Thursday, August 29, 2013

One Kitchen, Many Hearts - The Office Edition

While I'd love to be able to tell you that I sit around all day and think of hilariously pithy things to post in Twitter, the fact is that I have two full-time jobs.  I teach, and I am a mom of one very busy four-year-old.  Since I actually work from home, those two jobs generally overlap, and sometimes I just want to run screaming from the house because of everything on my to do list that I know will never be place on the done pile.
The rest of our One Kitchen, Many Hearts "gang of seven" are in similar situations.  Among us, we're juggling parenthood, school, and careers.  Our blogs allow us to have an outlet where we can be creative and even selfish when we need to be.

As such, we felt that it was appropriate to theme this month's round of gift giving as "Office Essentials."
And while I love new office organizational tools and get a little giddy each time I buy a new calendar (which I use as my running log), we naturally allowed a creative license to be taken, as sometimes essentials for work aren't just needed 9-5.
Kat, who is my soul sister in so many ways, shipped me exactly what I needed to keep on keepin' on in my home office, where sometimes my main essential is to try to see my desk under all the princesses, My Little Ponies, and fairies.

Nail polish and beer.  Specifically, a sampling of one of Kat's favorite breweries, New Glarus Brewing Company.  Pictured above was their Two Women lager, a collaborative effort with a sister brewery (almost literally - both breweries are run by women), and Moon Man No Coast pale ale.  I am not normally a fan of pale ales and really don't care of IPAs, but holy pine!  This was fantastic!  I'm sold.
Now, you may be worried that since the beer came in a package intended for the office, I'm drinking on the job.  Fear not.  My office is blue.  But it's nice to know that after a long, hard day, there is something delicious waiting for me in the fridge.
As for the nail polish, well, duh.  The necessity of colorful mitts and paws in any situation, office or otherwise, goes without saying.

Case in point - my first taste was the Berliner Weiss, which was crisp and citrusy and refreshing to the point of ridiculous.  In the best way.

And then.  

And yes, it came out of the package just like this, emitting an almost holy glow that spoke of the wonders inside.
Kat has talked about Dragon's Milk for... ever.  She told someone the other day that it is "the best of all beers" and recommended to me that I savor it with a cookie, which I plan to do this weekend after my long run (it just so happens that Jeanne sent HRH and me a batch of oatmeal cookies that, if I can keep my grubby mitts off them, I can enjoy with the Dragon's Milk).  I will keep you posted, but if the other three bottles were any indication, this one is going to be heavenly.

There were also some chocolate candies that Kat picked up while she was on the European adventure of a lifetime, but sadly, they did not survive to have their photos taken.  I can assure you that their deaths were delicious.

Now, HRH has gotten to an age at which she assumes any package that comes to our door is actually for her.  She's cute like that.  I guess Kat knew she was expected to provide, and provide she did.

HRH directed this photo shoot to prominently feature her ponies.
At nearly five, HRH is actually able to comprehend books that are more in depth than this, but this is actually perfect for her right now.  The princesses are a given.  She loves them.  But right now, we've taken a few steps back with her books in order to practice her new-found reading skills.  She gets a little overwhelmed when there are too many words on a page, and if there are unfamiliar words, she'll start to shut down.  This book only has a handful of words per page, and HRH can read this one with comfort, and even though it's really, really, REALLY repetitive for us, that repetition is giving her confidence as a reader.
So much, in fact, that she took the book to school for Show and Tell today.  Her plans are to read the book for her classmates.
Kat also sent what is probably the most essential office item - a new coloring and activity book for HRH to use while I'm working.  HRH is at that age at which she can play by herself a lot of the time, but she also wants to do things with me, and I'm increasingly feeling guilty about the fact that I just can't.
This was a fantastic and fun spin on what I might need to fight the daily office drudgeries, and I"m immensely grateful to Kat for putting so much thought into it.
Also, we are currently negotiating a marshmallows-for-beer swap situation that I think will benefit both parties immensely.

But check out all the other office goodies that were sent; you may discover something you didn't know you needed for YOUR office.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

She Put the Lime in the Marshmallow, She Ate it All Up

If we're being honest, I tend to prefer lime over lemon.  With the exception of lemon curd, which is one of The Best Things Ever, I just feel like lime is a little more exciting in things.
Thus, with the success of my attempts with lemon and orange, it was only a matter of time before I put the lime in the marshmallow and ate it all up.

