Health

The Fab Five: January 2014

The Fab Five: January 2014 4

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It’s time for a New Year’s addition of my monthly fab five round-up! (AKA, a summary of my most favoritest Christmas presents.)

I’ve tried to keep with the January theme by focusing on goodies that promote healthy living, or products that are helping crush my 2014 resolutions. Here’s what I’m swooning over this month:

1. Pure Organics Fruit Sandwiches

fruit-sandwich

I stumbled across these tasty little gems via a free sample, and immediately went searching on Amazon for them. Luckily, I didn’t have to look too far! Think of them as a natural, organic fruit leather that tastes better than ice cream! (Although not at all like actual ice cream.) Scott, a recovering Fruit Roll-Up addict can’t get enough of them, and has since been limited to two sandwiches a day. (At 70 cents per unit, I can’t condone a 6-sandwiches a day habit.)

The sandwiches come in two flavors —  strawberry banana and pineapple passion fruit. Both are to die for, out of this world, off the chain, etc. (Do people still say “off the chain”? If not, I’m bringing it back, organic fruit sandwich style.)

The best part? With only sixty calories of whole food ingredients per pop, they’re a snack you don’t have to feel guilty about.

(Unless you exceed the two-a-day limit, of course.)

 

2. Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle paperwhite

I’ve been an avid e-reader user for the past four years — yet up until this week, I was using the Kindle for iPad app. Don’t get me wrong — the iPad is capable of amazing things, and I absolutely adore mine. But I can’t help remember a trip to Hawaii Scott and I took a few days after beginning my e-reading journey. I downloaded several books onto my device, delighted at the idea of packing light (in the reading department, at least) and leaving all my paperbacks at home.

The next day, I sat sunning myself on Waikiki beach, my iPad stowed safely at the bottom of my beach bag. It was essentially useless as the screen was unreadable in bright sunlight. Certainly, the iPad is a magical manifestation of technology and convenience — but a top of the line e-reader it is not.

Scott gifted me the Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas, and it was love at first page. Because the device is intended solely for reading, the overall user experience is significantly more pleasant. The size, the contrast, the weight, the screen…everything is just right.  We’re heading back to Hawaii in just over a week, and I can’t wait to read on the beach without any glare or greasy looking thumb prints. (No offense, iPad.)

On a related note, I just started Born to Run and am already hooked. I don’t even like running all that much, but the book is incredible.

 

3. The NutriBullet

NutriBullet

Scott and I won this 12-piece NutriBullet blender set at his office Christmas party during a “match the celebrity couple” game. (Fred and Ginger, for the win!) We were the proud owners of the original Magic Bullet, which we used religiously until it bit the dust two years ago….rest in peace, MB.

I, for one, was thrilled to receive an updated bullet. I’ve been back on the juicing bandwagon, and have also been trying to incorporate green smoothies into my daily meal plans. I also have a hate-hate relationship with our Blendtec–seriously…we really don’t get along…like, really–and I was happy to have an alternate blending tool at my disposal.

I originally assumed the NutriBullet to be the exact same product as the Magic Bullet, just with an updated, “healthy” marketing campaign. The NB boasts an extractor blade, which they claim “transforms ordinary foods into superfoods by busting open seeds, cracking through stems, and shredding tough skin!” Uh…pretty sure you don’t need a fancy blade to extract nutrients from your fruit and vegetables, but okay Blendtec. Really, I’m just happy to make smoothies without having to use an 80-ounce pitcher.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and realized the NutriBullet actually is better than its predecessor. Here’s why:

  • It’s prettier. (Clearly, this is priority numero uno.)
  • It’s larger and more powerful.
  • It just blends better. (I still don’t buy all that “extractor” marking spin…but the new blade is definitely an improvement.)
  • The cups that attach to the blender are larger, more durable, and for all the hippies out there, BPA free.

The true sign of success? Even Scott has been using the NutriBullet to make his morning “power smoothies”. (Shh! Don’t tell the Blendtec!)

