Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm still here...

Someday I will return to this little blog... I just need to muster up the time and energy to do so. I have been motivated 0% to blog, even though I have much to blog about.

Someday soon...!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Most Memorable Thanksgiving Ever

While I love the concept of Thanksgiving - pausing to remember all that we are thankful for, celebrating the discovery of our country - I have to say that Thanksgiving Day in itself is... not my favorite. As non-football watchers and non-fans of turkey, Vic and I agree that it may be our least favorite of all holidays. It's usually cold/gloomy, there's endless football on TV, and everything is CLOSED. BORING.

That being said, Thanksgiving 2010 will go down in history as my most memorable Thanksgiving {and possibly holiday} EVER. It was certainly NOT boring, and we still chuckle about it to this day.

It was our first T-day in NC, and we had been invited to my BIL's house to celebrate with his family. At this time, I was driving the 1999 GMC Yukon that we had inherited from my MIL. It was in great shape with only about 43k miles on it, and it was our only vehicle. I walked out of work on Wednesday evening as one of the last people there {it had been a buzy week!}, and I went out to the truck like I always do. Put the key in, turn it... and nothing. Not a click, not a buzz... nothing. I hadn't left the lights or anything on, so it didn't seem that the battery was the culprit. I called Vic frantically, and we couldn't diagnose anything over the phone.

I went inside to find someone that could give me a ride home, and thankfully my boss at the time, who happens to live in my neighborhood, was able to help me out. She had a little pickup truck, but I was able to squeeze in the back on a jump seat, and she graciously stopped to pick up Valentino at daycare and he rode up front.

Being that our only vehicle was now about 20 miles away from home and we had no friends to call for help, the next morning - a chilly, drizzly, cruddy morning - we were able to get a rental car from one of the agencies at the airport. This involved Vic bundling up and riding his road bike about 12-15 miles up and down hills to get to the airport. Luckily, his bike fit in the back of the 2010 Chevy Malibu and he was able to drive home. At this point, we were still packed and planning on making it to MD for dinner.

With a little bit of research, Vic thought he had the problem diagnosed. Amazingly, Auto Zone was open, so he headed there to pick up the parts he {thought} he needed. Long story short, he drove back out to my office, installed the parts, and the truck still wouldn't start. Obviously, we weren't headed to MD.

Here's where it gets interesting. We didn't want to pay to tow the truck to the garage that Vic wanted to work on the truck, so his idea was to TOW the truck WITH THE MALIBU for about 10 miles - inluding getting on a major highway. I would be driving the Malibu with the truck hooked up to it, and he would be steering/directing me via cell phone. This sounded like a terrible idea, especially because I freeze up in nerve-wracking situations like this << Cue my hyperventalation >> He assured me that it would be fine, and we really had no other choice.

My heart was racing as we drove to my office.

We got the truck hooked up to the car, and off we went. Thank God that RTP was empty - we only saw a handful of cars the whole way. Even though I was a sweaty, nervous wreck, things were going smoothly. We got off the highway and on to a busy road {Glenwood, for you locals}. It was now dark, and I was starting to have a hard time keep my speed right with all the big hills. I had visions of the huge truck rolling over me. We had to turn left to get to the garage - we could see it from where we stood - but I blew it... I passed the turn. This is where it all goes downhill...

Let's also not forget that Valentino is only 3, and he is with me in the car. And it's past his dinner time. He was an angel through this whole experience, thankfully!

We tried to back up, but the tow strap we were using snapped. Vic attempted to fix it, but it was not very strong. We ended up having to turn left at the next light, which took us onto another road. The strap gave up, and our truck was stranded half-way up a hill. Vic and I tried to push it, but it's nearly 6,000lbs and the hill was steep. At this point, a cop shows up. Then another one. I am about to have a nervous breakdown, thinking we're in trouble for some reason {I have a thing about not getting in trouble - I really get nervous about it!}. Thankfully, they're only there to help us push. But even with their help, the beast wasn't budging. So they give up on that, block the road, and allow the truck to roll backwards so that they can then push it forward on to the shoulder of Glenwood Ave. At this point, we can literally see the garage that we're trying to get it to, but we have to somehow get the truck another 1/4 up a hilly road, then turn right and go up another hill to the garage's parking lot.