Lime Marshmallows
adapted (once again) from the irreplaceable Jenni at Pastry Chef Online
  • 4 1/2 Tbsp gelatin (about 5 envelopes)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tsp cold water (I also added a splash of lime juice, for giggles)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lime extract
  • 1 Tbsp lime zest plus more for tossing
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup (you can also use rice syrup or honey)
  • 1 cup lime syrup (formula below)
  • water
  • combination of corn starch and powdered (icing) sugar, about 1:1 ratio
Combine the water, lime zest, and lime extract in the bowl of a mixer.  Sprinkle gelatin over the mixture and stir to combine, being careful to get rid of any lumps.  Set aside.
Spray a 9X13 pan with either pan spray or coat with oil (I use my Misto and olive oil).  Line the pan with plastic wrap, and then coat the top of the plastic wrap with oil.  Coat completely with your powdered sugar and corn starch mixture.  I've played around with how much, and what I've found works well for me is to coat completely and then tap out the excess.  This makes, for me, a less clumpy end product.  Set the pan aside.
Bring sugar and syrups (and a splash of water) to a boil.  Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 244° (the soft ball stage).  
When the syrup mixture reaches about 235°, turn on the mixer, using the whisk attachment, to low or medium low.
As soon as the syrup reaches the proper temperature, remove and pour into the mixing bowl, continuing to whisk on low/medium low.  
Gradually raise the speed of the mixer from light speed all the way to ludicrous speed.  Continue to whip until the mixture has about tripled inside (read: you're fearful it will overflow) and it starts to come off the sides of the bowl in small threads.
Using a large spatula liberally coated with pan spray or olive oil, pour the marshmallow cream into the prepared pan, carefully spreading it out evenly.  Take a pause to lick the spatula before throwing it in the sink.
Sift the corn starch-powdered sugar combination over the top of the marshmallows, making sure that you can't see any of the shiny mallows under the snowy powder.  Allow to sit, uncovered, in a coonhound-proof area for several hours or overnight.
Once the marshmallows are set, invert the pan over a large cutting board.  Use the plastic wrap to easily remove the marshmallows from the pan.  Cut into one inch cubes, tossing each in more corn starch and powdered sugar before storing in an airtight container for about a week (or however long the mallows last).  Sprinkle with a little extra lime zest for a bit more of a zing, if you like (I like).

Lime Syrup
  • equal parts sugar and water
  • as much lime zest as you want

Heat all ingredients so that the sugar dissolves completely.  Allow to simmer until the syrup is slightly reduced.  Cool completely and store in the refrigerator.  When ready to use, strain out the zest.
I've seen some ingredients strain the zest when the syrup has cooled, but I think it packs a bigger punch if it's allowed to steep for a day or so.  It's up to you.

Like the lemon marshmallows, these beauties offer a tart accent that offsets the sweetness of what is essentially sugar, sugar, and more sugar.  It's a rather unique taste combination that offers a hint of the relief from the Arizona heat that's found in lemonade and lime slushies.  I can almost feel the double digit temps again when I have seven three one of these marshmallows.  Ahhhhh....

Monday, August 26, 2013

Take My Blood - PLEASE!

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that blood donation is important to me.  Before I really get into this post (it's probably going to be long), I want to rewind for a moment and explain why.

I was never a blood donor when I was younger, although my mom went (and still do go) regularly.  My high school held an annual blood drive, but I always managed to get out of it, since the drive was always during track season and always right before a meet.  Even after my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer during the spring of my junior year, my dread of needles superseded the "do a good thing" aspect of blood donation.
I started to get the picture when I came to ASU.  My dad had to fly out to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for a new radiation treatment in the fall of my freshman year, and it began to dawn on me that he had needed blood during all of his previous surgeries (that I didn't realize that this is what a great deal of the blood supply before this point goes to shows my naiveté and perhaps even how much my parents sheltered me from the reality of my dad's illness).  At one point, I remember talking with my dorm neighbor, and in the course of our discussion, he told me that his parents had donated blood before their own surgeries, in essence pre-donating to themselves.  At the time, this neighbor, who had admitted to me that his parents had their share of health problems, was one of the few people on my floor who knew how sick my dad had been.  Later that semester, we attempted to go give blood at the annual ASU-UofA blood drive competition, which I believe is now part of the Duel in the Desert series, but by the time we got there, the drive had ended (it took me a week to get up the courage to even go).
After that, I kind of brushed it off until the summer before my final semester.  The radiation that my dad had gone through had necessitated stents be placed from his kidneys to... I'm not sure.  Wherever the kidneys drain to or something.  These stents were temporary and had to be replaced fairly often.  But then one of them caused a hemorrhage.  And the doctors couldn't stanch the bleeding for a really long time.  In fact, because of the intensity of the hemorrhage, it took them some time to be able to locate the source of the bleeding.  Later in the summer, he was transferred to the University of Washington Medical Center because his condition, caused by his bleeding, continued to worsen.  I had recently come back from a summer abroad program in Germany, and I flew up to be with my parents.
While he was in the ICU at UW, I finally managed to give my first pint of blood.  It was not easy.  Spending the majority of my days in the dry hospital meant that I was fairly dehydrated, so it took me a looooooong time to get that pint out.  But I did, finally.  And the nurses who were working the blood drive expressed such amazing gratitude over a substance I had truly taken for granted.

