Friday, July 29, 2011


I love cookbooks.  In fact, my husband says I'm probably one of the few people who reads cookbooks like novels - cover to cover.  I disagree.  I think there are a lot of us who read cookbooks this way.   I just love looking through the pages, reading the recipes, and admiring the pictures.  I might not cook every item in the cookbook, and I might change the original recipe if I do, but, I still love reading them.

Over the past two years, as I have discovered more and more blogs, I have used them for cooking inspiration.  I read cooking and healthy living blogs like I read cookbooks.  I love to find new recipes or food ideas in the pages of blogs.  It makes cooking come alive for me.  Blogs haven't replaced cookbooks for me, but they have definitely added a new dimension to reading about baking/cooking.

When I need new recipes, I select cookbooks from my collection and pour through the pages, using post it notes to mark the recipes I want to make.  I do the same with the blogs I read regularly, but I keep an ongoing a list of the recipes I want to make in a notebook that sits beside my computer.  The pages are quickly filling up with a list of things I can't wait to make.

This past week, I have been baking and cooking a lot in preparation for an upcoming family trip.  For me, trip preparation includes food prep.  I can't embark upon a vacation without bags of food and snacks.  Some is pre-made, but most of it is snacks that I have lovingly prepared in the days leading up to the trip.  This week, most of the recipes I used came from the blogs I have been reading.

First, I made Mama Pea's Blueberry muffins.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the ingredients to make them blueberry "cheese" cake muffins, so mine were just standard blueberry muffins.  They came out perfect.

Next, I made Casa de Carver's granola bars.  These are delicious, and I know my kids will enjoy them during our trip (as long as I don't eat the entire pan tonight).

Finally, I made the zucchini bread from Oh She Glows.  I did not include the nuts or raisins because my daughter doesn't like nuts and raisins in zucchini bread. I don't have a picture of this because it is still baking in the oven, but I assume it will be wonderful.  The batter smelled delicious.

I love blogs as much as I love cookbooks.  They are a great source of information and inspiration.  Just this week, I found recipes that used the ingredients I had on hand to make snacks that will travel well and feed my family over a few days.  I know cookbooks would have done the same, but there's just something about blogs...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Smooth Moves

We are a smoothie lovin' family.  Ben (the 2 year-old) is obsessed with them, which is great because he doesn't eat a lot of food during the day.  He's more of a grazer (we all are, actually).  Almost every morning, Paul or I prepare a big batch of smoothies for breakfast.  Amelia (the 6 year-old) used to love smoothies, but now she prefers them frozen.  So, we always make sure we make enough to freeze into popsicles.  It's a healthy treat, and the kids love being able to eat popsicles for breakfast.  Our smoothie ingredients vary depending on what we have on hand, but typically include fresh/frozen fruit.  Most of our smoothies are also made with spinach or kale (green monsters) and either kefir or yogurt.  Even though we're pretty flexible with our add-ins, we have three smoothies that tend to be our favorites.

The Very Berry Smoothie

This is Paul's favorite smoothie and the one we tend to drink the most.  We make sure we always have frozen blueberries, strawberries and cherries on hand so that we can make this on a regular basis.  We make a huge batch of smoothies in the morning, which three of us drink right away.  The rest is frozen into popsicles.  If you want to make this for one or two people, just reduce the amount you put into the blender. 

2 cups strawberry kefir (you can also use plain kefir or yogurt)
1 large banana
2 - 3 cups of baby spinach or kale
1 - 1.5 cups of frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen cherries
ice (as needed to bring smoothie to desired icy, thick texture)

You may need to blend the non-frozen items first, then add the frozen fruit/ice and blend. We have a high power blender, so ours can handle all of the ingredients at once, but other blenders might have a hard time.

The Tropical Breeze Smoothie

This smoothie is my favorite, and Ben's as well, but I can't make it very often.  Paul is allergic to pineapple, so I have to make this smoothie when it is just for me and Ben (and the popsicle molds).

1.5 cups water
1 banana
1 small orange
2 cups spinach or kale
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup frozen mango
ice as needed

This smoothie is mostly fruit and spinach, so I often add hemp seeds or hemp protein powder to bulk it up a little.  This makes a great snack smoothie.  The best part is that it is a beautiful, vibrant green!

