Pick Me To Be Your Cleveland FitFluential Ambassador!

I had a sneaking suspicion that I would leave Fitbloggin’ 2011 a changed lady. From the seminars, to the fitness experiences, you couldn’t help but be inspired to make a change in your life for the better. For some that might mean a rehaul of the technical aspects of their blogs. For some, trying the new products provided to us. For me, it was a wake up call to revamp my fitness life.

After jumping on a trampoline, learning about kettleballs and power walking around the Baltimore waterfront, my fitness spirit woke from its deep slumber of the cold Cleveland winter. Its vibrancy grew as I met more and more conference attendees living a fabulous fit lifestyle. One of those bloggers was Kelly Olexa – blogger, brand ambassador and Founder/CEO of a new concept called FitFluential.

Above logo and this description from the FitFluential website: FitFluential Inc. connects brands and influencers who share a passion for fitness. We are a network of the best when it comes to fitness bloggers and those who can inspire and guide them. People with a passion. People with a voice.

Kelly and fellow blogger Jennifer Edwards are leading the way and have set up a wonderful site for bloggers to join in on the fun. While the ball is rolling, they need help on the local level and are reaching out for FitFlential Ambassadors.

From their Ambassadors website: [These Ambassadors] help spread the good word about all things fitness-related to the FitFluential network and beyond, and will be invited to co-host FitFluential events in their area.

It is time to “be authentic”– the primary lesson learned at Fitbloggin this year. And for me, it was time to specifically “be authentic” to this blog’s mission: to be a healthy balance blog for Clevelanders. While I feel I’ve done a good job of this so far in 2011, I can be doing a GREAT job – especially on the fitness side of my life. post-Fitbloggin’, I’m ready to do this by giving Cleveland what I feel it needs: a FitFluential Ambassador.

So in our usual Tuesday fashion, I present:


1. I’ve shown that permanent weight loss is possible.


The Before: at 250 pounds. Today: maintaining at 150 pounds.

2. I’ve also shown that just because you can make it down to a size four doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest for your body. At my lowest, I was 127 pounds – but wasn’t able to exercise, had no energy, was obsessed with working out two hours a day – NOT the picture of health!

3. I’ve been featured in national publications and on popular websites:

4. …but prefer to focus my efforts on emphasizing a healthy lifestyle here in Cleveland by showing that achieving a healthy balance is possible while enjoying all our town has to offer:


…in August 2010: at the Cleveland Yoga Appreciation Day & at Vintage Ohio…

volunteering at the 2011 Cleveland Marathon & hiking in the Metroparks with the VP of Fuzz…

…fresh produce at the West Side Market & at the 2011 Silver Spoon Awards (photo c/o Heather)…

5. When away from the Cleve, I find ways to sneak in fitness in fun ways:


…hiking in Vegas and biking in Chicago…

…and even sometimes schedule vacations around my fit lifestyle:

…after the 2011 Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January.

6.  On my blog, I’ve also emphasized the importance of mental health. Last year in this post – Owning It versus Being Owned – I shared my struggle with anxiety and depression with my readers.  I continue my journey through recovery as I find happiness in 2011. I feel it is important to realize that one’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. Both need to be developed and maintained – and lucky for us fit folks, those physical activities help with the mental side of things as well.

7. I surround myself with fit, supportive friends:

Hans, Heather, C, J, Katie and Mr. Healthy Heddleston at the 2010 Great New Year’s Race

8. … while bringing our Cleveland blogging community closer. As the Cleveland chapter President of the Ohio Blogging Association, I’ve coordinated five meet ups thus far this year:

…with two more already scheduled for the upcoming months (and more on the way!):

9. I’ve tried a bit of all forms of fitness along the way and haven’t always succeeded. While I’m pretty darn awesome at yoga and kickboxing, having not-so-successful moments with other forms of exercise haven’t stopped me from giving it my all:

  • I’m not the fastest runner, but I run/walked my way through my first half-marathon – and am planning to do the same this fall!
  • In a Zumba class, I’m OBVIOUSLY the white girl from Parma whose hips don’t MOVE and should be next door in the cardio room on the elliptical.
  • The trampoline session at Fitbloggin’ was a challenge for me – I was uncomfortable in my lack of ability, but I stuck it out and ended up having a ball.
  • and the hubby still bribes me into bench presses with trips to Honey Hut Ice Cream.

10. But at the end of the day, I dream big, set realistic & achievable goals, then fight to reach them. And to be honest, that’s the definition of a Clevelander – one whom never gives up, through thick and thin, to make their town – and life – a better place.

Want to let FitFluential know you want a Cleveland Ambassador – specifically me?

