Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Meatless Monday on Training Tuesday

First and foremost, I must say that I am thankful for the crazy monsoon weather that we've been having in Arizona this year.  While it makes for some seriously muggy, sweat-laden morning runs, the temperatures have been kept to within reasonable parameters.  By Arizona standards.
My morning runs with Zooey, which begin with a 4:30 AM alarm - followed immediately by a 4:30:30 coonhound alarm, just in case - have been hovering in the low 80s.  Not my most favorite temperature to run in, but it beats anything hotter.  So while the rains have drowned all by my mint (I think) and peppers (which are thriving), I'm more than happy for them to continue so that we can keep things tolerable.
Today marked my first Official training run to prepare me for my second half marathon, which will be in November.  I have, of course, been running and cross training throughout the summer, but it's been Unofficial, which means I haven't felt that bad about veering off of The Plan for various reasons.  Starting today, though, my heart rate monitor was strapped back on, and instead of just running a "basic" run, I set a time goal (in this case, a mere 30 minutes).
I love the time-based goals.  My training plan is pretty much the half marathon training plan set out in Marathoning for Mortals, by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield, which I used to prepare for London's Run, and having the weekday runs be time-based is something that I came to almost rely on - it was the promise that I'd be done "soon."  Really, the only alteration I made was to add a few more weeks of training in and switch around the running and cross training weekdays.  Using time instead of distance really helps me focus on my heart rate, stride,and foot strike instead of "how much farther?"
Of course, this morning I had trouble remembering how to start my heart rate monitor, a delay that Zooey found unacceptable.
The Official training run didn't feel much different than Sunday's last Not Official training run (except we were faster this morning; I was tired Sunday), but it's nice to know that I'll be back on The Plan.  When on The Plan, I'm much stricter with myself and have the discipline not to skip/put off days, so I anticipate a solid performance for my second 13.1.

In Mrs. Obama Arms news, I'm still struggling with my Hundred Pushups Challenge.  After falling off the wagon for about a week and a half, I reset myself back to Week 3, Day 1, in which I did 48 pushups.  They were a little difficult, but that's to be expected.
My frustration lies in the fact that while Weeks 1, 2, and 3 felt like they were gradually moving me toward more and more pushups, Week 4 felt out of control.  I am not one to make excuses (most of the time), but I can't help but wonder if a woman's upper body strength limitations - I really don't like that word there, but I'm not sure what else to say - were taken into consideration with this program/app.  That's not to say as a woman I CAN'T do this, but I think some resetting and careful cross training will need to be taken into account; I might have to do Week 4 three times in a row before I think I'm ready for Week 5.
What I need to do is remind myself that this is OK.  I'm still working toward a great goal, and as of last night, I have completed 843 pushups since beginning the Challenge.  That probably brings my lifetime total to about 900, so I can't complain.
I mean, I CAN complain, but there's not really anything tangible for me to stand on there.
Besides, if it were easy, it wouldn't be called the Hundred Pushups Challenge.  It would be called the Hundred Pushups Easy Thing.

One more thing - I've started the Plank a Day Challenge as well.  This one is fairly simple to follow.  Each day, I do a plank for as long as I can.  That's it.  The goal, of course, is to be able to plank longer and longer, improving my core muscles.  I'm not gonna lie - I'm really tired of crunch/pushup workouts, so I'm game to try this.
My inaugural plank wasn't bad:

Now it's time to up the game and see where this can take me.  The good news is that, unlike my Hundred Pushups Challenge, I don't have a set time that I have to hit each day.  I just need to challenge myself at my level.  And, apparently, watch out for the Plank Police.

So how am I fueling myself?  Lots of plant-based proteins.  I'm not one to say "never" to anything, but I don't foresee myself our our family going 100% vegan, and I think that may not be the best route for me.  But I am doing my best to cut down on animal products when I can.
I've moved from half-and-half to coconut milk in my coffee.  While both have saturated fats in them (that's the " really bad juju" when it comes to reading the fats label), I've been reading up on the stuff, and studies are suggesting that the saturated fats in plants, such as coconuts, have less of a detriment on one's body than those found in animal products like butter or cream.  That being said, I am careful to have only 3 spoonsful in each cup, and I generally have two cups of coffee each day.  That's my "splurge" each morning.
And while I moved on to agave nectar for a while, I'm a little concerned about the process by which the "nectar" is made, so I'm trying out coconut sugar, which is gotten by a process similar to how maple syrup is obtained.  It's still got calories - my coffee is my morning splurge, remember? - but the coconut sugar is lower on the glycemic scale than white sugar, so there are no spikes in the blood sugar.