Funky Monkey Smoothie
(no picture available)

Ben and I are the only two who like this smoothie so I only make it for us.  I really enjoy this one as a post-run smoothie.

1 cup almond milk
1 banana
1/4 cup PB2 (peanut flour) - you can use regular peanut butter in place of the peanut flour
1 - 2 scoops of Amazing Grass Chocolate powder (this stuff is amazing!)
1/8 cup cocoa powder
drizzle of agave for sweetness (not necessary)

Blend all of the ingredients together until thick and icy.  I'm telling you...this smoothie is delicious!

So, those are some of the "regulars" in our house.  We're always trying new combinations, and sometimes we have great success and other times we have major flops.  But, it's always fun to throw things together and see what we end up with. 

We really look forward to our smoothies, but it took a while for them to become part of our routine.  We never seemed to have the right ingredients on hand or the time to put everything together before we had to rush to work, but with a little planning and prep work, we were able to make them part of our day.  Here are some tips to help make sure you can have a smoothie whenever the mood strikes:
  • Stock your freezer with plenty of frozen fruit.  Keep a variety on hand so that you can try different combos.  Our favorites are strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, mangoes, peaches, and pineapple
  • Buy yogurt or kefir to have on hand as mix-ins
  • Keep a container of baby spinach or a bunch of kale in the fridge so that it is ready to throw into your smoothies
  • Keep your blender out on a counter (if you have the space) so that it is ready to use first thing in the morning
  • Give yourself five extra minutes of time in the morning so that you can quickly blend up a smoothie to take with you on the way to work
  • Buy some fun popsicle molds so that you can freeze the extra smoothie.  If you have kids, these will be a fun, healthy treat.  They can even eat them for breakfast in the car on the way to school or daycare if you are rushed in the morning.  If you don't have kids...enjoy them yourself
Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe or any tips to share?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

If You Can't Stand the Heat...

Go Swimming!

Eat Popsicles!

Go Blueberry Picking!

                                         (Yes, she has her own Camelbak and, yes, she brought it blueberry picking)

We are finally emerging from the depths of the heat wave that struck most parts of the country.  Living in one of the northernmost parts of the Northeast (we're only an hour away from being Canadian, after all), we just aren't used to extreme heat.  Sure, we get warm summers.  We have beautiful, sunny days at the beach.  We swim in pools and enjoy summer BBQ's and trips to the ice cream stand and all the other parts of summer.  However, we typically do this in 80 degree weather.  Over the past few days, the temperature has hit 100, and the heat index has climbed well above that.  For us northerners, this is not a regular occurrence.  Sure, each summer, we get a week or two of high heat and humidity, and, each summer we act as if we have never felt such extreme temperatures.  But, this heat wave felt different.  Maybe it's because most of the country was complaining about it too.  We finally felt like part of the "in group."  Regardless, we are all breathing a little easier and sleeping a little better now that the temperatures have returned to the 80's and there is actually a cool breeze floating through our windows.  I'm excited to be able to bake again.  I have so many baking and snack making plans for this week, and I can't wait to get going.  Tonight, I'm making a fresh batch of homemade granola, and it doesn't feel oppressive to have my oven on.  So, I hope you're ready for a lot of cooking/baking posts this week, because that's what I'm going to be doing each night after work and on my days off...

I did manage to get some exercise in during the heat wave.  In fact, I actually ran six miles yesterday, and I'm happy to report that my ankle seems to be on the mend.  I'm feeling a slight amount of discomfort today, but nothing too severe.  Today, I actually did something that I haven't done in years.  I went swimming.  I don't mean that I went to the beach with my kids.  I mean that I actually went to the YMCA and swam laps in the pool.  All I can say is WOW!  I can run for miles, but swimming really kicked my butt!  I was only able to do a half a mile, and I actually had to rest between some of the laps.  I alternated between the front crawl and the breaststroke.  I have to admit that I always thought swimming would be too easy, and I didn't want to give up some of my exercise time on something that I thought would provide minimal benefits.  But, after today, I can say with complete confidence that swimming is incredibly a good way.  I'm hooked!  I'm definitely going to start adding swimming to my regular routine.  I would love to do a triathlon next year, so I better build up my swimming endurance now.  Quite honestly, I'm already getting excited about the next time I can get in the pool.

