Earth Day: Outdoor fun and ideas

Some easy crafts using recycled and reused materials we did for Earth day but are fun to do everyday!

Since we have been spending all this extra time at home I’ve had more opportunities to do fun crafts and outdoor activities with the kids. My daughter who is usually jumping from one sport or activity to the next is craving routine and things to do so I’ve been doing my best to keep her busy and love the opportunity to reuse some materials we have around the house!

Bird feeders

Using what we had at home and checking out Pinterest we decided to make a couple different versions of bird feeders.

Popsicle stick feeder: (just need some paint, popsicle sticks, twine or ribbon, and hot glue

Milk carton feeder

Just need milk cartons, paint, cutting blade, sticks and hot glue gun for the roof, and ribbon or twine

Soup can feeders

Just need old soup cans, paint, ribbon, hot glue and a stick for the post

Egg carton feeder

Egg container, paint, hole puncher, ribbon or twine

We also planted flowers and veggies, and made earth day cupcakes!

Earth day should be celebrated everyday, so even if you missed it this year, these can be done anytime!

Happy Earth Day!

Xoxo, Heather.

Simple Banana Protein Muffins

My kids eat fruit like it’s their job. In fact, just to get Nolan to sit and eat dinner I put out a “fruit appetizer” to get him to start eating and then cross my fingers he continues to eat once dinner is there as well. One favorite of theirs are bananas, but of course when I buy more than usual it’s the week they don’t eat them! So yesterday morning I realized we had 3 bananas left that were almost completely brown and I personally need a perfectly firm yellow banana or I won’t touch them. So I decided to experiment and threw together a bunch of ingredients and hoped for the best. I have to say, they came out pretty good!

I do want to also say that I don’t give my kids protein or supplements, so I left the protein powder out until after I used half the batter. Just my personal preference.

As I always say, I don’t measure unless I’m baking and following a specific recipe. But when it comes to flour and staple baking ingredients it makes sense. So these are 90% exact quantities today.

Banana Protein Muffins


(Yield: about 16 muffins)

Ingredients:

3 bananas (mashed with a fork)

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 heaping tbsp peanut powder

1 tbsp unflavored protein powder (I use Realist Lifestyle ghost protein)

1/4 cup virgin coconut oil

3/4 cups plain Almond milk (or vanilla for sweeter taste)

1 egg

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup maple syrup

handful of dark chocolate chips

cinnamon

Method:

Combine all ingredients except for chocolate chips and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed, about 3 minutes or until combined and smoother. If you are making them for kids too, leave out protein powder too.

Stir in chocolate chips

Place in muffin tin lined with papers. Mix protein powder half the batter if you are sharing with kids

Sprinkle cinnamon on top of each

Bake on 400 for 18-20 minutes


Enjoy!

Xoxo,

Heather

Garlic shrimp tacos with cilantro lime dressing

 

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I was having a serious craving for seafood tacos this week, so even through we had tacos earlier this week I made them tonight! I’ve always loved a yummy lime taste in them so I used some fresh cilantro I had bought earlier on the week and threw together a “sauce” using Greek yogurt.

Sidenote-although I like almost everything, I have never been able to eat yogurt. Everything about it makes me gag. But I really want to like it! I force myself to try things with yogurt constantly but can’t do it. Greek yogurt still isn’t my favorite but mixed in smoothies and dressings I’m okay. 

 

Anyway, here’s what I did. And as usual, all measurements are approximate!


Cilantro lime dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

juice of 2 limes (plus I used about 1/2 tsp zest of the lime)

1 clove garlic,grated or minced

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

blend all ingredients in a food processor and set aside


Garlic shrimp

1/4 cup olive oil

a few tsp of the following:

paprika

old bay

ground black pepper

cayenne pepper

1 garlic clove minced

juice from 1/2 a lemon

about 20 large raw shrimp

Place shrimp and all ingredients in large plastic bag and toss so they are coated

marinate at least 15 minutes in fridge

empty contents into frying pan on medium heat

continue to turn shrimp until cooked through

top with diced tomato, sliced avocado, slaw, and lime dressing from above on your favorite taco shell (I used whole wheat tortillas)


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Garlic shrimp taco

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Diced tomato avocado and slaw

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Sautéed garlic shrimp

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Cilantro lime dressing

enjoy!