I still can't believe I've come this far, considering it wasn't long ago that I had to have a splash of coffee with my CoffeeMate.

I'm also having fun with vegetarian and vegan versions of my favorite dishes, like korma.
Last week, the okra in our CSA bag gave me a craving for Indian food that would have impressed even the most pregnant of women.  I thought about it morning, noon, and night, and I kept thinking about ordering take-out or suggesting that we go out.
The problem - HRH.  I'm perfectly happy to "force" her to eat certain foods, but I'm not going to take her to a restaurant that serves fare that far outside her comfort zone (we're still working on quesadillas, people).  I want to be allowed out in public with her again.
But if I were to make it at home, I could serve her similar ingredients like brown rice and carrots, and I could still get my korma fix.
Now, I love love love love (freaking) LOVE lamb korma; it's my go-to item when we go out to an Indian restaurant.  But unlike Aunt Voula, I understand that lamb doesn't fit into my plant-based focus, so I opted to make a vegetarian korma with tofu and fresh veggies, including that okra.  I just needed a recipe.

Thank you, Interwebz.

So, last Monday night (maybe Tuesday - I don't remember), I tried a recipe from Vegetarian Times.
It was good.
But it wasn't the korma I was thinking of - that creamy, spicy, sauce that you can literally sop up with a biscuit bit of naan.
So the craving?  Still there.
My poor husband - it was like I was pregnant all over again, but I didn't have a pregnant belly that he could rub like it was a freaking genie lamp.
So I searched and found one that would be better - perfect, even - one that used not only coconut milk and tomato but a cashew cream to give it a silky, creamy texture.  Thank YOU, Post Punk Kitchen, for delivering!
Of course, I didn't follow the recipe exactly (you know I have a hard time following directions) - I made my own garam masala earlier this year, since I am sensitive to ginger, anise, and turmeric.  So I played around with everything to get something that would still be savory, although I think I still needed to amp the spice and garlic when we have our next go round.
End result - this recipe was a lot of work (I'm sparing you pictures of the aftermath in the kitchen since this post is already so dang long), but it was totally worth it, especially when paired with some homemade naan that was already on the right track (it's hard to duplicate the flavor and texture when your kitchen is lacking a tandoori oven).

As far as naan goes, it was good, but The Husband and I discussed how we can improve it so we didn't use so much oil in the process.  We determined that some terra cotta planter bottoms (the flat parts that hold the water in) on the grill will probably be the closest we can get, so next time you see me at the hardware store, it's probably because I'm thinking about dinner.
I've gotten my korma fix, but we still have a jar full of the leftover korma sauce, so I'm thinking of making a korma pizza later this week.  I can toss some roasted veggies on top of it and call it a meal - the perfect training food.

Do you need to be on a training plan to be disciplined?
What is your favorite way to strengthen your core?
What food cravings have you had recently; did you indulge?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Some Motivation on Monday - The Size 6 Jeans

I currently have one pair of size 6 jeans:

Right now, they don't fit.  I mean, they DO fit in that they zip up and button, but they DON'T fit in that the end result is that which causes fear and horror among women across the country: The Muffin Top.

Which of course is completely unacceptable.

I'm running another half marathon in November.  By that date, these jeans are going to fit proper.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Smoothie Sunday - Colourful Smoothie Challenge Week 2

It was my first week back at work.  I miss vacation already.  Especially since work was combined with HRH's soccer camp, trying to ready the house for my mom (who came into town on Saturday), and trying to unpack completely from San Diego (still a slow process).
But I did at least get my smoothies taken care of.

Some winners:

  • Charissa's carrot cake "shake," although I'm not sure I'm a fan of protein powders yet.
  • Straw-nana (I had it Sunday AND Monday)
  • Tropic Thunder from 24 Carrots Juice Cafe here in Chandler.  

