Monthly Archives: April 2012

Win a Seat at the LadyFingers and First Comes Health May Table!

Ok, readers! Here’s your chance to win an invitation to May’s cooking demo with Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and dear ole me!
Hopefully you followed along with our tweets last night and watched Facebook to see the April dinner progress from ingredients to table. Now is your chance to show us how much you paid attention.
Here’s the question:
What was the condiment we used on the scallop BLT?

Responses will be accepted through Facebook or Twitter PRIVATE MESSAGE. Don’t put it on our walls, don’t tweet it to us. Message either Diane or me with your guess.
Fine print:
1. One response per person (And you MUST like LadyFingers and First Comes Health on Facebook!)
2. Entries will be accepted until midnight tonight.
3. One person will be randomly drawn from all the correct respondents.
4. The winner will provide his/her own transportation to Diane’s house on a date in May TBD.
5. The winner can bring one guest to the dinner.
Good luck, everyone!

A LadyFingers Morning

Well, this post is going to have a theme, and that theme is LadyFingers! (Truth be told, it’s one of my very favorite themes.)
In my very first post about LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and Diane, who IS LadyFingers, I mentioned that she is a total inspiration and CrossFitting force.  I admire her dedication to staying in good, strong shape and she is positively devoted to CrossFit.  Love that.
She’s also working on rehabilitating a wonky knee that has kept her from running and a few things we do at the box, so to help it get stronger, for the last several weeks she’s been going home after her 6am workout and climbing a set of municipal steps that are right around the corner from her house.  74 steps total and she does at least 6 ascents (444!) every weekday.  She threw out an invitation on Facebook to anyone who wanted to join her each morning at 8:30 am and has gotten friends and neighbors on the bandwagon!  Today I joined her.

There are a few things I’d like to say about this whole steps endeavor.  First, I think it’s fantastic that she’s created this daily event that’s open to anyone. Nobody is obligated to do more than they feel comfortable with doing, but rather it’s a really great way to get a community started with fitness.  It’s free, easy, and in the neighborhood.  Second, because there is a standing invitation for her friends to join, it’s built-in motivation.  Who doesn’t want to spend a little time in the morning with a friend chatting and getting healthy?  Even if you don’t have something like the steps in your neighborhood getting your friends to join you in a workout is a great way to keep the momentum and excitement going.
This was my second trip to the steps and we had a great time talking about today’s CrossFit WOD, Mad Men, and food as we marched up and down.  In fact, we were so into what we were doing, I didn’t even pay attention to how many ascents we did.  Eight maybe?  Not sure.  But what I am sure of is that Diane and I got to chat for a bit and we definitely worked up a sweat which is how I like to start a day!
Post stair climb we went back to her house (a 60-second walk from the steps) and I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the LadyFingers garden.  I LOVE gardens.  I’m not lucky enough to live in a place where I have a yard or even a balcony for a few pots so I live vicariously through others’ gardens.  To me, there is no better way to feel connected with the food you put into your body than to grow it yourself.  You know it’s fresh, you know where it’s been, you know how it’s been handled, and you cared for it yourself!
Obviously we are very early into gardening season so some of Diane’s plants haven’t even been put into the ground yet.  Something that really impressed me is how many herbs lasted through the winter and are still thriving.  Check out these photos!

(Beautiful culinary thyme)

(Gorgeous chives that Diane just cut back because they were flowering. YUM!)

(Getting ready to be planted – three kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of peppers, and a variety of herbs.)

(Diane and her pots where many of the herbs will go.)