In the last weeks of his life, my dad needed over 100 units (pints) of blood.  This was enough to replace his entire body's store of blood more than ten times.  Because of 100 anonymous O+ donors, I was able to spend some more time with him, and most importantly, I was able, one week before he left this world, to tell him that I loved him.  And he was able, even in his heavily sedated state, to tell me the same.
And then he was gone.

Donating blood will never bring my dad back to me.  No matter how many pints I give, he is gone.  But those pints can perhaps help someone else express their feelings to a loved one, may afford a person see a parent one last time, or they can even save someone's life so that it isn't that one last time.
Since my dad died, I have realized that donating blood is something so simple but that can also do so much good, and I have made donating part of who I am.  One of my proudest accomplishments is establishing a blood drive at one of the schools where I used to work, which continues to be successful and collect much-needed blood each year.
As such, I've educated myself on my blood type, how many times a year I'm eligible to donate, and through which type of donation my blood will be best utilized.
So when I was asked earlier this year if I could donate platelets rather than whole blood, I agreed.  It's a longer process, but my blood type, A+, best served that need, so I willingly sat down for the ninety-minutes, knowing that I was doing the most good at that time.
You can imagine my disappointment, then, when I received a letter not too long after my donation informing me that my platelets could not be used due to the presence of an antibody to Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) that was found during the testing that is done to blood after the donation.  According to the letter, pregnancy can cause the antibody, which isn't harmful to me, but it can cause reactions in transplant patients.  However, the letter assured me that I was still able to donate whole blood, so while I was disappointed, I wasn't overly distraught knowing that I could still do something good every few months.
I'm not going to go into how frustrating it was to make an appointment after that letter; since I now have a "block" on one or more donation types, I can no longer make an appointment to donate blood online, which is honestly the most convenient method for me.  I'd hope that someone could figure out a simple filter so that I could continue to make my online appointments.
Instead, I'm going to go into how frustrating the wording of the most recent letter I received after finally managing to make an appointment to go in and donate whole blood.
If you've never donated blood before, you need to know that there are a series of interview questions and then a handful of tests before you're even allowed on the donation floor.  The interview asks about health, family history, and lifestyle, all of which could affect the viability of one's blood.  That's how they knew to run my blood through an extra test - women are always asked if they have been pregnant before (or if they are now pregnant).  People with family history of certain known diseases (such as Creutzfeld-Jakob disease) or those who have traveled to different parts of the world for a certain amount of time or more are rendered ineligible.  I was also once deferred because the tech working with me determined that I had an irregular heartbeat, something my actual doctor wasn't able to also determine.  It was my only non-iron related deferment.
One of the other tests that are conducted is the "finger prick" test to ensure that potential donors have enough iron in their blood to donate without risking anemia.  There is a range of acceptable iron levels. I've always fallen in the lower end of the range; there have been occasions when my count was too low and was deferred.  This is not uncommon for many women; due to menstruation and lower testosterone levels, women tend to have lower iron levels than men and sometimes have markedly lower levels if they try to donate during specific parts of their cycles.  When I've been deferred, I've always managed to bring it back up by the next attempt, usually through diet if not also careful timing of my appointments.
At my most recent appointment, my iron levels were once again in the lower range, but they were still within the margin of "normal" or "acceptable."  My pulse, blood pressure, and temperature were also normal, and I still have not spent enough time in Europe or the United Kingdom to be refused.  I was good to go, and a short time later, I was snacking on popcorn and cookies during the mandatory 15-minute post-donation waiting period, during which they fill you up with water and tasty (and often salty) snacks.
Not a week later, I received another letter.
Another f***ing letter.
Here is what the letter stated (in part):