We had a tow chain with us, so Vic hooked that up and hoped that the bumper of the rental car wouldn't get damaged. We were able to tow the car to the garage, and the saga was over.

At this point though, it was about 7 o'clock on Thanksgiving, and we had no food in the house, since we were supposed to be out of town for the next four days. I frantically called around to find an open restaurant. The only place that was open long enough for us to get there was Golden Corral. So we ended up eating our Thanksgiving dinner at about 8pm at Golden Corral, which was a.) shockingly busy and 2.) quite tasty!  We were beat, but we had a great meal and chuckled the whole time about our crazy day.

Thankfully, the garage was open the next day and they were able to diagnose and fix our truck, so we picked it up and enjoyed the rest of our long weekend together.

And that, my friends, is my most memorable Thanksgiving ever.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Falling off the bloggin' wagon

I've been pretty terrible about keeping up with this thing lately, mostly due to not knowing what to write. I've been severely in a rut as of late - feeling really tired and uninspired - so my gym-going has been really pathetic. I think I went twice last week :( boo.

I'll focus on the positive:

1. I've been much better about cooking meals for us and taking care of my household chores - this has really been a relief. I've even had a few moments to think "hmm... what should I do now?" Amazing. Yet, I wonder if there's a correlation between more housework and less getting up early for the gym... hmm... ;-)

2. I had a part in a presentation for our biggest client, and I was very nervous about it. Luckily when we got there, it was a lot more laid-back than I expected and I was able to relax and present without talking way too fast with a bright red face. So very glad that is over!

3. I worked from home on Friday, in my pajamas. GLORIOUS. As a bonus, this has felt like a long weekend.

4. Speaking of long weekend, I'm stoked to only have to work 3 days this week! And for pretty much the rest of the year, all of my weeks will be short in one way or another. Score!

5. I had a girl's night out on Friday - we met up for a quick dinner then saw Twilight {LOL - channeling our inner 15-year old!}. It was awesome to get out with other moms and laugh and see a chick flick.

6. I'm looking forward to our Thanksgiving - we're be headed up to Maryland to Vic's brother's family. Valentino always has a great time with his cousins {ages 8 and 12}, and it's always nice to spend time with my BIL and SIL.

So there are some good things that have happened this past week. I'm looking forward to a productive, health-ful pre-Thanksgiving week!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Today I feel...

Confused. I don't understand some peoples' thought process. Yes, we're all entitled to our own opinion, but when things seem so blatantly, in-your-face obvious {like being lied to about horrific things, over and over again}, how can people look the other way and make such bad decisions? This doesn't just pertain to the election - there are many examples of this in people I know.

It's making me question people and everything I know, which is very uncomfortable. Perhaps this is part of maturing?


Down. Mostly stemming from the election {which I'm shocked is affecting me so much}, but about some other things too. Seems to be hitting hard as I enter my hormonally emotional time.

Pissed off. It's true, I secretly want to remove all liberals from my FB friends list. But I won't - I read their posts with an open mind, but then I roll my eyes at their general selfishness and ridiculousness.

Pensive. There must be some higher plan, something we don't know about yet. I believe that all things, good and bad, happen for a reason. Time will only tell what that reason is.


During my workout this morning {30 minutes on the stairmaster to burn those buns!}, a million thoughts were running through my head. Only were they calmed when - this sounds totally cheesy - I heard the song by John Cougar Mellancamp "Jack & Diane" where he says, " goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone..." Like I said, TOTALLY cheesy, but it gave me my mantra for the day - no matter what, LIFE GOES ON. We get up, go to work, and live our lives every day with little control over the "big picture." No sense in dwelling on what we can't control.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

No Non-*cents* November

Alternate title: Target, we’re taking a break… it’s not you, it’s ME.

First off, I can’t believe this year is almost over already. 2012 started slow for me, but the summer and this fall flew by… and now I’m almost a whole year older. Sheesh.

Of course the arrival of November means that Christmas is very much in sight… and that is always a stressful time for us tight-budgeted folks. There are gifts to buy, parties to attend, and food to make/bake. Add that to the fact that we’re Disney-bound in mid-January, and you see my need to get a grasp on spending so that we have maximum funds available for Christmas and our trip.