Xoxo,

Heather

 

Fitletic HydraPalm Review

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So I haven’t really mentioned it here yet, but I am officially signed up for my first FULL marathon! It will be Chicago in October, but I am already in full on planning mode! Along with cleaning up my diet and reading up on training plans, I am starting to figure out what equipment will best help me not only during the marathon but on all the long training runs…especially in the summer heat!

I am not the best when it comes to drinking water, but I know that hydration will be a huge factor in not only my performance in Chicago but also during the training. So when Fitletic sent me a HydraPalm, I couldn’t have been more excited to try it out! Even though I am not running super long distances at this point, it’s great to get a head start.

One of the features that caught my eye about the Hydra Palm is that you “hold” the bottle in your hand the whole time. I feel like for me this was great, because I’m always holding something anyway…keys, snacks for the kids, or my phone. The shape of the bottle molds to your hand and it’s kind of just like wearing a glove. There’s a thumb hole too which I thought made it even more comfortable to hold. The cap of the bottle is great too, I did not need to use my other hand to take a quick sip!

Another thing I liked was that there’s a separate piece where I can put my phone. Usually during training runs I hold my phone in case of emergency, or it’s just easier to change whatever song I’m listening to or pause my GPS if I use the app on my phone. During races in the past I’ve worn an armband so I don’t have the convenience of accessing my phone easily while running, plus starting and stopping the music/GPS is tricky at the beginning and end of the race. And the touch window works perfectly too! (The case holds up to an IPhone 6 Plus, I have a 6). I actually took the case off of my phone thinking it would not fit, but it bounced around in the extra space so I ended up leaving it on!  There is also a separate pocket for your ID (so important!), to stow away cash, or even keep a car or house key safe.

The material is soft, but also reflective, which will be perfect for those super early or late runs I have to fit in. The bottle is dishwasher safe, which is always a bonus for busy mamas like me!

I have been wanting to try one of these “handheld water bottle thingies” as I called them for a while now and I’m really happy with the HydraPalm. The company is great too, I read a little bit about how they started and was not surprised to find out that the founder was also a busy mom trying to make her runs more convenient. They have a lot of other great products as well like hydration belts, head lights, and reflective gear…all things I will be trying out as I get closer to my journey of running my first full marathon! (I still can’t believe it!)

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#runhappy (and hydrated!)

xoxo,

Heather

Pesto Potato Salad

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I am definitely not a traditional potato salad kind of girl, but when I came across the recipe for one using pesto in one of my favorite cookbooks, Run Fast Eat Slow, I was intrigued! I have not tried their cashew pesto yet, but made my own version yesterday. The results did not disappoint! Here’s another simple take on an old classic. (And remember…I am not a measurer unless I’m baking so it’s all approximates and you can adjust to your own taste!)


For the Pesto:

2 cups fresh basil

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

3 cloves garlic (grated)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice from 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup pine nuts (or walnuts, etc)

sea salt/black pepper to taste

 

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until desired creaminess

 

For the Potatoes:

1-2 lbs. small red potatoes

sea salt

 

Wash potatoes and slice into halves or quarters (depending on size and preference)

Place cut potatoes in a large pot and fill will water to about an inch above potatoes

add about 2 tsp sea salt to the water

bring pot to a boil, then turn to medium/ low and simmer for about 15 minutes (you can make the pesto during this step!)

Test them with a fork to see if they’re soft enough, then drain in a colander, return to pot and after a few minutes toss with pesto. (You will have enough pesto left over to use for another day, or I had spread some on salmon that I baked to have with the potatoes for dinner) 

As I was making this my husband questioned whether it would really taste as good as I was anticipating. He regrets doubting me now! 

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Heather

Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I know a lot of people aren’t a fan of these wonderful little cabbages, but I cannot get enough! Even back in the 80’s when they were just boiled and served, I loved them. But one of my absolute favorite veggies are roasted brussels sprouts. They’re ridiculously simple too! Not to mention believe it or not a good source of protein, fiber, and many other nutrients, including vitamin C! Here’s an quick and easy recipe.


1-2 lbs Brussels Sprouts (washed and halved)

about 2-3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1-2 tsp Sea Salt

1-2 tsp Black Pepper

1-2 tsp Paprika (or whatever “red” spice I’m feeling that day-chili powder, etc)

1 large clove garlic (grated)

 

Preheat oven to 425

Place all ingredients in a large plastic storage bag and shake/press together

Empty the bag onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (does anyone else love those pre-cut sheets?)

Bake in oven for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes turn sprouts to get that nice brown color on all sides.