"Thank you for your recent donation.  At that time your hemoglobin level was at the low end of the normal range, so we did an additional test on your blood for ferritin (a protein that stores iron).  The result of this test for iron deficiency show a low value; we're notifying you because this may be important to your health."
The letter went on to tell me exactly what my ferritin level was.
"What does this test result mean?  A ferritin level less than 12 is significant and may mean that you are at high risk for developing iron deficiency anemia.
If you are a whole blood or red cell donor, you must wait 24 weeks...before your next donation to rebuild your iron stores."

And then I was given a toll-free number to call if I had any questions.
I'm not sure I can express how truly upset I was to receive this letter.
I need to clarify that I fully comprehend the need to test blood for viability.  There is no substitute for human blood, but that which is donated must be free of illness because it is always given to someone whose immune system is in some way compromised, be it shock (accident victims), chemotherapy, or even surgery.  The risk for contamination is ridiculously high, which is why every time a disease like sickle cell anemia, AIDS, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (commonly called mad cow disease) becomes a true danger, people whose risk is considered higher for being exposed to them are taken off the eligible list (for basically forever).
Likewise, I understand that donors need to keep themselves healthy.  Because only about 10% of the donor-eligible population (which makes up less than 40% of the actual populace of the US) actually do donate blood at some point in their lives, the need for blood is always great, and the health community wants to keep donors on the donating end rather than on the receiving end.  I take care to consume foods that are rich in iron and also those which help my body absorb that iron as much as possible.  I also try to take a multi-vitamin, but I really kind of suck at doing that every day.

Here is why I was so upset and what I don't understand.  My hemoglobin levels were lower, yes, but as the letter indicated, they were still within the "normal range."  So.... my hemoglobin was still within the acceptable range, but it still necessitated an additional test, which resulted in benching me for the next six months.
Here is how I heard this: you are earning a D in the class.  This is still passing, but you're going to be placed on an individualized education plan (IEP) and given special education services because you're not performing at an acceptable level.   Oh, and you're also going to be held back a semester.
Anyone who is in education knows that sometimes, students earn Ds.  Sometimes, it's for lack of effort.  Sometimes, students do need IEPs because their performance in some areas is held back due to many possible learning disabilities.  Sometimes, it's for extenuating circumstances that children just shouldn't have to deal with.
But sometimes, it's just a weak area.
That doesn't mean a student is "stupid" or "incapable," and it certainly doesn't mean that every child who is performing below "average" needs an IEP or needs to take a class over.  It just means that sometimes, someone might bust his butt every day and earn that D with as much pride as the person who earned the A with ease.
Sometimes, my hemoglobin levels are a little lower.  But they're still in the normal range.  And I'm feeling like the kid who was called stupid and got held back because I didn't have an A.

What further frustrates me is that this test is only one isolated piece of data.  Now, I am not asking United Blood Services (UBS) to consider every single one-off situation that might arise with hemoglobin, ferritin, and whatever else levels in every single person's blood stream.  But certainly, if there is a test that can ascertain that I have the HLA antibody and then another test that can look for ferritin, there must be one to measure other hormones that ebb and flow for women.  And, based on my own cycle, I know that both my hemoglobin and ferritin were likely low because my hormone levels dropped like a sack of potatoes that weekend.  If I had been paying better attention to where I was in my cycle, I probably would have made my appointment for a different date

Testing is expensive; I know this.  Putting blood samples through an extra litany of tests, multiplied by the number of blood samples that must be tested means that more money is spent on tests than on other areas that might help the blood banks like UBS.
But I am part of that 10% of that 38% of the population who wants to give blood.  Repeatedly.  For no pay save the Corn Nuts and popcorn that are available at the donation center.  I do it because I don't want to be the pint of blood that creates an "if only" situation for a family.  I am right here, United Blood Services, willing to endure extreme "discomfort" as the anticoagulant on the needle hits my skin, in order that someone else doesn't have to extreme endure pain elsewhere.  I walk through those doors ready to donate a pint.  And now I am turned away for half a year.  In that time I could donate three times.  I could help save nine lives.