So FitFluential – PICK ME – because Cleveland can use a bit more fitness influences running about town, so why not let them be based out of PIP Headquarters?!

guest post from finishing firsts: 5 Tips on How to Return After a Running Break

A MEMO FROM THE CEO OF PIP: Another one of my running inspirations is Kali at finishing firsts. Talk about someone with “true grit”, this girl is bad ass. I think this quote from her About page says it all:

I want to sit on my porch as an old woman and be able to look back, knowing that I accomplished things and had experiences that many people wished they had in their lives. I want to finish as many firsts as I possibly can. And I realize I might not get to them all. But I sure as hell am going to try.

As we both served as bloggers for this year’s 2011 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, I was so happy to be at the finish line as she crushed another race. As a part of the guest posts series, I asked Kali to inspire me again by sharing some tips on how to get running after a running hiatus.


Hey there PIP readers! I’m Kali and I write about running and training for marathons (and soon, ultramarathons! Eek!) over at finishing firsts. I’m really excited to be guest posting for Alicia about my favorite topic today!

If you’re like Alicia and myself and live in Northeast Ohio, you probably just enjoyed the first actual spring weekend we’ve had since, well, last year. The winter seemed like it was never going to end and the snow turned to rain and it really hasn’t stopped. It even rained on the day us proud CLE runners get to show our city off at the Cleveland Marathon.


Some runners, like me, are crazy and ran when the temperatures dropped below zero or Mother Nature dumped more than a foot of snow in six hours. But some retreated to the treadmill or just took the winter off.

So if you did the latter, what happens now? You may have gone back out and gotten back into it with no problem and running is still the same great form of exercise that it was in the fall. But what if it’s not?

First, ask yourself, “did I maintain a moderate amount of intense cardio activity over the winter or not?” If the answer is yes, skip this next part. If not, keep reading.

You didn’t do much cardio over the winter? No matter what the reason why, you can’t take it back now, so no need to make excuses. It’s over, it’s done, time to move on. As with any training plan or diet plan, life happens and you don’t always stick to it. The good part is you’re still reading this and even just thinking about getting active again is a step in the right direction. So here’s where to get started:

  • Recognize that you’re not going to be where you were six months ago. I’ll admit, even though I did run when the wind chill was -14 or after a massive snowstorm, my motivation waned and I didn’t run nearly as much as last fall. When it came to my first race this season, I expected to set a huge, two-minute PR (personal record). What did I do? Ran two minutes slower than my PR. Be honest about what you expect out of yourself. Without that same consistency, your results will differ.
  • Start small and plan ahead. Take each day and each training run day by day. Set small goals and plan your training accordingly. Set goals like “I will run a total of 15 miles each week for two weeks.” See how that goes and increase slowly from there. Planning your training out and reviewing it in small chunks helps keep you focused. It all goes back to the old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Make a calendar, post it on your fridge, whatever works for you.


So now that you’ve done that, what’s next? Or maybe you read my directions and skipped that last part. What now?

  • Pick a goal race. So you’re running consistently again. One of the best ways to help you stick with it and provide some motivation is to have a goal race in sight. Depending on your level and your “everything else that happens in my life schedule,” pick a race that’s far enough away you have time to train smart, but close enough you don’t forget about it. (Like how, I registered for the Chicago Marathon at the beginning of February. It’s been in the back of my mind forever, but I always forget I’m running it since it’s not until October!) Don’t just put the race on your calendar either, pay the money and if you want, commit to a charitable partner. The more time and money you invest, the more likely you are to stick with it.
  • Stick to the plan. The key to any training plan, whether it be running, biking, weight lifting, eating healthy, whatever, is consistency (can you tell I’m a personal trainer yet?) There might be days where you don’t do as much as you planned or something comes up at work and you can’t do what was planned. That’s OK. That’s life and it happens time to time. Pick up where you left off and keep going. Maintain consistency!
  • Reward yourself! My biggest motivator is new clothes (and race medals). A reward doesn’t always have to be something huge or expensive, but something to pat yourself on the back for keeping up with it. For me, there’s few things more exciting in life than opening a shoe box and getting to wear them the first time. (I just really made my life sound really exciting, right?)


Good luck with your next running goal and happy running!

Watch Kali cross even more finish lines over at her blog (http://finishingfirsts.com/) and on Twitter (@finishingfirsts). Catch her if you can!

guest post from My Retro Kitchen: Fridays, Feasting with Friends

A MEMO FROM THE CEO OF PIP: I was recently featured on Amie’s blog – My Retro Kitchen – as a part of her Fridays, Feasting with Friends series. More about Fridays, Feasting with Friends: On Friday’s here on My Retro Kitchen, I host something I like to call “Fridays, Feasting with Friends”.  This is where I interview friends, family and other foodies along with posting a favorite recipe they would like to share.