And a Not Ever Going to Be a Winner - the green smoothie up there (bottom right) that utilized some coconut water that HRH didn't like (failed attempt at a homemade "Gatorade") - everything was chilled, but I didn't use anything frozen, and it tasted warm.  Considering I took it to soccer... ewwwwww.

Note to self - always include Something Frozen.

My go-to, in case you were curious, is frozen berries (any assortment), a half a frozen banana or frozen avocado (more than half a banana makes anything too banana-y - ewwwww), some water, some flax seed, and kale.  I'll add some sweetener if I feel it needs it in the form of maple syrup, honey, or agave.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Workout Wednesday - July 11 - Quick and Dirty Version

This is going to be fast and furious tonight, since I'm working on a project I hope y'all will participate in.  It will be totally worth your time, so stay tuned.
So, over the weekend while we were in San Diego, I ran about five miles along the boardwalk down by the harbor.  At about 60° when I headed out and maybe 65° by the time I finished, it felt like a little bit of heaven after running in 80° or hotter weather here in the Valley (even before sunrise).

We never got to tour the Midway, but it was awe-inspiring to run past it.
I could get used to this view.
Yep, I'm used to it.
I still don't know what this is.
But I love it.
I also walked about a bazillion miles at the San Diego Zoo, so I got some serious calorie (and shoulder) burning in there, especially when HRH decided she had to do #2 when we were exactly As Far Away As Possible to the nearest bathroom, so The Husband and I hoofed the heck out of that one hill.
Off topic - the zoo was totally awesome; we saw a baby giraffe...

...a baby hippo snuggling with his mommy...

Baby is on the left; Momma was keeping him safe.
...and two baby jaguars that brought squeals of awe even from the men.

After this shot, all my pics are blurry, because someone's nap
was interrupted by a boisterous sibling.
Hilarity and squees ensued.
Running in San Diego made me realize that while I am a bit a lot a tad complain-y about our summer weather, I am fortunate to be able to run outdoors year-round.  Of course, one can do that in San Diego, too, but since we don't actually live there, that's a moot point.  Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting out for our pre-dawn runs again.
The Husband left for Chicago basically the second we got back from San Diego, so HRH and I have been flying solo this week.  She's been getting in some great workouts at soccer camp (hello, eating complete dinners and going to sleep in ten seconds - I love you), but Zooey and I have pretty much been slugabeds.
I even forgot to work on my Hundred Pushups Challenge, so today, a week after my last endeavor, I finally did Week 4, Day 3.  It was not pretty, especially since HRH was extremely curious about what I was doing and kept asking questions and accidentally dropped her blanket on me while she watched me from the comfort of my bed.
But it got done.

The next step is another "max out" session.  In my last max out, I got up to 16 (from the baseline of 5), so I'm looking forward to seeing how far I am coming.
The total I did today was 80.
Not bad for a girl who couldn't even get 6 done a month or so ago.

My mom is coming into town on Saturday, so I'll start running again on Monday in order to get back into the swing of things before TH gets home Tuesday.  I'm sure Zooey will be pleased, too, although since she was at the doggie hotel all weekend, she's been happy to be a lazy hound dog.
I like being lazy, too, but the pull of fitting into smaller jeans is a girl's best motivator.

What's your favorite weather/season to run in?
Which zoo (or aquarium) critter is your favorite?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Smoothie Sunday - Colourful Challenge Week 1

We went to San Diego over the weekend, and it was absolutely delicious to run along the boardwalk in the cool morning.  There was a fitness convention going on at the same time, although I suspect that over half of my new running buddies were more regular visitors to the beach fronts.  

At the end of my run - it was probably only 65°.
Did you hear that "ahhhhh..."?
That was me. It was just lovely to run there.
It's going to be hard to take that first run back here in the Arizona heat.  Really, really hard.

The Colourful Smoothie Challenge that I'm participating in over at Colourful Palate proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be while we were gone.  Almost immediately upon our arrival, I checked with the concierge about any nearby smoothie locations. When I clarified that I wanted a place that was more of a juice bar than a place that passes off glorified ice cream as a smoothie, I pretty much knew I was going to be out of luck!
His response: "Unfortunately, there is nothing nearby."
By "nearby," he meant anywhere within at least a three-mile radius.