 

4. Lorna Jane MNB 2014 Diary

mnb-diary

 

I purchased this as a New Year’s treat for myself, and am totally smitten. Call me old-school, but I much prefer writing my goals, progress and daily check-ins down with a pen and paper. This diary quickly replaced three different online applications I was using to track my nutrition, calorie intake and daily activity. The book is beautiful, motivating, and full of recipes, positive mantras, and fun new workouts. I keep it on my nightstand and genuinely look forward to writing down my daily entry each night before bed.

Of course, Scott makes fun of my by screeching “Deeeeear Diaryyyyy!” In his most obnoxious pre-teen girl voice. (I think he’s just jealous.)

 

5. Rosetta Stone TOTALe

totale

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to become fluent in another language. While I briefly debated  taking the plunge into Old Norse, I eventually landed on Latin American Spanish as I already have eight years of classes under my belt. I downloaded Rosetta Stone TOTALe levels 1-5 during a half-price promotion that was running over the New Year, and jumped right in.

While I’ve only completed a few lessons, I already love how simple and intuitive the program is. (Even if it was a huge pain in the arse to install.) The software is highly interactive and comes with three months of live tutoring via Skype. The cherry on top of my Spanish-learning flan? Zero English is used, so I’m completely immersed in my new language. I’ve really enjoyed the ability to go at my own pace (not to mention schedule) and feel like I’m remembering quite a bit of what I learned in junior high and high school. It’s still quite a bit of review, but so far, me gusta!

*****

What were your favorite Christmas gifts? Any tools you’ve discovered that are totally helping you rock your 2014 goals? Someone please tell me I’m the only one cheating on my $400 Blendtec with a NutriBullet from Kohl’s

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The Pregnant Ankle: Part 1

The Pregnant Ankle: Part 1 10

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One of the highlights of last weekend’s trip to beautiful Scottsdale was a lovely hike Scott and I took to the top of Camelback Mountain.

camelback

(Well…it was mostly lovely.)

Camelback Mountain is the highest point in all of Phoenix. This means once you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning 360 degree vista of the city. It also means you’ll be enjoying sed view while breathless, drenched with sweat,  and possibly injured.

Scott and I opted to hike the Cholla Trail, as it was the only one open.  Little did I know, the route we selected had a difficulty ranking of “Black Diamond”. This meant the following things:

  • Long rocky segments and possible drops with exposure
  • Dirt and loose rocks with continual unevenness
  • 12′ or taller, loose rocks, exposure to drops

For added context, here’s a description of the hike, straight from the Cholla trail website.

The Cholla Trail is less known than its counterpart, the Echo Canyon Trail, gaining the summit from Camelback’s eastern side. The last 1/8 mile before the summit requires rock scrambling.

Be conservative in planning your hike! In addition to a gruelling climb, warm weather months can bring hot, dry desert conditions. Everyone who hikes Camelback for the first time reports that it was more difficult than they expected.

I wasn’t aware of any of this until I was already halfway up the mountain. I suppose it was better that way.

While the above description sounds totally miserable, I legitimately enjoyed the challenge of this hike. Sure, it was hot as Hades and more intense than three back-to-back Turbo Kick classes, but it felt good to get my sweat on. The scenery was breathtaking, and it was a heck of a lot better than being holed up in frigid old Minnesota!

The last part of the hike was definitely the scariest, large in part due to the previously mentioned “rock scrambling”. I’d never heard this term before, but can only describe it as hiking on all fours while fearing for your life. There were large, pointy rocks that were completely exposed. Scott had zoomed ahead of me at this point, which meant I was not only concerned I might fall 1.8 miles to my death, I also wasn’t quite sure I was still on the trail. Surely, climbing up over a ten foot high rock that comes to a point at the top and is totally open to thin air on all sides couldn’t be part of the trail?

(Apparently, it’s totally a part of the trail.)

I took a deep breath, summoned my inner Jon Krakauer, and vowed made that rock my biznatch.  Miraculously, I didn’t slip or lose my footing once! Within five minutes, I had reached the summit.

summit

After a few photos, lots of water, and insisting Scott congratulate my rock scrambling prowess at least six times, we began our descent.

Let me say this: If climbing up long rocky segments and possible drops with exposures is a challenge, then making it down them in one piece is about as easy as scoring a perfect score on the SAT while simultaneously running a marathon.