As a part of my fabulous line up of guest posts during the month of May, I asked Amie to share her answers to her own FFwF questions. Check out what inspires this lovely lady here today at PIP! Thanks again Amie!


“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”

Laurie Colwin ‘Home Cooking’


What is your favorite thing to cook?

Oh goodness, I have so many!  But pasta probably sits center stage.  There is so much you can do to make them beautiful, delicious and completely unique.  Very simple ingredients can be easily transformed into such a perfect meal.  Lately I have been taking to making my own pasta at home, and Wow!  What a difference fresh noodles make to a dish!  And easy too.  Pair it with a nice salad and some crusty bread and I am a happy girl.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?

I am pretty adventurous in the kitchen, I like conquering my fears and branching out. It’s one of my main reasons I started my food blog, actually.  It has forced me to try even more new things then we already were at home.  But I would have to say that fish is still a weakness for me.  I LOVE to eat it, I am just not the best at preparing it.  I feel like I have a tendency to over cook it- and there isn’t much worse then over cooked fish- blach.  I am getting better, mastering one recipe at a time and totally relying on timing.  If I learned anything from my Dad, the clock is my friend! (He is a master fisherman, and both he and my mom are amazing at preparing seafood).

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?

Oh my goodness, isn’t the Cleveland food scene so amazing these days?!  I am incredibly proud of our little city!  Hands down my new favorite restaurant is The Greenhouse Tavern.  Chef Jonathon Sawyer has worked very hard to create a place that not only serves amazing food, but also 100% respects each and every ingredient they use.  They work with local ingredients, creating a beautifully changing seasonal menu.  You don’t get much better then this.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?

My husband is the music guy- no seriously you should see his collection of cd’s.  It is truly amazing.  So most often I ask him to choose.  He has such a talent, I make sure to utilize him whenever possible!  But if I was on my own I would probably choose a collection of favorite classic 60’s hits, singer/songwriter stuff, and a bit of Folk/Americana mixed in.  Probably a bit of Nick Drake, Joni Mitchel, Rufus Wainwright, Bon Iver, Fiest, Nickel Creek, Bebel Gilberto and of course I could never leave out Tori Amos (she would be mixed in somewhere- she’s my fav!)  I think the key is something that you can easily talk over, but also lends to nice background music at the same time.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?

I LOVE this question.  It always makes me smile when I ask this one and people say I would either have {this} or maybe {this} (fill in the blank).  But I always think “This is your last meal on earth, have it all!!!!”  So I would choose a little bit of all of my favorites.  Who cares if I feel horrible after, I am dead anyways! lol.  So here it goes, a list of my favorite foods, in no particular order: Greenhouse Taverns Pommes Frites, a perfectly cooked strip steak or fillet topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions- actually scratch that.  Just give me a whole side dish of these guys.  Oh how I love them so!  There is never enough onions and mushrooms when it is just a “topper”.  I will also need a homemade pierogi and my moms potato pancakes.  Oh my goodness, after living for a while in New England, I can’t forget those beautiful lobster rolls and my most favorite salad in the whole world- Red Lettuce with Balsamic Onions and Blue Cheese.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Heaven in your mouth!  I need to end with some dessert, chocolate preferably.  I am a sucker for ice cream but I also love chocolate mousse- so lets have them both.  Honestly I could keep going.  How do you pick the last food you will ever eat?  Good thing I believe in Heaven.  God created all this great stuff, I am sure it will be even better “up there’.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading two books, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels–A Love Story by Ree Drummond. (Oh my goodness so fun!  Pick this one up!) and also one of my reading guilty pleasures, Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris.  I love me some Sookie Stackhouse!!

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?

I love my santuko knife, everyone needs to have one of these.

I also have this weird, quirky gadget my mom got me.  It is an egg cooker.  You can make perfectly soft cooked, hard boiled, poached and just about every egg in between in this crazy thing!  It is great for a quick-no-brainer-out-the-door breakfast.  My only complaint with this thing is that it only makes 3 poached eggs.  I mean, seriously, aren’t you usually dining with another person?  It should really make 4!

Do you have a signature go-to dish?

Probably my Green Chicken Curry.  It is a crowd pleaser, even amongst those who have never had Indian Cuisine before.  Oh my goodness, I just now realized I never blogged this recipe before.  Looks like I know what I am making this week!

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?

Oh so much.  I really love it here.  One of my favorite places in the whole wide world is our Cleveland Museum of Art.  I think I fell in love with my husband here.  *sigh* it is beautiful and the collection is amazing. We even had our wedding photos taken there.


