Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Foodie Pen Pal Reveal

The Lean Green Bean

It's the end of May, which means it's time for one of my favorite things:  Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day.  Foodie Pen Pals is entirely Lindsey of the Lean Green Bean's creation.  I LOVE this program.  Each month that I participate, I meet new bloggers and discover fun new foods.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to participate in June because we'll be out of town for a portion of the month.  But, I'll definitely be back for the month of July.

This month, I was paired with two fabulous bloggers.  I sent food to Katy Beth at Curlyrunnerbug Moves In.  To see what I sent her, head over to her blog!

I received food from Alexis at Pumped Pumpkin, and I definitely got a great foodie pen pal.  Alexis sent me treats from Trader Joe's.  Since I don't have a TJ's anywhere near me, I was so excited to receive my goodies!

The box was full of so much fun stuff!

I know we all like to see each individual item, so here goes...

This popcorn is incredible.  The herbs and spices provide the perfect amount of flavor.  Once Amelia discovered it, it disappeared quickly.

I love these Snackimals animal crackers.  I buy them for the kids sometimes, but I think I end up eating just as many of them as they do.

As soon as Amelia saw these in the box, she grabbed them and started eating them.  She loves banana chips, so it was hard for me to get any for myself.  We went hiking a few days after I received my package and some of these banana chips found their way into the trail mix I made.

I LOVE plantain chips, and they're tough to find around here. I think I polished off this bag within three days, and I was the only one eating them.

The mini Clif bar and the Fiberful bar are both sitting in my snack drawer at work waiting for the perfect moment to be eaten.  I'm sure they'll be delicious when I do eat them!

This stuff is like kryptonite.  It's funny, we had a jar that I bought at TJ's when we were visiting family in Long Island, but we finished it two days before the package came.  I was wondering when I would be able to get more when this showed up in my package!  My whole family was excited!  Sadly, this jar is already gone...

This stuff is so good.  You use the built in grinder to create a "powder" of chocolate, sugar and coffee beans.  My kids love it on toast!

As you can see, Alexis is a great foodie pen pal.  She sent me so many wonderful treats!  Thanks, Alexis!

If you aren't already part of the Foodie Pen Pal Program, I encourage you to join!  Lindsey does a great job of pairing everyone up each month and organizing the whole program.  Here's what she has to say about it:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.

-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penal!

-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)

-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

If you’re interested in participating for June, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by May 4th as pairings will be emailed on May 5th!

If you want to see what all of the other participants sent and received, head over to this spot and check it out.  Over 800 people participated this month.  That's a lot of food love!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Adventures in Yogurt Making

Since I can barely get off the couch due to the muscle soreness that has taken over my body from two days of Insanity, I figure I'll give you a blog post about one of my favorite things: yogurt!  I LOVE yogurt, and eat it almost every day.  I'm pretty picky when it comes to yogurt.  I don't like the kinds that that contain a ton of unrecognizable ingredients and artificial sweeteners.  So, I tend to stick to plain yogurt that I sweeten myself with maple syrup and/or jam.  I also love Greek yogurt and buy a lot of Chobani.  But, my favorite kind of yogurt is homemade yogurt.

Unfortunately, it's tough to make homemade yogurt out of organic store-bought milk because most organic milk is ultra pasteurized.  This process breaks down the protein in the milk which ruins it for yogurt making.  So, I haven't been making much yogurt lately, but that has finally changed!

For a long time, I was able to get farm fresh milk from a local farm, which I used to make homemade yogurt.  I made at least one batch a week.  Then, I stopped being able to get the milk, so I stopped making yogurt...until this week.  I finally found a fabulous local farm that sells farm fresh milk, and this past Saturday I picked up my first batch of milk.

I brought the kids with me, and they had tons of fun exploring the farm and meeting the two beautiful jersey cows that will be providing them with their weekly milk.

I came home Saturday and immediately went to the store to buy some new yogurt cultures.  Sunday night, I made my first batch of homemade yogurt in over a year.  I have a yogurt maker, so it's really easy for me to whip up a batch of yogurt.

First, you bring the milk to a boil.  Then you remove it from the heat and let it cool until it reaches about 105 - 1120 degrees F.  Once the milk has cooled, you add the yogurt cultures, or some yogurt, and mix it all together.  The cultured milk is added to the jars and it sits for about 10 hours in the yogurt maker while it is transformed from milk into creamy deliciousness.

Look at all those jars waiting to become yogurt!

Wow!  I can't believe how much I missed this stuff.  I have been eating it every day since I made it and I can't get enough of it.  It's so full of good probiotics and I feel good knowing where the milk came from.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Paul and I have decided to do Insanity.  You know, that fitness craze that everyone seems to be talking about.  Well, I guess it's more like the fitness craze that everyone used to talk about.  I seem to "discover" something long after everyone else has already tried and raved about it.  I did the same thing with Tae Bo.  I think I did it two years after it lost popularity.  I like to think I'm just waiting for people to try it out first and prove that it works, but it's actually that I just don't catch on as quickly.

Paul and I are both looking for something new to do that will get our bodies in shape.  As runners, we're in great cardiovascular shape, but we can both use some "toning."  Insanity isn't really a strength training program, but it is supposed to build strength.