While I am going to call that toll free number I was given and try to fight this as I choke down an extra helping of kale, I have a request for my readers who are also eligible donors.  Even if you have never donated before, even if you wince at the thought of asking to be poked with a needle, please consider making an appointment in the next 24 weeks.  Please go donate in my stead so that the blood supply does not go without even a single pint for that time.  Every day, 44,000 blood donations are needed.  Every two seconds, someone needs a transfusion.  That's 1800 people in the last hour.  What did you do in that hour?   If you're scared, know that many people in there are scared.  I can't even look at the needle.  EVER.  But imagine how much scarier it is for that child who is watching a parent slip away.  It tends to put everything into perspective.
Please, if you can, won't you step up and donate while I can't?
And then, maybe, you'll want to donate again once you realize how much good sitting still can do.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Workout Wednesday - Back in Training

For a while, I've been toying with the idea of finding a full marathon to complete.  I never thought I'd actually WANT to do one.  But then again, I never thought I'd want to do a 10K, either, so there's that.
But with the 15-year marker of my dad's passing coming up in 2014, I kind of wanted to honor him in a way that I hadn't before, and I thought that running a marathon, by which I could also raise money for the Colon Cancer Alliance in my efforts to eradicate this cancer that took my dad from me, would be a perfect gesture.
There are just two things wrong with my plan.
The first one is that I don't really like the idea of marking how long it's been since he died.  I began running to honor the memory of his wonderful, albeit too short, life, so it would be almost hypocritical of me to make the jump to the full marathon in memory of when that beautiful life ceased.  And even my dad both joined this world and left it during the same month - October - I think that I'd be better off focusing my efforts elsewhere.  I'm thinking about something in 2017, which would mark his 70th birthday, instead.
The second issue is that I'm starting my masters, and I don't want to commit to any marathon until I'm done with that.  Being a full time parent, wife, teacher, and student will take up enough of my time, I'm sure.
But I haven't had anything on my calendar since Pat's Run in April except the CCA's Undy 5000, which is always on my schedule, and I wanted to push myself further again.  I've already decided to do the Lost Dutchman half marathon in February, even though my masters start date is (hopefully) January.  But that left my fall literally empty.
When I was looking for a 26.2 for next year, I was steered to the Peoria Halloween Marathon, which takes place the weekend right before Halloween.  It's really the only full marathon I was able to find in Arizona in the month of October, so it would have been perfect for my original plan.  But it also works extremely well THIS year for a half marathon, so I'm signing up for it, and training has begun.
I loved using the Marathoning for Mortals book (by John "The Penguin Bingham and Jenny Hadfield) for my first half marathon.   It made the distance completely obtainable, mentally, and I felt extremely well prepared to run the distance on the morning of the race.  But this time, I've opted to use Hal Higdon's Novice 2 plan.  This one was created for the runner who has run a race (or two, maybe) but isn't quite ready to make the jump to the super serious training expected in his Intermediate plan.  Basically, it's perfect for me.  I'd like to do better than my first time, but I also just want to finish and have fun while I train, too.
Of course, being able to follow a calendar is a skill that, apparently, is completely beyond my comprehension.  I thought, ALL of last week, that I was ready to start training this week with Week 1.
Then, all of a sudden, I looked at the calendar and realized I was thinking a week behind.  Technically, I should have started the week of the 4th.
Last week.  Not this week.
So, oops.
I jumped in to the plan on Saturday, running the 4 miles that were on the calendar, and it was fine.  Even though I took a week off running, those miles felt really great.  Since it's still ridiculously hot, I ran two miles with Zooey, and then dropped her off at home before doing two more.  I'll likely be doing something of that nature until it either cools down or forever, depending on her energy levels (I hate to admit that she's almost middle aged).  I was crazy tired that night, but I felt better Sunday, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this plan, which has me running three days in a row during the week, will be on my legs and body.
Even with these two races added in, I'm pretty sure I won't meet my mileage goal for this year, but I'm OK with that.  Considering that the first four months of this year, which are prime running weather months here in Arizona, I was sidelined by plenty of injury and illness, I'm going to plan on calling 2013 a win in the mileage column anyway.
I'm really looking forward to hitting longer runs soon, even if I have to leave Zooey at home for them (she didn't like being left home, by the way - she was barking at me as I left as if to say, "Hey! You forgot me!"), and now that I know what I'm capable of for the half marathon, I'm excited at the prospect of working on my pacing, etc., so help me become a better runner.  Hopefully I'll see everything come to fruition at the finish line.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Stride Box - August 2013