The recipes Diane and I have shared with you for the last several months have always featured fresh herbs that came right from her backyard.
I promise to keep you updated with the growth of the LadyFingers garden throughout the summer and fall, and I want to strongly encourage you to plant something for yourself this year. If you are garden inclined, plant one.  If you have a black thumb instead of a green one, buy a little herb plant and give it another shot.  Getting up close and personal with your food is the very best way to really care about food.  There isn’t a better way to cherish your food or body.
And speaking of LadyFingers and her yummy fantastic food, this Sunday, April 29 at 5:00 pm we will start our live tweet festival while we make this month’s dinner!  AND! We will be hosting the winner from last month!  I am so excited. This morning we finalized Sunday’s menu and let me tell you, you’re going to be jealous of our April winner.  The meal is going to be fantastic!
Here’s the scoop on how you and a guest can get invited to May’s dinner:
1. Become a fan of First Comes Health AND LadyFingers on Facebook (both!)
2. Follow both First Comes Health AND LadyFingers on Twitter.
3. Follow our tweeting this Sunday starting at 5:00 pm.
4. Successfully answer a trivia question about the meal on Monday April 30. We’ll randomly draw from the correct responses and award someone the opportunity to join us at the LadyFingers table in May.
So, now it’s your turn to share.  Let me know in the comments or on Facebook how you and your friends get your sweat on together.  Share photos of your garden or share your planting plans with me!  And don’t forget to tune in to Twitter to win an invite to May’s dinner for you and a guest.  You will NOT want to miss out!

For My Aunt

I don’t tend to write about very personal things here on my site, but I wanted to share something that is happening that other people might be able to relate to.
In the past couple of weeks my family has been going through a lot.  My aunt, my mom’s sister, was having some minor medical issues that we all thought were no big deal and could be taken care of easily and quickly.  Long story short, it turns out she has a very aggressive and fast moving breast cancer that has already spread to her bones.
As one can imagine, this is not news that was expected and so it has been quite a shock to hear.  Each phone call seemingly worse than the previous one, like little bombs being dropped.   And never mind how we feel, my aunt is now facing chemotherapy, medical test after medical test, and sad to say, her own mortality.
She and I have spoken on the phone a few times and she’s scared.  We’re all scared.  But something that we talked a little about is the quote above.  What you think upon grows.  I’m not even sure who said it, but gosh darn it if it isn’t true.
So far in the process of her kicking cancer’s ass she’s been so incredibly strong and brave.  I can’t help but to wonder if I could have her style of courage if I were in a similar situation.  Like I said above, she’s certainly frightened of what the future holds, but seems to have the kind of positivity and hope that can only help her endure what is to come.
What she thinks upon grows.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with my aunt, but something I am sure of is that staying positive and hopeful is going to be a big powerful weapon in her cancer fighting arsenal.  I also know that as her family and loving support system we are rallying around with positivity, love, and light.
What we think upon grows.
I just wanted to put this out there, because while thankfully not all of us are facing a difficult diagnosis like cancer, we ALL have something happening that can use a wash of positivity and hope.  What you think upon grows.  To have more good things in life, you must cultivate the positive.
I’d love to hear about how you have seen this work in your life.  How have you seen your thoughts turn into a growing phenomenon?  Share with me in the comments or on Facebook.

I love you, Peg!  You can do this!!!

Review: The Paleo Diet Budget Shopping Guide

So, as promised in my previous post, today I will be reviewing an e-book I received for free to read and talk about here.  It is Robb Wolf’s “The Paleo Diet Budget Shopping Guide”.

