Thirty, Thinning and Thriving

I turned 30 on Sunday and ate all weekend like I had the metabolism of a 15-year-old. I started my weekend of delicious gorging with chilaquiles and an oatmeal shake from Tiztal with Gwen on Saturday (I could eat this every morning for breakfast), moved on to a cheeseburger, fried egg-topped fries and a grapefruit-prosecco cocktail from Au Cheval with Christian on Sunday (I could hear my arteries blissfully clogging) and finished off with Chili Chicken Biryani from Tandoor on Monday (the owner made the grave mistake of telling me they deliver. I’m ruined.)  Was it worth it? Ho yeah. I highly recommend all of those things if you’re in Chicago and in the mood for a great meal.

Christian very sweetly surprised me with this beaut.  I cried like he’d just given me a pit bull or an engagement ring.

I am incredibly spoiled by @xtianastro.

A post shared by Sara Jane Castro (@saryjanecastro) on

I was itching to take it for a spin all day Sunday and was so glad I’d had the foresight to take Monday off of work.

Have you ever taken a day off just for the hell of it? I highly recommend it.  I don’t mean calling in because you’re sick or taking a day off because you’ve got an endoscopy scheduled.  I mean just taking a day to do whatever you want.  No hard plans, just pure, unadulterated freedom ahead of you.

I started the day with a nice run.  The furthest I’ve ever run solo is 3.1 miles in a 5K. Since I’m 10 K training, I wanted to add another half mile to that distance.  It was so nice and cool out, I probably could’ve gone a solid 4 or even more! The plan is to run again on Wednesday, Friday and in a 5K on Sunday. Come at me, 10K!


After my run, I dropped off the pile of Salvation Army donations that spent the better part of the last two months staring at me from a dining room chair.  If you want a killer bicep workout, haul two trash bags full of oversized clothes and faded/worn-out towels several blocks.  (Woohoo to oversized clothes!!)

I walked another 1.5 miles to Tandoor, ate a blissful solo lunch and planned our meals for the week.  I’m quite pleased with myself for not overeating.  It would’ve been so easy to down the entire plate of chicken biryani and the entire basket of naan with nobody there to see me but, I managed to walk out of the restaurant feeling satisfied and not stuffed.  Bonus: I had enough food leftover for supper and lunch the next day!


After lunch, I made my grocery list and shopped in the serene mid-day silence.  I am really looking forward to being a stay-at-home wife/retiree one day.  I didn’t have to dodge a middle of the aisle cart even once! I think even grocery shopping hater Christian could appreciate the nirvana that is an empty, fully-stocked, fully-staffed, weekday grocery store. Because I had so much time to plan and think about what I had on hand, my shopping list was short and my bill was braggably low. I returned home and got to work testing out my new birthday toy.

I decided the inaugural use of my KitchenAid should be for something sinfully delicious that I could easily give away.  Otherwise, I’d just eat until I was sick. I chose Brown Eyed Baker’s Bourbon Butter Cake.  It’s amazing how easy it was to bake a cake with this mixer.  If you don’t have one, I highly recommend you a) get engaged and receive one as a wedding present or b) date Christian who will be generous enough to buy one for you.  I recommend you go with option A if you don’t want an all-expenses-paid trip to Fist City. But I digress.

This cake smells unbelievable.  I had a little trouble with the glaze (in that I forgot it was on the stove and it turned to Werther’s Original-strength candy – whoops!) but otherwise, I’m quite pleased with my results.  After tasting a tiny sample, I was a good girl and froze the rest to be eaten during emotional fits of hysteria shared with loved ones.


I finished my perfect day with my Monday training session with Leah. My weight loss has been in the plateau stage for a while (completely unrelated to the all-you-can-eat-a-thon weekend described above) so Leah worked up a revitalized food and exercise plan for me and took my measurements.  Seeing those inches come down was just the boost I needed!  Since I started working with her, I’ve lost over 12 inches!!  It’s so easy to lose sight of how far I’ve come when I see myself every day so having those hard numbers in front of me was great encouragement.

