at Costco!?)

Pre-Dinner: Total Body Cardio Fix (don't mind the double sports bras - they are essential to my success)

Dinner: Mac n' Chz with Chicken & Broccoli from the Fixate cookbook.  It tasted less like mac n' chz and more like an alfredo sauce.  Once we thought of it like that, we enjoyed it a lot more.

*Photo courtesy of my lovely wife, Robin Babaris

That's it folks.  Day #1.  Tomorrow we're having leftover mac n' chz for lunch and steak fajitas for dinner - yum!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

21 Day Fix

Greetings! I can recognize that it has been awhile...4 years to be exact.  I guess I just needed some time to develop something to say.  I've finally found it, and it hasn't changed much from the things I wanted to say when I first started this blog.  What is hilarious is that one of my last posts on here was "before" pictures as I started to lose weight.  Ironic, right?

As I have many times in my life, I've recently begun a weight loss, fitness, and healthy eating journey.  This time is different.  I can feel it.  My friends Heather and Nicole introduced my new wife, Robin, and I to the Beachbody program a few months ago.  Heather suggested that we try out the 21 Day Fix program in order to jump start our progress.  A few months went by, we got married, spent 2 weeks in Italy on a honeymoon that incorporated lots of food and wine, and then we were ready.

Robin and I started the 21 Day Fix through Beachbody on July 6th and committed 21 days to get our nutrition and fitness right.  It sounds like a gimmick or fab diet at first glance, right?  I promise that we initially agreed, but we were both so desperate for a plan that we went for it.  There are two parts: food and exercise.

The beauty of the food plan is that it is so simple.  Many people gave us a hard time for paying money for a program that is so easy to understand.  Beachbody hasn't come up with some magic potion for weight loss.  It is all about portion control and eating whole foods.  Here's the thing.  I knew all of these things, but I still didn't lose weight or follow any of it.  I would buy fruits and vegetables and they would go bad.  I just didn't have the will power or control to do it on my own.  I needed a plan, and for me it was worth spending money to gain access to the work someone else did to develop it.  The food plan has different colored containers that correspond to different food groups (vegetables, protein, fruit, carbs, healthy oils, seeds/nuts) that you get a certain amount of each day.  The plan also gives you a list of "approved" items that fit into each of these groups.  From this, you can develop recipes or use some from the Beachbody blog that tell you their container equivalents.

It involves a lot of prep (an hour or so on Sundays planning the week and prep/cooking each night), but I've found that I love it!  I feel so much more involved and in control of what I am putting in my body.  It is great!  Here are some pictures of meals we've eaten this month.  Many are pictures from my lovely wife (I have to make sure to give her credit).

This is VERY simple.  You work out every single day for 21 days straight for 30 minutes a day.  Sounds extreme, right?  What's great is one day is yoga and one is pilates, so you get two "active recovery" days as our trainer, Autumn Calabrese, calls them.  It is a week that equals out to a complete full body workout: 2 days of straight cardio, 1 upper body, 1 lower body, 1 full-body strength/cardio, and 2 recovery days.  In the last week there is an option to do doubles which we did and phew, that killed us.  I mean that in the best way.

Weight: 161 lbs.,
Bust: 41 1/2 inches
Waist: 36 1/2 inches
Hips: 43 3/4 inches

After 21 Day Fix:
Weight: 153
Bust: 39 1/2 inches
Waist: 34 1/2 inches
Hips: 41 1/2 inches

Before and After Pictures:

What's next?  We're doing it again!  Robin and I took off 4 days off in which we still followed the food plan and a more relaxed version of the fitness program.  Today (Sunday) we feasted!  We ate at Brann's, had beer, and went to the movies which included soda, candy, and popcorn.  Phew! We're ready to get back to it tomorrow.  More results to come!

I'll leave you with this victorious picture from a week or so ago:

And this one that Robin created to show how much our faces have changed:

See you soon!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Tomorrow I'm going to be filmed singing my American Idol audition song on the step's of WMU's first campus building for a story for our alumni/WMU stories website.  The website is  I will post a copy of the video here, but you can also view it there once it is posted.

The vice president of the department wanted to share my story of bravery (and my skill for singing) with our alumni/campus audience.  It will be crazy.  I don't know that I've ever watched myself singing before.


On the note of singing, this is my favorite performance of all time (by Carrie or anyone):

More Job Updates

Sorry for ONLY job updates, but it is what is taking over my life right now.

My internship in Alumni Relations is ending tomorrow, and I have not heard about the position that I interviewed with them for.  I am not sure what is taking so long, but I should hear soon.

I have an interview TODAY with WMU Residence Life's Hall Director position from 12:30pm-4:45pm!
I am excited and nervous, and I know it is going to be draining, but good. :)

I just heard from KVCC today, and I have a 2nd interview scheduled with them for next Wednesday!

Apparently I had lots of job related news.  I should (in theory) know about all of these jobs by the end of next week.