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turn after 10 minutes to get all sides crispy and brown

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mix all ingredients together in a plastic storage bag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s it! They look and smell so good that my anti-sprout husband tries them just because he wants to like them so bad! I don’t mind not sharing these though, they are just too good.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Heather

Sun-dried Tomato Hummus

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Another week of meal prep is under my belt and I am really loving it! Last night I made hummus, like I have been each week but I tweaked a few things and decided to add some sun-dried tomatoes as well. It really kicked the flavor up and I think it is my new favorite! Hummus is so simple to make and I love that I can use organic ingredients and not worry about all the added preservatives. Here’s what I did:


Ingredients:

1 box organic Garbanzo beans (or can) 15-16oz

4 or 5 sundried tomatoes

1 large clove of garlic

1/4-1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use organic)

1-2 TBSP Lemon juice (I squeeze half a lemon)

a pinch of sea salt

 

Method:

Drain and rinse Garbanzo beans

Using kitchen scissors, cut tomatoes into small pieces

Put beans, tomatoes and oil into food processor.

Grate garlic into processor

add lemon juice and salt

Blend/chop until desired smoothness. (I usually add more oil as needed)


 

That’s it! As part of my meal prep I then divide it into small containers for a quick snack with veggies at work. The rest I keep in the fridge to spread on sandwiches, or dip at home.

I have also used this recipe without the tomatoes if they aren’t your thing.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Heather

Sweet Potato Banana Protein Bites

So here we go! It’s a new year and I’m back. Not just to writing here, but the healthy, motivated me is back.

The new year is always a time to reset and reassess our goals, and the new year could not have come at a better time for me. December was a little rough…2 biopsies, my first ever case of the stomach flu, and a surgery. I missed a lot of work for medical reasons, and working out and eating right became nonexistent. Add in the holiday treats and it was a recipe for some dark times in my kitchen. And although it’s never about the scale for me, 10ish extra lbs. showed up there too. I just needed to get through the year, and now I’m ready to get back on track!

One of the main things I plan on doing this year is meal planning. I hope to share a lot of how I’m doing that here, but for today I’m just going to share one recipe I put together last night.

I was making sweet potato fries for the first time (so good!), and had some leftover potatoes since I am the only person who will eat those yummy orange spuds in my house. I have always wanted to try baking with them so it seemed like a good time to start! While my fries were in the oven, I wrapped  2 medium sweet potatoes in  foil and baked them at 375 for an hour. After dinner, they were ready to mash and I am so happy with the outcome of the recipe.

Realist Lifestyle had just sent me a sample of their ghost flavor protein powder, and I have been trying to come up with ways to add it into my food/shakes. This seemed like the perfect time to give it a try and I have to say it did not affect the taste or texture of the bites! Perfect option to give these an extra boost of protein.

 


Sweet Potato Banana Protein Bites

For 12 Mini bites:

Ingredients:

1 large (or 2 medium) Sweet Potatoes (baked)

1 Large Banana

1 Egg

2 TBSP Peanut Protein (optional)

2 TBSP Realist Ghost Protein Powder (optional)

1-2 TBSP Coconut Water (or water) to desired texture

handful dark chocolate chips (or whatever seeds, nuts, dried fruit you like)

Method:

Preheat oven to 375

Mash together baked sweet potato and banana with hand masher

Add egg, water, powders, and chocolate chips and stir until combined. img_5297

 

Spray a mini-muffin tin or line with wrappers

 

Drop spoonfuls of mixture into muffin pan

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Bake for 20-ish minutes

Enjoy! (Keep extras in air tight container)


That’s it! I mashed the potato right out of the oven so the batter was warm but it did not affect the outcome. If you try these, let me know what you think! I was hesitant about the texture from the banana but if you really mix it, the batter will be smooth.

(Like I’ve mentioned before I’m not a big measuring person when it comes to cooking. I go by what looks right, so these quantities are approximates and you can change the amount based on your own preference of texture and taste. The sweet potato is more than sweet enough even for me, but you can add sugar, honey or agave)

Happy Baking, and Happy New Year!

xo

Heather

 

Weekend recap: Philly and a half marathon

We spent last weekend in Philly and had an incredible time. The main reason we went this particular time was so I could run the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut half marathon for the second year in a row, but since we love the city decided to make it into a fun mini vacation  as well…similar to most of our race weekends.

On Friday after work Jeff and I signed Ava out a little early from school and then we picked up Nolan too. Since it was National Doughnut Day, we couldn’t start our trip without a yummy treat first!