I am the sole “spender” for our house – I do all the grocery shopping, I fill up the gas tank, and I whip out the debit card for all other purchases {usually eating out and purchasing clothing, shoes, and other small odds and ends}.

Two things really need to be corralled:

Groceries/TARGET. I usually shop at Target {using my Red Debit Card to get 5% off!}, because I like one-stop shopping, and I’ve found that prices on several items at Target are better at “regular” price than local grocery stores {peanut butter, waffles, bread, most HBAs, etc.}. However, I’ve come to find that in the long-run, this is muy, muy no bueno for the old budget-o. For whatever reason, even when I think I’ve “done good,” I end up shaking my head at the register in disbelief that what I thought was "not much" is costing so much. I wouldn't say I go overboard with impulse purchases, but somehow it ALL. ADDS. UP.

Target Hypnosis, as pinned on Pinterest (originally from

I started receiving the Sunday paper, purely for the coupons. I've never been a huge coupon fan because I don't buy most of what there are coupons out there for - we don't eat much cereal and I don't buy many frozen meals/canned veggies/soups/etc. However, I've found that the $1/week I'm spending for the newspaper is offset by the few coupons I do use for HBAs and other houseware products {paper towels, Tide, etc.}.

I've also started to shop at grocery stores for our weekly food needs. My favorite is Kroger - whenever I shop at the neighborhood Kroger {using the kid-sized cart for Valentino to push, of course!}, I end up spending less and getting higher-quality produce. PLUS, I get fuel rewards {$0.10 off for every $100 spent} and they have some sort of rewards program too. I stick to only buying what is on sale, and so far I've been pleased with the amount of groceries I walk out of there with for the money.

@Super Target - I love that place. It's very super.
See the heavenly sunbeams illuminating the store?

This month, I plan to only buy absolute necessities from Target and get the rest of our groceries from Kroger, using coupons and taking advantage of the rewards. I also plan on sticking to a meal plan for our dinners and my lunch, which brings me to...

Eating food at/from Home. I'm no cook, that is FOR SURE. I don't enjoy cooking at all, and we have three different palates in this house - I'm picky, but open to adding in "health" foods for the sake of health; Vic is pretty picky and usually won't sacrifice taste for health; and Valentino is a horribly picky eater {whom I've created, no doubt}. Valentino usually gets his own meal {#1 on my "I'll never do that when I have kids!!" list... ouch}, and I make the same ol' things for us. Since I'm the one who cooks dinner, if I'm not feeling up to it... we order/go out. We have pizza far too often since it's a sure bet for all three of us. Obviously, this is not good for our health or our budget.

I've meal planned in the past, and I've always felt so happy when I was able to stick to it - it's truly a time and money saver. Lately though, I've fallen way off that wagon {story of my life...} and for the sake of our budget and our waists, I need to jump back on. So this month I will be planning out our meals in an effort to be easier on our budget and clean up our food intake.

So those are my major focuses for our budget this month. I also plan on bringing in some extra money by selling some items on ebay and through craigslist. Every penny helps!

How about you - are you taking steps to save money for the holidays? What are your favorite tips for saving money?

I know, I know... I should've been on top of this months ago. Severe procrastination is my Achilles heel.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hallow's Eve

Another holiday that just gets better every year that Valentino gets older and is able to understand and participate more - HALLOWEEN!!!

Happily, Valentino agreed to be a fireman again - he was the cutest fireman ever last year, and we're definitely getting our money's worth out of this costume! It's going to be chilly again so this will hopefully keep him warm too.

Halloween 2011 - Valentino @ 4 years old

Some pictures from Halloweens past:

2010 - Our first Halloween in NC

Valentino @ 3 years old - He painted pumpkins and had a monkey costume, which he refused to wear. We ended up going to a church carnival instead of trick-or-treating {which turned out to be perfect!}.

I look terrible here, but still a cute pumpkin carving picture of us :)

And a few from Sunday night, when we carved our pumpkins:

Daddy and Vale on the front porch

Mine - Valentino's - Vic's

We'll be trick or treating in a nearby neighborhood and we're all looking forward to it!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vic's Favorite Cookie {that I make}

I hear this is a common thing – wives that can’t quite make foods “just like mom’s” for their husband. In our house, this is the case with chocolate chip cookies. Even though I asked my MIL what recipe she used {the one off the back of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips}, I’ve tried to get mine to turn out just like hers to no avail. I’ve bought identical ingredients {even using – gasp! – the same brand of margarine she used [I bake w/butter only]}, but mine have never come close to looking or tasting like hers.