Wish me luck!!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Job Updates

I am still waiting to hear about the Coordinator of Alumni Relations position.  My boss is out of town this week, so I doubt I will hear anything until next week.

BUUUUT, I have heard from TWO of the jobs I recently applied for.  First, I was called for an on-campus interview from Western Michigan University for a hall director position.  Last year, I was a graduate assistant hall director, so I know how this department works, and the benefits package for this position is great. $34,000/year plus a furnished 2 bedroom apartment, free utilities including cable, reserved parking space, and a meal plan.  The downside is being on call 24-hours a day basically.

The other position is a Strengths Coach at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.  This position is in the Student Success center and works with student leadership and career assessment by employing StrengthsQuest, a leadership assessment.  I love strengths psychology and I know I would love the work being done in this department.  I am interviewing TODAY at 11am (just over an hour from now!).  The downside, it is only 29 hours/week, so I would be working part-time.

We'll see how things turn out, and I'll keep updating!


Monday, August 15, 2011


I need some motivation.

I have been doing ok in my weight loss goals and plan.  I am tracking about 80 percent of my food and I actually tracked throughout the weekend which NEVER happens.

I just don't feel like I'm 100% in it.  I'm hoping that just writing this post will be what I need.  Knowing that I am recording this journal for whoever wants to read it makes me feel more accountable not to quit.  This wasn't the greatest week food and exercise wise so we will see what the scale says on Wednesday....

In other news, I started reading The Help this weekend.  I am only about 20 pages in, but I'll keep you updated on how I like it!

One of my favorite shows of the summer is The Glee Project.  Who else is watching it?  I am obsessed.  The concept seems very genuine, and they seem to be looking for a real person to fill a role on the show Glee.  Next week is the finale and I can't wait!  I want Damian to win--he is the cutest Irish guy ever! :)  Here is a video of him singing:

I have give credit to Lindsey's performance of Defying Gravity-- SO good! (see below).  She used to be my least favorite, but this week I've started to like her more.  She could def. give Lea a run for her money if she made it onto the show.

Anyway, I love this show. :)


Thursday, August 11, 2011

They're here!

I had a lovely package on my doorstep last night with the books I ordered.  I'm excited!  Unfortunately, I still have 3 chapters to read for school so I can't reward myself yet.

I can't decide what to read first.  Take a look and let me know what you think. :)


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More on the Job Search...

Today I had my second interview for the Coordinator of Alumni Relations position at WMU.  I was interviewed by approximately 8 people from the office (all of which I know from my time interning here).  They asked some challenging questions.  Challenging in a good way though.  Some of the questions I have been asked before.  Some were:

-What will you teach us?
-What do you believe the WMU student perspective of WMU is?
-How could you change the attitude of an alum who did NOT have a good WMU experience?
-How can we touch a broader audience?

I feel good about.  I know they are interviewing other people on Friday, so I am hoping to hear sometime next week.

On another note, WMU also posted a Residence Hall Director position that I applied for today.


This made me laugh.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I love burning calories while doing chores!

Yesterday my roommate and I did some gardening at our house since the previous owners left everything to become extremely overgrown.  A couple of things:

(1) Gardening is hard work.  My back is SO sore today!

(2) I burned a lot of calories. According to My Fitness Pal, 375 calories in a little over an hour.

(3) I love black eyed susans.

Here are some pictures of the finished product.  I wish we had taken before pictures, but just picture a crazy overgrown mess of weeds, and that is what it looked like.



I have been singing my entire life.  When I was 2 years old, I became the youngest soloist at Butterflies and Bullfrogs Preschool when I sang Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer solo at a Christmas show.  My parents will never let me forget it. :)

This year, I decided to try out for American Idol.  I've never done anything like this, but since they have a maximum age of 28 years old (I'm 27), I thought I should give it a shot.  I went to Denver, CO for auditions, sang my heart out, but didn't make it through to the "real judge" auditions.  I sang the best I could, and therefore, have no regrets.  Will I do it again?  Only time will tell.

Here is a picture of me right after I arrived to Denver and registered for the competition.  The 2nd picture is of me singing at my family reunion with my nieces.  They requested Taylor Swift's Love Story. :)

Videos to come soon!


Job Hunt

I will be done with grad school in 1 week.  That is crazy to me.

I've been job searching for a few months now.  I am searching locally in the West Michigan area (within an hour or so from Kalamazoo), and there have been some prospects, but until recently, nothing that has seemed promising.

I just heard this morning that tomorrow I will have a second on-campus interview at Western Michigan University in the Alumni Relations department for the Coordinator of Alumni Relations position.  I currently intern in this department, and I have grown to enjoy the office environment as well as the work they are doing here.  I believe I am one of 3 being considered.  It is tomorrow at 1pm and I am excited and nervous!

I have also applied for the Strengths Coach position at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, but I haven't heard anything yet.

Wish me luck tomorrow!