 

Once we were all cleaned up we were on our way. Perfect timing for both kids to get a solid nap in before a busy weekend! The ride was easy and we checked into our hotel. I headed out for a quick run, as I have mentioned before I need to get up and move after longer car rides due to the risk of blood clots. A short 2 mile run helps put my mind at ease and stretch out after sitting for a while.

When I got back, Jeff headed out to run and by that time my parents and niece Rowan had made it to the hotel too. We all went out to dinner (pasta for me, of course) and then went back to get a good night’s sleep. My kids are like little hotel pros these days which makes the transition with traveling and sleeping away very easy. In the morning, we took the kids to my parent’s room and Jeff drove me to the start.

This half marathon is by far the most challenging I have ran so far. I had also ran it last year, so I knew what was coming. The strange thing for me this weekend was that I did not know I was 100% running this race until the weekend before. I was waiting on Jeff’s baseball schedule so did not even register until then. It made training slightly interesting, especially having just ran a half marathon only 2 weeks before. But I was excited to get back on that course!

I literally stood in line for the bathroom right up to the start of the race. It’s not a big event, about 600 runners. Since it is a German themed race, many runners were dressed in leiderhosen and other German outfits which sets the tone for a fun race!

I got to the start literally 15 seconds before we were off. The entire race is a trail, some paved, some not and the beginning is quite narrow. Once you get to the first mile, things start to thin out, and once again I somehow found myself spending the first half of the race completely alone. Usually I don’t mind that, but sometimes having other runners around can distract me from all of the huge hills.

One word I would not use to describe this course is flat. You are constantly climbing unless you are at the top of a hill, in which case you are going down a steep hill. There really isn’t a time when you have a break at the top. I find this to be the most challenging part. Not being able to catch my breath or recover a little before running down the hill is difficult for me. I am hoping to remember this and train a little for it next year. Add in the 90% humidity, and breathing was probably my biggest struggle of this race.

Around the halfway point we encountered Mount Cookoo. It is exactly as the name describes, nuts! A narrow, winding, somehow always uphill climb full of giant tree roots, rocks, and slippery mud. But I love it! I had actually forgotten just how long we were in that trail, but it is over a mile of some real tough conditions. There are a lot of horses in the park as well, so I’m sure you can imagine the smell is a little interesting and there quite a few flies!

Back onto the main path after Mount Cookoo you basically just repeat the hilly trail back to the finish, which was also the start. At this point I spent a few miles running with a young guy, which although we never said a word to each other, he kept me going and made me feel a little secure that someone was nearby…I was starting to feel that I was somewhat dehydrated and had goosebumps by mile 9. I ended up taking a good amount of time at the water stops from mile 7 on  trying to replenish with both Gatorade and water but knew I needed to be smart and not push it at this point. My goal became “finish”, and try and get under my time from last year which was a 1:51. At mile 12 I checked my watch and was at 1:40, which is my usual time for a half this year.

I have to be honest, one of the big reasons that I did not just give up and walk the rest of the way was Ava. She can be apprehensive about things, and even though she has seen other kids grab their dad or mom’s hand and cross the finish she has never done it. I know she had wanted to, but new things can be intimidating for her at first  (as they are for most 5 year olds). So I’ve never pushed for it, but secretly hoped one day she would ask. During the week she had told me this would be the race. I was beyond excited about it and we talked about how it would go and that we would hold hands, etc. Knowing she was standing there, most likely talking herself up to actually do it, I had to do the same. Thinking about her got me to that finish, and when I saw her, hand extended, I felt completely better. We crossed the line and high-fived; she looked so happy and I was so proud of her!

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We headed to the after party at the German club and had a great time watching the German dancers and accordian player. The kids danced and the weather was hot but beautiful. The fun after this race is another big reason I like it so much. Everyone has a great time. Soon after they began the award ceremony and I won my age group. The awards at this race are great. The overall winners receive a Cookoo Clock and age group winners receive these cute little German weather houses. Since I had placed in my age group last year as well, Ava claimed this one.

After the race we decided to head to our next hotel over by the airport. We changed into our bathing suits and all went swimming and just hung at the hotel the rest of the night. My sister who had been working that morning met us there and the kids had a blast.

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Sunday morning Jeff and I headed out to the John Heinz National Refuge for a nice run. We had explored there last summer and I was looking forward to getting back again. I was tired from the race the day before, but it’s just too beautiful to pass up.

