Friday, February 26, 2010

a day of firsts

About a month ago I was introduced to a very cool blogger, Leslie, who writes about healthy living and food. I originally met her through aquaBling because she hosted a review and giveaway on her blog, but I just can't help but keep reading! Her blog is fun and informative, and we share a lot of the same interests, like running and good food. Plus, she is darn cute! 

The other day she blogged about a drink she is hooked on, called the green monster.  This is basically a spinach smoothie, and I have to tell you, it both intrigued me and frightened me.  I do like spinach but do not often eat it, so I thought this would be a good time to try it.  This is the recipe I used:
          3 cups spinach (I used three big handfulls. I cook and don't bake, therefore I rarely 
                                      use measuring cups)
          1 banana
          1 cup almond milk (I actually used regular milk, since I live in a teensy tiny town that doesn't
                                        sell almond milk.  Plus, I need the calcium)
          1 tbsp flax seed
          2 handfulls ice

To the left is what things look like in the blender before the mixing.  It is a little intimidating, since all you can see is spinach, ice, and milk, and  couldn't really picture those ingredients making a tasty drink.  My kids were not impressed, either, although both of the boys wanted to press the blender buttons.  They're both so helpful, you know.

The picture to the right shows everything all blended to perfection and waiting to be consumed.  You really have to blend this for quite awhile to make sure that all of the spinach is blended.  I think I was blending for a good four to five minutes, and the drink didn't take on that really green color until the very end.  I think that's a good indication that it is done.

Now, the gazillion dollar question...was it good?  Yes, it was delicious, actually.  The spinach and banana combined together to produce a very smooth, botanical taste that is just delightful.  I haven't ever had anything quite like that, so I can't compare it to anything.  But, I can tell you that when I was finished, I kind of wanted more.  I think that is a good indication that it was yummy.  I tried to get my kids to try it...but I think I lost them at "spinach". 

One thing that I did notice is that you really need to have this drink be ice cold.  I tried to drink some of Elaine's leftovers, and it had warmed up a bit by this point and didn't taste as good as when it was really cold.  I will definitely keep drinking these, though! If anyone has any cool variations on this recipe, let me know.  I'm up for anything!

shakti mayhem

I have been reading a lot lately on the symbiotic relationship between yoga and running.  I love running. I am an avid runner.  I feel so much stronger and healthier since I got back into it, and I love that I can pull off skinny jeans at least three out of every four weeks every month.  Something that I am really not good about, though, is the post-run stretching.  I know that this is really important in preventing injury, but I have to say that I have so many things going on in any given day that I can barely make time for my running, let alone a nice stretch afterward.  So, I thought that if I started to incorporate yoga into my days off and/or an evening ritual, I would get the benefits of increased flexibility and strength.  After consulting numerous yoga blogs and reading several articles, I decided to take the plunge and try my first DVD, Yoga Shakti, which claims to be good for beginners.  We will see! 

One cool thing about this journey is that I have a ten year old daughter who is very interested and excited about getting up and doing yoga with me in the mornings.  I think this is a fabulous introduction into healthy living, and this morning was a really fun and special time for us. The video started off with some deep breathing exercises, and honestly, I was a little worried that I am not "zen" enough for yoga.  It was like four minutes of deep breathing, and I started to get a little bored and wanted to move onto the next step.  Elaine was so funny, because we both looked at each other after about three minutes of this and she said, "Are we going to just do this for like 5 minutes or something?"  Too funny.

Well, the deep breathing finally ended and we moved onto the next part of the video, the "Salutation to the Sun".  I now understand why all the deep breathing was necessary, because this was tough!  I have never been the most flexible person in the world (remember the sit and reach test when you were a kid? I was always like a -1 or 0), but I was surprised by how inflexible I was.  While it was a little discouraging, it really demonstrated the fact that I definitely need to be doing yoga!

Moving on, the next section that came on was entitled "backbends".  The thought of doing a backbend scared Elaine and I at first, but as we started doing the exercises, we realized that we wouldn't actually be doing any backbends (yet), but just getting our spine and muscles prepared for them sometime down the road.  This was intensely challenging, as I don't remember the last time I leaned back far enough to see behind me. Also, about this time my one year old woke up, and did not like Mommy doing yoga, so was yelling, "No, Mommy. Stop it," at me and grabbing my neck, adding another level of difficulty to my yoga.

The last section we did (since both boys are up by this time and Mom can't do anything but tend to their needs) involved stretching our legs out.  This felt really good, since I have tight hamstrings from running. I can definitely tell that this will be helpful to me.