So, the weekend is over, but the week ahead looks great.  I hope you have some wonderful plans in your future, even if that means just sitting on your deck and enjoying the cooler temperatures.

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's Just Too Hot!

I know I shouldn't be complaining.  I live in an area that sees temperatures as low as 5 below zero in the winter.  But, the heat wave we're experiencing right now is just too much for me.  It was 100 degrees (fahrenheit) today, with a heat index of about 105.  As much as I don't like the extreme low temperatures of the winter, I also don't enjoy the extreme high temperatures of the summer.  Maybe it's partly because we don't have air conditioning at our house, and our upstairs bedrooms are almost unbearable. 

I planned to spend the weekend making snacks for the kids, but I'm going to wait until it cools down a little.  Instead, I'll spend the days at the beach, eating popsicles and trying to stay cool.  It looks like next week will be a little cooler.  I have a lot of fun cooking and baking projects planned, which I will write about later in the week.  I'm going to attempt a run tomorrow morning, before it heats up too much.  I'm hoping my ankle stays pain-free.  So, that's all I have right now.  I think the heat might be turning my brain to mush.  For those of you who are also in the midst of a heat wave, try to stay cool.  It's hot out there!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's All Fun and Games until Someone Gets Hurt

Well, it looks like I finally have my first real running injury.  I'm not particularly excited about this "milestone," but I guess I knew it would happen eventually.  I did something to my ankle.  It hurts on the inside part of my ankle, and the pain sometimes travels up to my calf.  If I stop running for a few days, it stops hurting.  But, as soon as I run again, the pain comes back.  So, I'm going to take the entire week off from running and focus on other types of exercise.  I'll try running on Sunday.  If my ankle starts to hurt again, I'm going to go see someone.  I'm in the middle of preparing for my next half marathon, and I don't want to lose weeks of training because of this. 

I'm starting to think it might be a result of my running gait.  I think I may be an overpronator.  I need new running shoes anyway, so maybe I'll go to  Fleet Feet  and have them assess my running style and fit me for shoes.  After all, I'm in this for the long haul.  I want to make sure I don't cause any permanent injuries.

Monday, July 18, 2011


In the chaos of life, I feel the need to center myself through my engagement with others.  Like many other mothers and partners, I love my daily interactions with my children and my husband.  However, I also need more.  For me, that comes from my time with my two girlfriends.  I have other close friends in my life, but there are two specific friends that I am talking about here.  These women have been my friends since second grade, and we have been through everything together.  The trials of elementary school, the horrible awkwardness and embarrassment of middle school, and the drama of high school.  We have evolved from knobby-kneed seven year olds to mothers and wives, and through it all we have remained intertwined in each other's lives.  We have spent countless nights laughing and crying together over many random issues.  We stood together at each of our weddings.  We were there as each of us brought our beautiful babies into this world (strangely enough, we each have two children:  daughters within ten months of each other and sons within ten months of each other - totally unplanned).  We watched as life circumstances changed and held each other up as we struggled to navigate through life as working mothers and wives.  Through it all, we have been each other's greatest supporters and also our best critics.  We are there for each other through thick and thin.  Just as I get nourishment and balance through food and exercise, I also get it from these women.  They nourish me in a way that nothing else does.  We have always talked about how lucky we are to have each other and a friendship that has spanned 28 years, and I can only hope that you have something as wonderful in your life.

Each year, regardless of where we are physically, we come together to celebrate our birthdays.  Some years, we plan an overnight trip, other years we just spend the day together.  Regardless of the actual plans, the one constant is that we get together each year.  We are lucky, at this point in our lives, to all live within 30 minutes of each other, so we are able to get together frequently throughout the year.  However, this birthday celebration is the event we look forward to the most each year.  Our birthdays don't fall on the same day, so we just choose a random date in the summer to celebrate.  Instead of spending money on gifts for each other throughout the year, we save our money to splurge on the day.  This year, we chose to spend the day in Burlington, VT, which is across the lake from where I live.  We took the walking ferry to VT and enjoyed a fabulous lunch at American Flatbread, which I have decided is my new favorite restaurant. 