Don’t get me wrong, Vic likes my chocolate chip cookies{as evidenced by the swiftness in which they disappear from our house}, but I’ve given in to the fact that my chocolate chip cookies will never be his favorite version of the classic.

PS: In my humble opinion, after perfecting the technique this past year, I make a GORGEOUS looking chocolate chip cookie {and I’ve been told they taste good too!}!

That being said, I was determined to make a cookie that he’d LOVE. And this is IT!

As adapted from the back of the Hershey Kisses package {they call them “peanut butter blossoms”}:

Peanut Butter Kisses
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter {I use JIF, and probably closer to 1 cup}
1/2 cup shortening {I use Crisco}
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour {I use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup unbleached white flour}
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Additional white sugar for rolling
 ~30-36 Hershey Kisses {most of a bag}

1. Heat oven to 375*.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter together in a large bowl until well blended. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla, then beat well.

3. In a seperate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture.

4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar, then place on an ungreased cookie sheet. {TIP: They don't spread much, so you can bake a lot at once.}

5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned on top {cookies will crack around the edges, too}. While they bake, unwrap the kisses.

6. As soon as you pull the cookies out of the oven, press a kiss onto the top of each one. Remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool completely on a wire rack {Vic likes them cold and hard, from the fridge!}.

The recipe says it makes about 4 dozen, but I usually get about 30 cookies... I guess mine are much bigger than what they make!

I love making cookies {more recipes to come!}, so lucky for me, Valentino will have a wide variety of “Mom’s” cookies to call his favorite… sorry future daughter-in-law!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Going nuts... for COCONUT!

If you follow me on pinterest, you've undoubtedly seen that I pin just about everything coconut. I, as well as the rest of my family, LOVE coconut in just about every shape and form {besides coconut water - that stuff is gross!}.

After having read MizFit's post about oil pulling with coconut oil, I knew I needed to get my hands on some. Oil pulling has many of its own benefits including improved oral health {stronger teeth and fresher breath}, as well as claims that it helps prevent Alzheimer's and eases sinus/allergy issues. Trader Joe's sells virgin coconut oil for $5.99, so I picked up a jar during my last visit. Since then, I've taken to oil pulling with coconut oil a few times a week for about 5-7 minutes at a time {I can't find time to do it for the full 20 minutes that is recommended, although I want to make a habit of getting started before I hop in the shower}.

A few weeks later, I read another blog post {from who, I can't remember} about the book The Coconut Oil Miracle. Since I now keep coconut oil in our cupboards, I was intrigued to find out about coconut oil's other health benefits.

From all I've read, coconut oil is full of healthy fats and is inherently antifungal. There are also claims that consuming healthy, natural fats such as those found in coconut oil actually promote weight loss, since the fat is more satisfying and helps keep you fuller, longer. I've started consuming it by the spoonful - a dollop in my oatmeal, a dollop in my morning coffee, a spoonful in a smoothie. It's really quite good, especially because I can't get enough of the flavor of coconut. Though I haven't tried it yet, the oil can be used in cooking in baking - I'll be picking up The Everything Coconut Diet Cookbook tomorrow from our public library, so hopefully I'll find some new recipes to try.

I'm looking forward to some of the benefits kicking in... better metabolism and shinier hair? I'll take it!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

2012 North Carolina State Fair

We spent Tuesday {Valentino's Birthday} at the NC State Fair. It was a gorgeous day - high 60's, not a cloud in the sky - and we had a great time together. We were there from about 11am to 6pm, and Valentino was a trooper the whole time {no doubt thanks to the stroller that lugged him around!}.

The State Fair is one of my favorite events of the year - we haven't missed it yet since moving to NC {this was our third time}. The atmosphere is great, there are a lot of free performances {a ventriloquist, jugglers, sawmill demonstration, and the BMX/motocross stunt show to name a few that we saw}, endless food and rides for everyone, lots of animals to see, and the weather is almost always perfect. Valentino is so lucky that he gets to celebrate his birthday there!