That I receive my Stride Box in the first week of each month was really a godsend this August.  While many states don't go back to school until after Labor Day, we've already had our first week here in Arizona (schools that follow the modified year-round schedule have been back even longer).  Regardless of how long I've been teaching, the first week is always stressful.  Glitches happen.  Hiccups happen.  Students and parents get confused/frustrated/angry at you because of various and sundry incidents.  Rarely has a first week of school gone by when I did NOT question my choice of profession.
This week was no different (I even got yelled at by a parent who thought one of my assignments was a waste of time, even though the assignment, which was intended for the students to show how well they knew they word processing software, proved that the student didn't know how to use her word processing software, soooooooo.......).  One of the bright spots was being able to tear into my August Stride Box to see all of this:

This month's contents:

  • 2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel (double expresso) - After gagging on Gu a few times, I'm just not sure I'm up to this, especially because the non-fruit flavors make me a little sick just thinking about them.  But now that I'm in training again (more on that later), I'm glad that I have some samples in my arsenal to try out now in case I find something that works for me.
  • Gatorade Endurance Energy Chews (fruit punch and orange) - I'm not really a fan of either flavor or of the Gatorade ingredient list, but I confess that I ate both packages this week, although I hadn't run (I figured it was better than ice cream for stress eating?), and they were both pretty tasty.  I like gummy chews, so these could be something I'd consider using on a run, or if they were offered during a race, I'd certainly grab a handout.
  • Gatorade Endurance Formula (lemon-lime) - OK, so fun fact: the lemon-lime was always the ONLY flavor of Gatorade that I liked.  I don't like fruit punch at all, and the orange is just too... blech.  Anyway, when I was pregnant, I had to go through the gestational diabetes test twice (they didn't tell me to fast before the first one - the yogurt I had sent my test results into orbit).  For the first test, when I I had to choose the flavor of the solution, which I describe like if Karo syrup and Gatorade had a baby, I chose orange (options were fruit punch or orange).  The second time, all they had to offer was fruit punch.  Gag.  I remember being so thankful that pregnancy hadn't ruined lemon-lime for me.  And THEN I had my colonoscopy.  And what did I choose for my prep flavor?  Yep.  Lemon-lime.  Two 32-ounce bottles of lemon-lime Gatorade later, and I was OVER the one flavor I had liked.  So imagine the look of horror on my face when I saw this.  Sure, it's been a few years since I had the procedure, and I've definitely been able to have some citrus-flavored items (among the Gu that I can handle, the lemon-lime flavor is one of my favorites), but I still kind of shudder at the thought.  I want to clarify that this is NOT Gatorade's fault.  But I'm just not sure I'm ready to have flashbacks quite yet.
  • KIND maple-glazed pecan and sea salt bar - I love KIND bars.  Love them.  And maple? That's my JAM.  I knew this guy would be sacrificed quickly, and I actually ate it during a stress eating moment, too.  No regrets.  I'd buy these by the boxful.
  • Health Warrior chia bar (coconut) - Another stress eating victim - this little guy was a great nibble when I was hungry and angry and hangry but wasn't able to make anything.  It was pretty filling, too!  I could definitely see this as a post-run snack.  If it had managed to stick around that long.  I'd kind of like to taste their acai flavor, too.
  • Island Boost Fuel (passion fruit) - Like I mentioned with 2nd Surge, I'm a little leery of gels on my belly, but I like the idea of having a fruit flavor, so this one may be used before the other.
  • Stride Cool post-run cooling towel - this is something every runner in Arizona (or other hot places) needs.  I've been making makeshift ones from rags when we go on runs - I prep one for me and another for Zooey before we head out (I put Zooey's on her chest when we get back - this way the blood pumping to and from her heart get cool faster, thus cooling the rest of her body faster as well), but now I'm all fancy with an ACTUAL towel made for ACTUAL cooling.  Zooey still gets a rag, but she doesn't care.  She usually doesn't want to have anything to do with it anyway.
As I've become a more dedicated runner, I've started paying more and more attention to what I put in my mouth, and part of that is what I consume before or during a run.  There are so many items out there on the market right now, and while some of the samples that Stride Box sends aren't going to be my cup of tea, whether because I just didn't like them or because I have concerns about ingredients, I'm excited to have the option to try just one before I go out and order a whole bunch of things that intrigue me while I'm wasting time on the interwebs.
What's your favorite Stride Box item?  What would you like to see come to your door?