Which would have perhaps been more easily attainable had HRH not gotten sick the first night we were there.

And the second night.

Because NOTHING is more fun than having a puking preschooler in a hotel room.

I did what I could, but I'll be honest; nothing beats a homemade smoothie.  I know exactly what goes into my blends, I don't have to make special requests, and I can inhale them without any worry that someone might look at me as if I'll eat them next.
I can't find one photo, so I'm missing Day 7 (I'll have to ask TH tomorrow if it's on his phone or camera).  That being said, so far I'm pretty happy with the tasty concoctions that Cato and I have whipped up (and one whipped up by some blender whose name I never got - it was a smoothie one night stand).

Clockwise from left:
tropical-honeydew, cherry-chocolate-almond, cherry-cherry-cherry,
kitchen sink, cherry vanilla, orange-carrot-peach
Of course, since we were headed out of town, several of last week's offerings were kitchen sink-worthy - that big yellow one with the honeydew garnish up there had (I think) kale, honeydew, peach, mango, kiwi, and coconut milk, while the really awful pic of the blender contained cucumber, kale, cherries, and heaven knows what else (I literally cannot remember what else was in there, but I know there was something).

So - a few things I have learned this week:
  • Oranges are not the best tasting thing ever in a smoothie; they can taste a bit a lot pithy.  To his credit, The Husband drank that pithy concoction like a champ.  He only complained after I said it was awful.
  • Since cherries have been in season and readily available, I've been consuming them like a woman possessed, and they are amazing in smoothies.  I guess this is something that I really didn't learn.
  • Cucumbers are pretty refreshing in smoothies, but I'm not a fan of cucumber melon all the time, so it's nice to put them in with less watery fruits to add liquid.
  • Smoothies can make a crummy day a little bit better; before we left for San Diego, The Husband came across a teeny kitten on his walk with Zooey.  We tried to save it (TH named it Monte, since that was the name of the street where he found it; I named it Sammy, since one eye seemed to be gone), but when I got to the vet, I was told there was nothing that could be done - it was too far gone (I had tried to bring its blood sugar up with some agave and rehydrate it with a straw and some water; I even said a quick prayer to St. Francis).  Enter an absolute ton of tears; when I got back, the cherry vanilla smoothie and a pedicure made me feel better and remember that I at least gave Monte-Sammy some love in its short life and peace at the end.  RIP, bitty kitty; you were loved, even if only for a few hours of your too-short little life.
  • I could probably OD on coconut milk if I let myself, so I need to be careful - lots of calories and fat in that stuff!  Maybe I should look into coconut water so I can get my fix in more often (without the regret)!
I'm not sure if I've lost any weight (although I'm pretty sure that if I did, I totally pissed that away with the pizza we ate our last night in San Diego), but I'm loving my smoothies regardless.
The good news is that we are home (well, I am - TH is in Chicago for a training class - lucky dog!), and I have Cato working hard for me.  Additionally, there are plenty of smoothie places and juice bars (that make real smoothies) close by, so I will be anything but bored.
I just have to get to the grocery store; I'm pretty sure an acorn squash smoothie will taste TERRIBLE.

What's your favorite smoothie ingredient?
What is a smoothie or juice combo that didn't work (read: was terrible)?
Veggie-fruit combo, or one at a time?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Finicky Fridays - Operation Eat it or Starve: the Battles Rage On

It's been two weeks since the official start of Operation Eat it or Starve here in the Philistines house, and  I am here to tell you that this is probably going to last longer than the US occupation of Afghanistan.
Yes, HRH is a stubborn little devil; every time I think that I've advanced the troops, she manages to institute a counter-attack that leaves me speechless.  If she were part of the French army during World War II, the Maginot line would probably have held.

I'm thankful to quite a few of my friends for posting photos on my Facebook page that I have valiantly tried to copy.  Creative plates have helped HRH be at least willing to consider some items and actually put other foodstuffs in her maw, so I'll be continuing that as much as possible.

In the past few weeks I have played with Ms. Food Face...

Yes; I braided angel hair.
Not as easy as you'd think.
...made flowers and trees...