Some highlights:

His millionth time meeting Smokey

A pony ride for the Birthday Boy

Milking a cow!

Riding the kiddie roller coaster alone

Waiting in line for the Ferris wheel

Riding the Ferris wheel

Saying "Hi!" to Stormy
Family photo at the National Guard booth

Vic climbed the rock wall at the National Guard booth

Waiting in line for the big roller coaster

About to take off!
{He did great - he was scared the whole time, but got off with a huge smile on his face!}

Family photo

Getting squeezed by a giant walking tree

I can't wait to go back next year! Valentino and I really want to go at night to see the fair all lit up - we'll definitely plan to do that in 2013 :-)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Half a decade.

This boy:

At Durant Nature Park this past weekend
Turns five years old tomorrow. I can't believe it.

It's been an incredible five years, full of so many life-changing events. But that boy has been a constant for us. Constant joy. Constant amazement. Constant worry. Constant LOVE.

It was hard to pick these favorites out - this doesn't even scratch the surface - but here's a quick flash back at five years of Valentino.

Three days old in his "grandpa pants"
Four months old in a cooler.
First birthday
One-year pictures
Almost two
Second birthday
Almost three
Third birthday
{PS: I miss those curls!}
Almost four
Fourth birthday
Happy Birthday, Valentino - Mommy and Daddy love you more than you will ever know.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A colorful cake to celebrate half a decade

Only two more days until my one and only child turns five. I can't believe it.

We had some early festivities with the neighbor boys today to kick off his big day:

Inspired by Pinterest... super easy!
I love to make the cake for Valentino's birthday, and I'm always trying to make it special somehow. This cake was a hit visually {even though at first, Valentino asked me "why is there an 'S' on my cake?"} and everyone agreed it tasted great to boot.

Inspired by an image I've seen floating around on Pinterest {I hadn't even read nor pinned it myself}, I simply baked a 2 rounds w/boxed cake mix {Betty Crocker's chocolate fudge mix} but subsituted 1% milk for the water the directions called for. Then I frosted the cake as usual {with Betty Crocker's chocolate frosting}. Next, I sketched a "5" on parchment paper {although I think maybe wax paper might've been a better choice...} and cut it out. I set the cutout on the cake then went to town with Wilton's rainbow non-pareils. Removing the parchment paper was tedious, as it stuck really bad to the frosting {of course}. I ended up using a toothpick to coax it free. After it was removed, I smoothed out the frosting inside the 5 - and there you have it! Pretty fool-proof. 

Tuesday is the boy's actual birthday, so Vic and I have taken the day off. We're headed to the North Carolina State Fair - something we haven't missed since we moved here in 2010. It's a pretty good time - the weather is usually perfect, the food is great, the rides are fun {though $$!}, and there's a BMX stunt show. Valentino has a great time, and Vic and I enjoy the people watching and atmosphere.

In other news, we had a fabulous weekend, even though of course, it's ending too soon. We explored two new-to-us places yesterday - Durant Road Nature Park and North Wake Landfill Park {not as weird as it sounds!} - and enjoyed the gorgeous weather {I even got a bit sunburned!}. I am not ready to go back to work, but knowing that I have Tuesday off keeps me going :o)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Random Friday Thoughts... I've returned!

Life {mostly work} has been crazy since my last update, so I just haven't felt inspired to type up a post after having sat all day inside, behind a computer. Sorry for my *loyal* followers... all few of you :-)

What has gone on since my last post? Nothing out of the ordinary... here are the highlights:

  • September came and went. The weather was nice here, but very wet. We cursed the rain, especially when it happened on a Saturday.
  • I spent a lot of time in the pool and didn't go to the gym to do anything else (but I did run outside at least once/week).
  • We went to Bug Fest and SparkCon in DT Raleigh, and to an open house at a fire station.
Rickshaw ride during BugFest
Firepuppy at the Stony Hill Fire Station open house
{PS: I need one!}

  • Valentino got a go-cart, and it's hilarious.