What encourages you when you’re in a slump? How do you light a fire under dat ass?


ate a ton, aspire to a life of leisure, got encouraged


A Quickie

I tried out a recipe tonight that my younger sister, Susie, made up for black bean burgers.  They tasted great! But remember how I said I wanted to be better about photographing food? Turns out black bean burgers are not the place to start. Also, if I’m going to use my phone instead of a real camera, I should learn to go landscape instead of portrait.  Enjoy this very unappetizing photo of a very tasty meal:


It looks like this disgusting barley or wheat hot cereal Daddy made for breakfast years ago.  I don’t know what it was but I still shudder at the thought of it.

Here’s her recipe, verbatim, if you want to give it a whirl.  I served mine with a whole wheat bun, salsa verde, a slice of tomato and some lettuce.

Chipotle Black Bean Burgers

2 cans seasoned black beans, strained

1/2 red onion

1 egg

1 garlic clove

Bread crumbs (enough until it is the right texture)

4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (found in a can)

2 tbsp cottage cheese

1 tsp Cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Blend in a food processor until smooth. Doesn’t need to be thick enough to make into patties, will be like a thick muffin batter. Plop onto a lightly oiled medium/hot skillet. I patted mine into a patty shape. Cook until brown on one side, then flip and cook a couple more minutes. I served it with a light mayo or sour cream (tried both at different times) mixed with Texas Pete, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt & pepper mix on a bun with a thin slice of cheddar and lettuce leaves.

It was gooooood! I know you’ll prob want to take out some of the stuff like salt and bread and cheddar but it is delicious like this so hopefully if you make those changes it’ll still be good!

Unrelated: Christian frequently teases me for my shorts collection.  And by collection I mean the one pair of shorts I own and wear all.the.time. You may recall that they were my one piece of “skinny” clothing and I was thrilled to fit into them again.

The last time these shorts fit, I'd done a 12-week all liquid diet and was a senior in college. It might be time to get myself a new pair.
The last time these shorts fit, I’d done a 12-week all liquid diet and was a senior in college. It might be time to get myself a new pair.

So, to stop the teasing, (and because it’s almost my birthday and I’ll use any excuse to get myself a present) I stopped in Loft today to try to find a new pair or two.  The shorts I currently own are size 14P so I took a few 14s and a 12 into the fitting room. I was ELATED to find that they all sagged in the butt and had room in the waist! I’m used to the butt sagging, I’m cursed with a hereditary disease called Noassatall, but the room in the waist is a refreshing change! I went back out onto the floor and brought an armload of size 10 shorts back to try on. Size 10! That’s practically single digits!

Not sure why I decided standing like Peter Pan, crowing his heart out, was a good pose.

After a few slack-jawed dressing room selfies and two second opinions (thanks, Susie and Christian!) I walked out of the store with two pairs of SIZE 10 shorts (on clearance, no less!) If I could’ve leapt into the air, fist pumped, 80s movie freeze-frame style, I absolutely would have.  What a victory!


that photo’s not poop, got me some new (smaller) britches


Sunday morning, Christian and I went downtown to support my college friend Lauren as she ran her first half marathon.  She was an absolute champ! She had a great attitude, the right gear, the right goal and she FINISHED A HALF MARATHON.  I’m totally in awe.

I was so inspired by her, I got the itch to run a half marathon myself.


I tend to get teary-eyed at races.  There’s something about seeing the runners perk up when folks on the sidelines cheer for them that just gets me every time.  Triumph of the human spirit, encouraging your fellow man and what not. I’m always a mess. It’s a good thing I had on sunglasses.  At this race, I definitely got teary-eyed but I also got jealous and inspired.

I’ve got two 5Ks under my belt now and another one coming up August 9. I’m ready for a new challenge! Our friend Nick suggested we join him in Milwaukee, September 20th for the Brewers Mini Marathon and 10K. Two months didn’t seem like quite enough time to more than quadruple my distance for the half marathon so I elected to sign up for the 10K. YIKES! (I still want to do a half one day, just waaaay down the road.  Like 13.1 miles down the road. Hardy har har.)

**Warning, Christian: you might not want to read anymore lest you become ill.**

Training starts tomorrow and I’m going to be pretty tough on myself.  When I signed up, I estimated that I would finish in 1:10.  I want to beat that time and finish in 1:05. This is going to be a team effort, y’all. I’m going to need all the help I can get – I don’t want to be the girl who loses her faculties and craps her pants. (You’re gonna wanna click that link. Don’t worry, there aren’t any shitty britches pictures.)