For the record, the salad tree (top right) did NOT go over well.
...and played around with breakfast.

Homemade granola with fruit in an ice cube tray (left) and
"apple" pancakes (actually squash - muahahahahahahaha!)
Some success I can brag about is that HRH is eating sprouted grain bread willingly and even enjoying it - when I made her some mini cheese sandwiches, she ate them in three parts: bread, cheese, bread (repeat).

Hard to tell, but those are a dog, a cat, and a fish;
she decided that this was an underwater scene and dubbed them
"cat fish" and "dog fish."
Whatever; she ate them.
Additionally, she's finally discovered that food is more fun to eat when it's placed on each of the five fingers first (we're working our way up to olives).  

The dragonfly was a string cheese body, cherry eyes, carrot antennae,
and strawberry wings.
The stem of the flower had cocoa peanut butter spread on the underside.

The variety still isn't what I want to see, but HRH has decided that she now likes kiwi.  She's also unknowingly eaten squash every day this week in leftover pancakes; once she polished off the batch that had chopped summer squash along with the apples, I made a batch using acorn squash (I used a recipe for pumpkin pancakes, and it turned out really nicely).
We're taking a holiday in San Diego this weekend, so we'll see what happens while we're gone.  I certainly don't want HRH to be eating nothing but chicken nuggets and French fries, although we may be limited while driving.  I packed lots of good snacks, including carrots, fruit leathers, and strawberries, so that we continue modeling good eating habits even when out.

Do you put olives on your fingers before you eat them?
Are you willing to hide healthy foods (like squash) in your kids' meals, or do you prefer to be completely up front with them?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Workout Wednesday - July 4

Happy Independence Day (and a belated happy Canada Day to my neighbors to the north)!!!!!

The Husband and I see holidays, weekends, and other various days off in a different light.  In his mind, it's an opportunity to sleep as late as possible.  In my mind, it's an opportunity to get in a bit extra "oomph" into my workouts or runs.
Case in point: today.
Until I start "officially" training for my next half marathon, I'm running on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so today is a running day, regardless of the holiday situation.  Since it's been ohmigosh-so-stinking-hot round these parts (and basically every other part of the country), motivation to get up and head outside for a run has been.... ummm.... rough.  I am careful not to overheat Zooey (who gets almost two full bottles in my hydration belt all to herself) or myself, but I don't want to contain myself to short down and backs.  Almost as boring as running laps on a track - blech.
I like variety in my scenery, thank you very much.
Thankfully, we've had a bit of cloud cover, which has helped cool the temps down a bit. 
A bit.
Comparatively, I mean.  It's not like we're back to the 60s or anything.
But even a small difference in the heat can mean that I'm willing to stay out a bit longer before heading back in.
I'm a little concerned about how things will go when I do start that "official" training.  During August, even my long, slow weekend runs are going to be short enough that I'm comfortable bringing Zooey, but September can be just as miserable as August.  I always hope that the temps will cool off earlier than usual, but every year I'm disappointed that I'm cursing the heat well into October.  There is the chance that we will see evening (and subsequent early morning) cooldowns, which will make running at 4:30 tolerable again, but really, who knows?
Currently, The Husband and I are still in talks regarding possible treadmill purchase/gym membership.  However, Agnes, our Buick, decided to crack her head gasket, so we're currently in the market for a new(ish) car, which takes precedence over either a treadmill or gym membership. Soooooo... whichever one of those we end up choosing will have to wait.  In the meantime, I'll be sweating it up along the canal.

Oooh, a cooling trend!
On a more positive front, I'm making strides in the Hundred Pushups Challenge.  I did take a small step back and repeated Week 3 last week, which, the time around, was almost too much for me.  While I didn't love repeating the week, I think it was a good decision, as this week I've felt stronger as I began Week 4 with 63 on Monday.

I have done more pushups in the past 5 weeks than I think I have combined in my life; the only time I remember ever doing them prior to this challenge was during the Presidential Fitness Test in grade school, and I'll be honest - it's not like I went out there trying for those.
I had to save my energy for rope climbing.