Before I get into the meat of this (ha ha – a little Paleo pun there), let me say that I am a fan of Robb Wolf.  For those of you who don’t know who Robb is, please go here and check out his extensive website.  In short, he’s a biochemist, author, athlete, trainer, academician, and fervent preacher of all things about the Paleo diet.  He’s a straight talking kind of guy who says we all ought to be eating real food as close to the source as possible.
The second thing I want to say is in my holistic health coaching practice, I too naturally urge people to eat real food as close to the source as possible.  If you’ve been reading my site regularly or following me on Facebook or Twitter you know that I am a big big fan of eating the best quality foods in their natural states – no processed foods, please!  And as a result of this the most common question I get is this: But what if I can’t afford to eat that way?
This is why I jumped at the chance to read and review Robb Wolf’s newest e-book.  I wanted to see what he said about eating a natural, healthy, clean diet AND minding one’s budget.
With all of that said, I’ll get to the punchline: If you want to eat healthfully and you have to count your pennies, buy the e-book.  It’s just that simple.
When I read it, I admit to getting kind of angry.  I have been sharing all kinds of tips and tricks with my clients about budget healthy grocery shopping and cooking, but I hadn’t ever put all of my information into one place, in one organized easy-to-follow way.  Someone beat me to the punch!  Grr!!
Kidding aside, it is 70 pages of brilliant ideas.  And since it’s an e-book (available as a download only) you not only get the book, but sprinkled throughout are links to helpful websites, YouTube clips about food prep, recipes, and other bonus material right at your fingertips.  Maybe I’m not as space-aged as some of you, but I thought that was pretty darned clever.
The topics covered in the e-book are learning to cook, meal planning, money saving tricks, budget shopping priorities, kitchen know-how and (my favorite) rebutting all the excuses of why eating healthy is too pricey.  Didn’t I tell you this was thorough?!
Robb and company didn’t leave out a single thing when writing this.  It is in depth, practical advice about how to eat cleanly and healthfully while not spending hundreds at the market each month.  The meal planning chapter alone is worth the cost of the e-book.
Speaking of dollars and cents, the download is $19.99 and available right here on Robb Wolf’s site.  For the amount of information you receive and the resources that come along with it, that is a bargain basement price.  I’m a cheapskate and I think this is easily worth more than 20 bucks.  It’s a steal for sure.
I did get a copy of the e-book for free, but buying a copy for yourself doesn’t benefit me at all – other than it will make me feel wonderful if you get it and use it!  That will make me smile for sure.
If you buy it, let me know what you think of it!  If you have questions about the book before you buy, please contact me or leave them in the comments.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


When I started this little website of mine, I wanted it to be a place where my current and future health coaching clients could come for information on healthy living and wellness.  I am a holistic health coach first and foremost and blogger or writer second.  The coaching is my first love and what I do best (I think!).  But the deeper I got into writing this site, the more I fell in love with the writing and the research and the interaction I get both here and on Facebook and Twitter.  Over the course of the last few months I’ve come to elevate this site to “just as important” to my health coaching.  I love this site and I love developing my skills as a healthy living blogger.
Something that bloggers do is use their platform to promote products or services.  I debated a little with myself on whether or not I wanted this to be one of those blogs who reviews things for money or products or perks.  I think it can be tastefully and tactfully done, but I’ve seen too many times where the author has gone from interesting writer to paid shill who just hawks anything from hotel rooms to restaurants to almond butter to potato chips.  I can think of a handful of sites that I used to love to read for the interesting and informative content, but they’ve become sites I don’t frequent anymore because I got sick and tired of being sold to all the time.
On the other hand, there is a definite up-side to reviewing products and services.  I can get the word out about things that I think my clients and readers would find useful and I’m using myself as a guinea pig for these things.  I hope you like and trust me enough to be honest and know that I come from a place of good intention.
This is a long preamble to say that in the last several weeks I’ve been approached by a few people/companies to do reviews on this site. I thought long and hard about it and decided to wade carefully into these waters and see what happens.  I’ve set up some ground rules for myself and I do solemnly swear to uphold these rules as my vow to you, dear readers.
1. I will ALWAYS be completely honest with you about when I am talking about something that has been given to me to write about – This site will not become a sneaky subliminal commercial for things I have been given.  When I am reviewing a product that has been given to me to sample, you will know about it and there won’t be any mystery.  Sometimes I like to tell you about things I’ve tried or done on my own time with my own money.  I will be very diligent in making the distinction between the two scenarios.
2. I will ALWAYS give you my honest opinion whether it is flattering or not – If you know me in real life, you know I am a straight shooter and I don’t mince words.  I am proud of the fact that I am a tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman.  When I share product reviews with you they will be completely honest and straight forward. I am under NO obligation to anyone to just say nice things about something just because it was given to me as a free sample or complimentary gift.  In fact, if someone gives me something to write about here on the blog and a condition is to only say something positive regardless of my true opinions, it won’t appear here.  Period.
I just wanted to put this out there.  Tomorrow I will be reviewing an e-book I was given and before I shared my thoughts on it I wanted you all to know where I stood on this whole review-my-stuff-on-your-blog enterprise.  I also am asking for your feedback along the way.  If you don’t like these sponsored posts, please tell me.  I write for you.