So, will you help me? Check in with me, ask me how training’s going, offer your tips and advice? My poop-less running pants depend on YOU!

tl;dr my amazing friend ran far, i’m going to run less far

A Few Tasty Recipes

Christian treated me to a delicious brunch this morning afternoon at Batter & Berries. I had a sweet potato waffle with maple butter, fried chicken and hot sauce.  DADGUM. It was delicious.  Christian ordered the Lobster Benedict.  Holy cow. They were both so good and so not healthy.  It’s nice to splurge now and then when you eat healthy all week 🙂

I want to be better about sharing some of the tasty and healthy recipes I make throughout the week but I usually forget to take pictures because I’m so focused on getting the food on the table before I eat everything in sight! So, bear with me while I figure out how to do this.

This week, I made 20-minute Turkey Nachos (YUM!), Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Chimichurri Sauce (featured below), Coconut Quinoa Soup (okay – the recipe is for one so I had to try to do math to multiply it and didn’t have enough liquid) and Bacon-Pear Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Kale Chips (featured below.)


Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Chimichurri Sauce

I found these on Pinterest and they were originally posted here.  I modified the recipe slightly to fit what I already had on hand. My modified recipe is below.

Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Chimichurri Sauce
Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Chimichurri Sauce

Yield: 8 tacos

Chimichurri Sauce:

1 c. roughly chopped cilantro

2 T. olive oil

2 T. Cholula green hot sauce

2 garlic cloves

1 t. honey

1/2 t. cumin

1 1/2 avocados, pitted and peeled (I had a half of an avocado leftover so I threw it in)


1 T. olive oil

1 sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced

1 lb frozen, cooked shrimp, thawed and de-tailed

2 c. torn lettuce leaves

1 jalapeño, sliced

8 corn tortillas, taco sized

Combine sauce ingredients in the food processor until smooth. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and cook the peppers and onion for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the shrimp just to heat through.  (If you’re using raw shrimp, you’ll obviously want to cook them for real.) Heat the tortillas according to package directions* and top with the shrimp/pepper/onion mixture, lettuce, a dollop of chimichurri and slices of jalapeño. Eat.

Bacon-Pear Grilled Cheeses with Kale Chips

I made up the grilled cheese recipe and found the kale chip one here and modified it ever so slightly.


Yield: 2 sandwiches

4 slices wheat bread

2 slices cheese

1 T. dijon mustard

4 thin slices of a fresh pear

3 slices of turkey bacon

Cook the turkey bacon until crisp. Break in half and set aside for a second.  Spread the dijon mustard evenly over the four slices of bread. Top two slices of bread with a slice of cheese, two slices of pear each and 3 halves of turkey bacon. Top with the other slice of bread.  Cook in the same skillet you cooked your bacon in but don’t add any oil or butter.  Grill until cheese is melted and both sides are golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Cut in half and serve hot.

Kale Chips:

1 bunch kale leaves

1 T. oil (recipe calls for olive but I ran out so I used canola)

black pepper

cayenne pepper
(recipe calls for salt but I don’t cook with it anymore and I didn’t think they needed it.)

Preheat oven to 325. Tear kale into bite-sized pieces and wash.  (The pieces will shrink so use a giant’s bite as your guide.) Pat them try and dump into a large bowl.  Massage with oil and spices.  Spread them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (I used foil because I’m not a fancy baker or old-timey letter writer who keeps parchment on-hand.) Bake for 20 minutes.  Next time, I’ll do less time because mine were a little over baked.

Pre-baked kale chips
Pre-baked kale chips
Dragon scales.  I mean baked kale chips.
Dragon scales. I mean baked kale chips.

*Or boyfriend directions.  I am told that heating them in the microwave or in the oven is unacceptable.  I am to heat them in a hot, dry skillet until juuuust right.

tl;dr this stuff was good

Chinatown 5K Report

Christian and I (and Christian’s friend and co-worker Khalil) ran the Chinatown 5K this morning.  If ever I’ve wanted to not go for a 3.1 mile run, it was today. It was POURING.  Like soaked through your underwear, pants drooping, shirt stretched out past your knees, could’ve peed in my pants and it wouldn’t have made a difference POURING.  At least it wasn’t hot?