If you read this blog with any regularity, you'll remember that I posted a week or so ago about how my focus is changing here.  A further epiphany I had this week was that I now follow more runner and running-types on Twitter than I do food bloggers.  While most of the people I have met via The Twitters are truly a friendly group of people, I'm continually impressed with the welcoming atmosphere that these running Twitter-ers (tweeters?) have for others who enjoy running.
I still consider myself a "baby" runner, having only run for about two years with not that many races under my belt, and I'm constantly awed by those who are training for their bazillionth marathon, ultra marathon, or Ironman but still are kind enough to say hello during Sunday #runchat.
Defense Exhibit A: Bart Yasso (read: BART FREAKING YASSO!!!!!!!)

Alex (@alexbridgeforth) is another - non-famous - runner I've met this way; it's always nice to meet fellow runners here in Arizona.  He's one of those people who is currently training for his bazillionth marathon, and he's one of those people you can just tell greets everything with enthusiasm and excitement.  His positive outlook is contagious!  Alex blogs over at Addicted to Running, where he regularly interviews fellow runners, including moi.  You can read (and see, via the magic of Skype) the interview here; thanks a lot, Alex - it was a lot of fun to chat with you!
(if you would like to take part in Alex's interview series, let him know - I'm sure he'd love to chat with you as well!)
Oh, and it was also pretty awesome that Bart Yasso tweeted me AGAIN (he is one of the people I told Alex I'd love to run with someday).

Yes.  When Bart comes to Phoenix, you can be sure as shooting that I'll skip work to run with him.
And blog the s*** out of that experience.
Stay tuned.

This weekend, we're headed to San Diego, and I'm so looking forward to running along the beach that I can hardly contain myself.
I actually may never come home.

How are you spending the holiday weekend?
Do you pack your running gear for vacations?
Has anyone famous ever posted to your Facebook or tweeted you?
What is your vehicle's name (yes, I'm assuming everyone names their cars)?

Monday, July 2, 2012

One Kitchen, Many Hearts - Halfway Point

I am generally the one in the house who gets the mail.  Which means that I am generally the one in the house who throws all the crap that we find in our mailbox straight into the recycling bin or the shredder.  Mail isn't exciting to me anymore.  Ever since I earned a 32 on the ACT composite and spent nearly 8 months receiving mail from every single small, liberal arts school on the East Coast, I've been disappointed in the contents of my mailbox.
Except for when it's time for another round of OKMH packages.  Then it's Game On!

Clockwise, from top left:
Mads, Kirsten, Megan, Kat, me, and Jeanne - a sexy lookin' bunch!
I have to admit that while I do love getting the gifts from my blogging besties, I really do love the sending of gifts more.  This month, we were at the halfway point, which meant that we sent packages to the people who were sending us packages.  Megan over at Wanna Be a County Cleaver and I were package buddies this time, and I feel like it's kind of fitting, since we are both native Washingtonians and share a huge love of beer.
I was terrified that my package would get there in pieces, but I'll have to send you over to her page to see what the end result was.
Megan's package was basically an In Case of Emergency theme, which was perfect timing, as it came smack dab while The Husband was off on not one but two business trips (he was home for about 48 hours between the two), so I was flying solo for all of HRH's meltdowns, hissy fits, and tantrums.
So that In Case of Emergency basically became When You Open This Box.

My girl knows what my emergencies entail.
The contents:

  • Bacon Salt (a Pacific Northwest-based company)
  • Tea (white, black, green, and herbal) - helpful since both Megan and I are trying to cut down/out our coffee intake.
  • Olive oil and balsamic - I'm taking this to San Diego should I come across a salad that's... lacking.
  • Nutella and clotted cream
  • Wine - in a travel size bottle!!!!!
  • Earrings - you never know when you'll be in need of The Shiny
  • Cupcake toppers - it's been known to happen that I went into the kitchen and a cupcake party broke out.
The Bacon Salt, while containing no actual bacon, has a rather delicious bacon-y flavor.  It is great on a hard cooked egg!
The Nutella and cream were devoured with the wine one evening after HRH had been particularly keen on throwing hissy fits; it was the night TH got home from his second trip, and I was worn out.  The combo of the chocolate and cream on toast (I was fresh out of English muffins or crumpets) along with the wine - which I nearly just drank from the bottle with one of HRH's crazy straws - was just what I needed to unwind.
We haven't used the cupcake toppers yet; HRH needs to show a little attitude adjustment, and this heat is making us all basically turn into bears.