There was whimpering, butt sliding (luckily my floral mania leggings remained in tact), and a few prayers, but I survived. After making it down the technical top third of the mountain, the bottom two-thirds would be a total cake walk hike!

(Or so I thought.)

Remember that part about the trail boasting dirt and loose rocks with continual unevenness? Turns out walking down that is easier said than done. Particularly when you are A: so incredibly relieved to have made it past the backwards rock scrambling that you’ve foolishly let your guard down, and B: are wearing minimalist CrossFit shoes that provide little to no ankle support.

Just as I was mentally applauding myself for deserving some sort of medal of honor from REI, it happened. My minimalist shoe-wearing left foot landed on a rock the wrong way. I heard a popping noise, felt my ankle roll to the side, and immediately tumbled to the ground. Gazing down to assess the damage, my eyes were stunned to see an ankle that appeared to be well into its third trimester.

ankle

To be continued…

Psst! Part 2 is up! Check it out here…

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The mindful, Sporwegian painter who had no cellulite

The mindful, Sporwegian painter who had no cellulite 11

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I’m one of those people who absolutely loves ringing in the new year. It’s not the champagne, the fireworks, or even the sequined cocktail wear and ridiculous head accessories. For this girl, it’s all about the resolutions.

I’m a huge believer in goal setting, and love starting out the month of January with some ambitions I’d like to conquer during the next 365 days. It’s not that I’m unhappy with myself or my life — I just love setting my sights on a target, and chipping away until I hit my mark. Nothing feels better than accomplishing something big — especially when I’m the one reaping the benefits of the achievement.

And so, it is with optimism, drive, and just a pinch of delusion that I present to you my four major resolutions for 2014:

 

Become fluent in Sporwegian

I’ve dreamed of becoming bilingual for as long as I can remember, and have spent the past week debating whether to focus my efforts on learning Norwegian or Spanish. While Old Norse is the native tongue of my ancestors, I must remember it certainly isn’t the most practical dialect in the world. (Even if you do reside in Minnesota.)

I studied Spanish for nearly eight years in school. I’m pretty rusty, but surely I’d remember quite a bit once I started practicing, right? Plus, Spanish would be something I might actually use from time to time–even if it is just to impress my friends on vacation.  Also? Unlike Norwegian, Spanish is offered by Rosetta Stone.

(And yes…I’ve decided to go the RS route. Unless anyone has a better suggestion? I’d love to hear what methods worked best for all the bilingual readers out there.)

 

Focus on “Mindfulness”

At the risk of being one of those people who says things like “An article I read in Women’s Health magazine totally changed my life!”, an article in Women’s Health magazine has kind of changed my life.

This piece on the concept of mindfulness focuses on living in the now. Turns out people who embrace enjoying the moment aren’t only happier, they’re also healthier! I’ve blogged before about how postponing my happiness for perfect circumstances is not how I want to live. And so, in an effort to truly live in the moment, I’m planning on buying a hippie-dippie book like this one and learning to meditate.

(Please feel free to stage an intervention if I start wearing tie-dye and drinking homemade hemp milk.)

 

Start painting again

I studied art in college, and believe it or not, was a fairly skilled abstract painter.  As a senior, I was named art student of the year, which to this very day remains one of my proudest college achievements.

The early apartments Scott and I shared were littered with several of my original pieces. While he loved them, I couldn’t stop critiquing my work and obsessively going over what I would have done differently if I were to paint them again. The small “flaws” that only I noticed slowly began to drive me crazy. In a fit of frustration, I sold every last painting in a yard sale while Scott wasn’t looking. Whoops.

Not only do I miss the process of painting — our new house has blank walls to fill! After researching the price of original artwork, creating my own masterpieces seems like more and more of a viable option. I’m looking forward to creating custom home decorwhile expressing my creative side and making a mess in the garage. Stay tuned for a photo of my first project, which will most likely be a modern, graphic portrait of…you guessed it…the dogs.

 

Achieve a cellulite-free posterior

Given my genetics, age, and love for French macarons, this is basically impossible. But you know what they say: If you shoot for the cellulite-free moon you’ll land among the stars that are slightly less dimpley than whatever you started out with.