2012 Goals Project - March Review

I’ll probably say something to this effect every month, but can you believe it’s April already?!  Summertime is so close I can smell the grass clippings and chlorine pool water.  Bring it on!
Participation in the 2012 Goals Project continues to be nothing short of fantastic.  Steady progress is being maintained and I cannot be any more thrilled for the participants as they inch ever closer to goals.  Let’s get to the good stuff!
Kelly F.

  • Unbanded pull-ups – I got the closet I have ever come last Wednesday when my chin was just about grazing the bar.  I am really hopeful that by next month this will be accomplished.
  • Rx’d CrossFit WOD – My weight PRs (personal records) have been increasing dramatically so I do believe it is just a matter of time until I find a WOD I can do Rx’d.

Shannon H.

  • Run 1300 miles over the course of the year – 143 miles for the month – an insane new high! This month also brought me 3 new “longest distance ever” runs – 17, 18, and 19 miles. So thankful for my amazing training partners – without them I definitely would not be able to get through it! 356 total miles for 2012 so far.   With 2 marathons this year now I am probably going to have to revise the 1300 mi goal since it’s going to be too easy to achieve, but I don’t know what to put it at just yet. I will wait until after the Pittsburgh Marathon to figure out what’s appropriate. Or should I just leave it as is and crush it? 🙂
  • I also had a “sub-goal” this month that I didn’t mention in my original goals – to run a half marathon in 2:15 (previous PR 2:19:06.) My husband and I went to Virginia Beach on St Paddy’s day weekend to run the Shamrock Half Marathon, which was my 4th half marathon (PS: highly recommend this race!) and not only did I get a new PR, but I beat my goal time by over 3 min for a finish in 2:11:52! Check out this awesome medal!!

    Now that Shamrock is over, I am super focused on the Pittsburgh Marathon. It is insane how quickly it’s approaching. Only 5 more weeks to go, and only one more “scary” long run! My big 20 miler is on April 14 – wish me luck!

Ann M.

  • Graduate from nursing school with a great GPA and get a job and apartment in the Pittsburgh area – Graduation is less than 50 days away!!
  • Exercise regularly – maybe incorporating spinning and/or running into routine – Despite my crazy schedule I’ve been carving out time to run! I’ve been doing really well – running 2.5 – 3 miles each time. Goal achieved! I just need to keep it up! I also discovered CrossFit (Thanks to Miss Jill!) and loved it! Post-graduation I will be signing myself up for more WODs to add to my running regimen. [Jill’s note: Ann visited my CrossFit box early in March and did not one but TWO workouts back-to-back.  She had never done anything like CrossFit before and I give her serious props for giving it a go! We can’t wait to have you back at CFC this summer, Ann!]
  • Keep cooking! Started cooking in 2011 and loves it. No more frozen meals, no more junk food! – I feel like I’ve been eating better overall, but I’m still making some pretty poor choices (as I chow down on Chinese food…). My schedule is hectic and some days I just don’t have time, no matter how well I plan ahead! I’m going to continue to work on this next month.  One great thing that has come out of this month: I have become really good at making one huge meal that feeds me for 3+ days. Success! Looking forward to starting a Whole30!

Diane D.