If you are ever in Burlington, VT, make sure you eat at American Flatbread.  I promise you won't regret it. 

After lunch, we walked around Church Street, which it the artsy shopping area of town and had a fabulous time laughing and enjoying each other's company without the interruptions of small children.  The day passed too quickly, and before we knew it, we were on the ferry on our way back to NY.  But, I returned home at the end of the day recharged and rejuvenated.  It's amazing what a day spent with girlfriends will do for you. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lead Feet

Sometimes, it takes so much for me to get going on a run.  After a streak of really fabulous runs, yesterday's run was less than stellar.  My legs felt like they were a thousand pounds and my feet felt like they were made of lead.  I was only running 4 miles, and I struggled the entire time.  I think part of the problem is that it typically takes me 2.5 miles or so to really get into a run, so the shorter runs don't allow me enough time to find my mojo.  Although, sometimes, the entire run just feels like a flop regardless of distance.  I think that is what yesterday's run would have been like, whether it was 4 miles or 14 miles.  I just wasn't feeling it.  That's the amazing and frustrating aspect of running.  No matter how long you have been running for or how far you have run, there is always the chance that a run will be less than stellar.  I'm just hoping that yesterday was a one time thing and not the beginning of a running rut.  I have been in those before, and they are no fun.

But, even on my worst running days, I can't help but smile when I run by this spot.  This is around the block from my house, and it is a beautiful view of the lake.  Each morning, it is an incredible feeling to run past this spot and see the sun over the water, the green mountains of Vermont in the distance and the boats gliding quietly in the early morning.  I always know that life is good when I see this on my short morning run.  Quite honestly, this picture doesn't do the location justice.  I tried to capture the magic of the water, but sometimes you just have to experience it firsthand.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

CSA Pick Up Day!

Tuesday is our CSA pick up day, and it is like Christmas morning for me.  Each week, I get so excited to receive the email from our farm telling us all about the fresh veggies we will be getting for the week.  Unlike some other CSA's, which just give their members pre-made boxes of veggies, ours functions on a point system.  Each week, we have ten points to spend on various veggies (and sometimes fresh flowers).  When we arrive at the farm, all of the veggies are sorted into different boxes and a point value is assigned to each one.  We are able to walk around the tables and choose what we want to spend our points on.  I prefer this system, because it allows me to choose more of the veggies that we love without getting stuck with a lot of something that isn't our favorite for weeks on end. 

Last year, we went with a CSA that provided pre-sorted boxes each week.  After six weeks of swiss chard, I never wanted to see it again.  This year, I can choose when and how much of each vegetable I want.  I also like the point system because it allows me to walk around and choose vegetables and make meal plans in my head.  I'm able to choose vegetables that will work well in a dish together and I can pick specific herbs that I think will enhance the flavors of what I'm going to prepare.

Some days, I bring the kids with me, and other days I stop at the farm by myself on my way home from work.  I prefer to bring the kids because it makes them more connected to the food they eat.  Last week, Amelia had so much fun picking out veggies that she started eating them while she was still walking around the farm.  She loves seeing the people that own the farm each week and she is beginning to understand the importance of buying local and supporting small-scale agriculture. 

This week seemed to be a heavy "green" week.  We got tons of lettuce, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, basil, cucumbers, zucchini and other herbs.  We (well, Amelia and Ben) also chose some beautiful sunflowers.

How can this picture not make you smile.  I love to see my veggies piled up on the table when we get back from the farm and take great pleasure in finding homes for all of them in the refrigerator.  It's my favorite part of the week.

So, now that I have all of these fresh veggies, I have to plan what I am going to make with them throughout the week.  The lettuce and cucumbers will be used in salads, which my husband, Paul, and I eat every day.  The broccoli will be eaten with hummus this Thursday while watching an evening family concert at our local Cultural Center .  The basil will become pesto.  The zucchini will be made into zucchini bread or muffins for quick breakfasts as we all head to camp, daycare, and work. 