All in all, I absolutely loved yoga, and will most definitely do this several times a week. Since it is my first experience with yoga I am not familiar with the pose names, and so had to keep looking at the t.v. to see what Shiva Rea was doing.  I would definitely recommend just watching the video once before doing it, so you have some idea of what the poses are.  The video is great, though, and Shiva Rea does an excellent job of showing both the beginner and more advanced pose options.  I would most definitely recommend this video to anyone wanting to try yoga out for themselves.

Elaine did a fantastic job this morning, and she is excited about continuing her yoga workouts.  Since she is getting older, it is getting more and more difficult to spend quality time together.  Plus, she is not a natural athlete, and so is really uninterested in being involved with sports.  This presents an interesting (but very common) challenge when trying to teach your kids how to live healthy lifestyles.  By doing yoga together, she benefits from physical activity, and we get to spend some really great time together.  Once we are a little more familiar with our poses, I envisioning us taking a lesson from an actual teacher, so she can evaluate our forms and let us know how we are looking, maybe followed by a pedicure.  It could be a fun girl's day!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

total drama hairdo

So...I am a rooty, dry-haired mess these days. I have not been to the salon for several months, and it definitely shows. Part of the reason for this is that my salon, the Agape Salon in Sioux Falls, is 60 miles away from where I live. The second part is that my stylist, Liz, is always booked. It is totally worth it, though. The salon is fabulous, and Liz is the best. I have never had better haircuts or color in my life. I have even had other stylists remark about Liz's skilled hands. Once, after months of missing the hairdresser (seeing a theme, here? I do this regularly), I couldn't stand myself another day and decided to just go somewhere else. The stylist who was cutting my hair kept telling me that my cut was a really good cut, and this was after months of just letting it grow! Wow. Needless to say, I was not happy with my results at that place, and so made an appointment to see Liz ASAP to fix it. I'm tentatively scheduled for early I hope it works out. I'm guessing everybody who has to look at me these days does, too.

I always obsess about possible hairstyles right before I get it cut. I seem to really love either really long hair or really short hair, although I have never actually had either of those. Every time I see one of those Olsen twins, my heart just aches for their hair. They have really perfected the long, wavy, semi-dirty look that I just love. I really think that this hair would go with just about everything I own. However, they are a good decade younger than I am, so I always wonder if this hair is just too young for me? Can women in their mid-thirties rock some long, grungy waves? I just don't know.
The other hairstyle I always go for is the Sienna Miller short cut. I should take this moment to let you know that I am a blonde, and so I am kind of drawn to the blonde styles. Every time I have taken a photo of a brunette with a cute cut into the hairdresser, they always give me a huge speech about how texture and color make a difference, and my hair won't look anything like the picture if we cut it like that. Blah, blah, blah. As much as I don't want to hear that, the hairdressers have been right every time. save myself the heartache, I just look at blondes. At any rate...people have told me that I kind of resemble Sienna Miller (they were always drunk when they said this), and so I can really see this type of style on me, as well. The problem with really short hair is that when I get up in the mornings to run or go to boot camp, my short hair will be sticking straight up in the air. Long hair is nice, because you can always rock a pony or a braid if your tresses look terrible. With short hair...not so much. You really can't even hide under a hat. How many times have you seen a woman with short hair look great in a ball cap? Never? That's because it doesn't happen.
I think the main reason I haven't ever had really long or short hair is simply because I lack the conviction. It takes work and patience (and regular salon visits) to grow hair long and have it look great. My hair will grow to shoulder length and stop growing...and then I just get sick of it and lop it off. But not too short, because it takes effort (and regular salon visits) to keep short hair looking great. Plus, if it looks terrible...I'm just stuck looking ridiculous for at least 6 weeks.
I have until early March to decide. Until apologies to everyone who has to look at me regularly, and I will try to wear a hat.

Monday, February 8, 2010

vomit and poop and racing...oh my!

Well, this weekend was an interesting one, for sure. Both of my boys came down with some type of stomach bug, and so from Thursday night to Saturday night they were both throwing up and had diarrhea. Why is it that kids are never sick during the day? I swear to kids can be perfectly cheerful and playful all day long, but when midnight hits...they are suddenly violently ill. It makes for some really long days, since we are up all night cleaning them up, then up all day playing with our happy kids who are supposed to be sick but aren't. At one point I just wanted them to start feeling bad, just so we could sit and watch a movie or something. No such luck. At any rate, now everyone is on the mend (finally).

I also ran in the Frostbite Four race this weekend. This is the only winter race around, and so there are lots of runners who sign up for and run this race every year. This was my first time running this one, and it was not my best day.