My family and closest friend are also all here.  I am a homebody and incredibly close with them.  I moved away to Boston, MA for a short time, but moved back because I couldn’t live with them so far away- especially with now having a family of my own.  Every child needs their grandparents near by to spoil them rotten!

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?

I have so many!!  I was blessed with parents that are amazing cooks.  I grew up eating well.  Probably one of my favorite meals was when my mom would fry up the perch that my dad just caught that afternoon and serve it alongside her potato pancakes.  Talk about fresh and delicious!  Scott, my husband, is also a fisherman so it was essential for me to learn to prepare perch perfectly.  This is one fish I’ve got down pat.

Top 3 Movies of all time?

OK, I admit it.  This question is HARD!  I love watching movies!!!  It’s my favorite date night.  So here is me trying to narrow it down to 3.

  • Waitress
  • Annie
  • Oh Brother, Where Art Though? …The Wizard of Oz, Lost in Translation, Dan in Real Life, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, High Fidelity……..

What was your happiest moment in life?

How can I narrow it down to one thing?  I have two:

Marrying my husband.  This was the most perfect day of my life.  Not only did I marry the love of my life, but I felt like the most beautiful princess in the whole world!  I never, ever stopped smiling that day!!  Talk about perma-grin!


And then of course giving birth to my two sons, Jackson and Owen.  There is nothing that can compare to the birth of your children and the love you have for these incredibly tiny beings!


Where do you do your grocery shopping?

Oh, I go everywhere!  Being a Stay at Home Mom, it is a main job of mine to not only feed my family well, but also to save money in the process.  Just down the street, minutes from us is everything- we have Marc’s, Giant Eagle, Acme, Aldi, and a few farmer’s markets.  During the summer months I hit roadside stands whenever possible and for just the everyday needs Walmart prices just can’t be beat (they honestly have a fantastic organic selection).  You will probably think I am nuts, but I bounce around from one grocery store to the next to get the most for my money, the best selection and the freshest ingredients.  Lucky for me they are all seconds from each other, so I don’t have to waste gas money while trying to save otherwise.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?

Appetizers!  I could eat an entire meal of just small plates!!!

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?

Oh, this is easy- my family!  Sure we are simple, modest and need to scrimp and save to make things run smoothly.  But goodness, we love each other.  We love each other so very much!  I love the little men I am raising.  They are the light of my life- my heart breaks wide open just trying to explain the way I feel about them and I life I lead.  My husband makes me proud when I sit back and watch the kind of father he has become. Just when I didn’t think I couldn’t love him any more, we had children.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?

Yes!  I want to cook a whole fish, salt encrusted.  This was on my resolution list back in 2010, and I never completed it.  Shame on me!  This is the year.  I would also love to stretch my own Mozzarella.  This is also an old resolution never accomplished.  And it is such a fun one!  I am definitely doing this one sooner then later.

One word that best describes you is:

I asked my husband what word he would describe me as and he said “Loving”.  Considering I always feel like my cup is forever overflowing, I will go with it.


And here is my recipe! Since summer is right around the corner, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite uses for those Zucchini’s and Summer Squashes that will soon be lining up your counter tops.  It is a recipe for Stuffed Zucchini Boats.  Rice can also be added to this mixture, but it is pretty hearty just the way it is.  I like serving it along side a baked potato and a simple salad of sliced garden tomatoes sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, and torn basil leaves.

Ground Meat Stuffed Zucchini Boats


  • 2 zucchini’s or yellow squash, about 12 inches long (or 4 6-inch)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • ½ cup banana pepper or green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef or turkey
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh Basil
  • 1 tsp minced fresh Thyme
  • 1 tsp minced fresh Sweet Marjoram (you can also use Oregano if you are unable to find Sweet Marjoram)
  • ¾ cup Sun-dried Tomato Feta Cheese, crumbled (you could also use Parmesan or Mozzarella)
  • ½ tsp Kosher Salt
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
  • 20 wheat crackers, chopped (or a ½ cup bread crumbs)


Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out insides, leaving a shell about ¼-inch thick. I liked using a melon baller to do the scooping and then a spoon to scrape it smooth.  Reserve about half of the insides.

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the reserved zucchini insides to the skillet and sauté another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble in the ground meat and cook until lightly browned on all sides, stirring occasionally. Drain of any excess fat.  Stir in the cooked onion and squash mixture. Add the tomatoes, basil, thyme and sweet marjoram. Simmer for a few minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the cracker crumb and set aside to cool a bit.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Once the meat mixture has cooled a bit, mix in the feta, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Fill the zucchini shells with the mixture.  Place the filled zucchini shells in the pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the zucchini from the pan and serve immediately.

Head on over to Amie’s kitchen and blog (http://myretrokitchen.blogspot.com) to meet her, her family and all her feasting friends!

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