Or something like that…?

Seriously, though — I love my body and am comfortable in my skin. Cellulite and all. But it would be kind of awesome to have a booty that doesn’t violently jiggle for 7.4 seconds after it bumps into something. Even if my rock hard backside only lasts for a week. (Let’s face it…giving up macarons isn’t going to be a permanent life change. Duh.)

*****

Anyone out there making resolutions with me? I’d love to know what you’re aspiring to. And hey…maybe we can band together start a motivational group for those of us with jello booties! Strength in numbers, y’all. Strength in numbers.

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Just show up

Just show up 3

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After a nearly a week of wearing ridiculous pajamas, eating various forms of candy for breakfast, and indulging in more than my fair share of fruitcake, I’m back to blogging. While I always enjoy celebrating Christmas with my family, it feels good to return to my everyday routine after six days of sugar, sleeping in and…well…more sugar.

It also felt good to get back to the gym. Let’s just say my “healthy holiday habits” involved swapping the eggnog I typically pour over my Christmas Crunch cereal on the morn of December 25th for a somewhat lighter option.

You may know it as whole milk.

(See why I used “somewhat”?)

And so, when my sister Hayley encouraged me to join her at the gym for a Saturday night workout, I knew I couldn’t (and more importantly, shouldn’t) say no.

I didn’t want to go. I was tired, sluggish and didn’t like the idea of messing up the hairdo I had so painfully styled just a few hours earlier. My exhausted body was yearning for some sleep, but even I realize that that going to bed at six-thirty on a Saturday night is completely effing ridiculous.

“Fine,” I told her, “I’ll come with…but I’m just going to walk on the treadmill. I haven’t worked out in four days, and I need to ease my body back into things. Plus, I don’t want to get my hair sweaty.”

We arrived at Hayley’s training gym (she’s a competitive rower), and were delighted to have the space to ourselves. Hayley plugged in my iPhone and blasted my Spotify workout playlist at full volume. I slowly schlepped over to the treadmill, wishing I had opted to stay home and get some shut eye.

And then I heard it. The song that for some reason I’m still unable to pin point, motivates me unlike anything else.

(“Let’s Get It Started” by The Black Eyed Peas. Please, no judging.)

It’s virtualy impossible for me to “just walk on the treadmill” while that song is playing. I let out a knowing sigh. So much for not getting my weave sweaty.

Sixty minutes, 150 “wall balls” and a whole lotta kettle bell swings later, my hair was a hot mess. But the rest of me? The rest of me felt fantastic. I could practically feel the eggnog draining from body in the form of sweat. I was reminded of that “you never regret a workout” mantra.

I also realized that in life, sometimes the most difficult part of a challenge is simply showing up to face it. How many times have you dreaded going to the gym, only to get a phenomenal workout after forcing yourself to just get it over with? What about not wanting to go into the office, only to have a productive and fulfilling day after you arrived?  And who hasn’t procrastinated on cleaning out the garage or sorting through a messy closet only to realize the process and end-result were enjoyable? I find this concept particularly true in blogging — not all my posts are off-the-walls amazing, but I make a point of posting five days a week, whether I feel like it or not. Ironically, the days I don’t want to write have spawned some of my most popular entries. Go figure.

Success in all areas of life is typically the product of consistency. You don’t always have to be at your best. You don’t always have to feel excited or motivated. You don’t even have to like it. You simply have to show up. Consistency produces momentum that leads to results. Period.

As I think of my New Year’s Resolutions (which I’ll be sharing tomorrow), I’m realizing that every single one of them can be achieved if I “Just Show Up”. I’ve been wanting to learn a new language for years. Yet have I researched tutors or booked any classes? Nope. While becoming fluent in a new tongue isn’t the easiest task in the world, could I do it if I committed to a one-hour class once a week? I’d sure like to think so! If I take the time to book the classes and “Just Show Up” I should be butchering another language with confidence in no time.

It’s incredible the things you can learn about yourself from something as simple as a trip to the gym. In fact, I think “Just Show Up” might just be my new mantra for 2014.

(It’s between that and “Say No to Egg Nog”.)

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