Random thoughts on this Friday:

  1. Why would someone swim laps wearing a snorkel? It doesn't make sense to me and it's cheating. Plus I don't like when said snorkel is pointed in my direction and I get a blast of your exhalation. Ew.
  2. My mind has been very consumed with political thoughts lately, and I've wanted to seriously lash out at some people w/opposing views who are in my FB feed... this morning, I decided I was going to ignore it all for today and focus on positivity and not let their ignorance words get to me.
  3. I really want to clean/organize/purge junk from my house.
  4. I'm obsessed with coconut oil, ever since reading that it {like ACV} is a wonder-cure for everything from fatigue to better hair to weight loss. I'm going to start using it more and consuming it in smoothies and oats to cash in on the benefits! {PS: Both Vic and I have experienced wonder-curing from ACV in the past few weeks. That stuff is the shizz.}
One thing to think about:
How do you feel about homeschooling? Be frank. You think homeschool kids are freaks? Or do you {like me} wish the option had been available to you when you were in school {not having to deal w/getting up super early and school busses, no boring classes w/crap you don't care about, bullies, cliques, not fitting in/having all the "cool" stuff, peer pressure, BS curriculum, etc.}?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An Update and some "Sick-Day" Activities

Two-weeks since my last post? Oi. Sorry, but I've really had a case of the "don't really cares," especially when it came to this blog. Just been in a FUNK. I got hit hard with 2 weeks of PMS {WTF?!} that left me feeling physically blah - cramps, fatigue, bloat, and the blues included. Add to that the fact that I was just getting really into swimming laps at the pool and they decide to close it for TWO weeks for cleaning and maintenance {double WTF?! I want the pool back!}.

Last week, I only worked out once. One single, solitary time - a 40-minute spin class. The rest of the week, I was a bum. This seems to happen once every couple months - I need a break from it all to just be lazy and sleep a little more than usual {which I totally did last week}. Since yesterday, I've felt more energized, rested, and very "go-getter!" Perhaps I needed a lazy week to re-energize and get myself back in the right place? Last night I rode 10 miles on my bike and it felt GREAT. Had Valentino not woken up from 2:30-3:30am this morning, I had a 4-mile run planned {I obviously slept until 7:15 instead}... hopefully I'll be able to squeeze that run {or another workout} in this evening. Tomorrow morning will be spin, and we'll see what the rest of the week has in store. I sense an active long weekend in our future!

Valentino is sick right now - poor guy! I can usually tell when he's going to get sick because he gets really grumpy and acts "not himself." This was not the case this time - he was an angel all day Sunday, but then as I was putting him to bed, his nose started getting stuffy. At 11:30pm, he started screaming and bawling his eyes out {plus vomiting mucus} because he was so stuffed up that he couldn't sleep. I gave him some Mucinex, which seemed to help and let him fall back asleep. He woke up so pathetic on Monday morning that we just couldn't send him to school... so home we stayed. There was lots of TV watching, cuddling on the couch, and computer games played, but I also wanted to *do* something as to not totally rot his brain for the day.

I've been really wanting to do some activities/crafts from my Pinterest boards. Enter my inspiration from this pin, originally from a bird and a bean's blog:

White cardstock with a bike made out of painter's tape and a sick boy
{Notice all his sweeping aparatai to the right - the boy loves to clean!}.

Let 'em go wild with the watercolors - Valentino was very methodical with his paint application.
Remove the painter's tape once the paint has dried {to avoid smudges}.
The finished product, framed in our sad "gallery" wall.

The longest part of this project was creating the bike out of tape - that took way longer than I expected! It was worth it though, since we now have an interesting and personal piece of art for our walls :-)

Now, I'm not the type of mom who would ban her kid from the outdoors when they're sick - afterall, sunshine {Vitamin D!} can cure so much! It was a warm, sunny day yesterday, so I allowed Valentino to ride his bike for about 10 minutes {I didn't want him to overexert himself or get too tired}. He and I also did some side walk painting, a la Katie's post {and my pin}:

The recipe from Katie:
  • 1/4 C corn starch
  • 1/4 C water
  • 4 drops food coloring

  • The product:

    He loved it {and I found a great use for those Easter egg dying cups!}
    Welcome Home message for Daddy {Valentino wrote the "HI!"}

    Yeah, I know - I made staying at home sick a little too FUN. However, the thing he wanted to do most {play with his friends down the street} was OFF LIMITS. So trust me, it was not all that fun for him ;-)

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    In the past week {or two}...