First off, I was horribly sleep deprived, having spent Thursday and Friday nights up all night with sick babies. Hindsight being what it is, I probably should have just cancelled; but I think that by Saturday morning I was so ready to get out of the house for a few hours, I would have gladly left for a root canal, let alone a nice run!

Secondly, the race was not at all what I expected. Basically, we met at the High School, and then we were bussed four miles out and expected to run back to the school. I have never spent any time in Beresford, and so had no idea where I was for most of the race. Even better...the busses we were taken to the starting line in were so dirty that we couldn't even see out the windows for the drive. So we really had no idea where we were.

Although it was very warm that day (temps in the 30's), it was snowing very hard, and so it was both slippery and difficult to see. I was glad that I had my YakTrax on. I felt badly for a lot of the runners who didn't have them. They slipped all over the place for the first mile and a half or so.

Another thing that was odd was that there were no fans cheering us on. One thing that I love about racing is the energy of the crowd. Nothing shaves your mile times like running a race with lots of people telling you how great you're doing. There were no fans for this race. It was quiet. Eerily quiet. It should never be that quiet during a race.

One great thing about being bussed out to the starting line is that there is really no option but to finish, and so finish, I did. My official time was 32:54:00, although according to the postings, I am a man, and finished 12th in my age group. Not bad for a guy. If I had run as a girl that day, I would have finished 9th.

The next race on my plate is the St. Patty's Day Mile. I am debating between running the 5 mile race, or running the "Irishman" race, where you run the mile, 5k, and 5 mile races back to back. The miles are not intimidating to me...but the fact that it is racing is. I am not sure I can push it that much for that long. Right now it seems like a good idea...but we'll see how I feel in a few days. Either way, I will make a decision by the end of the week. I'll keep you posted. Really, I'm just looking forward to drinking the beer after the race. What a fabulous way to combine my two beer and running. It just doesn't get any better than that!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

return of the cookie mom

I am the official "cookie mom" for my 10 year-old's girl scout troop, not so much because I love the job...but more for the fact that I love my daughter, and also I got suckered into it last year and nobody else's mom stepped up to the plate this year. While the title, "Official Cookie Mom" sounds like a fun (and yummy) title; it is not nearly as fabulous or glamorous as it sounds. Plus, you don't get any extra cookies. Darn.

I don't know if the general public appreciates the supreme organization that is the Girl Scout Cookie Sales. I mean, you think you're just buying a box of thin mints from a cute girl, right? Think again. The cookie sales are a highly organized and complex process, complete with cutting-edge software for ordering and distribution, relying entirely on the free labor of ignorant moms (like me) who have underestimated the organizational awesomeness of the Girl Scout Council. Let me walk you through the process:

  1. Cookie sales begin. This is the time that you will see cute, little girl scouts popping up all over the place wanting you to buy some cookies from them. This usually lasts about three weeks.

  2. Cookie orders get placed. This is the cookie mom equivalent of "hell week". Cookie moms have to figure out how to navigate a complex ordering system that they have had no formal (or informal, for that matter) training on and ensure the appropriate number of cookies is ordered for each girl within their specific group (which, in the case of my daughter's troop, is thousands). We generally have to have this done in three days.

  3. Cookies are delivered. Usually about three weeks after the orders have been placed, they are sent out on a truck and delivered to the different troops for pickup. Again, this day is ridiculous, since they don't tell you when the truck will arrive, exactly; just the date, and that the moms will receive a call when the truck gets close to town. What this equates to is an entire day where I can't plan anything so I don't miss the cookie truck.

  4. Delivery saga, continued. Once the truck arrives at the drop-off point, mass chaos inevitably ensues, as every cookie mom and/or volunteer waiting undoubtedly knows the fastest, easiest, and best method of getting the cookies unloaded. This usually amounts to a bunch of people running around doing a bunch of different things and wreaking total havoc, while the cookie truck drivers sit and watch with big smiles on their faces (they're the drivers, after all. They don't need to do anything else). Eventually, though, the cookies are delivered to the troops, the parents pick up the cookies, and we all go home to deliver our wares to our customers.

  5. Money turn-in. A couple of weeks after the cookies are sent with each girl to get delivered, each girl is responsible for turning in the money that she collected from her customers. By this time, just about everyone is sick to death of girl scout cookies and everything that goes with them, so it is sometimes necessary for the cookie mom to make some phone calls to the girls to round up the money. Fun. Then, it's back to the cookie ordering system to account for the money, order incentives (prizes equivalent to Chuck-E-Cheese tokens for all the work these girls have done up to this point), and deposit the money in the bank. Whew.