  • Get LadyFingers listed as a “Preferred Caterer” at 5 or more Pittsburgh venues – I have two introductory meetings and am working on two more.  This is still very difficult for me but it is my most important business goal.
  • Provide catering to 15 new customers -Past and future bookings have me at 12 and I am increasing the goal to 30.
  • Improve online exposure – improving search engine placement by 50%, doubling Facebook “likes”, and doubling Twitter followers – Google: Had a meeting to discuss SEO and have five steps that I am implementing to increase my placement for “caterer” and “catering”.  This will be difficult as my current placement is non-existent. Facebook: Likes started at 49, 60 at end of Jan, 63 at end of Feb, 70 now, goal is 98 and am at 43% completion. Twitter: Followers started at 60, 64 at end of Jan, 68 at end of Feb, 80 now, goal is 120 and am at 33% completion.
  • Keep shoulder and knee healthy while increasing CrossFit work output – My shoulder is healthy and my knee is unpredictable.  I treat my knee with necessary care on a day-to-day basis.
  • Return to running by Spring – Look for an April update on this.  During March I started a step-climbing program that involves climbing 444 steps, Monday through Friday and I hope this might ease me into some running soon.
  • Return to push-ups and burpees by April1 – I am doing knee push-ups in all CFC WODs requiring any form of push-up and can do hand release with no problem.  I hope to return to regular push-ups in the warm-up by July 1.  I am still doing burpees on the mat per Coach P’s instructions not to go overboard.
  • One un-banded pull-up by July 1 – I can do a pull-up (kipping) consistently now.  My new goal will be 1 dead-hang and 3 kipping pull-ups strung together.
  • 200+ pound deadlift – Complete!!  203 lbs on February 22!  My new goal for year-end is 225+.  No new 1-rep max effort attempts since 203, but during 5-5-5-5-5 I did 5 reps at 175 without too much trouble.
  • 100 pounds overhead – PR’ed at 88 on shoulder progression day.  Failed at 93 but I think I will have that soon.
  • Cut out ALL sugar that has crept back into diet – This went well during March with no major slip-ups.
  • Use sunscreen, especially in the garden and while driving convertible – With the beautiful March weather I rode with the top down on numerous occasions.  My purse now contains an SPF 75 for my face, ears and neck and an SPF 40 for my arms and legs.

Jaci Y.

  • Fitness – No big weight benchmarks or anything. I’ve noticed that I am getting stronger and am able to use heavier weight for my WODs which is pretty exciting.  I’ve been keeping with my goal of 4-5 WODs a week and Pilates.  I’ve been feeling good about my exercise progression.  Depending on the workout my energy levels have been up which I think has also been helped by myself eating better/cleaner.
  • Positivity – I’ve picked up some good books to keep me on track with my goal of staying positive and being more grateful for everything.  This has also helped with moods and staying in a “good” mood longer or easier to get back into after a not so good mood swing. I’ve also decided to try to get out of my “comfort zone” more and enjoy life.  This is being kicked off by myself booking a vacation to visit my sister in Peru this month.

Megan G.

  • I think I’ve done well.  My clothes continue to fit better – I went shopping the other day, and dropped a pants size.  I made some wholesome, delicious food this month – fresh fish, couscous, pad thai, beet salads, new soups, vegetable chili, etc.  I think I ate meat just a handfull of times, and bought my lunch maybe three times all month.
    My workouts improved – I think the weather helped – for both working out outside, and just feeling more motivated.  I would almost venture to say my new routines are starting to become habits – packing lunch, usually getting in workouts, avoiding bad food places, etc.

Brian R.

  • Run the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon – Total failure on this goal.  I think for the month of April I need to try a new approach to getting ready to run, and that’ll be adding a workout at lunch time.  This means I’ll need to pack a gym bag, learn about the locker room on campus, and put a block of time on my calendar each day.  This is a challenge that I think calls for totally re-thinking how I accomplish things.
  • Reach a CrossFit Total of 800 (Translation right here) – I’m not really sure where my progress is on this, although I know that I’ve improved in at least two of the three movements.  My workouts have dropped off as my job has become pretty stressful over the last few weeks, but I anticipate continuing to make improvements.
  • Pack lunch for work everyday – I have not made it to the point where I’m doing this consistently, but what I have done is establish standards for what I will consider acceptable alternatives.  Namely, if I’m not going to be able to pack for a given day I plan first thing in the morning what I am going to do so that I don’t make a decision while I’m hungry or rushed. I still want to get back to addressing the original goal, but the spirit of this is to ensure I’m eating strictly paleo for my mid-day meal, and I think I’m accomplishing that 95% of the time.
  • Write 45,000 words – I shifted my focus from long-term projects to short-term ones over the last few weeks, and I continue to get a lot of writing done.  I don’t have a word count right now, although I’m sure I can figure it out.  The problem with writing is that it is something I am doing alone, for my own reasons, and (right now) without any external feedback, but I’ve found a very effective way of making sure I set aside time for this.  When I finish writing on a given day I look at my calendar and decide when the next time is going to be that I can plan to write, and I make an appointment for myself.  Forget about setting a schedule, or picking a best time of the day, or anything else.  It all comes down to when I’m going to do it next, and I’ve been very successful at sticking to that.  Using this process I started and completed a short story within a week, and I’m up to the eight chapter of my novel.  Feeling pretty good about this.