    In the past week or two, I've:

    1.   Rekindled my love of swimming with three 1 mile+ early morning swim workouts.

    2.   Enjoyed having a new workout buddy who not only joins me in the pool, but who also invited me to a class that I've been wanting to take for over a year {but was too chicken to go to on my own}. We've been motivating and keeping each other accountable, which is awesome! She's trying to convince me to do the Ironman 70.3 when it comes to Raleigh next August... we'll see about that!

    3.   Attended the aforementioned class - Functional Fitness - then suffered with some intense muscle fatigue and ache all down my backside {arms/back/butt/hamstrings} for four days straight {sitting down was a challenge!}. While I love that I know for sure I got a good workout, I'm hoping to use those muscles more so that I'm not laid up for so long after the class!

    4.   Ran after/biked along with Valentino on several 4 mile rides on the Greenway around the lake. He's really building up endurance, and he loves our rides {so do I!}.

    5.   Went on a solo 12 mile road ride last week, then a 31.7 mile road ride with Vic over the weekend. It felt so great to get out, ride, and SCORCH some calories! The long ride was really tough at times, but I survived and I'm glad I did it :-)

    As far as non-fitness related activities:

    1. Celebrated Vic's birthday!

    This is what I wanted to get Vic for his birthday... they were sold out of his size ;-)
    {No, in reality - this showed up in my search for a "Speedo Women's Swimsuit" on Amazon... WTF?!}

    2. Spent quality time with Vic :-)
    3. Took Valentino fishing twice - both times we caught four {very small!} fish.
    4. Enjoyed some cooler, though still very warm, summer weather {and thankfully, lots of sunshine!}.

    I'm hoping to find time to write more for the blog. I have a whole list of post ideas, as well as some drafts I'd love to finish and finally post.

    Must scoot off to bed - the alarm's set for 4:45am so that I can make it to the pool around 5:10 :-)

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    My "Alternative" Health Habits

    I've recently taken up a few new health habits which, while very simple and inexpensive, are supposed to yield awesome results - dry brushing, drinking lemon-infused water, and drinking apple cider vinegar {ACV}.

    Dry brushing is basically rubbing down your entire body - soles of feet to neck - with a natural bristled brush or loofah. According to this site {and many other sources that I've read}, dry brushing is supposed to "detox your body, lose weight, lose cellulite, feel better." I've also read that all of those claims are bogus... but I'm sticking with it regardless. I've been using a natural bristle brush that I picked up from Target for about $5, and I've been doing it several times a week for about a month now. I LOVE the way my skin feels afterwards - so smooth and glow-y, almost like freshly-shaved legs every time {you know that feeling, right?}. I also have really weird dark spots on my knees {caused by hyperpigmentation - I've had issues with my skin pigment since I was young} as well as a smattering of those annoying bumps {keratosis pilaris}on the back of my arms - the dry brushing seems to be helping these issues. Plus, it really is invigorating - it gets all the blood flowing throughout my body. I think only time will tell if dry brushing really has an impact on cellulite... I'll keep you updated :-)

    If you want to do it: Purchase a natural bristle brush. Rub your skin in a circular motion {start with the soles of your feet) and always move towards your heart.

    Since my first experience on the 17-Day Diet {last summer}, I've been drinking water with a lemon squeezed into it. Since early this year, I've made it a habit to drink at least one cup of "lemon water" every day at work. Lemon water is supposed to aid in weight loss, encourage pH balancing/make your body more alkaline, and flush out toxins {it is a diruetic}. I've always liked the taste of water w/lemon, so for me, this habit was an easy one to take on. In the 17-Day Diet book {and elsewhere on the web}, it's recommended that you drink a cup of water, as warm as you can tolerate it, with half a lemon squeezed into it, and you should do so first thing in the morning. I've done this before, but nowadays I drink a whole lemon squeezed into a 20-24oz cup of ice water - it tastes really good, and it does seem to act as a diuretic; if nothing else, it's a good substitute for a soda or coffee.