The kohlrabi will be the experimental vegetable of the week.  I am determined to make something new with it and have been searching the internet for recipes.  I think I have finally narrowed it down to two possibilities:

So, that's the plan for this week.  I'm excited to see what veggies next week brings.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Going the Distance

There is nothing I love more than a long run.  When I started running last year, I never expected to enjoy distance running.  I struggled to make it even 1.5 miles and assumed that I would build my distance up to a maximum of 3 or 4 miles.  That's because I planned to use running as a form of exercise.  However, as I fell more in love with running and started to sign up for races, my outlook changed.  Once I registered for my first half marathon, I knew that I would have to learn to run longer distances.  What I didn't expect was how much I would love distance running.

Shorter runs and intervals are fine and dandy and they serve a great purpose, but nothing gives me more pleasure than a good, long run.  The longer the better.  There's just something about the way I feel while I watch the miles go up on my garmin that makes it all so worth it.  Not to mention the feeling I get when I finish a long run and feel the comfortable ache and tiredness in my legs.  The rest of the day, I feel great because I know that if I accomplish nothing else, I can at least say that I ran X number of miles before most people were even out of bed. 

I know that distance running is daunting for some, especially when you have never run more than 3 or 4 miles, but it really is attainable.  It's all a matter of building up your endurance slowly.  That's why I like Hal Higdon's half marathon training program.  It gradually increases long runs each week so that you are only adding a mile at a time.  Trust me, adding a mile every week or so is not difficult, and after a few weeks the mileage you are able to run will dramatically increase.

I can remember the first time I ran 10 miles.  I was beaming by the end of the run.  The feeling of accomplishment at the end was like nothing else.  During the run I struggled, but I kept going and knew that I would be so proud of myself when I was done.  After all, a large part of distance training is actually mental training.  When you are training for a half marathon, you are not just developing physical endurance, you are also developing mental endurance.  This is why I know that I will run a full marathon someday.  As far as I'm concerned, it is just a matter of adding more miles and developing more self-confidence and mental endurance.  It's a challenge I'm excited to take on.

This morning, I ran just under 8 miles (7.91) and I felt great.  As I was finishing my run, I thought about how far I've come.  A year ago, I could barely run 1.5 miles and today I ran almost 8 miles and it didn't even feel like a long run.  My concept of distance running has completely changed.  In the past, an 8 mile run seemed so out of reach.  Now, it's a regular run for me.  It's funny how that works.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Hills are Alive

Over the past year, I have managed to run on mostly flat terrain with the occasional easy hill.  My first half marathon was pretty flat, with the exception of a small hill and a moderate hill.  So, I have been able to avoid major hill work...until now.  I'm registered for a half marathon in October that is described as quite hilly.  So, to prepare for the half marathon and add some new challenges to my running, I have started doing the dreaded hill work.  To be completely honest, I have avoided hills for the past year because they scare me.  I'm afraid of the level of endurance they require and I'm scared that they will make it impossible for me to continue running at a solid pace.  But, as we all know, running requires that we overcome our mental challenges as well as out physical challenges.  So, I'm going to look at this new phase in my training as a way to move out of my comfort zone and build my mental endurance.

Yesterday, I went for a 5.5 mile run and purposely chose a route that was full of hills.  Not just small, easy hills, but big, long hills.  Hills that make you sweat harder and slow down and curse the entire way up.  There were three of these difficult hills on the course, along with quite a few more manageable hills.  All I can say is...WOW!  Those things are brutal.  Now I know why I have avoided them for the past year.  Even though I only ran 5.5 miles, the run was more difficult than many of my longer runs because of the difficulty of the hills.  However, in some sick, sadistic way, I really enjoyed it.  I liked pushing myself and struggling over each hill.  I liked the way the hills made my legs and lungs feel, and I really liked the sense of accomplishment I felt when I made it home.  After all, isn't that what running is all about?  Challenging ourselves and facing our fears so that we can come out stronger and faster on the other side?