We got back to the hotel, met the rest of the crew at breakfast, got everyone ready and drove to the Franklin Institute. Right now there is a fantastic Pixar exhibit going on, so we paid the extra to have it included in our admission, and we were not disappointed. I had not been to the Franklin Institute since I was a kid but had always loved it. It was neat to not only see the newer exhibits but also to see that the giant heart and train were still there. The kids really enjoyed it and we spent close to 4 hours there. They were all pretty exhausted by that point so we decided to let them nap on the drive home and then got dinner with my sister once we were back in town before unpacking and resetting for the week.

I know I always say it, but these weekends really are about so much more than my race. I put a lot of time into planning out which races I will do for this reason. I research what’s around that makes it into an adventure, learning experience, or just a fantastic memory for our family. I was very happy that Jeff was able to be there this weekend since he hadn’t made it to any other half marathon yet this year. The added bonus is that my parents and sister join us on almost every weekend. The support I receive from my family is incredible. There is always someone willing to watch my kids while I get out on a long run. Or someone who is willing to bike or run alongside me. My kids are great about joining me in the stroller, and Ava is always up for a quick mile or two. As long as I have their enthusiasm and support, we will continue these weekends and I will continue to race. When you make these weekends about more than just running they become truly special and I hope memories my kids will always treasure. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be crossing the line with Ava after her first half marathon!

Life is an adventure. Enjoy the journey.

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xoxo,

Heather

 

Why I’m choosing to use BCAAs

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I have always been very interested in the science behind how our body works, and how that applies to nutrition and exercise. In fact, although I almost failed chemistry in high school, I had an incredible understanding once I started taking nutrition  courses in college. Along with that…I have also been very interested in Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and how they  affect so many great things in our bodies.

BCAAs have so many positive benefits, especially for women who lead active lives. The problem for me has always been finding one that was all natural and that did not make me feel like I was adding chemicals and artificial “stuff” to my body. I’ve done a lot of research about them and made sure I was educated in making a decision of what brand to try. So when I came across Momsanity’s BCAAs I felt that they were a perfect fit for me. . They are completely free of any artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, or preservatives and made by moms with busy moms in mind. I was excited to try it out and have not been disappointed.

 

Here are some of the benefits I have found since starting to use BCAAs for the past few weeks:

Blood Sugar levels

This is a big one for me. I have been dealing with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) my entire life. I cannot tell you how many times I have fainted from my levels dropping, and I feel faint if I do not have something to eat almost every hour. But taking these I have noticed a huge difference in the way I have felt. BCAAs work like a carbohydrate in your body, so they help maintain sugar balance and also reduce sugar cravings. After a hard workout a lot of times I will feel my levels drop and now instead of reaching for a Gatorade for sugar, I add a serving to my water and get the same effect. I really feel a difference taking them post-workout.

Energy

As a working mom of two who leads an active lifestyle this is huge. BCAAs also help regulate cortisol levels which can be raised from stress. I feel like I can think clearer and am more balanced from them. Because as I mentioned they work like a carbohydrate in your body, they also help prevent fatigue. There are times that I am so exhausted at the end of the day that I literally cannot sleep. I have noticed a really big difference in the quality of sleep I am getting since my energy levels are higher during the day.

Muscle mass

As women, the older we get the harder it is for us to maintain muscle mass. The amino acids help to build muscle and help to prevent this from happening. It also helps reduce muscle soreness, so after a hard workout I feel I can recover quicker.

Water consumption

Although this isn’t necessarily something it’s known for, for me personally I have always been one to struggle with drinking enough water. Having some yummy flavor in there helps me tremendously. What I usually do is fill my 32 oz bottle with water, and then once I’m down to the 10 or 12 oz mark I add a scoop and finish it. It dissolves easily and I like the fruit punch taste!

BCAAs are also gained through foods in our diet, but when taken as a supplement they are absorbed immediately into the bloodstream. And let’s be honest, most of us do not eat completely balanced or healthy every single day. I love that I can take 2-3 servings mixed in with my water and know that no matter what I am getting these benefits.

Although I was able to try the Momsanity brand before it was available to everyone, it is now up on Amazon for purchase! You can find it here and use the code: BCAA4YOU for $10 off your order (expires Sunday, May 29th at midnight). You will also get a free cookbook with your order which has some fun recipes to use the BCAAs with, including gummies and smoothies. Do you use BCAAs? I’d love to hear others experiences with them as well!

xoxo

Heather