Fun fact - if you are headed to a family reunion or some other event that may have you stalling for conversation, get yourself a six pack (or more) of these little travel bottles - they are perfect for The Handbags.

What was so fun was Megan's choice of packing material.  Since she was lucky enough to go to Blogher Food in Seattle, she had an abundance of goodies, including several Pretzel Crisp shopping bags, so she used them to pack everything in.  She knows me too well - reusable bags as the reusable packing material!
The only down side of this is that when I use said bags at the grocery store, the clerks all feel compelled to tell me that Pretzel Crisps are on sale or that they just got some in stock that day like I'm some Pretzel Crisp junkie who can't stop. 
Which might be true.  I can't verify that right now.
Having friends such as these five ladies really shows that The Internet isn't as scary as a place as some people might think, and boy has it been fun getting to know them all.  While some day we hope to all live on the same street à la Desperate Housewives but without The Crazies, for now, these packages share a lot more than just gifts; they are creating a bond that time zones and state lines can't contain.

Check out what everyone else received at the 50-yard line of The Packages, too!
Then, round up your favorite blogging buddies or other friends from across the country and schedule a gift exchange of your own!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Smoothie Operator

Now that Cocktail Week is officially over, this blog needs some detox!  To be totally honest with y'all, while I wanted to try each and every delicious cocktail that was posted by all my girls last week, I knew that if I were to do so, I'd probably just be waking up in a ditch with my pants on backwards somewhere.
And that's just really not how I roll.  So they have been bookmarked, jotted down, and even pinned for future reference, and I can return my focus back to consuming better, more healthful Things.
And that's why I'm so excited for July (when one lives in Arizona, there are few things about July over which to get excited).  This month, Charissa over at Colourful Palate is challenging readers to drink a smoothie a day - it's the Colourful Smoothie Challenge!

I love smoothies.  I mean, who doesn't?  They're basically a milkshake you don't feel badly about inhaling through the largest straw in the house, since, when done properly, they are made with all sorts of good things for the body.  What makes smoothies far superior to juice, in my opinion, is that since everything is blended together, none of the nutrients in the fruits and veggies are lost like they are in the juicing process.
Oh, and can I mention how easy it is to make them?  Basically, any smoothie recipe probably started out like this:

*person looks in fruit bowl and veggie bins*
"Hmmmm.... what can I make myself that will be fast and easy and use the foods I have?  I KNOW!  I'll take this, this, and this, and I'll whip those bad boys up in my blender!"

Smoothie recipe.

This is a great opportunity, too, for the newest addition to the kitchen staff to show off what he can do.  Cato is our new KitchenAid blender, and I love what he's done so far.  I'll be putting him to work quite a bit this summer, and especially through this month of the Colourful Smoothie Challenge.

My biggest concern is that we are spending this coming weekend in San Diego, so I'll have to seek out juice and smoothie bars in the area of our hotel in order to keep the trend going.  Hopefully I won't be stuck with large, national chains that make their "smoothies" out of juice, sugar, and ice cubes (not naming names, but it rhymes with Bamba Puce).

Now, this is a challenge, and there are possible prizes involved, but I really want to participate in this because I think that it will be a good way for me to challenge myself to try different smoothie combos instead of getting stuck on the same, albeit delicious, ones for weeks on end.  Charissa has some great-sounding smoothie recipes on her blog, and I've found quite a few others on other favorite sites that I'm looking forward to mixing up, too.
The goal this week is to clean out the fruit bowl and the veggie bins before we head out of town.  I've got peaches, berries, cherries, honeydew, limes, a carrot, and plenty of kale to work with, so I'm confident that each day this week before we're gone will be a new and exciting menu item.
What's up first?  In the spirit of the Challenge, I thought I'd try a take on Charissa's strawberry and vanilla milkshake (yes, she calls it a milkshake, but it's actually a smoothie that just tastes like it should be bad for you) that she posted over at the Fitfluential blog (where I first learned of the challenge).  What's more - all the ingredients are in my house.  Winning.
Bottoms up!

What is your favorite smoothie recipe?
Are you a fan of the green smoothies?