So, the rest of my half marathon training will include hill work.  But, rather than dread it, I'm actually looking forward to it.  That's progress, right?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

These are the days

Our entire family is on vacation this week.  That means no school or summer camp, no daycare, and no work.  We aren't traveling at all, and are just spending our days taking part in the activities our own region has to offer.  We are enjoying sunny days full of swimming, parades, fireworks, playing with friends, eating good food, and just doing whatever we feel like at any given moment.  I have been running almost every morning since I have nowhere to be and can go for however long I want.  The kids have been eating their share of popsicles and parade candy and are keeping themselves busy with random outside activities.  It's a wonderful, magical week and I don't want it to end. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Year I Became a Runner

This morning, I had an incredible run.  It was hard and hot and left my entire body feeling tingly and refreshed.  For those of you who are runners, you know the kind of run I'm talking about.  For those of you who are non-runners, I can only say that the kind of run I had today is the reason why runners run.  We don't experience these runs everyday.  In fact, some days our runs just feel awful.  But, every once in a while, the stars align and we have a run that is so awesome that it makes us want to keep lacing up our shoes and hitting the road. 

The morning was warm and sunny, but not yet oppressively hot.  I set out on my own with my music and my garmin and let my feet guide me.  I only had about an hour, and I was able to hit 6.3 miles by the time I was done.  I came home tired, yet invigorated, and dripping with sweat.  The run was perfect.  It was the kind of run that makes you smile the entire time because you know how well it is going and you can tell that you're going to feel great when it is over. 

Toward the end of my run, I passed the twelve mile marker from my first half marathon and a smile crept across my face.  I remembered that day in April and how I felt when I hit mile 12.  I was so ready to be done, but I also knew that I was going to finish strong.  After months of training, I had made it almost all the way through 13.1 miles.  For me, this was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.  I know there will be other half marathons (I'm signed up for one in October), but none will ever feel like my first.  Passing that mile marker made me think about my first half marathon, but it also made me think about the past year of my life - the year I became a runner. 

(At the finish line of my first half marathon)

Last July, in an effort to get in shape and lose the baby weight that I was still carrying around one year after my son, Bennett, was born, I began to exercise.  In the beginning, I went to the YMCA and used the elliptical machine.  However, a few weeks into my exercise routine, I wanted to do something different.  One morning, I put on my sneakers, grabbed my MP3 player and set out to run around my neighborhood.  I had always wanted to be a runner and had tried to start running many times over the past decade.  Unfortunately, the frustration of not being able to run long distances right away always caused me to stop before I developed any endurance. 

For some reason, this morning in the end of July was different.  I struggled the entire run (1.6 miles), but I somehow found the determination to keep going.  I mean, I did have moments where I thought I might actually die, but I found a way to keep moving my feet.  I might have been barely shuffling at some points, but I kept running.  Through it all, I had a constant dialogue going in my head.  I reminded myself that I gave birth to two children without any pain medication, and I didn't have the option of stopping during that process (even though I wanted to at points).  I told myself that running isn't supposed to be easy, or everyone would do it.  I contemplated giving up, but something kept me going.  I knew if I could make it around my neighborhood without stopping, I would continue on as a runner.  Something just clicked that day, and I have been running ever since. 

In those first few weeks, I struggled each time I ran and thought of just giving up many times, but I kept going.  I laced up my sneakers, grabbed my music, and went running.  I was able to add more distance to my runs, and it was an amazing feeling to see the mileage increase.  It was tangible results.  Instead of measuring my progress by pounds lost or dress sizes dropped, I was measuring my progress by how far and how often I was running.  Then, one day it happened.  In conversation with someone else, I called myself a runner, and I haven't been the same since. 