So, we ordered it last week, and it just arrived.  I spent last night reading through all of the materials, and we're going to start it on Monday.  I'm really excited!

I am going to follow the 60 day program completely, including the nutrition plan, and I'm going to blog about my experience throughout the program.  I will post before pictures and then provide updated progress pics every two weeks.  I'm not trying to lose weight...I'm just trying to tone up.  So, the pictures will be important.

Don't worry, though, I'll make sure I blog about other things during the 60 days for those of you who have no interest in Insanity.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

30 Days

Paul and I eat what I consider to be a very healthy diet.  We eat a lot of vegetables, fruit and whole grains, with the occasional meat added in.  We probably eat 1 - 2 meat-based meals every week or two.  We're practically vegetarians at home.  However, when we eat out it's a different story...well, for Paul.  I'm more apt to eat vegetarian at restaurants and other food venues because I'm really uncomfortable with factory farming and the mass production of meat.  The meat we eat at home is local, humanely raised meat.  That's not to say that I never eat meat when I'm out, but it's not frequent.  Paul, on the other hand, tends to eat more meat when we're out than he does at home.

Recently, we watched a couple of documentaries that promoted the benefits of a vegetarian diet.  Paul didn't say much at first, but about two weeks ago he informed me that he was going to eat completely vegetarian for a month.  He wanted to see if it had any noticeable effect on his health, especially his digestive tract which has been bothering him the past few months.

So, last week we committed to a 100% vegetarian diet.  It's not hard for me because I spent 12 years as a vegetarian and I really prefer vegetarian foods.  But, I am noticing how much meat is served other places. I attended three end of the year parties and a potluck meeting during the past week, and most of the food at each event was meat-based.  I forgot what it was like to truly be a vegetarian.

So far, Paul is really enjoying the vegetarian diet and is noticing a difference in how his intestines feel.  I'm not sure that we'll commit to it fully after the month is over, but I think there is a possibility that we will.  I don't really like to be bound by rigid rules and labels, so I think if we do become "vegetarians" we'll still allow ourselves the flexibility to eat meat in very rare instances (e.g. when we're in Maine this summer...I refuse to go to Maine and not eat lobster).

So, we have three weeks left in our little experiment.  I'm curious to see how it turns out.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I'm Back!

Wow!  It' been almost a week since I posted last, and that wasn't even a real post.  But, I did have a guest post on Happy Healthy Mama's Blog, so I guess that counts as something, right?

It has been quite the week around here.  It's the end of the semester at the community college where I work, which means things have been quite hectic.  I'm a 12-month employee, which means I work through the summer, but it still gets crazy for me in May.  So, I haven't had the chance to blog much.  Now that the semester is officially over, I'll be posting more regularly.  I have a lot of fun things planned for the summer, so I should have a lot to write about.

Even though this week was hectic, I still managed to have some fun.

Mother's Day was wonderful.

For many women, Mother's Day is a day to relax and be pampered.  But, for me, it's a day to spend as much time as possible with Amelia and Ben (and Paul).  This Mother's Day, Paul asked me what I wanted to do, and my answer was pretty simple.  I wanted to spend the day as a family, doing fun stuff and enjoying each other's company.  So, that's what we did.

The day isn't about gifts for me, because these two are really the best gift I could ever receive.

But, look what Paul got me!

I don't have to post bad iPhone pictures anymore!

In addition to celebrating Mother's Day this week, we also spent time doing other fun things.  We went hiking (twice).

We went out for ice cream.

We played in the backyard.

We caught a frog.

We went to Amelia's school art show.

We spent a lot of time giggling and playing and having fun.

Even in the chaos of the week, we found time to enjoy each other and be silly.  Ultimately, that's what's really important.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lacking Motivation

I have been trying to post this week, but I just can't seem to find the time or motivation.  It's finals week at the college and even though I am a "12-month" employee, I still have a lot to do before the semester ends.  So, I have been a bit overwhelmed.  But, I have a lot of fun stuff to post, including a Mother's Day recap. So, stay tuned.  I'll be back soon!

In the's a sneak peek...from my new camera!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Morning has broken...

For the past two years, most of my workouts have occurred during my lunch hour.  Since I had a new baby and a child in elementary school when I added exercise into my daily routine, mornings and evenings were not good times for me to exercise.  Luckily, I work at a community college and have free access to our college gym.  We're a small community college, so our facilities aren't that grand, but we do have an indoor track, an elliptical, and a weight room, which is all I need.

This arrangement worked fine for the past two years, but it wasn't ideal. I don't always have a free lunch hour depending on meetings or college events, so many times I would have to forfeit a run or elliptical session because of work demands.  Once I began running longer distances, the hour I had wasn't really enough. 

So, a few weeks ago, after missing a lot of runs and mid-day exercise sessions, I had a long talk with myself.  Just in my head...not out loud...although those talks occur too.  I realized that it was time to change my routine and find a way to exercise either in the morning or evening.  I quickly determined that the evenings are out.  I don't really like to exercise at the end of the day.  After a full day of work, I just want to hang out with my family. 