We went to Chinatown once on our third date but didn’t get to see much of the town itself since the restaurant we went to was on the outskirts. The race route was changed at the last minute so we didn’t get to see quite as much as I would’ve liked but it was still a lot of fun! All the shop owners stepped out onto their front steps to cheer us on.  They probably thought we were insane, running for fun in a torrential downpour.

Conditions couldn’t have been less perfect for me.  Squishy socks and shoes aren’t super comfortable but were a big part of my run this morning.  I like to listen to The Bugle and track my time with Map My Run or the Nike Plus app. I couldn’t do either this morning because there was no way I could protect my phone from the rain. I usually tuck it into a secret pocket in my favorite sports bra but every single piece of clothing and skin was soaked before the race even began. So, it was a long, cold, wet run. Thankfully, I never noticed the mile markers so I never got the chance to think, “Good Lord! Only one mile?! I feel like I’ve run at least 5.5!”

Before the race, I set two goals: run the whole thing without stopping and finish in 32 minutes. I didn’t accomplish either 😦 The rain was so bad that it was washing my contacts out of my eyes and I briefly stopped twice to fix them. I was the 409th person and 44th in my age group to cross the finish line at 33:20 with an average of 10:45 per mile.

After the race, we were treated to a lion dance, goodie bags and a raffle.  While we didn’t win the iPad Minis or even the gift certificate to Dave’s Mechanic Shop, we did get a tiny can of Thunder Muscle and some soy milk. And our shirts were pretty sweet, too.

Do men come any more handsome than this one?!

tl;dr did another 5K, got super wet

A Splashy New Endeavor

I did something yesterday that I haven’t done in 10 years. I bought a bathing suit.

My last bathing suit was purchased out of necessity before I went to Summer Beach Project in 2004. I ordered a plain, black, matronly one-piece from the Land’s End Catalog. And I spent the summer sweating in it under my clothes. The hot Daytona sun would beat down on my t-shirt and mom shorts but my fear of disgusting onlookers kept me from ever letting that suit see the light of day.

Last weekend on July 4th , I went to North Avenue beach with a few friends. We spread out our towels and flipped through a few magazines while we talked and snacked. Everybody else removed their sun dresses and enjoyed the beautiful day in their bathing suits. I sat there like a dope in a dress that’s 2 sizes too big, sweating uncomfortably. I looked like I had no idea we were going to the beach. And for the first time in probably 23 years, I wanted to put on a bathing suit.

My usual pool or beachside attire looks a little something like this.


Not exactly beach-ready but I felt safe and unexposed, hiding my body. Now that I’ve lost weight, I certainly don’t feel like showing it off but I don’t feel the need to deprive myself of fun summer activities, either. In years past, I’d skip the bathing suit section of catalogs and department stores because of the overwhelming sense of shame I’d feel just glancing at the suits. “Those aren’t for you,” my head would tell me. “Don’t even try. Nobody wants to see that. You’re disgusting. Hide.” My head isn’t very nice to me. I still think those thoughts… a lot more than I’d like to but now there are a few new thoughts popping up. “Who says you can’t have fun, too? Maybe you’ll look better than you think? Nobody is staring at you. How long are you going to deprive yourself and sit on the sidelines because of your fears?” So I set off for Macy’s yesterday on my lunch break just to see what they had.

There were the usual suspects. The kind of bathing suits refined ladies wear


and the kind hot, young babes and past-their-prime-but-holding-onto-youth babes wear


and the kind your grandmother wears when she works out at the Y


and there were a few that seemed appropriate for me, too!

I psyched myself up before heading into the fitting room. If none of them fit, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. Just before trying on the 5 suits I found, I text my sister, “Trying on bathing suits. This could end in tears.” Shockingly and thankfully, all but one of them fit!

I narrowed my selection down to two and took a few dressing room selfies. Susie and Christian offered their opinions and unanimously chose…

(I can’t believe I’m posting this.)

My new bathing suit!!


Now, who wants to invite me to their exclusive infinity pool overlooking a tropical paradise? Or you, know, just like a boat on Lake Michigan or something?

tl;dr tired of being the kid at the pool party in an oversized t-shirt eating chips and hanging out with the parents