Today, I ran 6.3 miles and it was an incredible run.  But, it's not the farthest I have run and it wasn't even the most incredible run I have ever had.  Over the past year, I have gone from running 1.6 miles to running 13.1 miles.  I have run 5K races and a half marathon.  I have run in intense humidity, rain, snow, sleet and 5 degree weather.  I have run on indoor tracks and treadmills, and I have run on the open road.  I have had runs that made me feel incredible and I have had runs that made me feel miserable.  Through it all, my love for running has grown

(Finishing my first 5K)

I love running because it allows me to see life, and myself, differently.  I am more capable of getting through challenges because of the mental endurance that I have built through running.  I am more physically fit and able to play with my children because of the physical endurance that I have developed.  But, more than any of that, I am more aware of who I am because of running.  It gives me time to think and reflect on my life.  When I come home from a run, I am more grounded and patient, which makes my entire family happy.  Sometimes, I question why I keep running during a particularly bad run or when I am in a running rut.  However, runs like the one I had today always remind me why I do.  Every time I lace up my shoes, I have the possibility of having the perfect run.  That's what runners strive for, whether we run 5K's or ultramarathons.

This past year, I became a runner.  I plan to be one for as long as my legs will keep going.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Candy Dish

Like many six year olds, my daughter has an affinity for candy.  Unfortunately, she inherited my sweet tooth. Each candy-producing holiday, we add her newly acquired stash to the large candy bowl that sits atop the refrigerator.  She then spends the next two weeks (or longer) begging almost non-stop for candy.  It's frustrating, to say the least.    As a family that prides ourselves on healthy eating, it was quite disturbing when my daughter began to display her candy fixation.  After all, we had avoided giving her sugar and artificial ingredients well beyond her second year of life, hoping that she wouldn't develop a taste for sweets.  I know, I know, all you parents are smirking at your computer screens about now.  As we "experienced" parents well know, keeping the sugar away in the formative years does not guarantee that kids will develop a love for broccoli over chocolate (although I will argue that they can discover a balanced love of all foods).

As my daughter progressed through the preschool and early elementary years, her love of sugary snacks grew.  So did my fear that she would become a candy-obsessed, vegetable-hating sugar junkie...well, not really, but you get the picture.  My husband and I spent countless hours discussing how to teach her moderation and self-control around sweets.  We didn't want to spend the next ten years as the sugar police, nor did we want her to eat unlimited amounts of candy.  This is where the candy dish came into play...

One of our family friends was telling me about her ten year old daughter and her intense love of sweets one day (we were actually in the midst of running our first half marathon).  As part of the conversation, she explained the strategy that she and her partner use with their daughter to teach her moderation and self-control.  At the beginning of each week, the daughter is allowed to fill a candy dish with seven pieces of candy, which she can eat at any time without having to ask.  When the candy is gone, it's gone.  There are no refills.  She has to wait until the following week to get more candy.  I thought it was a brilliant idea and returned home full of optimism about the new experiment.

Since my daughter is only six (almost 7), we decided that five pieces of candy would be enough for the week.  We established some rules for the dish and then sat down with our daughter to explain the concept to her.  She was so excited to have her own candy dish. 

In the beginning, she would sheepishly look at us as she went to her candy dish numerous times in a row to eat a piece of candy.  We didn't say anything since it was her right to eat as much as she wanted.  The first couple of weeks, she ate all of the candy in the first two days and was left with nothing sweet for the rest of the week.  After a few weeks, the novelty wore off, and she now eats the candy sporadically throughout the week.  In fact, there are some weeks that she ends the week with candy still in her dish.  By giving her control, we have eliminated the novelty of sweets.  Plus, she's learning to moderate.

Candy Dish Rules:
  • She cannot eat the candy first thing in the morning before eating breakfast.  All candy consumption must occur after the first healthy meal of the day has been eaten.
  • If she doesn't eat her dinner and other main meals, the candy dish goes away for the week.  She has to regularly eat healthy foods to be able to indulge in sweets.
  • She must brush her teeth well both morning and night.  If she doesn't brush thoroughly, the candy dish goes away for the week.
  • If she has a day of heavy sweets (i.e. a birthday party or other gathering where there are lots of sweets eaten), she must refrain from eating out of the candy dish for the remainder of the day.

I definitely think the candy dish concept would work for a lot of different children.  It helps them learn to control the amount of sweets they eat and also how to understand what a healthy amount of sugar is.  We will definitely be continuing the candy dish at our house.  Hmmm...I wonder if it would work with my weekly allotment of chocolate...