Bill R.

  • Monitor my weight on a more consistent basis to avoid slippage – Lovin’ my new weight Watchers scale!!  It tells me the truth every day and is keeping me honest!!
  • Floss regularly – My beloved wife is so proud of me for flossing EVERY DAY!!  My teeth and gums are feelin’ great and I am so aware of the other health benefits of flossing!
  • Fitness– Headed to Arizona where I will definitely continue my daily walking that I have been able to do since the weather is so nice.
    Hope to climb Camelback when I am there.
  • Stop nail biting – I must admit to one slip-up — I bit the nail on the middle finger of my left hand.  Starting over on that one, but the others are looking good!
  • Family, family family – Right now I am where I need to be: supporting my little sis as she faces a tough health issue.

Jill C. (that’s yours truly)

  • Unbanded pull-ups – I am so close I can almost taste it!  Since I’ve been doing more CrossFit lately (see below) I have been getting more strength work in, and more pull-ups in during the workouts and warmups.  I am >>thisclose!!!!!!<< to getting this.  Hopefully I’ll have good news by the end of the month.
  • Yoga – My goal was to go twice a month, and last month I only went once.  To keep up with 24 yoga sessions in 2012, I have an additional visit to the studio planned for April to get me back on track.  The very first class I went to this year the instructor said something like, “Most of you won’t be here in three months.” and I was determined to prove her wrong.  I’m headed to class this week to show her!
  • Pittsburgh half marathon – It’s about a month away!  Eeek!  I continue to get as much training in as I can, plus I am going to CrossFit more than any other workout in these months leading up to the race to hopefully improve my strength and endurance.  I know I can physically go the distance (even if it is S-L-O-W), so I’ve been working on the mental side of doing this.  During runs and during particularly tough CrossFit workouts I’ve been pepping myself up and coaching myself on mental toughness.  I anticipate this being my biggest obstacle. I can’t let my mind tell my body it can’t do it, because it would be wrong.  Running is more of a mental game for me, as you can probably tell.
  • Add new dinners to our rotation by making 30 new recipes this year – Last month I promised a run down of this, and I didn’t do it. I fell off the wagon with this one in March.  Our home is in a state of flux (bathroom remodel!) and I let that interfere with this goal. I’m picking it up and running with it in April, though.  By mid-month, I’ll have a rundown of what new recipes I’ve made and what I have planned for the immediate future.
  • More and better photos for the blog – I continue to work on this and am going to pat myself on the back for feeling like it’s become more of a habit and a natural thing to do rather than a chore I have to work on.  I hope my readers continue to enjoy my photos and see improvements in quality.
  • More services for clients and potential clients – Steady work on this, although it’s going slowly.  I was talking with a friend about it and she encouraged me to set a more concrete date for myself. So I did.  June 1.  I’m going to put this goal aside here on the site (but still work on it offline) and revisit during goal check ins this summer.

I am so pleased at the optimism and continued progression everyone is showing.  Nobody is perfect and I’m glad to see that where there have been slip-ups or lax effort folks are readily admitting to it, and sharing a game plan to get back on top of the goals.  It’s a natural thing to slide a bit, but it’s important to get back up on the path and keep working!  I cannot tell you how proud I am of everyone!
If you are interested in joining us, it is never too late to set a goal and work towards it! Send me an email with the thing(s) you’d like to tackle in 2012 and you’ll join the ranks of these fine folks.  That’s all it takes.  It doesn’t matter WHEN you start pursuing your goals, it just matters that you DO start.