    If you want to do it: Buy some fresh lemons from the grocery store {bottled lemon juice is not equivalent!}. Cut one in half and mix it with some water. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

    My last "alternative" health habit that I've adopted is drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar daily. A quick search of ACV on the web, and you'll find that it's touted as a miracle for just about everything - weight loss, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, balancing pH, and clearing up acne. To me, this is yet another inexpensive "why not?" kind of habit. The ACV costs $3.99/bottle, and it lasts a long time. The taste takes a little getting used to - it's definitely vinegar-y, but I mix it with apple juice and it mostly tastes like apple cider.

    If you want to do it: I {as well as everyone else on the web} recommend Bragg's ACV, which can be found at Kroger in the natural foods area {or at Whole Paycheck Foods} for $3.99. I mix it with about 4oz cold water and 4oz 100% apple juice, plus a sprinkle of Truvia. If you don't get the Bragg's brand, search for a fermented ACV that contains the "mother" - that's where all the benefits live!

    Like I said, I'm not 100% convinced that any of these habits do much for me, but since they don't take much time, effort, or money, I will continue them to see what happens. I'm particularly interested in balancing my body's pH {doing so decreases inflammation and a host of other issues}, which the lemon water and ACV are said to do. {Side note: being more alkaline is supposed to help promote the x "swimmers," if you know what I mean ;-) }

    Do you practice any alternative health habits? Have you tried any of those that I mentioned?

    Saturday, July 28, 2012

    Valuable lessons from my 6.5-Day Diet

    Old me.
    Even though I didn't successfully make it the full 17 days {again}, my time following the 17-Day Diet plan was beneficial in that a lot of things "clicked" with me. I've read countless health magazines and blogs, and I consider myself full of healthy living knowledge, but a very out-of-control sweet tooth and zero willpower really snuffed out all of that information - I could never live up to what I knew was right. My good intentions were always easily swayed by the offering of a cookie, a bagel, some candy...

    Now, I feel like I've learned how to listen to my body more and to truly think about what I'm putting in my mouth. The most valuable lessons I've learned

    1. Controlling my sweet tooth: In the first two weeks of the 17-Day Diet, you're limited to eating only low-sugar fruit {no bananas, melon, mango or pineapple} and obviously all starch/bread/rice/etc. is out of the question. In theory, abstaining from these items should break the sugar addiction {which I 100% buy in to - I love any and everything sugary}. I can honestly say that since limiting my sugar intake on the plan, I haven't had as strong of a desire for sugar. I don't stop at the candy dish at work, and I'm not tempted to grab a little something here and there. Breaking the sugar addiciton was a very important piece of putting myself on the right path for weight loss.

    My favorite variety of "sweets" nowadays - I love summer produce!
    {Old picture of fresh-picked strawberries from Mother's Day weekend}

    2. Portion control: I had always read about it and thought that I practiced it, but now I feel that I can truly do it. Since I wasn't "allowed" to have rice, bread, pasta, etc. during the diet, but I sometimes needed a little boost to my meals, I was allowing myself a very conservative helping of rice or potatoes at dinner. The amount was small enough to not make a huge impact, but enough to satisfy my palate. This really hit home to me - I don't need a big scoop of rice or potatoes or a bun on my hotdog to "round out" my meal. A tiny amount or taste will do.

    3. Moderation/lower carbohydrate intake: This is slightly related to portion control, too. Meals on the plan were centered around lots of protein and vegetables, which I knew was how I should be eating {in the past, my body has always responded well to reducing carbohydrate intake}. I love all things bread and potato {who doesn't?!}, and there have been evenings when I'd stop and think "Did I eat any fruits or vegetables or quality protein today?" and sadly, I often had not. I'm now really consciencious of what my "plate" looks like - as many vegetables as I can stand, a serving of lean protein, and a very small amount of starch/complex carbohydrate. If I know I'm going to have a carb-heavy meal at some point during the day, I'll be a saint the rest of the day. I knew we'd be having pizza for dinner on Friday night, so all day Friday I made a conscious effort to limit the amount of carbs I consumed.

    4. Mindful eating: I ask myself "is it worth it?" a lot more often now, and as I said, I'm very conscientious of what I'm consuming.

    These are all the very obvious steps to weightloss, but until now, I've never been able to practice them. While some criticize the 17-Day Diet plan, I personally found the plan helpful to reset my body and mind in the realm of food consumption.