One thing that I do have to say about the entire Girl Scout cookie process, though, is that the girls and their troops do benefit quite a bit from cookie sales. The money that is raised stays within the organization, and the troops get to use it for things they want to do. For instance, my daughter's troop decided they would like to go camping this summer, and the cookie money allowed them to do it, including paying for the campground, food, and fun activities. I was lucky (or, again, insane) enough to be a chaperone for the camping trip. But, that's another post....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

a better way to advertise

I do not understand vanity license plates on cars. Why would anyone pay extra money each year just to have some sort of personalized message on their license plate? Plus, it's usually in code, since messages are limited to like 8 characters or something. So, basically, you've just paid money to have a message nobody understands on your car.

I actually have practical knowledge on this subject. When I was in high school my parents owned a tax business. They, in their attempt to constantly advertise their services, decided it would be a good idea to have "superfast" put on the license plate, since the tax service they owned offered a "Superfast refund". Except that they were only able to have "suprfst" on the license plate. Everybody misread the plate to read "superfest" and totally missed the advertisement, so it was a total waste of money for them. Plus, my sister and I (I am a twin...that's a later post) were teen drivers, so we were driving all over town with a license plate that read "suprfst". Maybe it's just me, but doesn't that seem like an open invitation to a police officer to give out tickets? Good thing he probably didn't understand it, either.

I completely understand that business owners want to utilize every form of nontraditional advertising possible to make people aware of their business. Nearly every tangible item of mine is completely decked out in aquaBling regalia, as a means of advertising my product on the cheap. From stickers, to t-shirts, to goes on and on. But, I don't have a personalized license plate. I think money is better spent on a car window cling. This way you can advertise for your business, and include your logo and all the letters in your business name, making it easy for the public to understand your message.

Anyway...I am pretty excited, because I am working on new packaging for my single aquaBling, and I think we are close to being done. One thing I have learned about getting into retailers is that your product needs to be easy to place. It's best if you have a stand and already packaged, priced products available at a single price. Retailers don't have the time or energy to spend deciding which stand they want, or which pieces, or how many. Make it easy for them, and they are more likely to buy your stuff.

The decision to change packaging was really bittersweet for me. I sell a product that is designed to reduce waste, and so in my mind, by placing it into packaging that had to be thrown away, I was contributing to landfill waste even further. But, I need packaging...hence my dilemma. The solution: recyclable packaging made from recycled materials. Brilliant.

Monday, February 1, 2010

the first of many...

So many of my favorite novels have started off just jumping right into the middle of things, as if receiving a letter from an old friend or something. In this spirit I will begin my blog...

Today is my rest day, and I couldn't be happier, since I am exhausted! Since deciding that I want to run a spring marathon instead of a fall one, I have started logging more miles...and I can feel it. I realized today that I am not getting enough calories these days, and so will make a huge effort to start eating more. Wow. I never thought I would ever be able to say that! The depressing part is that just because I get to eat more doesn't mean that I can eat anything. My best friends, cheese, deep fried foods, and Killian's beer, will still have to be closely monitored to make sure I don't overdo (which sometimes I still do).

This weekend I finally picked up a pair o f YakTrax. If you haven't heard of these, they are a must-have for anyone who runs outside in snowy weather.

Unfortunately, the streets were mostly cleared off this weekend, so I couldn't r eally try them out. We got an inch and a half of snow last night, though, so I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's run.

My first test since returning to school was today. Since the beginning of the semester I had been fooling myself into thinking that I was meeting a group of people a few times a week for a mutual exchange of information. The act of walking into scantron sheets and #2 pencils was a bracing reality check that I will be graded based on my answers from a multiple-choice test.

As if a multiple-choice test has ever been a solid indication of intelligence or information retention. I am not entirely sure my professor even buys into the whole "test" thing. In fact, she calls them "multiple guess" tests. I wonder if this is a Freudian thing, or if it's a regional thing. Maybe that's what they call them where she went to school.

I am really starting to feel how full my plate is. I feel like I am constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul, timewise. If I work on aquaBling, my school suffers. If I study for school, my family is neglected. As busy as I am, I still can't bring myself to make chicken nuggets, pizza, or other quick foods for dinner. My husband is constantly irritated by this, but I just don't feel right about feeding my kids garbage just because I am busy.

Alright...better get ready for tomorrow. 5:30am boot camp, followed by a 3.5 mile run. If I don't have a slammin' body after all of this...then there's no hope for anyone!