So, that leaves early morning for me.  Now that Ben is no longer a baby (sniff, sniff) and Amelia is more capable of getting herself ready in the mornings, early morning exercise is doable.  So, I started running and going to the gym early each morning and it's working out great! I love my new schedule!  Every morning, my alarm goes off at 4:50, and I hit snooze once.  I have to hit snooze.  I can't seem to get up without doing so.  I'm out of bed by 5:00 and dressed for my run or the gym by 5:10.  I can't exercise without some caffeine in my system, so I spend about 30 minutes drinking coffee and water.  I also need that time to "get things moving" if you know what I mean.  I like my system to be "cleaned out" before I start running or hit the gym.  I'm out the door by 5:40 and I'm done by 6:45. 

That's when Ben and Amelia tend to wake up, so I don't even miss any time with them in the mornings.  It's great!  I can start the day with my exercise already completed and I don't have to worry that I will miss a workout because something else comes up.  And, I get the extra perk of an empty gym and my choice of equipment.

I don't think I can ever go back to lunch hour exercise.  Especially since I now spend my time eating and reading blogs!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A 5K PR!

Today, Paul and I participated in a local 5K.  It was a fundraiser in memory of a young woman who died in a car accident.  The family organizes it every year and uses the money to fund a scholarship in her name.  We ran last year as well.

I have been running a bit faster the past few weeks and went into the 5K hoping to finish somewhere between 27 and 28 minutes.  Lately, I have been running an average 9:03 pace on my five mile runs, with at least two or three miles in the 8:45 - 8:59 range.  So, I knew I could do it.  But, the 5K distance is tough for me.  It usually takes me at least 2 - 3 miles to really get into the groove of running.  But, I still went into the run with a goal of getting a new PR.

This was only my third 5K.  I usually stick to the longer distances.  My first 5K was three months after I started running.  I was so proud of myself for finishing the run because I had never been a runner before.  I was so nervous about being able to run the entire time and I didn't care about my finishing time at all.  I finished in 32:16.  I was so proud of myself that day!

My second 5K was this same 5K in May 2011.  I had just completed my first half marathon a few weeks prior and was feeling much more confident as a runner.  I ran with Paul, who had just started running in January.  My goal was to get him through his first 5K and finish under 30 minutes.  We finished in 29:52.

So, what was my time for today?  26:32!  I can't believe it!  I beat my goal time.  I'm so happy about my new PR and excited to see if I can get even faster.  When I look at how far I have come since I started running in July 2010, I can't help but smile.  I spent years wishing I could be a runner and I finally became one!

It's pretty simple.  All you have to do is decide that you want something and then do whatever it takes to make it happen.  Sure, sometimes it's tough and feels almost impossible, but it can be done.  Don't believe me?  Watch this video.  If this doesn't motivate and inspire you, nothing will.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Moving Around

move more in may

As someone who exercises approximately 5 days a week, I feel like I move around a lot.  But, after reading Janetha's post and new challenge for the month of May, I realized that I'm actually more sedentary than I like to admit.

Sure, I exercise for about 1 hour each day...but, that's one hour out of 24!  If I look at an actual day, I spend a lot of time sitting down:

Work = 8 hours at a computer/desk or in meetings.  Sure, I walk around some, but a lot of my time is spent sitting down.

Home = After preparing dinner, we sit and eat for about 30 - 40 minutes.  Then after cleaning up, I sit with the kids and help Amelia with her homework and color/draw/write the ABC's with Ben.  After that, we relax as a family and then it's time to get the kids ready for bed.  Once they're ready, we all lay in bed together and read, and then each kid goes to bed.  I lay with Ben while he (and sometimes I) falls asleep.  After that, I head downstairs, where Paul and I clean up and pack lunches for the next day.  Then, we spend the rest of the night sitting on the couch working on our computers/talking/watching TV.  After that, we go to bed.

So, when you look at an actual day, I don't move a lot.  On the weekends we move much more because we're constantly on the go and we like to do active/physical things as a family.  But, five out of seven days, I spend a lot of time sitting.

I know it's healthy and essential to move around a lot, which is why I'm so excited about Janetha's May challenge.  Instead of getting more exercise, Janetha wants us to move more throughout the day.  Here's what she says in her post:

i want you to move more in may, too! each day, i would like you to comment on the move more in may challenge page telling me how you moved that day OUTSIDE OF YOUR OFFICIAL DAILY WORKOUT.  yes, that’s right, we aren’t counting our workouts for this challenge.  that’s the whole point—we are already moving during our workouts. this is for all the other moves of the day.  be creative. try something different.

Janetha is actually giving prizes each week, which is an added incentive! 

My plans include getting up from my desk at least once an hour and walking from my office on the 5th floor to the first floor.  I also plan to take a walk at lunch time to stretch my legs, get my blood flowing and enjoy some great conversation with co-workers I rarely see.  I also want to start walking the dog as a family in the evenings and start playing in the backyard more after dinner.  Now that's it's getting warmer and nicer, this will be very easy to do.

If you think you need to move more, head over to Janetha's blog and read about her challenge.  I think we could all add a little more movement to our days!